Guest Preacher – Rev. Daniel Basel
ELS Giving Counselor
September 23, 2018
Let us pray: Dear heavenly Father, we have been so deeply tainted by our sin and its evil desires. Return us every day to our baptisms for there we are washed and made clean in Christ. We thank you for intervening and accomplishing our salvation through the work of your Son and by the power of your Spirit who brought us to faith. Enable us daily to put off our sinful nature as we “drown the old Adam and die to sin” but live for you as your children living under grace. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Text: Romans 6:3-14 (NIV-84) – Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We 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. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 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 — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 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. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
Dear Friends in Christ – All redeemed through His precious blood;
If you are over 80 you probably remember the day that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. You remember the day Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “December 7, 1941 is a date which will live in infamy…” (2388 died).
If you are a few years older than 20 years I could ask you a similar question, “Where were you on September 11, 2001?” Chances are most of us have something we remember about that day and that horrible gut wrenching feeling as you watched the towers collapse (3000 people died). There are multiple correlations we can draw between these two events. But the one thing people remember is dreadful, horrible fear that grasps the hearts of so many caught up in the attack and even in those who watch videos of it today.
Which brings us to the question, “How are you today?” Are you living in fear? Are you fearful of the consequences of your sin? Are you fearful of what someone else may be facing? Are you fearful of what the future holds? Are you fearful of things you have failed to do or fearful of the things you can’t stop doing? If so you’re not alone. But our prayer today is that God the Holy Spirit will work through this Word today to do exactly what John is describing when he pens in the Holy Spirit these words of encouragement. In the Spirit the Apostle John writes, “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 Jn 4:18)
Today we want to consider this “Perfect Love.” It is an undeserved love. It is all-sufficient love. It never fails. We use one word to describe it – Grace.
In view of our heavenly Father’s powerful and comforting Word, let us consider what it means then to be ““Living Under Grace.
1. Being Dead to Sin
How are we brought to the point where we are living under grace?
We define grace as “God’s Undeserved Love.” It is not a conditional love (e.g. If you do this, then I will love you… type love). It has nothing to do with our bloodline. It is in no way based on what we do or don’t do. It is simply a love through which we are blessed even though we deserved punishment, even eternal damnation.
Paul was dealing with some huge issues in the church at Rome. Think of what Paul is addressing in the first two chapters alone. You think we have it bad? It was no different for that world power known as the Rome empire. As they sat on their behinds philosophizing they fell deeper and deeper into decadence. So much so that Paul reveals to us that because mankind has denied God they are at times given over to a debased (undiscerning) mind having no ability to know the true God.
Paul explains, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…” Rom. 1:28
I’d like to think that we could just set all that aside and say, “That’s the other guy who has to deal with that. Why should I care? That doesn’t involve me.”
But Paul squelches that idea when it comes to identifying sin in our lives. He in essence says, “This problem, it’s not just about somebody else. It’s about you. You are the one with this same evil nature rising up to draw you into sin.” To burst this bubble he states,
“You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. Romans 2:21-24
Ouch! That’s me. By the Holy Spirit, Paul challenges me and all Christians of all time to examine ourselves and to see our sinful condition and to repent.
Even further of shame is when the church of our day, because of apathy and neglect is in decline because we do not support our Gospel ministries as we should. “Do we who abhor idols, do we rob temples?” That is a legitimate question. Are we supporting the Word by our tithes and offerings, or do we let it languish without the means to support the ministries that are so important to the spreading of the Means of Grace languishing! Do we risk idolatry by neglecting our support of the church? Certainly, we can see in ourselves the temptation and often the actions that should cause us great concern as we recognize sin being allowed to reign in our lives. THIS ACCUSATION OF GOD’S LAW OUGHT TO CUT US TO THE HEART AND LEAD US TO REPENT OF OUR SELFISHNESS THAT PUTS SELF ABOVE GOD. “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Repentance is not just sorrow over sin. If it were it would lead to apathy, hardened hearts or despair. Repentance has a second part. It ultimately leads us to return to the waters of our baptism, and to the life, atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There is something very clear about the Scripture and our text. The fact that we have this sinful nature takes away any morsel of personal/righteous merit on our part. It confines us all under sin and will either lead us to seek his mercy or it will drive us to despair. Our text makes it clear. There can only be one of two places where we reside. Either we are under the law and its condemnation… Or, we are under grace with all its accompanying blessings. There is no in between.
Where do we go as we are confronted by sin? The simple call of the Gospel preacher is, “Repent and Believe the Gospel.” Know that God has prepared a sacrifice for us. He sent His Son who lived the perfect, holy life in our place, who then took the full blunt and punishment of the law by dying on the cross in our place. You who have been called by the Gospel and brought to the cleansing waters of Baptism – return to the font and there know what this Baptism means.
As Luther stated so well: “This Baptism signifies that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts and again a new man daily come forth and arise who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
In other words, know that in baptism as God placed His name upon us, “We died to sin; (therefore) how can we live in it any longer?” Our reading continues, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death…”
Friends when you are dead to your enemies do you know what that means? That enemy can’t harm you anymore!!! That is where we’re at in Christ. To live under grace then means to know and believe that God in His undeserved love and mercy for us sinners, planned and obtained our soul’s salvation. From the foundation of the world He appointed His Only-begotten Son to come into this fallen world, to take upon Himself our human flesh. This holy, sinless, miraculously conceived child – born of a virgin – grew up under the law and all its requirements. He upheld the law of God and was perfectly obedient to the Father, even to the point of death. Yet what happened at His death goes beyond what meets the eye, as we see plainly stated in Isaiah, “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6) All our sin, all our guilt, was laid upon this innocent Lamb of God and He died, was buried and He left our enemy sin in the grave. His death was the all-sufficient atoning death that paid the full penalty of our sin. When Christ died He died our death. Through Baptism, we died with Him!!! Hear again the assurance you have in your baptism, “We were therefore buried with him.” This makes our relationship in Christ transformational. Paul makes this transformation known when he states in our text, “Offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.” How important and comforting this is.
This transformation is what Paul speaks of here.
Rom. 6:8-10 ¶ Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
2. Alive to God
Because Jesus’ death was the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin, it is with full assurance that Paul can direct us to see the second joy today. Since we are living under grace there is a sharp contrast shown by our text and in truth in our lives. We are alive to God. Note how Paul ties us with Christ. “The death he died, He died to sin once for all.” This all sufficient death releases us from sin’s bondage. We’re free to serve.
You see, here is what Paul is now saying. Since you died through your baptism with Christ you are a child of God. You are an heir of heaven. Paul states plainly,
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Wow, this is freedom! To be alive to God in Christ means we are alive under God’s undeserved love in Christ. So many are living their lives as captives to sin and under fear of punishment. Even Christians can find themselves trapped in sin’s service. But in Christ we are truly liberated. We are set free from its oppressive and damning power.
To “count ourselves dead to sin” means to say that I live now to God!!!” Such is the case when we recognize our roles as saints who are saved by grace.
Yet if we give in to sin. If we offend the weak by our sinful actions. If we betray Christ by living contrary to our faith or neglect our worship life and neglect the support of the preaching of the word in our midst, we are admitting just the opposite.
So as we confess our need for Grace and as we come under the Means of Grace, by grace we can indeed count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus as Paul says,
- Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness…
Friends, here is the difference when we count ourselves dead to sin, we can instead do what Paul urges us to do… He writes,
- 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.
Think of that. What a difference life in Christ makes. Dead to sin we “have been brought from death to life!!!” That is truly a transformational change.
Even so the apostle directs us today to know that we are to offer ourselves as “instruments of righteousness…”
So I ask you, I implore you, what kind of instrument for righteousness might you be? Perhaps it would help to ask, “Am I willing to do what it takes to assure that the Gospel in all its truth and purity are preserved in our midst? Am I willing to put my time, my talent, my earthly goods where my faith is and gladly, cheerfully, and responsibly plan my doings, and yes, my estate to make sure the Gospel continues here at home and in the mission fields of our world?”
That is a bold set of questions. Yet these are the questions we ask ourselves as stewards of this Gospel. First, trusting in God’s grace and providence, there is no reason for fear or doubt. Trust in Him and then go boldly plan, in as far as the Lord enables you, to be his instruments.
We can do this. How? Why can you do this? Paul says it all as he in the Spirit writes, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” As we live under grace we are dead to sin and truly alive to God. To our Lord be all the glory. Amen.