Dead to Sin or Alive in Christ?

Today’s reading is Romans 6 as we continue our theme to start 2022 of God’s Word of Life.

If I were to ask you what you were passionate about, what would some of your top answers be?

Many might say family, fitness, reading, their favorite sports team(s), and hopefully their faith amongst other possible responses. For me I would likely say family, my faith, and likely Illini basketball, too.

Romans 6:12 discusses being a slave to our passions/sin.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passions.

Romans 6:12

I have to admit that I have thought about how I can’t imagine being a slave to nicotine, alcohol, or drug addiction as some are. While I understand these addictions are such that some truly can’t help them due to genetics or disease or other underlying challenges, and yet at the same time I’m embarrassed to say I can still be prideful and quick to judge others with these issues. My brother Chad talked about the problem with being judgmental Monday. Not only am I becoming more aware and having empathy with those challenges, I’m also more aware that I can be a slave to other sins and addictions myself (Luke 6:41). I can be a slave to my phone, social media, trending news/politics, or prioritizing interest in sports over faith and family at times. We can use our phones to stay in touch and nurture healthy spiritual relationships with others, use social media to spread the Gospel, and sports as a platform to share the Gospel as well. However, we can also use these tools in a negative way where they become too much of our focus, as well as use them for the wrong reasons.

A small group friend of mine who has gone on mission trips to areas which don’t have the money and technology we have in the US once commented that you don’t see demonic possessions much in the US so many don’t think they happen anymore like in the Bible. However, he has experienced them and has observed they are more common in other countries where he’s been on mission trips which aren’t wealthy like the US. His hypothesis is that Satan does not need to use demonic possessions in the US because he has plenty of other ways to tempt and control us through the love of money, technology, drugs, and alcohol which is readily available at our fingertips in the US. It is an interesting observations and point he brings up.

While we are still sinful humans who will make mistakes, Paul discusses in Romans 6 that through our baptism, belief, and Christ’s Resurrection, we are no longer slaves to sin and dead in our sin.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.

Romans 6:4

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:11

As we reflect on this chapter, I pray we take notice of our actions and habits and have self-awareness on whether we are acting in manner more closely to being a slave to our sins or acting more in a way which displays we are alive in Christ Jesus.

Paul ends chapter 6 with the ultimate mic drop on this topic. As we and others in our lives are under construction, I also pray we keep this in the forefront of our thinking and share this great news with others.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

He Wants Us

2 Samuel 19 and Psalm 51 – Resurrection Eve

Have you ever wondered when the deniers, doubters, crucifiers, and liars had their moment of realization of who Jesus was and their role in His death? Was it immediate, like Peter when the rooster crowed the third time? Or did it take longer, after Jesus had been taken from the cross and put in the tomb? Or was it not until days later, when word got around that Jesus was alive, and Thomas even put his hand into his side.  Did they respond like David does, in his Psalms about his own sins? Had I been there, would I have realized it immediately, or would it have taken me awhile to understand? What would have been my response to knowing I put Jesus on the cross?

From an early age I learned about Jesus and have never doubted who He was or what He did for me.  As I got older, my heart to please God was challenged by my selfishness and temptations to sin. In high school especially, I was stuck on this hamster wheel of wanting to “be good” and do the right thing, but time and time again would fall into cycles of sin and rebellion. I would go through a period of mourning, praying, and vow to not fall into that junk again. I would “be good” for awhile and then it would start over. I was so frustrated with myself and lack of self control. Everything seemed so easy and made so much sense sitting in church on Sundays and at youth group on Wednesday nights.  But by Friday night – it all flew out the window.

I made a decision when I was 16 to try to get off that hamster wheel for good, and I wanted a REAL CHANGE. While I had always believed in Jesus, I needed to do something different and drastic in my life so that I could be more consistent in my choices to follow Jesus. I believed. I could talk the talk. I needed to WALK the WALK – even on the weekends.  I joined a conservative faith community that was rich in tradition and strong in holy habits.  The fellowship of the close-knit group was unmatched. The believers there invested time and energy in helping me understand God’s Word. I learned so much in this season of life and thank God for putting people into my path to draw me to Him.

One of the biggest things I learned is that even with all of the holy habits, fellowship, and accountability, I still sinned.  As much as I wanted to ‘be good’, I couldn’t. I wasn’t. And it took my early adult years to figure out that God doesn’t want me to ‘be good’. He wants me forgiven. This is why He brought us Jesus. In my youth I found myself categorizing sin and thought mine was the worst – if I could just stop those major sins, then I would be acceptable in God’s eyes. It took a lot of years to really believe that ALL sin is unrighteousness in God’s eyes. While sins may have greater or lesser consequences on earth – the sin itself is all the same: separation from God, no matter how big or small.

During this time of growth, the elder of our church, a kind and sweet man named Ervin, would point me back to Psalms 51. Over and over again, I would counsel with him, pour my heart out, trying to figure out why I would still from time to time fall back into those old sinful ways and make bad decisions.  He was so patient with me, and would read this scripture with me.  Even though it was twenty years ago, I can clearly recall our conversations.  He would encourage me to go home and pray the prayers that David did, a man who loved God so much and would still find himself in a mess of sin. And just like David, I would weap and mourn over my sins and ask God for forgiveness.  My quest to “be good” was a fruitless journey – and through prayers like Psalm 51, I found that a broken heart for my sin drew me closer to Him more than my checklist of ‘being good’ ever did.  As C.S. Lewis said: God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants US.

Today, on Holy Saturday, the time between Jesus’ death on the cross, and His victory over the grave tomorrow, I can’t help but put myself there and walk through the range of emotions.

It is our sins against God that crucified Jesus that Friday vs. 4 and David calls his own sin what it is – evil.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;

I wonder how quickly we would have realized this and sought forgiveness and change. Would it have been the very next day, on Saturday?  Would we have prayed vs. 10?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

And then to wake up Sunday morning and learn that HE IS ALIVE! Would we really believe? Would we spend the rest of our days living in the JOY that salvation brings (vs. 10)?

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

How would our lives be different if we lived everyday with the utmost JOY for Jesus conquering the grave and the utmost JOY for our salvation?