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How should we live as Christians? (First part) 24/1/2016 Josh Monteiro

posted 27 Jan 2016, 01:31 by Bert Weenink
We were only able to record the second part of this sermon. For the first part of the sermon read this text, for the second part click on the link below.

Romans 6:15-23 How should we live? (First part)
“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but
under grace?”

I remember back a few years to my secondary school days. There were different sorts of teachers. Some were very strict and somehow
terrifying, whether because liable to get furiously angry and throw chalk at offending students, or because in their quiet determination
they had very high standards and would happily put you in detention. But other teachers were somehow less scary, less able to control the
class. And despite them often being kind and nice, there were definitely those who took advantage of that- whether by doing sloppy
work, talking in class, not handing in homework, and on one occasion hiding in a cupboard and making peculiar sounds throughout the lesson.

Now the issue Paul is addressing draws on that kind of experience- if we have gone from the stern law, with its discipline, to a kinder rule
under grace, then won’t people behave worse? Our experience teaches us that we need stern authorities to stop troublemakers from getting out
of hand. And that seems to apply to the effort to do what is right. Surely if Paul tells us that we are set free from the law and now live
in grace, our behaviour will get worse because we have a far nicer master.

If you have that way of thinking, there are two options you will take. One is that your Christianity will be a version of bait and switch.
Bait and Switch is a kind of false advertising, in which the picture that lures people in- the bait- disguises a quite different reality
that gets switched in. (FREE wifi great BEER) And people can do that with their Christianity. They advertise a Christianity in which Jesus
loves you and all your sins can be forgiven. And then when you have accepted Christ they switch in a new thing- a God who is still stern
and who you’d better not mess with, so keep all the rules. Somehow, there was false advertising beforehand, and then a denial of 6:14: you
are not under law, but under grace. But really you are still under law. Perhaps some of you have seen that sort of Christianity. Perhaps
you have experienced it yourself- as your initial joy on becoming a Christian and getting to know God turns to a weariness with a
demanding God who is always watching out for your mistakes. Perhaps you see that pattern in your own evangelism- a sales pitch on the
grace of God, which you intend to supplement with the message of holiness after someone responds to Christ. This bait and switch, this
message of grace that is switched into the demands of God’s law, is done with the best of intentions. The Bible does teach us about grace,
and about holiness. But it’s like having the right pieces put together wrong- and the result is dysfunctional Christianity, a joyless
Christianity that actually lacks true heart holiness.

The other option, if you think that the only way to make people behave well is to have a strict law keeper, is to say that actually our
behaviour just doesn’t matter too much to God because he is so gracious. And I think that is increasingly common in our day. This
view gets that we are not under law but under grace. It rejoices in that. But then it jettisons all that Scripture has to say about
holiness, because after all God forgives sin- that’s his job as French philosopher Rousseau said. So someone says: I am not under law but
grace, so I can get drunk or take drugs. If you advise me to limit my alcohol intake you are legalistic, under law. I am not under law but
grace, so I can be abusive at home, but accepted by God. If you rebuke me, you are being legalistic. And so on. No one can criticise my
behaviour, because God is grace and God forgives me. And I know my own heart. There comes a point where I am tempted by a sin- to tell a
small lie that makes me look better, to make a mean comment, to use others for my own advantage in some way. And at that point, when my
conscience points out that it is not right, I can so easily take the step into sin by saying- God will forgive me, so it doesn’t really
matter. I’m so glad I don’t have the legalistic God some Christians have, I’m set free- to sin.
So because of the underlying idea- that the only way to fight sin is to be scared that someone intimidating will deal with you if you get
out of line- Christians tend to have one of two problems. They either have a bait and switch, in which the good news we proclaim of grace
and forgiveness gets eclipsed when people respond by the holy God who they had better not upset- and that leads to legalism. Or they decide
that God is gracious and so fighting sin doesn’t really matter, and isn’t really possible, and so they become practicing antinomians.
Anti- against, nom- law- people who are against law. They live as if there is no law, no holiness to aim for, just grace and forgiveness
while I live as selfishly as I always have done and hurt people around me. Those seem to be the options for Christians. Legalist or
antinomian.

But Paul does not deal with the issue that way. He does not do what the legalist does and backtrack- grace gets you in but you are still
under law. No. v15 “we are not under law but under grace”. We have been decisively transferred from being under law to being under grace,
if we have trusted Christ. But that does not mean that we are simply free to sin as the antinomian thinks: “Shall we sin because we are not
under law but under grace? By no means!” And so this morning we want to see how we fight sin without becoming legalists, and why not
fighting sin is not an option for Christians.

If you are not a Christian here this morning, you are really welcome. I hope you find what we are talking about here helpful in
understanding how Christianity works. But it is important to realise that this passage is written to the person who has trusted Christ to
put them right with God. The letter to the Romans itself follows a clear order, and Romans 1-5 lays out how we are saved by Jesus not by
our effort to be good, but simply by receiving God’s gift of forgiveness. It is only for those who accept that grace for themselves
who then face the questions addressed in Romans 6-8, and also 12 onwards, about how to live as someone set free by Jesus. So if you
have not trusted Christ, I hope this is really helpful in letting you see what it would mean to live following Jesus. But don’t try to do
this before trusting Christ- it will only work if you really have Christ, if in the language of Romans 6:1-3 you have died with Christ
and have been raised to new life with Christ.

1) Vv16-19a You are under the master you obey
Imagine, if you will, a slave in a courtyard. One man, a master, calls out to the slave, Quintus, come in and serve dinner. Another man,
another master, calls out to Quintus, come out and help me build a wall. This slave, Quintus, can’t obey both men. He can only obey one.
And the one he obeys is his true master. V16 “Don’t you know that when you offer yourself to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to
the one whom you obey- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness.”

Paul says in v19 that his argument is “in human terms”- becoming a Christian is not exactly like being a slave. But it makes an important
point. Sin and God tell us to do opposite things. We can only obey one of them. And the one we obey shows who we really belong to.
Now that might not seem terribly good news- come and be slaves. It might seem like Paul is doing the bait and switch- he tell us it is
all about grace not law and then tells us we are slaves who have to obey God. But what we have neglected, if we think that, is that every
human being is a slave to someone. No human being can truly be Lord. The poem Invictus by Henley finishes by summing up the attitude of our
culture: I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. I’m the boss. I’m in charge. I steer my course and I bow the knee to
no-one. And so when Christianity comes along and says- you must obey God, you must bow the knee to Christ- we say “We’ve always been free,
and now you want to enslave us.” This isn’t good news.

But Paul is working with a very different way of looking at the world. It is not that we are all free, until we are enslaved by Christ. It is
that we were all enslaved to evil- sometimes put in terms of an evil spiritual force, Satan, sometimes, put in terms of the principle of
rebellion and evil in our hearts, sin. That while we were proclaiming our independence, we were actually puppets whose strings were pulled
by the shadowy puppet master sin. That while we refused to bow the knee to Christ because of our pride, we were being led like animals to
the slaughter. We refuse Christ and the obedience to righteousness he brings, proclaiming that we will serve no one else. And all the time
the vampire sin is sucking our life away, and everything we do serves to enlarge sin’s kingdom and diminish us.

Within that framework, Paul can call us to obey the master who has saved us, and think that is really good news. We were enslaved to a
terrible master who held us in chains, allowing us momentary entertainment, but exploiting us for his own advantage, robbing us of
our life. We could not escape, and if we tried to fight sin in one way his cunning promises of future reward and threat of punishment would
lead to us sinning in another. Every way we spent our life on things less than the majestic destiny for which humans were made, and
entangled ourselves in chains that would drag us down to death. Jesus is the wonderful saviour who pays the debt that keep us
enslaved, cuts the chains that bound us to sin, removes our filthy rags and gives us pure white clothes to wear. We still have a master-
because human beings were made to work with a master. We need someone far greater than us to give us life- we can’t keep our bodies going
simply by our own will power. We need someone far wiser than us to guide us in what is good and worthwhile- our own ideas lead us into
traps and errors, and our desires unchecked lead us into disaster. We need a master. But this new master is far better than sin. Jesus,
rescuing us by his grace when we served his enemy and were trapped in evil, forgives us. He washes us clean. He hugs us. He brings us into
his palace. He adopts us as sons. And then he calls us to live a new life with Jesus as our master not sin. He calls us to do what is
right- righteous and worthy of humans and ultimately good for us. He calls us to live out our high destiny as sons and daughters of God.

Paul is not switching in law for grace. But he is showing us the true nature of salvation. It is meaningless to say that we have trusted
Christ for salvation and then to live our whole lives as slaves to sin. If you say that you accept Christ as saviour but refuse to have
him as you master, then you are still under sin as your master, still serving the clinging evil that rebels against the creator. Salvation
comes to those who embrace Christ as saviour-and that means as master,
Lord, in place of sin. V17-18 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of
teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.”

Paul isn’t saying that Christians never sin- Romans 7 will show that Christians can find fighting sin an ongoing battle. But Paul is saying
that a Christian will generally serve Christ and not sin. That will be the pattern of their life. That will be the direction they are headed
in. The antinomian, who says that they are free to sin, hasn’t understood the salvation on offer and the grace of Christ- and if they
consistently obey sin and not Christ, that shows that their true master is not Christ. For all their talk of grace, the “Christian” who
thinks they are free to sin because Christ forgives is in danger of missing out on the grace of Christ entirely. But we don’t avoid sin
because of the law, because Christ is a harsh master, as the legalist thinks. We avoid sin because Christ is such a good master and has set
us free from such a bad master. To see why sin is such a bad master, look with me at vv20-23

2) V20-23 You reap from the master you sow with
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things
you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit
you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ
Jesus our Lord. The principle Paul lays out here is that you take wages from the master you work for. You reap depending on where you sow, an idea Paul
develops in Galatians 5. So you can work for sin or for Christ. You can sow your life in sin’s business, or in Christ’s business. And the
key thing to notice is the wages you get.

If you work in sin’s estate, you get death. “Those things result in death!” You do things that you will be ashamed of when Christ appears
and all is revealed. You work for sin, and v23 the wages of sin is death. When you sin, you enlarge sin’s realm, but for yourself all you
get is death- your life is meaningless, your destiny to be shut out from life.
But if you are set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
For the person made holy by Christ, and the deeds done in obedience to Christ that are holy, enter God’s presence, and God’s power makes the
person and the deeds beautiful and immortal and eternally significant. Holiness is not a dry and dusty thing for monks, or a pale empty life
of missing out on fun. Holiness is righteous goodness, the creator’s life pouring through us and our feeble bodies becoming instruments for
divine goodness to work. Holiness is what humans were made for. Love without selfishness, power without cruelty, skill without pride:
holiness is beautiful because holiness is being made like Jesus. And people who are made holy are people who can enter God’s presence, and
see him and live. And if you see God and his wrath does not destroy you as a sinner, then seeing God means everlasting life. The grace of
God means that you are transferred from a master who steal and kills to a master who gives and raises to life.

Let’s try and flesh this out for two types of people. The first is probably most of us- the Christian who truly loves Christ but who
falls into sin, and who perhaps has one area of particular struggle with sin. The second is the Christian who claims the grace of Christ
but does not fight sin in their lives.

a) The specific sin. The Christian loves Christ, wants in general to do what is right, wants to obey Christ. But there is a particular
temptation. Perhaps this is a one off situation, and you are tempted. Perhaps it is an ongoing struggle. Perhaps it is the temptation to
lash out in anger when things go wrong. Perhaps it is the temptation to indulge in lust and sexual immorality. Perhaps it is the temptation
to be dishonest for some sort of financial gain. I don’t know what it is for you. All I know is that all of us have areas where we are
tempted- where part of us wants to sin. And what I want to do is to remove the disguises so that we see clearly what we are doing if we
give in- so that we can better fight sin. We need to allow Scripture to speak to us, and allow other Christians to speak to us, so that we
are not blinded or taken in by sin’s disguises.
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