logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

"Slaves to Sin - or Righteousness?"

June 22, 2014 Romans 6(10-23)


There are plenty of battles going on throughout the world - ISIS in Iraq, rebels in Ukraine, radical Islamists in Central Africa - but there is one battle that goes on everywhere: the battle against sin and evil within ourselves. Alexander Solzhenitsyn witnessed much evil as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union. But in his book The Gulag Archipelago he remarked, "Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts...And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an unuprooted small corner of evil.Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being."

In Romans 6 the apostle Paul gets down to brass tacks with this question of how to overcome sin - this battle within ourselves. V11 "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." The Greek word implies a conscious process: "to reckon, count, compute, calculate...to reckon inward, count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate." It's a verb that evaluates facts, like tallying up your chequebook with the bank statement and arriving at the conclusion that you have "X" dollars left to spend. How do we arrive at this consciousness in spiritual realities?

Paul gives us a clue at the beginning of verse 11: "in the same way..." - that points back to what he's just been talking about. In vv3-10 the dominant theme is the Christian believer's being WITH or IN Christ. V3 Those who were baptized INTO Christ Jesus were baptized - sunk, immersed - INTO His death. V4 We were buried WITH Him through baptism - the outward expression of our inward faith - INTO death. V5 We have been UNITED WITH Him like this IN His death. V6 We know our old self was crucified WITH Him so the body of sin might be done away with. V8 If we died WITH Christ, we believe we'll also live WITH Him. V11 Count yourselves alive to God IN Christ Jesus. See how Paul's emphasizing repeatedly this WITHness, being joined and united with Jesus INTO His death and resurrection by faith? Maybe sin for a believer is like suffering spiritual amnesia, forgetting our identity with Christ / in Christ, forgetting who God has birthed us anew into being by the Holy Spirit.

V5 "If we have been UNITED with Him like this..." Literally "planted together, born together, grown together." For the past couple of weeks I'd been growing some annual flowers indoors in little styrofoam pots, 10 pots with perhaps half a dozen zinnias (we think - lost the package!) in each pot. Then Wednesday morning I carefully dug ten holes with the shovel, and for each hole used a trowel to remove the clump of flowers from each pot; put one hand carefully around the clump, stuck it in the hole on top of the peat moss I'd put in, kept my hand around it and used the other hand to backfill with topsoil around the clump. That left all the half-dozen or more flowers there together in a little bunch I then watered. That's a picture of what Paul's talking about here - PLANTED TOGETHER with Christ. When sin's appealing to us, we're forgetting we've been sunk into the soil (as it were) together with Jesus, and are joined together with Him in His springing forth, His resurrection.

Paul put it this way in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

V4 ends with an interesting phrase: "Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" - NRSV "so we too might walk in newness of life". A fresh start, like Jesus getting a new spiritual glorified body at resurrection as we hope for, one that won't wear out, get sick and die ever again - eternally! [EXHIBIT: SHOE] While getting ready for a half-hour of gardening one morning this week, I deliberated whether to wear some old walking shoes that at one time had been very good shoes: but now there was a gaping hole. I RECKONED that they were no longer fit for anything but the garbage (except in this case I hauled them out for a sermon illustration!). That's an image the "old self" crucified with Christ so the "body of sin" might be done away with - 'IN CHRIST' we have NEWNESS of life. But to live in that newness, you need to BE your history, BE the believer who's "sunk" / immersed into Jesus, you've been crucified and raised WITH Him, united with Him in death and resurrection. For it's Christ's resurrection that proves, as v9 says, "Death no longer has mastery over Him." His empty tomb is proof that death's mastery, its power and control, its rule, has been broken!


From the AM920 news May 26: "A West Grey resident is out $6,000 after falling victim to a paving scam.Grey County OPP say an unknown man attended the victim's residence offering to pave his driveway with recycled asphalt for $800.The victim agreed, and that day, two dump trucks full of old paving asphalt pieces were brought in, spread, and rolled by three other unknown men.After a few hours, when the work was done, the victim was asked to pay $8,000.The victim objected, say he was quoted $800; not $8,000.The suspect told the victim that his brother would come to speak with him about the matter.Another unknown male arrived and, eventually, the victim reluctantly wrote him a cheque for $6,000 just to get the men to leave."

Want another quickie from the same day - May 26, same news source? "Sarnia police are investigating after another elderly man fell victim to the "grandparent phone scam".Constable Les Jones says the man in his 80's received a phone call from someone claiming to be his son needing money after being in a car accident in Montreal.The victim over the next few days sent a total of $15,000 dollars.Jones reminds residents to safeguard yourself from becoming a fraud victim."

Scams are all too common. Within the past month I received a phone call saying there was a problem with my computer and they could help me fix it; I immediately hung up, and hope you do the same! Paul points out another thing that helps us break free from sin's trap: we ought to recognize sin is a scam. It promises one thing, and delivers another. Sin's results aren't nearly as positive as one is tempted to think.

V21 "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" So right there are two outcomes of sin: SHAME and DEATH. As soon as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they felt shame, so sewed fig leaves together to try to cover themselves; then they hid from God rather than enjoying the former fellowship (Gen 3:7f). Sin also brings the sentence of death, both in our temporal existence - returning to the ground from which we were taken (Gen 3:19), and in eternity - cut off from a holy God.

V19 describes other outcomes of sin: "...you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness..." Sin enslaves, it sucks you in, draws you in a way that's hard to resist - harder the more you yield to it. The slavery is to "impurity", literally "uncleanness"; imagine, for instance, trying to clean up after a drunken orgy where people have been up-chucking. The slavery is to "ever-increasing wickedness": ever-increasing, drawing you in further and further.

How many users of child pornography started out intending to get caught in it? But porn soon fails to satisfy, leading users into darker depths. And the problem globally is mushrooming. A story on BBC this past week noted that "In 2002 the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reviewed and confirmed 45,055 examples of obscene images of children found online (some of these were duplicates); In 2013 the figure had grown to 23,881,197." From 45K to nearly 24M in just 11 years! A 29-year-old man recently sentenced to 5 years for seeking to watch abuse live on a webcam confessed to police that he needed help; he said when interviewed, "I've always felt this way, I know it's bad and wrong... it's just wired up." Such enslavement! "Wired up" - got its cords around you.

V23 is one of the most succinct and powerful verses in the Bible when it comes to summing up the gospel: first half says, "For the wages of sin is death..." Sin doesn't deliver the pleasure it promises: it's a scam. It has wages, a paycheque, that's not what you bargained for. Not just enslavement, or impurity, or shame, but DEATH, eternal separation from God.

The wonderful news of the Gospel is that Jesus SETS US FREE from this scam! V7 "anyone who has died has been freed from sin." V18 "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." V22 "you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God..." Jesus is the great Liberator, the "Scam-buster" if you will! In Him we discover much better benefits for obedience than sin ever delivered.

One benefit of obedience is RIGHTEOUSNESS. V16: when we become slaves of obedience, that "leads to righteousness" - here meaning not the EXtrinsic righteousness, having the penalty annulled, being declared legally "in the right" with God, BUT "INtrinsic" righteousness - developing righteous/godly habits and character. Vv18&19 also refer to this benefit of righteousness.

Another benefit of obedience to Christ is HOLINESS. V19 "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness." The word can mean "consecration, sanctification". 1Thess 4:3 "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality..." Hebrews 12:14 "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." So in those verses there's the implication that sanctified living includes sexual purity AND right relations with others - getting along, living in peace.

And a third benefit of obedience here is ETERNAL LIFE. V22 As slaves to God "the benefit you reap leads to HOLINESS, and the result is ETERNAL LIFE." The grave is not the end. Hell is not our fate, much as our actions might warrant it. God's future for the believer in eternity is that we live with Him forever, savouring the beauty and goodness and love of Christ and His people. V23 (again), "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Are you SURE, absolutely positive, you have eternal life? You can be, if you've given your life to Jesus. John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." John Tillotson observed: "He who provides for this life, but takes no care for eternity, is wise for a moment, but a fool forever."


To recap so far: counting ourselves dead to sin starts with being united with Christ, "planted together" with Him in His death and resurrection. We find newness of life when we realize that's our personal history, joined to Him.

Next, Jesus sets us free from sin's scam. Being a slave to sin earns us wages of death and shame, but Christ can liberate us to enjoy obedience and its benefits - righteousness, holiness, and eternal life. Memorize some of those promises and relish them the next time sin calls you on the phone with a deal that sounds too good to be true.

Now we're into the application stage. How can we follow through so we become "instruments of righteousness" rather than caught in the seamy web of wicked impulses and actions?

If you've ever worked outside, you probably know what a difference it makes to have the right tool for the job. [EXHIBIT: TROWEL] When I was planting my annuals, the trowel was just the right size and shape to help get the clumps of dirt and seedlings out of the styrofoam pots. [EXHIBIT: SECATEURS] When trimming the dead growth from last year's vines and prickly rose stems, a sharp pair of secateurs (pruning shears) is just what's called for.

Incidentally, I thought we'd lost this nice pair of secateurs. It was only when I was rummaging around in a forgotten fruit basket on a shelf in our shed that I found them lying at the bottom under a pile of discarded mouldering gardening gloves. It's like they were trying to hide from use. I hauled them out into the open and "resurrected" them for use (thankfully, mostly aluminum, so not too rusty!).

Here's the point: Are YOU a tool for the divine Gardener's use? Are your parts available for Kingdom work, or are they hidden away, lost from the scene of the action?

V13 "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." The lexicon describes the Greek word for "instrument" as "any tool or implement for preparing a thing". It's "Tool Time"! Don't offer your body parts to sin as tools of wickedness, Paul's saying, but offer your body-parts to God as "tools of righteousness". If you were a trowel, say - are you ready to get your "hands dirty" for Jesus?

A key verb here seems to be "offer" - 2 times in v13; v16 "when you OFFER yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves"; v19 again 2 times, "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness." It's one thing to put money on the "offering plate" at church - that's fine, but that's not all the Lord asks of us! Can you visualize putting your body parts on a gigantic offering plate as it were? Your hands as they type on that keyboard and click that mouse? Your feet as they head out for "a night on the town"? Especially that right foot on the accelerator pedal? Your tongue as you're tempted to share an extra little tidbit of juicy gossip? Your ear, as you find yourself eavesdropping on a conversation, or perhaps being tempted to ignore what your spouse is saying? Your eyes as you dither whether to have your daily Bible reading or watch the World Cup? At each of these critical moments, we have a choice whether or not to be obedient to God, to offer our members to Him as "instruments of righteousness".

"...Offer yourselves to God, [Paul says] as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.For sin shall not be your master..." Slavery, when you get right down to it, is a question of ownership. Who owns you? Who has rights to call the shots in your life, who's your master? Secularism would say, "I'm my own person, my own boss, the captain of my soul." But Paul reminds the believer we've been "brought from death to life": by whom? God has the claim now on our life; that's why we call Jesus "Lord".

1Corinthians 6 is one of the hardest-hitting passages in the whole Bible when it comes to the topic of sexuality. Here too Paul reminds us our bodies are an "offering" to be presented to God because in Christ we are HIS: vv18-20, "Flee from sexual immorality...Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."


God longs for us to discover the blessings of obedience, to offer ourselves to Him moment by moment, growing in righteousness and sanctified living. Tony Campolo shares this insight...

"Almost every year, my wife makes sure that we go off to her favourite vacation spot in the whole world - Ocean City New Jersey! One of the things I love to do is rent bicycles and ride on the boardwalk at this ocean resort. One day, I rented a bicycle built for two. I sat on the front seat and my wife sat on the backseat. After a short while, she told me that she didn't like this tandem bicycle because she couldn't steer it, and she really couldn't see where she was going. So we traded seats, and from then on she was in control, and she determined where we went. She liked it much better. I don't think we ever rented a tandem bike again.

[Campolo concludes] "In so many ways, I think our experience on that tandem bike is a parable about life. Each of us wants to be upfront determining where we will go. What God wants is for each of us to take the backseat and allow Him to be in control. God promises that if we allow ourselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, we will be directed in the paths of righteousness and headed in the direction that is best." Let's pray.