July 2, 2017  Romans 6:12-23

To You Oh Lord we lift up our souls, In you oh God we trust; Make us to know your ways, Oh Lord, teach us your paths.  I suppose relative to getting ahead in life all of us have heard the saying, It’s not what you know but who you know. And I suppose some of us have been on the short end of the stick often times.  In Romans 6 Paul disagrees with that saying. He says it’s both what you know and who you know that enables one to live a victorious life a life above the conflict of sins.  In the first half of Romans 6 Paul says disciples through conversion and baptism have come to know something and know someone.  He says disciples have come to know this, that they have died to SIN and simultaneously they have come to know Jesus Christ. Paul liked to write his messages in contrasting pairs. In Rom. 5 his pair was Adam vs. Christ, in 8 it is “life in the Spirit” vs. “life in the flesh.”  In our passage 6.12-23 He has three such pairs: sin versus righteousness, freedom versus slavery, wages vs. gifts. These are pairs that for one thing point out the vast dichotomy that exists between our faith based in Scripture and the free-fall of our society into non-judgmentalism and a falsity called tolerance. Things Scripture calls sin but are so accepted in our society that Scripture’s stance seems prudish or way, way out of step with the times. 2 Timothy states 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  This dilemma results in one of our own living pairs Scripture versus society.  We as disciples of Jesus must have an unflinching commitment to the truth of Scripture no matter how prudish it makes us come off looking.  We are in a battle for orthodoxy as well as orthopraxy.  Since I touched on marriage let me say that our parish and the Anglican Church in North America believe and lovingly proclaim that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.  We must, in charity and without fear, resist efforts to redefine or demean marriage, insisting that man may not redefine that which God has created or drain it of its fundamental meaning.  We all know that in Scripture the name of God is highly exalted and in the 10 commandments we are instructed to highly honor and not take it in vain.  In fact, the Jews were so concerned with taking his name in vain they developed synonyms, like heaven, for his name as protection against that sin. Knowing this about His name it’s astounding that in Psalm 138.2 we read I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.  Did you hear that last phrase? for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.  This seems to be difficult phrase to translate since other translations translate it for you have exalted your word above your name.   And these aren’t off the grid, no name, unreliable translations.  In fact, if you were to pick up the NIV close to you you would find this translation, and the NIV is the most popular translation in this country, very reliable. If we think about this just for a moment there is an added gravity to standing for, obeying, and being loyal to Scripture.  Nothing to be cavalier about.  The challenge of our day is for Jesus’ disciples to stay true and loyal/devoted to Scripture even in the face of scorn or belittling from our society and even in the face of the message of Scripture being difficult to apply to our lives or those we love.  It will be on the basis of Scripture that we will be judged at the end of time.  Now to Romans and the three pairs.  This passage deals with the Spirit’s view of sin and how serious it is.  We will see that the Spirit’s concern is not necessarily with the individual sins one commits but with sin, singular.  Because sin in the singular is a power that exerts itself upon human beings pressing them to commit individual acts of sins.  It’s not temptation, it’s the power behind temptation.  It’s so powerful that man absent the Spirit of God cannot resist it

.  But the freedom the cross brings to a disciple is secured and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  By his power disciples can stand against and say no to Sin.
 

The three pairs again are: (PPT) Sin versus Righteousness in vv. 12-14; freedom versus slavery in vv.15-22; and wages versus gifts in v.23.

SIN VERSUS RIGHTEOUSNESS

-12-14 reads

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

This passage really should begin in v. 11

11 So you also must consider/count/reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Preceding this v. Paul has been imparting information on the subject of union with Christ, and in line with this he has three times used the word know.  Now he uses a different key word- consider/count/reckon.  This is so crucial a word we’ll spend some time with it.  Reckoning does not create the fact of union with Christ or freedom from Sin but causes it to come alive in a disciple’s life.  The charge to count oneself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus is in the present tense, indicating a necessity to keep up the process if one is to avoid reactivating the flesh, which is what the power of sin uses in our lives to influence us toward acts of sins.  Paul stresses this process of counting or reckoning or considering—we should think about its value—especially since the objection has been raised by some that such a process smacks of attempting to convince oneself of something unrealistic in terms of actual experience and so amounts to self-deception.  The reason for the use of this terminology is at least fourfold.  First, this is an instruction heavy with apostolic authority.  God is speaking through his apostle, and what God instructs must be effective.  It must never be treated as frivolous.  Second, the instruction is psychologically sound, for what we think tends to be carried out in action.  The thought is father to the actThird, this process must not be assumed in a mechanical fashion, as though there were some sort of magic in going through the motions.  One must really want to have freedom from the power of sin and to live responsibly before God.  To that end one must take advantage of the means of grace, which this reckoning is. Fourth, when speaking out your devotion to consider yourself dead to the power of sin and alive to the power of God, one is speaking out words of faith and the power of God, the Holy Spirit, can empower those words to be reality in our lives.  So, v.12 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Is based off of the considering, it just doesn’t come out of the blue.  There’s a reason, a freedom, and a power to make this happen.  Living free from sins is a real possibility based on the facts of death to Sin and union with Christ.  We have the ability, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to not let the power of sin reign in our bodies.  Some of the major areas in our lives where the power of SIN has special pull are in our attitudes that often we think are ours to determine.  That’s not true.  Our lives are not our own, we have been bought with a price and we owe obedience to God in every area.  Another major area where the power of SIN has special pull is in the area of morality.  Our society no longer looks down on unmarried people having sex and certainly the idea of living together before marriage has come out of the shadows.  But Scripture says that fornication, which is sex outside marriage and adultery which is sex with someone not one’s mate is sin and will be judged as such.  1 Cor 6.9 says the sexually immoral will not inherit the Kingdom of God. We must hold Scripture’s line even if it means seeming fuddy duddy or a relic from the ancient past.  The lame argument for living together that it better prepares one for marriage is statistically indefensible, for statistics substantiate that those living together before marriage divorce at a higher rate than those who do not. Folks, God knows what He’s talking about even if it sounds outdated and old hat, He knows! Another area is relationships.  God expects his children to get along, but not just get along to be in unity and loving redemptive relationships.  It’s just not a nice saying that rolls off the tongue every Sunday—Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. I’ll read what Jesus said in Matthew 5 just after he taught the Lord’s Prayer, let me warn you, you won’t like this and maybe not even understand it, here goes, Jesus said: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will I forgive your trespasses.

  I checked a few commentaries on this and got a laugh.  Of the five I checked two didn’t even address these two vv. it was as if they didn’t exist.  One tiptoed around making claims to soften its message that weren’t in the verse. Two straight up said it’s difficult but God can do what he decides to do. One pointed out, to be a child of God you must act like your Father.  If you don’t act like your Father, you’re not His child. So, when it comes to the sin versus righteousness pair, because of our conversion we have died to the power of sin and have been united with Christ—this death to sin is of such a nature that it takes constant reckoning from us to remind our flesh that we died to sin.  And when this is done the Holy Spirit empowers that confession of faith so that we actually do live free from sins.  Paul gives further common sense about this process, he says if a man is tempted to commit sins of lust and fantasy he shouldn’t give his eyes to desire.  If a woman is prone to gossip she shouldn’t hang around those that feed that tendency.  The next pair follows close on the heels of the first.

FREEDOM VERSUS SLAVERYvv.15-19 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

The larger picture Paul paints in Rom 6 contains portraits of two competing powers, Sin and Righteousness. 

Human beings exist in a relationship of freedom or slavery to those powers.  Scripture says human beings are slaves of either righteousness or sin.  Paul gives thanks for the move of the Roman Disciples from slavery to sin toward obedience from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.  I find that final phrase interesting and powerful to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.  Usually we talk about the teaching that has been committed to us. In other words, we take or leave the truth we hear.  It’s up to us to decide what to do with the teaching. But Paul says his hearers have been committed to the teaching.  The teaching is in charge.  They are living under the authority of the teaching and the teaching can do with them as it decides.  This is an image we might want to commit to memory and call on in times of struggle with sin and ask Am I living under the teaching or have I somehow moved out from under its authority?  Some here today may struggle or even at first glance disagree with Paul here, that they are always enslaved to one or the other- the power of Sin or the power of God.  When you were in the world given to the power of sin you basically did what Sin told you to do. You thought you were running your life doing what you wanted to do but that’s the deception of Sin, it’s in control but it makes you think it’s thoughts are actually yours.  To be set free from the obligation to serve sin means entrance into the service of righteousness

.  There’s no middle ground, no place in the faith walk where one is free to set his own standards and go his own way.  So, it’s errant to think that on becoming a believer one is simply exchanging one form of slavery for another.  Because, the two Masters are not on the same plane. The one is rigorous and relentless, leading to death—you know something I’ve always been kind of amused with, when people say I don’t want to follow Jesus because I’ll have to give up all my freedom, they’re unaware.  Challenge the alcoholic to stop drinking to see how free he/she is.  Challenge the gossip to stop gossiping.  Challenge the hater to stop it.  Challenge the worrier to stop worrying.  They can’t but their free.  These masters are not on the same level one is rigorous, relentless, and demanding leading to death; other is joyous and satisfying, leading to life and peace and true control over life.  If we’re never truly free but always serving some outside master, never to be autonomous what difference does it really make in life?  The final pair answers this question:

WAGES VERSUS GIFTS – V.23

Note Paul does not equate “the wages of the power of sin and the wages of God.”  When one lives as a slave to sin, they are they are earning a wage and they have no choice, they are bound and earning a future and that future is death, physically and spiritually. But when one is in a

voluntary

relationship of servitude to obedience or God they are serving because they want to and are living for a future of true freedom and joy with God.  But their service isn’t earning anything. God gives a gift to his servants and that gift is life.  A truly free life!  Just as this weekend reminds us of the freedom we have from the tyranny of England, Romans 6 calls us to the freedom we have over Satan and from the power of SIN.

Now just to be clear, what we have discussed here this morning is nothing less than God on Mission.  This is the Reclamation and Renewal of human beings who have been stolen from his love and care by a clever deception and a stupid decision—a renewal to a truly free life!!

 

Father, move upon our hearts and wills to live for you as happy servants of grace and the cross.  In the name of the Jesus who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever.

 

2017 FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

To You Oh Yahweh we lift up our souls, In you Oh God we trust, Make us to know   your ways, teach us your paths.

Has anyone ever told you that you are the most amazing thing on this earth.  That aspects of yourself should be New York Times headlines.  That you belong on the cover of Time and Newsweek; in fact on the cover of every major magazine so that when people pass you on the street or see you in a restaurant or in the store, they stop and point and you hear them say just above a whisper, Aren’t you the one on. . as they pass by you.  You might say Well my mom or grandmother or aunt thought I was really something but that’s a little over the top don’t you think Father Rick?

It doesn’t matter what I think it matters what Scripture says about you and me.  If you want to grab a Bible nearby turn to 1 Peter 2 and let’s find out what God thinks of you and me and how He describes us.  I think you’ll be surprised and you will need to exercise faith to believe how the Almighty describes us.  1 Peter 2.2-10 has 2 directives toward we disciples, two descriptions of King Jesus, and multiple descriptions of we disciples.  I’m praying the Holy Spirit to be very active this morning.  If you hear from the Spirit through this text I promise you it WILL revolutionize your future and entire life.  I’m going to read a quote to you from Leonard Sweet a prolific Christian author that I am increasingly in agreement with and before you reject it allow me to finish this sermon then pass judgment on it, “So to be a follower of Jesus means, in some ways, you have to be a Jew first—you have to be in a right relationship with Judaism.  Ahh, hold that judgment. Let’s take the passage as I laid it out with, first the 2 DIRECTIVES toward we disciples.  Let me say, these two directives, if followed, will revolutionize your walk with God.  YES!  Revolutionize  The first directive is found in the first v. of our passage, v.2 “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”  The directive is to long for the spiritual milk.  This directive reflects the Bible’s theology that when a person walking away from God turns to follow Jesus they are born again and in fact Peter states this in ch.1.23 Where he rights “since you have been born again” When a baby is born it is not expected to behave like an adult.  It can’t walk or talk or reason or exercise self-control.  It longs for it’s mother’s milk that by it it may grow up.  The newborn child does not interact much with its new environment, but right from the start it eagerly desires milk.  Sometimes at the most inopportune times it goes searching for this milk.  At some point in your life you turned to follow Jesus you became a spiritual infant. Let me be clear– there is never a time in our spiritual growth where we can no longer long for pure spiritual milk since we need such nourishment until we die or King Jesus returns to finalize God’s Kingdom and reconcile and restore the Created Order.

The word translated long for is a very intense word and it is in the imperative mood thus it is a command for every disciple to intensely long for Scripture.  One other comment on this directive, a baby of any kind has a natural longing for its mother’s milk.  The baby doesn’t have to work up this longing or decide to long   However, this longing is not a felt need in disciples.  It is a decision.  Nothing in you will pull you toward Scripture.  In fact, something I’ve noticed about my quiet time–increased years as a disciple doesn’t result in an easier time of maintaining it.  I must fight for it every day, every day! You know what that tells me.  Our devotional lives are one of the most important aspects of our faith in Jesusotherwise why would the devil fight them so consistently and over the long haul.  We must decide to long for the pure spiritual milk.  And decide, and decide, and daily decide.  The struggle to maintain that decision is not yours only we all fight it. Long for the pure spiritual milk.  This is the first directive from Peter to his first century audience of disciples and to this twenty-first century audience of disciples.  We need to pause to ask ourselves at what level is our longing do we miss the Bible if we don’t read it for a time.  How many Bibles do you have in your house.  The Huffington Post recently wrote, “the average household has 4.4 Bibles.  Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society, said he sees a reason for why the Bible isn’t connecting with people. “I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they’re overweight, but they don’t follow a diet,” Birdsall said. “People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don’t read it.”  Albert Mohler the president of the Southern Baptist Convenion Seminary wrote: While America’s Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to homebiblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it. Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are.” The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”  Mr. Mohler, who also is the host of a short radio program called The Briefing included this, “We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs.”  I pray that Holy Trinity will determine in our corporate and community heart that we will not follow this foolish trend but that we will long for the pure spiritual milk.  Guess what? If you’ve been falling short in this area you can change all that tonight, even this afternoon.  Go home, find a quiet place, pick up your Bible and renew your longing for it by reading through the NT.  The second directive is in v.4 and it is in the present tense which means the directive is meant to be carried out every day all day. It reads As you come to him but more literally reads, As you are coming to him or  As you every day come to him or  As you constantly come to him.  You get the idea.  Peter is directing every disciple to not only long for pure spiritual milk but to daily, constantly come to Jesus.  Do you realize these two directives consist of our quiet times, being in the Bible and coming to Jesus.  I have forever claimed that one will never progress in their faith life beyond their consistency and quality of their devotional life.  It’s an impossibility.  Next we move to the two descriptions of Jesus.                                                                   

The first encourages in our longing.  The second is the basis of God’s description of us.  So, they’re very connected to us in the passage.  The one that encourages us in our longing is in v.3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.  In my 3 decades of ministry I have never met a healthy disciple who is disappointed with Jesus they have all tasted and agreed the Lord is good.  I dare you to find a friend or an institution that has been better to you than King Jesus.  Who has forgiven, encouraged, loved, supported, blessed, healed, understood, been patient with, stood with and by you like the Lord?  Can you name one person, institution. . . parent? That tastes as good or better than the Lord?  Then let us long for the pure spiritual mik!!  The second description is in v.4 where Peter changes the metaphor from food and taste to a building, and Jesus is described as a stone.  The basis of this description is a prophecy in Isaiah, Peter writes, “Behold I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.  In Isaiah’s time Israel was being threatened by powerful Assyria and was very afraid because of Assyria’s might. Their covenant with Yahweh called for them to trust in Him but the leader’s found that to not be substantive enough so they made a treaty with Egypt for protection. Isaiah declared God’s condemnation of the poor Egyptian makeshift the rebellious and unbelieving people had constructed as a substitute for faith in their God, by saying that sometime in the future he would build his own temple building and he would build it on a foundation cornerstone that was chosen and precious. The NT interprets this cornerstone of God’s own temple building He Himself would build as Jesus—so this is the second description of Jesus and off of that description he goes right into his first description of disciples of Jesus!!  He writes in v.4 “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.  Jesus is the foundation cornerstone of this living temple of God which God Himself is building and the structure of that living temple is not principles or truths from heaven or the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer or angels the walls and structures are US!!! YOU AND ME!  There are seven descriptions here of us and they are all specifically and uniquely applied to Israel in the OT.  Our corporate unawareness of the OT makes it difficult to communicate how awesome this stuff is.  These descriptions as Peter writes them follow As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Now if you know a little bit about the OT a sacrifice before it could be offered must have met exacting standards.  But the sacrifices we offer, probably in the form of worship and good deeds out in the world are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,  It would take a very long time to go through each of these to explain their significance  we just don’t have that much time.  Here’s a quick review of our history in the OT.  At creation God limited his activity on earth to working with and through human beings. So, when it came time to reclaim and renew the Created Order he went looking for a human being to work with and through.  So, He decided by his own choice to create a nation for his own possession for them to know him and worship Him and to be His agents of reconciling the Created Order to Himself. He found a pagan, idol worshiping man who would at least listen to him and he made it work.  That nation was Israel—that was us.  We became enslaved to Egypt and when it came time for God to free us from Egypt he chose a man named Moses and since they were going to be working together God decided they should be on a first name basis, so God told Moses his name was Yahweh.  God by his own choice chose to free us from slavery to the most powerful nation on the globe by signs and wonders.  As we were leaving Egypt we came up against the Red Sea and in the meantime Egypt changed it’s mind so the most powerful, accomplished army in the world was coming after us. The Red Sea in front of us and the Egyptian army behind us.  We all just kind of looked at Moses and he with the calm of a cucumber kept hearing from his Partner and doing what he said.  Israel went to sleep facing the Red Sea and awoke facing a dry path through the Red Sea.  We passed through the Red Sea with walls of churning, tossing, raging waters on both sides but the bottom of that Sea was dry.  When our enemies tried to cross the walls of churning, tossing waters collapsed in on them and drowned every last one of them.  We realized this God who created us could protect and fight for us.  He immediately established an agreement with us called a covenant of what He would do for us and what He expected of us. A central part of that covenant was that we should provide Him a place where He could reside among us.  First it was a tent later we built a temple.  And in order for us to relate to Him He chose a portion of us to serve as go between between Him and us since we weren’t holy enough to approach him on our own merit.  A major part of their calling was to offer sacrifices to Him for our sins, they were very important to us.  And from there in just a few days He led us to the boundary of the land He promised us, a wonderful land full of good things and our God’s blessings.  But we forgot the lesson of the Red Sea and didn’t believe He could protect us or would fight for us.  So, for punishment He sentenced us to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.  In those years of wandering we failed him often but He always remained faithful to us.  Then finally He led us back to that land and this time we trusted Him.  He through us defeated every nation in that land and we took possession of it.  I’m sad to report to you that we failed Him more times than we like to count but He was always faithful to us.  One day we told Him we wanted a king like other countries to rule us rather than Him.  That was wrong but true to His character He brought something good out of it, He promised that our best, mightiest, and greatest King, King David, would always have one of his sons on the throne AND that when it seem the darkest He would raise up one of David’s sons to rescue us and return us to our rightful place of dominance and ruling in the world.  Since that promise our record hasn’t been good but He has been good.  And recently some of us are claiming that a Jesus of Nazareth is our long awaited Davidic King and that God is righting all the wrongs and has taken it upon Himself to give himself an all encompassing sacrifice that would take care of every sin and wrong anyone has committed and we’ve heard he’s kind of rebirthing our nation to include people from other nations and this guy named Peter says He’s building His own temple with this Jesus being the foundation and his followers the stones of the structure.  It’s different than the temple we built him.  Ours was material but the one He Himself is building is spiritual and the claim is that we are all priests now offering spiritual sacrifices made acceptable through this Jesus guy.

that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  Proclaiming the excellencies of his name has a lot to do with reminding the devil and his imps of what Jesus has done and that we are agents of God reclaiming and renewing the Created Order.  If that’s not an identity to die for I don’t know what is.  I know this is a lot to throw at you on a Sunday morning but when else am I going to do it.  I’ll put my manuscript on the website so you can go over it and dive a little deeper into the OT on your own.  

Almighty God our Blessed Father and Your Holy Spirit please teach us about who we are and what we have been called to do as we work with you to reconcile and renew the Created Order.  Come Lord Jesus Come—Come quickly Lord Jesus.