Summary: We must set our minds on the things of God, seeking to please him and be obedient to him in all we do. That way, we feed the Spirit and insure our victory over sin.
A well-worn one dollar bill and a well-worn twenty dollar bill arrived at an incinerator to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.
The twenty dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the county. "I've had a pretty good life," the twenty proclaimed. "Why I've been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean. ""Wow!" said the one dollar bill. "You've really had an exciting life!"
"So tell me," says the twenty, "where have you been throughout your lifetime?"
The one dollar bill replies, "Oh, I've been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church ..."
The twenty dollar bill interrupts, "What's a church?" (Pause, esp. if the congregation laughs)
How many of you have heard of a weapon called the AK-47 assault rifle?
It was invented by a Russian general named Mikhail Kalashnikov. The gun became popular with terrorist groups and many nations because it is simple and almost impossibly to destroy. When the general was confronted about the number of lives his weapon had taken, the general replied, “I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it.”
The general died in December of 2013, and shortly before his death he might have regretted his words. In a letter he wrote to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, he asked, “If my rifle took away people’s lives, then can it be that I am guilty for people’s deaths, even if they were enemies?”
All of us have sins hidden in the back of our minds and in the corners of our hearts. These private sins give us grief any time they come to the surface of our thoughts. Even though they might have been forgotten by others, and even though we have been forgiven by God, the sins still bother us. The apostle Paul offers us this assurance: “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law, but under grace.”
There are other people who believe that by doing good deeds they will get to heaven when they die. Unfortunately, they are dead wrong. The only way we can gain the new life that salvation offers is to die a spiritual death. In other words, our sin-filled nature has to die, and the only way it can die is if we accept Christ in faith. That is the point of Romans 6:1-13.
Just like Christ died, was buried, descended to hell and rose again, we have to be “buried” with him by baptism into faith. Only then can our link to our old, sinful life be severed. When we die to sin, death has no more dominion over us. We are reborn into a new life in Christ, just like Christ was resurrected from the dead. Our new “body” is clean, and it must be kept free from sin.
Some people also believe that once our sins are forgiven, they will continue to be forgiven, so we can continue to do whatever we want to. The German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer described this attitude as “cheap grace.” People who have this attitude are forgetting one thing. Grace may be cheap for us, but it was not cheap for Jesus. He paid a heavy price, because he paid for God’s grace with his life. Grace is not a ticket to a sin-filled life. Grace does not give us permission to sin. God’s loving grace is the free offering that leads us to salvation. Grace is not the same as salvation. Grace is the coming together of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and his obedience to the gospel. We do not go to heaven because we want to go. We get to go to heaven because of God’s grace, but only if we accept it by faith.
Reconciliation to God requires repentance, and repentance requires remorse. Remorse requires responsibility because we have to accept responsibility for our actions. Repentance restores relationships. Reconciliation reaps rejoicing, as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son when the father rejoiced at the return of his wayward younger son.
The key to salvation is baptism. Water baptism is an outward expression of the inner transformation of Christ. As we step into the water, we are in Christ. As we are immersed in the water, we are buried with Jesus, and as we rise from the water we are raised with him to a new life. As we walk away from the water, we show that we are walking with Jesus in a new way of life. We can also cry “It is finished” because everything that can be done about our sins has been done by Jesus. Our old way of life has been crucified with Christ and we have been freed or justified from sin. Once we have been freed from sin, we have to apply what we have been taught about our relationship to sin to our own lives. Once we have done that, we must say “no” to sin.