Summary: How is Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection related to your freedom from sin? What do grace and baptism have to do with each other?
We went to visit Jennifer and Brian earlier this week. It was great. They are both doing very well and our grandbaby is kicking. As some of you know, Brian and Jen have two dogs: Clint and Lou. Clint is Brian’s and Lou is Jen’s. They told me that when they leave the house they have to put Lou in a pen because she destroys things. Lately, she has attempted to eat three remotes and several DVD and Video cases, besides other things.
Jen says that it’s not that Lou wants to be bad. She just gets upset when they leave. My thought is, “She’s a dog. Dogs do dog type things like eat remotes and DVD cases.” That’s their nature. Dogs are… well, dogs. Few things reveal the true nature of a dog like leaving them in your house and going away for a few hours.
You know, as we read Romans, we discover a lot about human nature too. People: were we created in God’s image or not? Do we human beings want to be more like God or the devil? Which one do we favor most by our actions, attitudes and conversation? In Romans 7 we find Paul saying: I don’t want to be bad… I just am! Look at it for yourself. Romans 7: 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. In other words, “I don’t want to be bad, I just am.” For us to be good, we need to be in God’s presence constantly. We will see how this happens for the Christian in Romans 8.
Meanwhile, God can’t leave us alone in paradise for any length of time if there is something we can get into that we shouldn’t. The first time man sinned he had help from the devil, but ever since then we’ve been able to do it pretty well on our own. Just look at what has happened since creation that has put humanity in such a condition! There is no way around it! The whole world is in a mess spiritually. It’s true! We may not want to sin, but guess what… we do. You may ask: Can anything change that? Are we stuck in this condition as slaves to sin without a remedy? And I’m so glad you asked! Because the Bible says there is freedom from the slavery of sin! God has supplied the way, paid the price, opened the gates, broken the bondage, and set the captive free! It is a work of God called grace.
When God’s word in Romans speaks about this, the answer is clear. Once again, lets review: This letter has taken us from section one: We are all sinners (chapters 1:18-3:20), through section two: God justifies those who have faith (chapters 3:21-5:21). And now, as we begin in section three we discover entering grace and walking in newness of life in Christ (6:1-8:39). Today, we see in chapter 6, the transition from old self in sin to newness of life in Christ. This chapter describes an amazing process of conversion into freedom. It captures the emancipation moment. Chapter 6 is all about change from the condition of slave to sin to freedom from sin. It is all about grace. That is, grace properly understood and applied! And this grace is a transforming work of God! But the recipients have a cooperative part in it. Not everyone receives God’s grace, therefore not everyone is saved. But (and this is a difficult truth) some who do not receive God’s grace have been trained to behave better than they otherwise would.
Listen! You may be able to train a dog to behave better. But you will still have a dog. You can also train a sinner to act better than they are, but you still have a sinner. If the problem of sin were just a matter of training, Jesus would never have died on the cross. No, our problem runs much deeper than that. A well trained sinner is still a sinner.
The only way to fix us is to put our old nature to death and raise us back to new life in Christ. Romans 6 addresses this head on and gives us a clear picture of when this change takes place by the grace of God!
Let me share an illustration: There was a Harrison Ford movie (Regarding Henry) out some years ago in which he played a lawyer. He was a first class jerk. The movie starts with him concealing evidence so that his case destroys a man’s character in court. He hides evidence all the time. He says, “That’s how I pay for my client’s ticket out of trouble.” It is also how he pays for his mistress and other sinful life-style. He’s married and he has to attend all sorts of dinners with important people whom he gushes over and brown noses. He has to ask his wife for their names. He has a daughter whom he hardly knows. She can never be good enough for him. If her report card has a “B” he totally ignores the “A’s” and tells her she needs to work harder and do better. He’s a jerk.