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Aug 09, 2020

Life & Death Living

Passage: Romans 6:1-14

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Romans

Keywords: sin, righteousness, grace, life, spirit, law, death, flesh, pandemic, covid-19

Summary:

Knowing that salvation is a free gift of God can lead some people to the wrong conclusions. Romans 6 addresses one of those wrong conclusions while calling us into life at its fullest. This message seeks to show us how to enter into that fullness of life while introducing us to a modern parable of a pandemic.

Detail:

Life & Death Living

(Parable of a Pandemic)

Romans 6:1-14

August 9, 2020

 

REVIEW:  Anyone have an opportunity to share “Your Story” in Christ…or any part of it…with someone this week? 

  • What part of your story?
  • How did it go?

Return to Romans for the next 10 weeks.  We’ll be studying chapters 6-8 during those 10 weeks.  Picking up in chapter 6 if you want to turn there in your Bibles.  While you are doing that, I want to tell you a parable. 

Definition of a parable:  a short story with 2 levels of meaning where certain parts of the story represent certain spiritual truths.

PARABLE of a PANDEMIC:

Now that we are all in the mindset of dealing with deadly pandemics, I want to tell you a terrifying and amazing pandemic parable.  

One year in the not too distant future, scientists on a paradise-like Pacific island were working in an international biohazard laboratory studying viruses that had the potential to destroy our entire human race…100% of humans…from 1 virus. 

The island environment was considered the perfect place to study such viruses.  Should there be some unforeseen type of accident in which one of the viruses was released and infected the scientists, the entire island could be locked down and all traffic in and out suspended.  While all the scientists and residents on that island would probably perish, the illness could be contained and the world would be spared…or so the plan was.

Then the unthinkable happened.  One of the viruses being studied somehow infected two of the research scientists.  They were immediately quarantined but the damage had been done. The whole island of scientists was infected.   They were sealed off from the outside world except for electronic communications and supply drops from airplanes. 

The symptoms did not seem to be all that serious, even for weeks and months.  There were bothersome headaches once a week, slightly achy muscles monthly and vision problems that would last a day or two annually and varied from blurring of sight to total loss of vision.  But the virus kept mutating and changing.  Within 2 years, the scientists started dying.  While the resident researchers worked feverishly on possible vaccines, none was ever found.

This went on until all of the 1,115 people working on the island died of the virus in 5 years. Both the contagion and death rate for this virus stood at 100%.  It was just a matter of time. 

The island remained uninhabited for three years, ample time for the virus to die out and never be a threat again.  Hazmat teams eventually revisited the island and destroyed the entire complex, leaving it deserted. 

Six months after the last of the contamination teams left the island, the virus was detected again, this time in a major U.S. metropolitan city.  Quarantines were attempted.  None was effective. Continual mutations were one of the great powers of this virus.  Scientists could never get ahead of the disease. Every single human being on planet earth contracted the virus. 

And then they started dying.  As the months and years rolled by, hundreds of deaths turned into hundreds of thousands and eventually millions a week.  No cure was found and the most effective treatments only slightly slowed the pace and progression. 

Then reports started coming out of India that one young woman in one small village outside of Madras was somehow miraculously immune to the virus.  Of the billions of people in the world, Shriya was the only person known to have escaped this virus’s virtually certain infection.  So Shriya was studied, poked and prodded from head to toe to try and determine how this miracle could be replicated. 

Finally, doctors determined that she had developed a completely different and astounding immune system. While living around this virus her entire life, she had never once been infected by it.  IF she were truly immune, scientists reasoned, certainly her immune system could be studied, replicated and passed on to the rest of humanity. 

To make a long story short, research on Shriya did lead to a cure.  But it had significant side-effects.  Subsequent trials found that the cure required virtually daily treatments of serum developed from Shriya’s blood.  And, with each day’s treatment, patients began to change.  They not only began to shed the symptoms of the disease but they began to change their own physical characteristics in things like skin color, body size and facial features.  Within weeks, every patient in the trial group began to look and even act like Shriya.  Her very personality and mental characteristics began to evidence in every one of the recipients of the serum.

So, preferring to hang onto their uniqueness and independence at the cost of certain death, most patients stopped taking the serum and returned to the original progression of their disease.  Others chose to see the physical and psychological changes an improvement…and embraced them just as happily as the newfound freedom from the virus’s symptoms.  Like HIV/AIDS is today, while no one became completely free of the virus in this lifetime, the serum was effective enough to allow people to return to a very normal life until one succumbed to death by other natural causes.    

And then scientists studying Shriya made a startling announcement.  The making of the serum needed to save anyone in the world from this scourge had taken Shriya’s own life.  The toll on her body had required her to choose to either stop donating her blood in order to save her own life OR donate her entire body to science, lose her own life and potentially save untold billions and the entire human race.   She had chosen the latter…and now everyone had the possibility of remission from this deadly virus.

Millions continued the treatments.  They went on to enjoy long, fruitful and, in most cases, happy lives.  But so many more billions refused the treatments…and died within 5 years.  Refusing to accept the changes that would be required of them by the cure, they chose rather to embrace a premature and death all the while proclaiming their autonomy, independence and individuality. 

“She/he who has ears to hear, let them hear.” 

Way back in the pre-pandemic, pre-Covid days of February of this year, we left off our study of Romans with chapter 5.  Let me read for you two verses (18-19) at the end of chapter 5 that should put this parable into clearer perspective.  Paul writes,

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

  • Who’s “one trespass” is Paul talking about? (Adam)
  • Who’s “one righteous act” is he referring to? (Jesus Christ)
  • What were the different results of each? (Adam >> all made sinners, condemned and thus all die.  Jesus >> all potentially justified and offered life eternal; many made righteous in Jesus Christ.)

Do you see the parable’s meaning?

  • Sin is the virus.
  • We’ve all got it.
  • It will kill 100% of us…prematurely…without intervention.
  • Shriya is Jesus Christ: He alone is/has the only cure, comes to us at the cost of his own life, doesn’t force the only cure available on anyone.   
  • The cure must be embraced right along with the “side effects” (in reality, the main effects) of a certain level of conformity to Him—his character, his “appearance” or behavior/way of thinking/values, etc.
  • Most humans would rather die prematurely, holding onto their independence from God, living life their way, rather than embracing any level of conformity to the life and nature of Jesus.

With all that in mind, we now move into Romans 6.  Let’s see how the “cure” of Christ now plays out for those of us who have decided to embrace the daily serum of His life and see conformity to Him a true blessing, upgrade, and gift of God rather than loss of anything we used to count dear. 

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 

            The question here, if we frame it within our Parable of the Pandemic is, “Having embraced the cure, do we now want to go back to experiencing the effects of the virus—headaches, muscle aches and fatigue, eyesight problems and blindness?”  Isn’t the whole purpose of taking the serum that we want to overcome the disease and its effects? 

            We could state it this way.  “Isn’t the whole purpose of embracing Jesus and the ‘cure’ to our sinfulness so that we can actually become righteous as He is righteous, recover our true, pre-sinful humanity and escape from the deadly and death-inducing effects of sin?”  If that isn’t why we came to Jesus, why did we? 

            Paul brings in the word “grace” which he had actually ended chapter 5 with when he said in 5:20, The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

            Grace is that “serum” that carries the work of Jesus into our lives—a work we didn’t earn, don’t deserve and yet has the power to completely reverse the effects of the ‘virus’ of sin in our lives and bring us, not a long and fruitful life, but an eternal and abundant life. 

            Paul is simply showing the absurdity of the idea/person who would want to say, “Well, since the serum is so abundantly available, why not try and infect yourself at every turn with more of the virus…why not live to feel the horrible effects of the virus… since God will always provide more serum?  How STUPID is that?!”

APP:  This is really the argument against people who try to say, “Well, if salvation is free…really free…if I don’t have to work for it or clean up my life or earn it in any way by my own moral living, what’s to keep me from just continuing to live in sin and just cashing in on the ‘fire insurance’ when I die?”  That mindset totally misunderstand what salvation is.  If you and I don’t want to be saved FROM sin, we won’t want to be saved INTO Christ and His life. 

            This is why, if you still enjoy (not “do”) sin more than you enjoy living like Jesus and allowing His life to be lived through you, you aren’t a true believer in Jesus. 

(Explain the difference between sinning as a believer and regretting it AND sinning as a sinner and reveling in it.)

            Paul continues:  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? We already chose to exchange the suffering and death that came from sin for the ‘cure’ of life in Christ and forever life with Him.  Paul is scratching his head saying, “Why would you want to go back to being infected, being sick and dying from the virus of sin?  I don’t get it.” 

            Having laid out the insanity of that position, he now moves forward into explaining what happened to us when we took the “serum” from Christ:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.

            Now Paul lays out what our life in Jesus has done to this whole-body battle for life.  He frames it in the terms of Christian baptism.  But what you need to understand is what the word ‘baptize’ actually meant to Paul’s hearers.  Sure, they thought of the Christian rite of baptism.  But our English word “baptism” is basically a transliteration (a copying over into the English alphabet the Greek letters of the original word for ‘baptism’ in Greek [bautizo]).  The Greek word bautizo really simply means ‘to immerse’.  ILL:  plain cloth was baptized in vats of dye, this taking on the same color as the dye water. 

            Christianity picks up that essential idea when it says we are ‘baptized into Christ’ and the various parts of His life, death and resurrection.  We assume the ‘color’ or LIFE of Christ to us by being immersed in Him at our conversion. 

            Now Paul is going to unpack parts of that ‘immersion’ in Christ that happens to us at conversion and is portrayed visually with us in our baptism.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death….”  Going down into the water, being ‘buried’ in the waters of baptism signify that we were ‘immersed’ in Jesus’ death when we embraced Christ by faith.  We chose to die to sin.  We chose to have sin crucified in us through Jesus’ death on the cross when we chose to embrace Jesus as our Savior and Lord. 

            So if our old self was immersed/baptized into His death, the next step of identity with Jesus is to be “buried with him through baptism into death….”  What’s the spiritual significance to us of Jesus’ burial?  What happened to His old, physical body during that time in the tomb?  That body rotted.  That body which was corruptible corrupted.  That body came to an end essentially.

            But thankfully that isn’t the end of the story.  Paul goes on, “…in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  There is a WHOLE NEW LIFE available to us now because Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead—not the old, still corruptible body but the new, completely incorruptible, un-rotable, un-sickable, un-diseasable, un-touchable by sin body of Jesus.  Just as Jesus Christ experienced on the physical plane a complete transformation of body, so “we too may live a new life” on the spiritual plane. 

  • We’re not under sin’s power now but under God’s.
  • We’re not stuck living a life of sin but now get to live a life of righteousness.
  • We’re not the same as people without Jesus because we have a whole NEW LIFE in Jesus that we now get to live the rest of this life and the rest of eternity.

Paul continues,

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.  And now Paul goes on to elaborate on what first Christ’s death did for our new life in Him and then what his resurrection did for that new life in Him. 

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

The more we are ‘baptized’ or immersed in the crucifixion and death of Jesus, the less we’re going to be ‘ruled by sin’ in our daily experience.  Prior to being given a new life/new nature in Christ, sin ‘ruled’ our experience. We couldn’t escape its power.  We were obligated to obey it, to sin. 

            But that ‘old self’ isn’t our dominant self anymore.  Jesus Christ is.  His life is.  His values, His heart, His longings, His love of righteousness and justice, of grace and goodness and gentleness, etc. IS now our dominant life.  We’ve been “set free from sin” in that we no longer have no choice.  We have a choice to serve God or serve the old, sinful self at every turn. 

ILL:  If we were to put it in terms of slavery (which Paul actually uses here), we could say that, similar to what happened as a result of our nation’s terrible Civil War from 1861-1865, we were emancipated from slavery to the old slave-owner of Sin.  But just as in that day, former masters didn’t want to let go of slaves if they didn’t have to…and a lot of slaves chose to continue living in virtual slavery rather than run the risks and pay the price to actually escape slavery in their lifetimes (through moving out of the south, banding together to stand against continued white oppression, etc.). 

            As horrible as slavery was and is, too many emancipated former slaves chose to continue living as slaves.  They were no longer slaves…but they continued living like slaves.  And so do too many emancipated Christ-followers:  we continue to live as if sin is our master, not Jesus.  We continue to live as sin’s ‘share-cropper’ rather than Jesus’.  We keep plowing the same old fields, listening to the same old commands of the same old sin-masters, putting up with the same old lashes of sin’s whip rather than moving on and moving up into a whole new place and plane of living. 

            Just like emancipation was a PROCESS the African-Americans went through in our nation’s history, so our emancipation from our old way of living without Jesus is a PROCESS.  There is, if we can stretch the analogy, a period of shedding the old way of life and entering into the new way of living that will take us this lifetime on earth.

            Paul speaks about a future resurrection that will be ours in which that process will finally be complete.  We will finally have not only incorruptible, immortal bodies that will last an eternity; we will also have completely sanctified, completely holy, completely righteous new NATURES that will never sin again, never want to sin again and instead live completely in the life of Jesus for all eternity. 

            But it is this in-between life that is the challenge, right?  The ‘slave-master’ of sin, of Satan and of self is not yet imprisoned in hell, confined forever from continuing to demand that we continue to obey them.  But neither do they have the authority or the right to continue to control us.  Yet they do…insofar as we have not moved “off their plantation,” moved away from their property of influence, learned new ‘trades’ and ways of living and decided to take up residence in new ‘states,’ with new ‘family’ and in new ‘communities’ of God’s people. The more we choose to hang out and live around the old masters of sin we had before Christ, the more influence they are going to continue to exert and the less freedom in Christ we are going to enjoy. 

            In vss. 8-10 Paul uses this new resurrected life of Jesus that He now lives in to serve as a parallel, a model of the new ‘resurrected’ life of the spirit/soul that we now can experience in Jesus in this “in-between zone” of the rest of our life on earth. 

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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.

            Christ, not ever being a sinner, nonetheless “died to sin once for all.”  He didn’t have to die…if He hadn’t been compelled to save us by His own loving nature.  He is the only man who could have lived forever because he never sinned and therefore wasn’t under the penalty of sin (which is always death).  But when He who had no personal sin himself chose to become ‘sin for us’ (2 Cor. 5:21), He also chose death, the penalty for our sin.  Death in that moment in time had mastery over his mortal body.  He died “to sin once for all”.  That is history.  That is past.

            But Paul tells us that NOW “the life he lives, he lives to God.”  Paul is holding up two complete opposites:

  • Death that Jesus experienced because of our sin He took on himself.
  • Life that Jesus now lives/experiences in heaven, in a resurrected, immortal body of some type, with the Father because everything He has, does and ever will do is lived “to God” the Father.

Paul is not only holding up the same, great kind of future for us, a future life lived in an immortal, resurrected body someday and lived forever ‘to God’ BUT he’s holding up a new kind of life for us RIGHT NOW, one that is much more like our future than our past.  And here’s how it works.

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. 

            These verses are written in what we call a chiastic form/ construction.  When you write in a chiasm, the structure looks like this:

            A (vs. 11)

                        B (vs. 12)

                        B (vs. 13a)

            A (vs. 13b)

Only in this paragraph it flows like this:

  1. DO count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  2. B) DO NOT let sin reign in your mortal body….
  3. B) DO NOT offer any part of yourself to sin….
  4. A) DO offer yourself to God…and DO offer every part of

yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

So we are called to DO a couple of things that will help us enter into this new life in Jesus…and we are called to NOT DO a couple of things that will keep us from living this new life in Christ.  So what are they?  What will enable us to live without the effects of this deadly virus of sin dominating our lives AND what will enable us to live in this life as if we were already enjoying the future joys of the life God has destined us for? 

Vss. 11-12—Live Immune to Sin & Immersed in God

Vs. 13—Be a Precision Tool for God, not a Tire-Iron for Sin

So, just HOW do we do that.  These verses tell us the means. 

HOW to live immune to sin and immersed in God.  By “immune from sin I don’t mean to imply you can lead a sinless life on this earth or a life that doesn’t feel the effects of sin.  That isn’t possible.  But when we get a level of immunity, it means that whatever it is that was going to do us damage, whether a virus or disease or whatever, doesn’t do us nearly the damage it could have…or even doesn’t damage us at all. 

How do we live so sin doesn’t have the same power over us it used to? 

Vs. 11—“…count yourselves dead to sin…

[count yourselves] alive to God in Christ Jesus.  This is positive action we must take.

Vs. 12—“don’t let sin reign in your mortal body so that you [end up] obey[ing] its evil desires.” This is the negative action or what we are to refrain from. 

Let’s take the POSITIVE ACTION first:  count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

That term translated “count” here in the NIV is also translated “consider” (ESV, NLT) or “reckon” (NKJV).  These are mental or mind actions/words. When I “consider” myself a certain something, I’m using my mind and powers of self-observation and self-reflection.  So God is tell us that if we are going to learn how to live this new life Jesus purchased for us by His death, we’re going to need to change some mental self-thought processes and perspectives. 

ILL:  Back to our slave discussion.  When African-American slaves were emancipated, if they were to really have much of a change of life at all, THEY needed to think differently about themselves.  THEY needed to stop finding their identity in being slaves and start finding it in being freed men and women.  That’s a massive shift in thinking about yourself. 

  • Work: how do free people think differently about work than slaves?
  • Place of Residence & Housing: slaves just live where their masters tell them.  Free people see all kinds of housing options and possibilities—where, what kind, how big, style, etc.    

What’s the difference between looking at ourselves as “dead to sin” vs. “alive to sin”?  Or “alive to God in Christ Jesus” vs. “dead to God”?

Back to the slavery analogy.  If I’m “dead to slavery”, how different is my life from when I’m “alive to slavery”?  Totally!  One mindset makes me live as if I’m a slave (whether I am or not) while the other helps me live as if I’m a free man (which I can only do when I actually am).  Try living like a free person when you’re actually a slave and you probably won’t live very long.  But if you live like a slave when you’re free, you can probably do that a long time…and be pretty miserable the whole time. 

            So living “dead to sin” must mean that I actually live knowing, believing and experiencing a life that is not under the power of sin any more. To do that I MUST learn how to live a life “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Here’s where the new Master comes into play.  Paul, in other passages, does talk to us about being slaves of Christ.  So in one sense, we’re just learning to trade masters.  We already know what it’s like to obey sin—to follow its desires, follow its demands. 

What we need to learn for the rest of our lives is what it is to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Our life really is IN Jesus.  We experience being ‘alive to God’ when we experience Jesus Christ in every part of our life. 

ILL:  I’m “alive to marriage” in this life by experiencing my dear wife, Sandy, in as many different facets of life as possible—finances, chores, roles, residences, friendship, gardening, vacations, you name it.  The more I experience her, the more I come alive to marriage. 

Q:  What helps you ‘come alive’ to Christ on a daily basis?  What do YOU DO that causes you to experience more and more of Jesus?  [responses]

That’s how we live immune to sin and immersed in God.

            Now, how about being a Precision Tool for God, not a Tire-Iron for Sin?  Verse 13 calls us to stop offering any part of ourselves to sin but rather offer every part of ourselves to God “as in instrument of righteousness.” 

            Every day we make a million decisions about how we are going to use the ‘instruments’ of our minds, our emotions, our feet, our hands, our eyes, our mouth…everything that is “us.”  Every one of those decisions is a “Y” in the road.  I’ll either be doing God’s will with this “instrument” of John or I’ll be sinning with this “instrument.” 

EX:  Offering my EYES to God as instruments of righteousness rather than evil.  Difference?

  • Whether I see my neighbor as God sees them or see them with covetous eyes, lustful eyes, angry eyes, hateful eyes, apathetic eyes, etc.

EX:  Offering my THOUGHTS/MIND to God for righteous purposes or keeping my thoughts for my desires/this world’s desires/the devil’s desires. 

  • That may mean praying at times instead of watching TV.
  • May mean memorizing Scripture instead of listening to talk radio.
  • May mean strategizing about how to share Christ with my neighbor rather than dreaming about how to make more money.

Every part of this body, soul and spirit God gives us will either do evil or good, enter into righteousness or into evil. 

APP:  What if we all concentrated this week on 1.) being aware of what we are using our lives/bodies/minds for, and 2.) consciously offering ourselves to God for His good…while we’re driving, texting, when we’re watching people on the street, while we deciding what to do with our free time, when we’re seeing people at work?  If we’ll “offer ourselves to God”, we won’t be living in sin or for sin.  But we’ll need to develop some new thinking and new patterns as freed slaves of sin and new slaves of Christ.

  • Have you made the “great exchange” of your life lived for yourself to a life surrendered to Jesus Christ? [Call to faith in Jesus.]
  • What sin/sins seem to dominate your life still? How about figuring out new ways to offer those parts of your life/body/soul/mind to God instead of to sin? 

Why would we want to keep living with the effects of the deadly and debilitating virus of sin when we can start living the rest of our lives as the people we are, free from sin’s power and consequences? 

  • What did the Holy Spirit impress on you today?
  • What is He asking you to do with it?
  • How can we help you obey Him?