"The Christian’s new life" by Rod Bayley, 18 July 2010, Romans 6:1-14

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Danny

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Aug 3, 2010, 1:10:50 AM8/3/10
to Sermons from Wollongong Baptist Church
The youngest of five siblings of a Mennonite family from Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, Hugh Herr was a child prodigy rock climber: by age
eight, he had scaled the face of the 11,627-foot Mount Temple in the
Canadian Rockies. By 15 he was vacationing for months at a time,
without his parents, climbing steeper and steeper rock and ice faces,
and by 17 he was acknowledged to be one of the best climbers in the
United States. But at the age of 17, in January of 1982, while
attempting to summit Mount Washington in New Hampshire, Herr and a
fellow climber Jeff Batzer were caught in a blizzard and stranded on
the mountain for three nights in -20F degree temperatures.
Retrospectively they had made an ill-advised decision to summit Mount
Washington following an ice climb in Huntington Ravine. Their three-
day ordeal proved deadly. Herr lost both legs below the knees - they
were amputated due to frostbite, while his companion, Jeff Batzer,
lost his left lower leg, the toes on his right foot, and the fingers
on his right hand. Worse still, volunteer rescuer Albert Dow died in
an avalanche during the resultant search for the overdue climbers. In
her biography of Herr, entitled ‘Second Ascent, The Story of Hugh
Herr’, Alison Osius devotes a portion of the book to Hugh's struggle
to come to terms with his sense of responsibility for this man's
death. What followed for Herr was months of surgeries and
rehabilitation. Although he would recover and even climb again with
the aid of prosthetics, which he is now a research designer for, his
life changed dramatically. But imagine if someone said to him shortly
after the tragedy, “just go on living as you were before - nothing has
changed!” Surely he’d say, “You’ve got to be kidding! I’ve lost both
my legs, I was basically dead but I was rescued, and now I have a new
life - everything has changed.”

Well, in the passage we are looking at today, Paul talks about the
death to life experience of every person who has accepted Jesus as
Lord and Saviour and been forgiven of their sins. He asserts that we
are radically different people - we can’t go back to our old life,
it’s gone - it is impossible for us to continue in our old sinful ways
- we are a new person, and we have a new, holy life to live. The big
question that Paul is answering is: “Why does God’s grace lead to a
new life that rejects sin?” Or put negatively, “Why can’t I just
continue to live my old sinful life if God’s grace covers my sin?”

This question arises because Paul has been talking about the
superabundance of God’s grace at the end of chapter 5. Notice that
from the middle of verse 20 in chapter 5 Paul writes, “But where sin
increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin
reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to
bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There’s more than
enough grace to cover your sin and mine. There is an overabundance -
there is no danger that God can’t deal with our sin - Christ’s death
is sufficient to cover everyone who will turn to Him.

But, on the surface, this appears to give the Christian licence to
keep sinning - if grace reigns and grace will simply keep increasing
as it were, as sin increases, why can’t the Christian just live
however she or he feels with no real concern for their holiness? This
is the question that Paul addresses in chapter 6, where Paul outlines
why a Christian should live a holy life now and flee sin - why such a
blasé attitude to sin cannot be held by a Christian. Notice in verse
1 how Paul asks the question: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on
sinning so that grace may increase?” His short answer is given in
verse 2, and it is loud and clear: “By no means! We died to sin; how
can we live in it any longer?” Paul’s answer leaves no room for
doubt, no room for discussion - he is saying that it is a
contradiction for a Christian to live a sinful life - we have died to
sin - it’s simply not appropriate any longer.

You know, surgery used to be acceptable without anesthesia. The
surgeon would just cut into the flesh with the patient fully conscious
with full feeling, unless they had consumed a lot of alcohol. One
Christian doctor determined to do something about the unimaginable
pain experienced by patients. Sir James Simpson practiced medicine in
Scotland in the 19th century, and dreamed of finding a way to put
patients to sleep during surgery. Nothing worked until 1847, when one
of his colleagues purchased a crystal called chloroform from Paris,
and the rest is history. But would you believe, Simpson was attacked
by fellow Christians who claimed that pain was a God-ordained part of
life, and freedom from pain would come only in heaven. Well, times
have changed - I haven’t heard of anybody requesting to undertake
surgery without anesthetic. It’s now simply unacceptable to practice
surgery without it - the past way of doing things is now rejected. In
the same way, continuing in the sinful ways of our old pre-Christian
life is no longer acceptable, it’s simply not appropriate - the new
life has come and the old ways are gone. We are God’s person now.

In verses 3 to 5, Paul expands on his short answer and explains how
when we become a Christian the old life is left behind. Notice what
he says in verses 3 and 4: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were
baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were
therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the
Father, we too may live a new life.” In the early church, as we see
in Acts, baptism followed immediately after someone placed their faith
in Christ. Faith in Jesus, and baptism, were parts of the one whole
experience of becoming a Christian, with faith in Christ being the
essential prerequisite for baptism. What Paul is saying then, is that
when a believer is baptized it symbolises that their former life has
just come to an end, and a new life has begun. They were in fact
buried with Christ, which is indicated by their full immersion in
water - that is, they had died so far as their old life was
concerned. Then as the person comes up out of the water, they
symbolise being raised to new life with Christ. Notice in verses 4
and 5 that this new life is nothing less than participation in
Christ’s own resurrection life. We have the certainty of eternal
life, of being resurrected on the last day, because of our faith in
Jesus, but we start living out that new life now through godly
living. A radical change will be seen in us.

There was a story in the Bible Society’s magazine in 2003 about a 9
year old boy in Thailand who had been impacted by God’s word and had
become a Christian. The mobile unit of the Bible Society in Thailand
had come to his school to sell books and he had used his own pocket
money to buy two books and eventually he saved up enough of his lunch
money to buy the remaining six books in the series. Mark’s parents
began to notice that he was praying before he went to bed each night.
They also noticed a marked change in his behaviour and the way he
spoke. Whenever he did something wrong he would always say sorry and
ask God to forgive him, even in the little things. When he heard his
father Montree arguing with his mother he gently told him, “God
teaches us not to speak badly to others. It’s a sin Dad.” He told
his Mum, “Don’t be angry with Dad anymore. Forgive him.” What a great
change in this young boy’s life, which is even testified to by his own
parents. A radical change occurs when we accept Christ - we are dead
to our old sinful life, and alive to God through Christ. Our new life
will be evident.

In verses 6 to 10, Paul explains further why we have such a radical
new life in Christ, and how we died to sin. In verses 6 and 7 Paul
explains the “death” side of our union with Christ, while in verses 8
to 10 he focuses on the “life” side of the equation. Notice what he
states in verses 6 and 7: “For we know that our old self was crucified
with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we
should no longer be slaves to sin - 7because anyone who has died has
been freed from sin.” How did we die to sin? Our old, sinful life
died when Jesus died on the Cross. Now that you are united to Jesus
by faith, as symbolised by your baptism, His death has become yours -
your ‘old self’ has been crucified on the cross as He bore your sin.
And Jesus not only defeated sin by taking its penalty of death on your
behalf, he also broke the power of sin over your life. Once we were
slaves to sin - now we are no longer - we’ve been freed from its
enslaving power in our lives. Death ends relationships, and Christ’s
death on our behalf has ended our relationship with sin - that’s why
Paul writes in verse 7 that “anyone who has died has been freed from
sin.” It is a contradiction then, for a Christian to continue to live
a life dominated by sin - we have died to sin and have been freed from
it’s power over us.

But Jesus no longer bears His peoples sins on the Cross - He has risen
to new life, and so Paul moves to the new “life” half of the equation
in verses 8 to 10. Paul asserts again in verse 8 that believers now
share Christ’s victorious life. In verses 9 and 10 Paul gives the
reason why we are assured of this, and why he can speak so confidently
about our new life. Notice how he states: “For we know that since
Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer
has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for
all.” Jesus’ death was once for all because it was effective - it
doesn’t need to be repeated. Its effectiveness was demonstrated or
proven in his resurrection. He has paid fully for our sin and has
defeated its penalty of death - Jesus was raised and so can
legitimately offer new life to those who trust in him. Therefore, we
can be confident - we have new life if we are in Christ and it starts
now.

Paul has been reminding us over and over in this passage, that if we
have trusted in Christ, we have been united with him, and certain
things flow from this union. Our new identity in him, our new status,
means that we have a new life - we are dead to sin, the old life is
gone because of our relationship with him. Our identity means we are
to be holy, we are to live a godly life. See, our new status in
Christ will be reflected in transformed actions.

My father has a members card for the Sydney Cricket Ground, and as
anyone who has been to the cricket will know, the members act
differently to those in the public stands, especially the Hill. What
I’ve found intriguing is that if I have taken someone into the members
who usually sits on the Hill, their actions suddenly change. For
example, when the Mexican wave goes round they don’t know whether to
stand and participate, because most of the members don’t and they’re
an honorary member now. Also, they’re usually much quieter than they
would be because there is a subdued atmosphere in the members stand -
and so they don’t call out “well bowled Mitchell Johnson - take
another one out next over” - their new status leads to transformed
actions. It should be the same with us as Christians - you should
stand out as a Christian - your words and actions, your whole life
should be different to your non-Christian friends. You will imitate
Christ, and want to please God in how you live, because you’ve been
transformed.

Well, what is the concrete application of all this for our daily
living? Paul gives us the application himself in verses 11 to 14:
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in
Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so
that you obey its evil desires. 13Do 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. 14For sin
shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under
grace.”

The way of holiness has sometimes been expressed as ‘Let go and let
God’ - you know, just live your life and God will do all the work of
changing you - you don’t have to make much effort or be too
intentional about godliness. But notice how verses 11 to 14
contradict such a passive response. Paul has actions for us to take -
“count yourselves dead” (v11), “do not let sin reign” (v12), “do not
offer” and “offer” (v13). Christians have new life - past tense - we
have be given it, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and allow sin in
our life. We are still to strive for godliness - we are to offer our
bodies to righteousness and not wickedness - this is a daily choice.
Paul is urging us to keep up the battle - we are still in an ongoing
struggle in this world - we will not see perfection, complete victory
over sin until heaven. It seems paradoxical - we have been given new
life, but we have to keep working hard at growing in our new life, of
maturing and growing in our godliness. But it is part of the ‘now and
the not yet’ - it keeps us longing for heaven. Paul also talks about
this elsewhere in Ephesians 4 where he speaks of continuing to put off
the old self, and put on the new. We are still in a battle as God
transforms us to be more like Christ, and so we have to be serious
about our sin. We can’t just brush over our sins - there is no use
pretending - we might be able to pretend before others, but we can’t
pretend before God.

You see, often we can be so casual about our sinfulness, as if God
doesn’t care now that we are a Christian, or as if we don’t want him
to care too much - as a result we can easily overlook sin in our
lives, and don’t cry out to God to search us, to see “if there is any
offensive way in me” as the Psalmist does. In his book ‘A sinner’s
guide to holiness,’ John Chapman writes, “I suppose if you are
anything like me your attitude to holiness goes something like this:
‘Oh God, make me holy, but not too holy and not too soon.’ Lurking
deep down inside each of us is the thought that if we were to be made
holy, in the way that God is holy, then there could well be some
things we very much want for ourselves from which we would be
excluded. We fear that God may call on us to do something we will
hate. We suspect unconsciously that God may not have our best
interests at heart after all ... This thinking, although natural, is
of course wrong, and it is one basic reason why there is such an
urgent need for us to consider the subject of holiness.” God does
have our best interests at heart, and often we can’t see what we
need. Psalm 84:11 states: “no good thing does [the Lord] withhold
from those who walk uprightly,”and Jesus says in John 10:10 that he
has “come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

We need to be convinced of this truth - that God’s way is best, so
that we might earnestly give ourselves to the task of working with God
in his ongoing transformation of us through the work of the Holy
Spirit. It’s a hard, life-long slog, and so we have to be convinced
that this is a must for us. We are in a battle, a spiritual battle
where God calls us to be holy, to live godly lives - we need to strive
to honour Him and Christ who died for our sin.

We shouldn’t be complacent about our sin, but strive to be more like
Christ. To do this we need to ask God to show us our sins, that we
might confess them before Him, and turn away from them. And as 1 John
1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and
will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
God’s great agenda for your life is that you might grow in godliness -
it’s a great priority for every Christian, that we might honour our
Saviour with a life of obedience, which is thirsty for righteousness,
eager to be holy, because our God is holy.

Christians have new life in Christ, and we are expected to copy God’s
ways, His character, which is revealed to us in God’s word, the bible,
and most clearly in His son Jesus. As Paul points out in verse 11, we
are to imitate our Lord: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to
sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Alexander the Great, the Greek general who conquered the known world
300 years before Christ; had a very loyal army. Indeed, they would
die for their leader, and many did. It was not fear of Alexander
which brought such loyalty, but it was Alexander’s own example, his
courage in battle that inspired such devotion in his soldiers - he led
the way and was often first over a city wall - and so they followed
him, they imitated him. It is recorded of him, that when he
confronted a deserter from his army whose name was also Alexander, he
told the soldier, “Give up your cowardice or give up your name!” How
much more does this apply to us, we Christians who carry Christ’s name
- you are to imitate Christ, and His holy character because you are
dead to your old self. God is saying to you and me today, “keep
giving up your old life which is dead, and live your new life which is
by grace, because you bear my name, you are united to my Son!”
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