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We trust Christ for forgiveness of our sins, but often not for the freedom from our sins. Slavery to our sin is the problem, what is the answer to the problem? John Elmore teaches from Romans 6:1-10, reminding us that when we trust Christ, we are dead to sin, and therefore, free from it's power over us. He challenges us to remember that we are dead to our old "self", put away our "grave clothes" and walk in the new life by the Holy Spirit.
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Love is Always Better than the Law
Good morning, Dallas, and good morning to those of you who are streaming live at home in your pajamas. No condemnation. I was there last week, as a matter of fact. (Sorry, Todd.) I want you to imagine with me this morning that you're not actually at church, that you just came to attend a funeral. I want you to imagine you just walked into a friend's funeral, specifically the funeral of Jesus.
You can imagine his mother and father seated here, his six or more brothers and sisters seated here. "Friends and family, we've gathered here today in the presence of God to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of a friend, a son, a brother, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was born in 0 and died in spring of AD 33. He is survived by his mother, father, and brothers and sisters.
Jesus' life was a brief and tragic one. Anyone who knew him would say he was filled with great love and that he was passionate about his beliefs. He grew up in Nazareth, lived a couple of years among friends in Capernaum, spent time in Jerusalem. He never married, has no children. We'll now hear from some of his friends and family members."
You can imagine Peter coming up and saying, "I'll never forget the first time I met this man. I was there on the shore cleaning my nets, and he got into my boat. As he told me to lay down my nets deep into the water, I caught more fish than I ever had in my life. I fell to my knees and said, 'Away from me, Lord, for I'm a sinful man.' I knew who he was. He asked me once. I said, 'You're the Christ. You're the Son of the living God.' But now this."
You can imagine Levi coming to the stage and sharing with the congregation. Levi, the tax collector, saying, "I know some of you aren't comfortable with me being here today because of what I used to do, but Jesus was different. You see, he loved me. I'll never forget the day I met him. He walked up to my booth.
I was about to ask him for the temple tax, and he said, 'Follow me.' That's all he said: 'Follow me.' Everything in my heart compelled me to get up. I left my money and my booth and followed him. He even gave me a nickname: Matthias, Matthew. It means gift of the Lord. Everyone else hated me, but not Jesus. He called me 'gift of the Lord.'"
Or maybe you can think about James coming up and sharing. Not James, son of Zebedee. James his brother. His might have looked a little different. He might have said, "This is kind of hard for me, because I'm his brother, and frankly, he wasn't around much. In fact, one time Mom and I went to go and get him, and we told the guy at the door, 'Would you let him know his mom and brothers are outside?' And do you know what I overheard him say? 'My mother and my brothers are those who do the will of God.'
Do you know how that made me feel as his brother? We just left. And then a couple of weeks later, here comes the neighbor, and he says, 'Hey, your brother has lost it. He's making a fool of himself.' I asked why. He said, 'He has just forgiven someone of their sins.' He was like the town crazy. So we went to go take hold of him, but it just kept getting worse. There were rumors that something bad was going to happen, because people were very upset. Now this. I just wish he could have been a normal big brother."
If that's where this ends, if it ends with a funeral and I don't talk about the resurrection, it's going to get really awkward really quickly, if I don't acknowledge that Christ was raised from the dead, that his death was not final but that he is alive. Why would we spend time talking about his death when he has, in fact, risen from the grave? Yet that's how we live. We live as if he's still in the grave and not risen. I know, because I did that for 30 years of my life, and it destroyed me. Allow me to explain a little further.
We live as if Jesus died for our sins but didn't rise from the grave. We love Jesus on the cross and the forgiveness of sins but to a gross neglect of the resurrection, the empty tomb, that he is the risen Lord (Lord, kyrios, meaning master), because if he is the Savior who was on the cross and then the risen Lord, it demands a response upon our lives, a response of obedience. I think we know this as a fact, but there's a disconnect between our own personal reality and how we live. We want the Savior, the forgiveness of sins, but not the risen Lord.
Allow me to explain this way. This image you see is not the gospel. Some of you are offended right now. That is not the good news of Jesus. Look at the next picture. That's the good news. That's the gospel. It's 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Paul writes, "And I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received, that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and raised again on the third day according to the Scriptures."
That's the good news: his sinless life, death on the cross, burial, and resurrection. But even if we believe in that, we still live as if we're still slaves to sin, and this is why. We trust Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, but we don't trust him for the freedom from sins. I'm going to say that again, because I think a lot of us struggle with this. I know I did. We trust Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, but we do not trust him for the freedom from our sins, so we remain enslaved to them, not walking in the freedom he has promised.
The way I know this, that we want forgiveness not freedom, is because I lived that way for 21 years of my life. I loved being forgiven of my sins. I loved the grace that abounded, but I didn't want to give up my life. I enjoyed my sin and thus lived as if I was still enslaved to it. That's why last week, as Todd taught the last message of this series about dying to self, he asked me to dovetail this message into it, because he knows my story.
He knows that for 21 years of my life I did not die to myself through all of those other spiritual disciplines that enable us to die to self. I didn't walk with the Lord, so I lived as if I was still enslaved. So I want to share with you today from literally the most marked-up chapter in my Bible. This thing is covered in ink because of the truth that is within it. I want to share with you today the chapter that took me from a hopeless alcoholic to who I am today.
I want to talk today about Romans 6, that we are no longer slaves to sin. Specifically, we'll be walking through Romans 6:1-4. This is one of God's most powerful promises in all of Scripture, and we ignore it. So please join me today. Before we get into the passage, I want to tell you three things. First, let's not forget who wrote this. Romans 6 was written by Paul, formerly Saul, who was a murderer.
He thought the resurrection was a hoax, so he set out to kill anyone who perpetuated that truth. He says, by his own admission, he was a persecutor, a blasphemer, and a violent man. Then this man saw the risen Christ, and everything changed. That murderer became the greatest missionary this faith has ever known and a martyr willing to die for this truth, knowing he had been set free from sin, fear of death, and Satan. This hated murderer turned the man who gave us 1 Corinthians 13, the definitive word on love, all because of Jesus.
Secondly, the resurrection is the crux of the issue. You're going to hear a lot today about the death and resurrection, and the reason why is that the founders of every other world religion are dead and in the grave. Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, every single one of their founders… You can visit their graves. They're dead. Christianity alone, the tomb is empty. Christ has risen, proving he was not just a man but God in flesh and he has victory over death.
Thirdly, the Bible says the power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you. That should knock you back in your seat. So let's start in Romans 6:1. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Let me talk really briefly about what died to sin means.
Some of you were here two weeks ago when we had Baptism Sunday, and you saw hundreds of people standing, being laid down in the water (a picture of death and burial in the grave) and then brought up. Not washed clean, but dead and brought up, born again as a new creation, raised again new in Christ, the old them dead and buried, brought up. If you've seen me baptize someone, you'll notice I hold them under. It's awkward.
Right before I do, I say, "I'm going to hold you under, and I want you to remember the old you is dead." But there's a problem. This is the problem. Even though we've professed Christ, our slavery to sin still lives on. We still live as if we're enslaved to sin. I know I'm not the only one in the room who professed Christ at 9 years old and then still lived as a slave with decade-long entanglements of sexual sin, alcoholism, tobacco.
Whatever your flavor is, we've still lived enslaved to it. That's a big problem. Jesus has set us free from sin, and yet we still live on in slavery to it. I believe this is why the Lord gave us Romans 6: to tell us, "You're no longer a slave. You've been freed." Two points of why slavery still lives on in our lives even though we've professed Christ.
First, slavery still lives on because we take advantage of God's grace. It says it here in verse 1. "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" Here's what will happen. You'll sin; God's grace will cover it. You'll sin; he'll cover it. You'll sin; he'll cover it. Sin, cover; sin, cover, until we go home.
Every time, his grace will cover it, and I think we begin to cherish that and even abuse it, thinking, "Well, I know he's going to forgive me." It used to be my mantra. I thought, "So long as I'm not hurting anybody, it's fine. God is going to forgive me." Fire insurance. They're the acceptable sins of society. See if you might recognize one of yours.
Pride veiled as self-confidence; gluttony veiled as a Value Meal; idolatry of your children and their academics and sporting events veiled as just a good, supportive parent; usurping your husband's leadership, embarrassing him because "Hey, I'm just a type-A, driven woman"; gossip veiled as prayer requests and concern; materialism veiled as appreciation of the finer things. I could raise my hand to most of those.
Secondly, slavery still lives on because we've forgotten the end of our oppression.Or maybe never acknowledged it, understood it, or believed it. In verse 2 it says, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Dying to sin means you have no more obligation to obey it. You have been set free. Sin is no longer our master.
For my African-American brothers and sisters in the audience, you'll know about this holiday. You celebrate it every year. For some of us, we're going to learn about it today for the first time. It's a holiday, a celebration called Juneteenth. My boss Nate Graybill, when he found out I was teaching Romans 6, was like, "You've got to tell them about Juneteenth."
Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, wrote and declared the Emancipation Proclamation. He wrote by executive order that all slaves were free, that no one would any longer be wrongfully oppressed and mistreated in an inhumane way, that everyone was free. But here in Texas, not until two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, was that freedom put into effect.
Now why in the world did it take two and a half years for that declaration of freedom to set the slaves free in Texas? Because that knowledge was withheld from them. They would still remain enslaved despite the fact they had already been freed by the sovereign ruler. It was written, done, and finished. They were freed, but it wasn't until General Granger sailed and arrived at Port Galveston, walked into the town square, and said, "All slaves are free…"
There was instant jubilation and no more slave/master relationship. All men were free. In the same way, if it hasn't sounded familiar yet, Jesus, by his death and resurrection, has set us free, and yet we continue to remain enslaved, living as slaves. The truth has been declared, but darkness has veiled that truth and withheld that truth from us.
So God, in his loving way, sent a messenger, Paul, and said, "You give them Romans 6." Just like General Granger. "You give them Romans 6. You tell them they are no longer slaves. They've been set free. It's already finished. They're free from sin." Even though we know that, we've lived in that slavery for so long we think, "Well, this is just how it is."
Some of you might say, "It's just how I'm wired. I just have a short temper. It's who I am." Or you might say, "No, you don't understand. I've been looking at porn since I was 12. It's just what I do. I have a higher sex drive than most others." You might say, "No, no, no. That's hate. This is how I was born. It's who God made me to be. I can't change who I'm attracted to."
Let me tell you something, because this was the case in my life and it's what the Bible says. If you remain in slavery to your sin and give yourself over to it and enjoy it and delight in it and remain complacent with it and allow it to live with you, it will own you, devour you, and kill you. It will lead to increasing wickedness. It will not stay the same. It will grow and own you. Personal experience and the Word of God.
So if the problem is slavery still lives on, what's the answer? The answer God gives us is the old you, who was a slave to sin and Satan, is dead and gone. God's solution is to die. (I'll be your motivational speaker for the morning.) Read with me in verse 3. "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?"
There's a spiritual reality that when we trusted Christ, our old self, the one who was a slave to sin, was crucified with Jesus. We were dead and raised again to newness of life. The answer is to die. In case you don't believe me, I'm going to read to you from 10 verses in Romans 6 only the death words. Romans 6: died, death, buried, death, dead, death, crucified, done away with, died, died, dead, died, death, death, died, died.
Sixteen times, God uses the word died or death in 10 verses, more than once for every sentence he writes. Do you know what other word he uses almost the same amount of times? We. He says we 14 times in 10 verses. God is screaming to us. He's pleading with us. "Remember you've died. That old you who was a slave is dead. Remember you've died. The old you is dead and gone." Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it this way: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." That's what he says. It's the answer. It's the way out.
I want you to know I'm speaking from my own experience. This isn't just some Sunday school lesson and a message to teach; rather, this is a truth that changed my life. I was not always the church staff guy. I was far from it. What used to rule my life was alcoholism. I was an alcoholic. I was enslaved to this. But it wasn't just some addiction I wanted to kick. I loved it. I used it to celebrate, as my painkiller, to cover my anxiety.
This was the god I served, and it served me well until it almost killed me. But sometimes this wasn't enough, so I would get my hands on some painkillers to amplify the effect, to rev it up a little more, get more messed up. If that wasn't enough… I didn't even like this, but I used to use it, because it would also numb me out from my pain. (Don't try to get this afterward. It's oregano. You'll get all messed up on household herbs and smell like a pizza.)
There were other things. There was my sexual sin, because that fed my appetite too. I was a slave to any kind of comfort or joy or feeling I could get. It wasn't just that. There were other things that owned me. There was my résumé. I loved to tell you about what I'd done, what I was doing, what I was going to do, my 5- and 10-year plan. I'd name drop, client drop. I thought I was so big-time. It was a joke.
Then, of course, there was this, the money, which was driving so much of it, and there was never enough. Never. But like a dog chasing my tail, I ran after it, thinking I'd someday catch enough, that there would be enough to satisfy me. But instead, just like I told you, your sin will get increasingly worse, what gave me momentary life and relief ended up owning me and killing me until my life was unraveling at the age of 30, eight years ago.
It destroyed me, until one night at the absolute bottom, when I was filled with depression and anxiety and hopelessness and despair and I truly wanted to die because it had all caught up with me, I loaded a shotgun, flipped off the safety, and pointed it at my head, because I wanted to be in here. I wanted to be in this coffin. I wanted to be dead and gone. I didn't want to have to deal with the junk of life anymore. I was enslaved to sin. I couldn't do anything about it.
I was trapped, and I wanted to be here. I wanted to be dead and have everything gone. I hated my life, and I wanted to die. In that place of hopelessness and despair, I knelt beside the couch I was living on, and I prayed and said, "God, save me. Jesus, save me. I've squandered everything you've given me, but for the rest of my life, Lord, everything I have is yours. My life, my days, my time, my money, my relationships, where I live, what I do…everything is yours. Save me."
Y'all, I came up out of that dead life. What you just witnessed is the spiritual reality of what happened to me in December 2005. The old me that was a slave to sin died. I finally recognized the truth of Romans 6, that the only way out of slavery to sin and to start walking out that new life God promises was for me, that old life I loved so much, to die; to put it to death, to recognize the old me was dead, that I couldn't serve two masters, that I had to live to Christ alone.
I haven't had a drink in eight years now. I want you to hear me say, on the heels of that applause, I tried quitting many times before I was 30, and I couldn't. Jesus set me free. Period. I'm still tempted, I still sin, but the fact of the matter is I'm not a slave anymore. I've been declared free. The truth of the matter is the gospel doesn't make you better; the gospel makes you new. Jesus makes you new. You are not who you were. You are a new creation in Christ.
How crazy would it be on a bad day or when I wanted to celebrate a little or take it easy, or whatever, that I would go back here and start flipping through this, like, "Where did I put those things? Where is that? Where is the oregano?" That's crazy that I would ever go back to the very things that led me to death. How could I ever go back to that? He set me free from that. Why would I ever put my finger back in that trap or get close to it?
But we all do. We all still go back. We all still toy with it, see how close we can get, just enjoy it for a minute. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the [body] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
"Great. Good Sunday school lesson. Nice stage trick. Tell me how to apply it in my life. If slavery still lives on and the answer is the old you is dead and gone, what do I do? How? I still struggle." The answer is…you've been raised; now walk with the Son. Three things to remember to apply this: remember your death; take off the graveclothes; and walk in newness of life with the Son.
1._ Remember your death_. It says in verse 4, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death…" The answer is what Todd talked about last week: we die to ourselves. Yes, there is a one-time reality where we were crucified with Christ, but we also must die daily. That's still kind of metaphorical when Jesus says, "Take up your cross," because we don't do that literally.
Here's what I do to die to myself daily. Every day for the last eight years I've done this, spare 20 days. I physically get on my knees and surrender my day to God. I say, "Lord, your will be done today, not mine. Everything I have is yours." Every day on my knees, because that helps me remember it's me who died. I'm now in submission to my King. He's Lord, not me.
Those 20 days that I just ran out the door without kneeling, my day went worse. Not because I didn't kneel. It's not a religious, hocus-pocus act. But it reflects the position of my heart, that I would just run out the door on my own strength ("I've got this, God") instead of dropping to my knees and saying, "I can't do anything apart from you." So whatever that is for you, if it's kneeling or whatever it is, figure out a way to remember your death and die daily.
2._ Take off the graveclothes_. The verse continues. "…so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father…" Do you remember the one thing that was left in the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead? The folded linens. His death, his grave, his burial cloths. When he raised Lazarus and said, "Lazarus, come out," he then commanded those who were standing there to take off his graveclothes, to unbind him.
We've been raised from the dead, we're walking in newness of life, and we still have graveclothes wrapped around us. That's not a metaphor. Some of us, even though we've been raised anew, were looking at porn last night. We were screaming at our spouse on the way in to church. We're still filled with rage. We're still filled with racism. We still have lust in our hearts. Still the drunkenness, the painkillers, the status seeking, the materialism, whatever it is.
If I didn't hit yours and you think, "Well, I aced the test; I'm not doing so bad," it's self-righteousness, and it'll kill you too. See Pharisees. So we take off the graveclothes. You have to repent from it. You put those things back in the grave and never go back to them, but you can't do it on your own strength.
3._ Walk in newness of life with the Son. That is the last part of the verse. "…so we too might walk in newness of life." He didn't make you better; he made you new. You're free. But the question is…How do we walk in newness of life?_ Romans 8:13 says, "If you live according to the flesh, you will die." That was written to believers. He says, "If you keep living according to the flesh, you'll die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you'll live."
It's by the Spirit we put these things to death. It's by the Spirit we walk in newness of life. But how? Here's the how. A few of these disciplines, as Todd taught last week, that lead to the discipline of dying to self… Here are four.
_ Prayer_. Like Jesus in the garden. "Not my will, Lord, but your will be done." We pray not just in our quiet time but all through the day, giving over, yielding ourselves to him and his will.
_ His_Word. He says in John 17:17, "Your word is truth. Sanctify them by your truth." You will be sanctified as you spend time in God's Word, either by Scripture memory or reading it, aligning your heart to God's.
_ God's people. You walk in newness of life being with God's people. It says in Hebrews 3:13, "Encourage one another daily, so that you will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Let me make that clear to you. If _this is the only time you're around God's people, on Sunday, that means the other six days you're going to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We need each other to encourage each other daily, God says.
_ Obedience_. Just like James, Jesus' kid brother, said, "Don't be mere hearers of the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." You walk out God's promises in obedience. You follow his will and not your flesh. We walk with the Son in newness of life.
We started off talking about a funeral for Jesus and how he has been raised from the dead, and as a result of that, if we have trusted Christ, the Bible says we've been freed from sin, fear of death, and Satan. We've been set free, yet we continue to be tempted. Trust me. Satan is not going to take a vacation.
He will continue to whisper the lie to you. He will continue to put darkness over Romans 6, that you would forget you have been freed from slavery to sin. He'll whisper to you, "I still own you. You're still my slave. You can't quit on your own. You can't quit period. You've been a failure all your life in this area. You can't quit. You're not free." I think in that moment you can say…
You say that I'm a slave.
Yeah, you used to own me,
Tease, puppet, and control me.
You promised to spoil me rotten
But seems like rotten's all I've gotten.
You had it running through my veins;
Always numbing all my pains,
But it never would sustain.
But I tried, imbibed,
And relied on the feeling;
Like a junky needing more,
Getting high and then reeling.
Your lies were crafty,
Always sounded brand new.
Even though time and time again,
I swore I was through.
It was like daily amnesia,
And sweet poison was your feature.
Like a caged, abused beast,
Always promising the feast,
You kept me hungry,
Longing for more.
But you never loved me,
I was only your whore.
And so you fed me and misled me,
Just enough to keep me loyal.
Making me think that
Through all my inner toil,
I could be freed from this disaster;
You cruel, addicting master.
Like a mistreated woman
Who knew no other life,
I went back to the jerk
Despite all of the strife.
But while you were sleeping,
Another came knocking.
He grabbed me by my life
With all his crazy talking.
He said that, "As a slave
There's only one way out."
And that his way, the only way,
Was not a safe or easy route.
His solution was to die.
My heart pounded through my chest;
I thought he came to rescue,
But his answer was straight death.
Then this man, like a father,
Smiled as he said,
"You'll no longer be a slave
When your master finds you dead."
Then he took me in his arms,
And laid me down into the deep;
I tried to wrestle,
But he would keep
Holding me under until I gave in.
It was necessary for this slave of sin
To give up my last breath
Until he verified my death.
It was silent.
Then his holy breath filled my chest;
Alive and new, the curse had left.
My old master had no power,
It was no longer his hour.
Now I was free
And didn't have to listen;
He still tried calling,
But my mind had new mission.
It was all about my King.
I was rescued and redeemed.
It couldn't happen on my own,
Or by following some rules.
It demanded a savior,
Not the counsel of fools.
It required his death,
And mine as well.
But it didn't stop there,
Now I live to tell;
He raised again, and thus, so did I.
He made me new,
Never again will I die.
My old master won't quit,
And still tempts me with thrill,
But now I hate him
'Cause I know his intent is to kill.
Now I won't go back
To those patterns of old;
I am a new slave; redeemed, I'm sold.
I have a new Master,
One Christ, one Lord.
Now to him I cry out
When hungry, tired, or bored.
You say that I'm a slave?
Indeed, his solely.
But this slave is now free,
And the result will be holy.
My new Master is good,
Loving and just.
His life leads to peace
If only you'll trust
In his life and death and rising again.
He took your place
And nailed all your sin
To the cross and disarmed the Enemy;
He is the way, truth, and life eternally.
From one slave to another,
Won't you "come and see"?
My Jesus breaks chains
And sets the slaves free!
All of us one day will lie in a casket just like this. That's one thing that's certain. We will all one day be in a casket, and what we personally believe about Jesus, if we know him, will determine our destiny, whether we would spend eternity apart from him in a place called hell or whether, because of Jesus and the forgiveness of sin, we would spend eternity with him in joy. Don't leave here if that decision has not yet been made. We'll have friends up front waiting to talk to you.
We love you. Have a great week of worship.