Romans Road Week 3 - "Sin Boldly"
Today we are concluding the three-part sermon series drawn from Paul's letter to the Romans, entitled "The Romans Road"
This series is a brief exploration into the themes of Paul's letter to the church in Rome and is designed to help us understand more fully that the road to redemption is paved with the grace that comes to us through the gifts of faith and the radical love of Jesus.
So today, we will explore how being united with Jesus brings the kind of transformation that can bring us new life---the kind that we long to live.
Let me share something amazing with you. This is probably the greatest theological declaration of all time:
"Love God, and Sin Boldly." - Martin Luther
Come on! You know, that's just plain awesome. It was something that Martin Luther said to his protege in a letter where he was talking about the grace of God, as revealed in Paul's letter to the Romans.
Kind of makes you wish you were Lutheran...
Maybe not, is what all of the ex-Lutherans might be saying at this point.
This quote has been widely debated, deconstructed, and re-framed by Lutherans and good Reformed folks for a very long time. I did the research, there has been a lot of ink spilled over this thing.
That quote comes directly from the passage we're about to read.
A lot of Lutheran defenders of Luther basically say, "He was joking with his friend."
They say this because that quote and the passage of Scripture that it comes from have led to what became known as Antinomianism in Christianity---which is essentially the rejection of the Law (the Torah from the Hebrew Scriptures) in favor of a freer approach led by the teachings of Jesus, and others.
According to the higher-ups in the Church at the time, this was a slippery slope because you didn't want to have a freer approach to grace and transformation. You need to be holy, man.
And so began the Church's long and arduous trek through legalism, works righteousness, and the like. Martin Luther pushed back against many of those things within the Catholic Church. He had his own issues, mind you. Lutheranism wasn't exactly a free-for-all.
Still, a part of him kind of got this.
There's a difference between Behavior Modification and Transformation.
Far too much of Christianity is formed around the former and not the latter.
Luther pointed out that Grace is bigger than we imagine, and telling people what to do and how to be holy isn't enough. In fact, that can get in the way of true transformation.
And true transformation comes to us when we realize that a life of stumbling after Jesus can lead us to discover who we really are. It can lead us to our true selves, the selves we long to be.
This is what I want us to hang on to today:
THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION LEADS TO A NEW WAY OF LIVING
Let's read Romans 6:1b-11
In this passage, Paul addresses the struggle between Law and Grace. This is the existential part of the struggle between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
6:1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
There were some who thought--let's just sin it up so we can get grace.
I know what you are thinking: "Those are my people."
And there were others who thought that all of the Laws in the Torah needed to be kept--all 600+ of them.
6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Paul presents something different--Unity with Christ. There is a reason why I read this passage every time I officiate at a funeral. Death and Resurrection.
6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.
6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Because of our union with Christ--we are set free from sin and death. And our union with Christ is a spiritual and physical connection. God became one of us to rescue all of us.
Paul wanted his readers to know that the new life that comes with being united with Christ brings us a new way of living without fear or dread. We don't have to live in bondage to fear. We don't have to worry about what happens tomorrow. We don't have to dread death because death is not the end.
It wasn't the end for Jesus, and it is not the end for us. This is the lesson, the example God was making for humankind. There is more on the other side of this.
And Jesus shows us what God is like, what God wants, and how far God is willing to go to set us free from all of it.
We don't need behavior modification. We need to internalize this amazing, unbelievable hope that there is more, that we are more. And when we do---we can be transformed.
How do we live united with Christ?
Realization---that you are set free, the work has been done. God doesn't keep score.
Response--by living in the freedom of Christ--from shame, from regret.
You are not condemned. John 3:17
THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION LEADS TO A NEW WAY OF LIFE