Summary: As a disciple of Jesus sin may reside, but it must not be allowed to preside
On May 28 of this year four-year-old Isaiah Dickerson climbed under a fence and fell 12 feet down into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. In order to protect the boy zoo officials had to shoot Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla, sparking a public outrage among many people.
Sin is a lot like a wild animal at a zoo. Although those wild animals are dangerous and can do us much harm, as long as we stay behind the barriers that have been put up for our safety, those animals can roar and growl all they want, but they can’t harm us. It’s not until we go around or under or over those barriers and get into the cage that we are in danger.
As we saw last week, because we are united, or growing together, with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection, we have been freed from the power of sin. Therefore, sin cannot harm us or dominate our lives unless we choose to intentionally ignore and go around the barriers that come with being united with Jesus.
But even though Jesus has given us every tool we need to live a life that is not subject to the power of sin, that doesn’t mean that living like that is an easy thing to do. So in Romans 6, Paul gives his readers, and us, some very practical guidance about how we can live lives that are free from slavery to sin because we are “in Jesus”.
Hopefully you’ll remember that last week, we looked at the first 10 verses of that chapter and found that the key word there was “know”. Paul focused on the idea that because Jesus died and rose from the dead and we are united with Him that we, too, died to sin and have been freed from its power. So the focus there was primarily on our mind. And therefore one of the applications we made was to stress the importance of coming back frequently to this section of the Bible so that we’ll keep those facts at the front of our mind.
Today, we’ll pick up in verse 11 and see how Paul goes on to encourage us to engage our hearts and our wills in addition to our minds. Once again this morning, you’ll need to keep your Bibles open since I’ll be referring back to our passage throughout the message today.
We could illustrate the flow of this section like this based on the key verbs in each section:
Last week, I really wrestled with whether to include verse 11 with last week’s message or to wait until this week to take a look at it. But the more I studied and meditated on this passage, it seems to me that verse 11 is one of those transitional verses that really ties together what precedes it with what follows. We can’t move from just knowing these facts to engaging our wills without first taking these truths to heart. So let’s begin this morning by reading that key verse – verse 11:
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
A number of commentators point out that this is the first command in the entire book of Romans. While I didn’t have time to go back and look at every single verb up to this point, a quick review leads me to believe that is indeed the case. And if it is, that means that Paul has spent five and a half chapters giving us all the information that we need to be able to obey that command. Again, what I love about Paul is that he rarely gives us commands or instructions without giving detailed information about why we should obey them.
The verb “consider” is used 41 times in the New Testament and over one quarter of those uses are in Romans chapter 4, where the ESV translates it “count”. It is an accounting term that means “to credit to one’s account”. When we studied chapter 4, we saw that Paul used that word to describe how our faith in Jesus results in God crediting our account with the righteousness of Jesus.
So Paul gives a command here to take what we learned last week about being united with Jesus and being freed from slavery from sin and move it from just our minds to our hearts. In a physical sense, the distance between our head and our heart is only a little over a foot. But as British politician Andrew Bennett once observed:
The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.
So what Paul is calling on us to do here is not to just know these facts intellectually, but to make a permanent record of them on our hearts. And in just a moment we’re going to talk about some practical things we can do to help these facts make that journey from our head to our hearts.