Reading: Romans 6:1-14
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace
I want to ask a question, and then I want to paint two very distinct contrasts. So the question I want to ask you is this – ‘In the mix of everything that goes on in your daily life, would you like to have a new life? Would you like to start over again?’ Now while you are thinking about that question, here are two contrasts to consider :
First, when I was preparing this talk I decided to go to today’s guru, or as it’s known Artificial Intelligence, and online that’s a thing called ChatGPT. And if you have never come across this, basically you can ask it any question and it will give you an answer. So I asked ChatGPT the question ‘what steps can I take to start a new life’. Here’s the bullet points that it provided:
Reflect on Your Goals and Values
Set Clear Objectives for yourself.
Create a Plan for the future.
Assess Your Skills and Interests
Put a financial plan in place.
Develop your education and skills knowledge.
Network and Build Connections with other people.
Embrace Change and Adaptability
Think about your Physical and Mental Well-being
Evaluate the relationships you have.
Consider a Change of Location
Explore New Hobbies and Activities
Be Patient and Persistent
Seek Professional Guidance to help you.
So that’s one view on how to start a new life. But here’s another.
In recent weeks I’ve been meeting with a lady who is dying. She knows that the doctors have given her months to live. She’s bed bound. She has a trachy in. She therefore can’t eat and is fed by a tube. Her quality of life is so poor. Here is someone who wants a new life, and just in the last 2 weeks, that woman spoke with me about the fear of death. She asked me to share with her about this Jesus who in John 10:10 declares that he has come to give us life in all of its abundance. So how can she with the reality of death before her, experience that? And very voluntarily on her part, she submitted her life to the Lord. She turned away from her past life, and as Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5 that ‘if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’
So, there’s two contrasts – a world view of a new life, and a biblical view of new life. I wonder which do you desire today?
Well, the good news is that Romans 6 is all about New Life, and the good news is that it’s not about us having to reinvent ourselves, but it’s all about God resurrecting us.
So let’s just do a quick recap of where we are at, because that’s going to help us with Paul’s opening question in verse 1. In the first 5 chapters of Romans we can summarise all this in one word and that is Grace. Chapter 1:5 “Through him [Jesus] we received grace”. Chapters 2 & 3 we all are messed up through sin, but all can be justified freely by grace. Chapter 5:1&2 “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”. So Paul repeats that God is a God of abundant grace. We haven’t earned this favour from God in any way. It’s a free gift. We are pardoned, accepted and welcomed by God, all because Jesus died in our place.
But Paul opens in Chapter 6 with these words “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” In other words, if God forgives anyone of anything at all, then is that not really dangerous. Because if grace always covers our mess, then people have no incentive to change – they will simply stay the way they are, simply on the basis that this grace covers them from anything they might do. Is that what God is doing?
And you see this becomes a greater theological issue, because anyone could then say, well if the grace of God exists, then does sin even matter? Many talk in the church about God’s love and God’s grace so much, that they don’t address the issue of how people should be living. Unfortunately, there are more and more churches that preach this idea of easy grace, that God loves them, which is true, but it’s all about getting on with each other. Their theology becomes very liberal as they read the scriptures. So it doesn’t matter if you are sleeping together outside marriage as long as you love one another, it doesn’t matter about peoples’ need for different pronouns if it means they feel loved, it doesn’t matter if I’m stuck in a pattern of sin or an area of my life where I am neglecting drawing closer to God – it’s not hurting anyone. After all God is a God of grace.
And so Paul says to all of this in verse 2, “By no means. We are those who have died to sin. How can we live in it any longer?”. If we think God’s grace is a licence for sinning then we don’t understand the nature of the Gospel. This life we live isn’t about messing up, saying sorry, messing up, saying sorry, messing up. It’s about recognising that we will mess up, but recognising also the price that is paid by Jesus for our redemption. This is not easy grace. There has been a cost paid by Jesus which demonstrates that amazing grace.
So what does a New life look like. Well in these next verses Paul unpacks this new life down into four words.
New life means Union with Christ. So, the first word is UNION
Verses 2-5 are saying, if you are trusting in Jesus then his death and resurrection is at the heart of it all, but also that you have spiritually died with Christ and you have risen with him. But what does that mean? What does it mean to die with Christ? Well in verse 3 it says this “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” Paul gives us that image of Baptism. When you think about it, Baptism is a powerful symbol of death and rising again. In a few months time I will be organising adult baptisms, and we will bring a pool in where the individual is taken down into the water and brought back out again. The person dies to the old way of life and is reborn into a new life with Christ. Baptism is a profound picture of being united with Jesus, and so verse 4 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life”. By trusting in what Jesus has done, God’s spirit unites me to what Jesus did.
If you still don’t get it, well here’s an illustration to help. Take this teddy bear – there’s no Action Men left in our house so Teddy is my illustration today. And what we are going to do is strap these little characters onto this bear. These characters are united with Teddy. Wherever teddy goes, they go too. Whatever happens to him, happens to all of them. That’s being united to Christ. We are bound to Christ by the spirit. But because of that, we share in the benefits of what he did. The person who has given their life to the Lord transitioned from being controlled by the power of sin that ultimately leads to death, but now grace reigns. Christ’s death broke the power of sin. He put an end to it. So we are no longer under the reign of sin. It doesn’t mean that I won’t stumble and fall, but it’s no longer what defines me. I’m dead to it. So that first word, New Life means we have UNION with Christ.
The second word is this;
New life means that we will be Raised with Christ. So the word is RAISED.
Verse 4 – “4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his”. I don’t know whether any fathers out there ever did this with their kids if they were in a pool on holiday. The boys and me would take an inflatable ball and push it down to the floor of the pool. And sometimes dependent on the size of the ball it would take a lot to keep it held down there. Why? Well because we all know that the oxygen inside the ball forces itself up. The water exerts a larger pressure on the surface of the ball. So no matter what you do, it’s going to want to come up to the surface with quite a lot of force.
And so it’s the same here. If we have gone down with Christ in death, we must rise like he has. That’s the law of grace. Verse 8 says that “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him”. That’s resurrection folks. We will enjoy a glorious new body in a glorious new creation. But also now spiritually speaking that resurrection life has already begun. The end of verse 4 says “we too may live a new life”. Or as the King James translation puts it “we also should walk in newness of life”. That’s about a walk of life now. We serve in a new way now. So we are raised now into a New Life.
Which brings us to the third word;
New life means that we are Free from sin’s slavery. So the word is FREE.
Anyone who has died in Christ is free.
For a number of years I was connected with an organisation in Thailand where they were trying to rescue girls from the streets who were being sold for sex. Seeing the girls on the streets, you knew that they were trapped, and felt they had no way out. And yet this organisation gave them a new identity, a new sense of purpose, and trained them so they had an alternative means of income. You could see in these girls’ eyes, the freedom and release that they now felt.
The enslavement is now gone, and they have been set free and they’re loved.
Remember that the reign of sin is a horrible slave master. It holds someone captive. Many of us can remember how we were held to that in our lives and how through Jesus we have been set free. Some of us today still know that we are held captive to sin, because we haven’t discovered that freedom that Jesus gives us. It’s miserable being under the power of sin. But remember today that that old life is gone if you have put your trust in God. We can have life. We are not captive to that old way. And if you are reminded of your old way, know that’s because Satan isn’t interested in your future. He isn’t interested in what you now have. Even though he knows he doesn’t have the control over you any longer, he knows that he can feed you with guilt of your past to make you feel you are still captive to it. But remember that old life is gone. Remember what Paul says in verse 4 – we may live. New life means Freedom.
And so here’s where this brings us to. Let’s look at verse 11, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. So the final word today is Know.
New life means that you Know who you are. KNOW.
We say it in our creeds every week that Christ died and rose again, but what you and I need to remember is that this is also true of you. We are so joined to God through Christ, that we need to think of ourselves as we truly are. We are no longer under sin, but now we are alive to God.
I wonder if someone asked you today, how do you think of yourself today? How would you define who you are? I think that’s a searching question for many today in our world. And I think the danger is that without the love of God in our lives, we will never truly know who we are, we will spend our entire lives spinning from one thing to the next trying to work out our purpose. The good news of Jesus is that we don’t have to create our own identity. Our identity comes from God. It comes from knowing that we are a child of his. Verse 11 – “11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”.
That’s who I am. When Paul says count yourselves dead to sin but alive to Christ, it’s an accounting term that he’s using. He’s saying count it all up – this is how dead you are to sin, but this is how much you are defined by who you are in Christ.
And so you’re united to Christ, you’ve been raised with Christ, you’re free from sin, and you know who you are in Christ.
And so verses 12-14 tell us to live out who you are – offer yourselves to God and not sin. Let’s read it again “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace”.
Sin is no longer your master. Knowing who you are means you can live out the life that God has ordained for you to have. And so there’s a don’t and a do here in these final verses. Verse 13, don’t offer yourself to sin, he’s not your master, but do offer yourself to God.
If you follow football at all, you may have seen this week how Jordan Henderson who used to play for Liverpool, but then left to play for the Saudi teams, is now moving again to Ajax. He didn’t stay long in Saudi, but now he moves to one of the big teams in Europe. And it got me thinking, about his future. Because there may be an occasion in the coming years where if his club qualifies for the Champions League or the Europa League, that he will have to face against his old Liverpool club where he was loved and adored. Now can you imagine that Henderson is on the pitch, he’s saddling up alongside Mo Salah and others, and he says to them , “right guys, I’m just going to play on your side today – is that ok?” Clearly that’s complete madness isn’t it. He’s moved clubs. He’s got a new coach, a new life. He can’t go back to the old team. And that’s exactly the same with us. Now that we have transferred from the reign of sin to the reign of grace, we have a new team, the church, we have a new life with the Lord – we can’t go back. Folks we can’t keep dipping our toe in two different places.
So let me finish with a question – if you claim that you are a follower of Jesus, how are you with sin today in your life? Often we might feel defeated. I certainly do. Sometimes there’s a sin that I feel that overpowers me. I make a couple of steps forward but then get knocked back.
Or, maybe you’re a bit carefree. You do things but you downplay it – you just shrug it off as nothing serious.
We have seen today, that the Gospel forbids a carefree attitude to life. Paul says not to offer any part of yourself to sin. Know where your identity lies. You’re free from that. Offer yourself to God. Yes we will stumble, but we have a new Master. But if you feel defeated, or crushed, then hear the good news of grace. He not only forgives you from sin, he frees you from sin. You may live a new life.
Let me encourage you into the coming week, to consider what God is prompting you to examine in your life right now. He’s definitely been prompting me to address one issue this week. Where’s the next part of your life that he wants you to offer up to him? Is it your tongue and how you speak to others. Is it your hands on your computer where you go online, in what you watch? Is it your brain – how are you offering up your skills to God? Are you so captured in your work or your family that you make very little time for the study of God’s word? What is it that he’s prompting you to examine?
God wants you to make the most of this new life, so what can you do this week to begin to live it in the way he desires?