Monday, January 9, 2017

Are We to Continue in Sin?

Romans 6:1-11 Everything that Paul wrote up until these verses from the sixth chapter of Romans can be summarized in one sentence:  We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus apart from deeds of the law.  That is what the Bible teaches regarding salvation.  That is what we believe.
But almost from the day that these words were written, there have been those within the church who misused them—who turned God’s grace into a license for our sin. 
It began in Galatia where Paul told the people that was for freedom that Christ had set them free-- but then had to warn them to walk by the Spirit so that they did not use their freedom to gratify the desires of the flesh.
The misuse of God’s grace showed up during the Reformation when there pastors and teachers who were actually teaching that good works are detrimental to salvation.
And the misuse of God’s grace continues in our own day where there are entire church bodies that have separated a Christian confession of faith from the Christian morals of the Bible so that they can confess the Nicene Creed and at the same time deny what the Bible teaches on marriage and sexuality and abortion and the roles of men and women.
Of course, it is easy to point the finger at others but in our own lives we are tempted to misuse God’s grace and turn it into a license for sin. 
We get caught up in besetting sins.  We know they are wrong.  We say that we are sorry.  But we never really take any concrete steps to end them.  We are not zealous for good works and holy living and tell ourselves it’s because we don’t want to be too “catholic”.  We draw a distinction between our confession of faith and our life of faith and soothe our conscience with God’s grace when what we ought to do is repent of our sins and amend our lives.
There are countless people-- who have their names on some church’s membership roll-- who haven’t stepped foot in church in years-who are living with people who are not their spouses—whose lives are no different than the unbelievers around them—and they tell themselves that they are Christians.  Is this possible?  The answer is no!  The Bible says:  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!
            The Christian must not continue IN sin.  Now I know what you are thinking:  “But pastor, I sin all the time!  What do you think I’m doing when we come to the confession and absolution?  I’m confessing my sins!”  Me too!
Yes, we sin.  We lose our temper.  We speak unkind words.  We think ugly thoughts.  But that is a very different thing than CONTINUING IN SIN!  Continuing in sin is living in sin—be identified with some sin—never repenting of sin.  Continuing in sin is making an excuse for our sin--saying that it is no sin at all—having no intention to amend our lives.  That is utterly incompatible with a true and living faith in Jesus Christ.  In fact, the Bible says that:  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil.  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning. 
This modern idea that just because someone knows the story of Jesus and can parrot the right words like grace and faith (and yet lives like the devil) is somehow a Christian and will be saved-- is absolutely unknown to the writers of the Bible.  Paul asks us:
How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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 newness of life. 
            The unbelieving world and the apostate church and our own flesh might think that we can, at the same time, have a true and saving faith and continue in sin but Paul does not!  How can we who died to sin still live in it he asks us?  And the answer is:  we can’t—because we have died to sin in Baptism.
At the cross, all of our sins were laid on the Lord Jesus Christ and he died in our place.  When we were baptized, we died with Christ and were buried with Christ and were raised with Christ and the salvation of the world accomplished on the cross was given to us as a gift (personally and individually) in Holy Baptism.
This is why:  living in sin—continuing in sin—abiding with sin-- is absolutely, positively incompatible with a true and living faith in Christ—because that kind of life is an abject denial:  of Jesus- and the cross- and the salvation he accomplished for us there and gave to us in Holy Baptism. 
The fact of the matter is that Christ has died and been raised from the dead and we have been saved—so that we can live a new life.  The Bible says:
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 newness of life.
  Do you see those three words “in order that”?  In the original Greek, there is only one word there and it denotes purpose.  In other words, Christ died and was raised and you were baptized FOR THIS PURPOSE:  that you would walk in newness of life.  That is what salvation is about—a new life in Christ!  God’s plan and Christ’s death and your baptism is for this purpose:  that you would walk in newness of life. 
As certainly as Christ was raised from the dead—so it is the saving purpose of God from everlasting to everlasting (from the first moment of your life to the last) that you would possess and live out a brand new life both in time and eternity.  The Bible says that:
If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
            Christ died on the cross, was buried, and on the third day rose from his grave.  All of those who have died with him will certainly rise from their graves just like he did.  United with him in death—we WILL be united with him in a resurrection life his.  What will that life be like?
            First of all we will rise from our graves just like Jesus did.  When Christ comes again—whether it is ten years from now or ten thousand years from now—no matter what has happened to our body—we will come forth from our graves just as Christ did from his.
Our bodies will be changed like that of Christ’s resurrection body—no longer subject to pain and death—body and soul united forever.  And like Christ’s own ascension to his heavenly Father, we will ascend to heaven where we will live forever.  That is the resurrection promise of eternal life that God makes to us in Holy Baptism. 
But already- right here and right now- we have died with Christ and been raised with Christ and been given the gift of a new life to live on here on earth—a new life that is to be different than the lives of those who do not believe.  The Bible says that:
Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
            All of us are born with Adam’s sin.  The Bible calls it our flesh—the old Adam within each of us that does not know God or believe in God—and, in fact, is war against God.  This Old Adam cannot be reformed—he cannot be cleaned up a bit here and there—he must be put to death—he must be crucified! 
That is what happened when we were baptized—the Old Adam was crucified—and he must continue to be crucified daily as we return to our baptism:  repenting of our sins and being renewed in our faith in Jesus so that, more and more, his life become our own. 
Baptism itself is a once in a lifetime event—it cannot be repeated—but WE CAN return to it again and again because it is a promise that God made to us, that we are no longer slaves to sin because we have died with Christ in Holy Baptism.
Occasionally you will hear someone say:  “The devil made me do it”.  Or they will excuse some sin with:  “Well, I’m just a sinner”!  But the baptismal promise of God is that we are no longer slaves to sin.  We are now the children of God.  Our identity is found in Christ.
This is the life of the Christian—the life of baptism.  This is why we Lutherans make the sign of the cross:  in the morning to remind ourselves that as baptized children of God we are to walk in newness of life throughout our daily tasks --and in the evening to remind ourselves that as baptized children of God we have been forgiven of our sins and promised a new, eternal life with God.  The sign of the cross is emblematic of our entire life as Christians where Jesus is both Lord and Savior.  The bible says that:
If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
            All of us are born into this world as God’s enemies, enslaved by sin, subject to death.  That is our birthright as Adam’s children.  But Christ came into this world to change that.  He died the death on the cross that we deserve and he rose again to give us a new life here on earth and forever in heaven.  Sin and death are defeated enemies—not our masters.
Jesus is our Lord—our master-- and our king—and he calls us to live a life here on earth like his—doing his Father’s will and speaking his Father’s words.  Every moment of his life lived for his heavenly Father.  So it is for us, that we live for God. 
That kind of life began for you in Holy Baptism where God spoke the same words about you that he did about Jesus:  this is my beloved child.  And your life will be changed when you begin to see yourselves as God sees you:  dead to sin but alive in Christ. 

Is it possible for a person who is dead to sin and alive in Christ to continue in sin?  No!  God grant it to us all for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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