Summary: Jesus offers to give us "newness of life" - a rebirth and a 2nd chance put our lives right. How does that work, and what do I need to do to lay hold of that promise?
OPEN: His name was Harry Houdini, one of the greatest escape artists of all time. He freed himself from handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets and even jails. He first attracted notice in vaudeville in the US and then, later, as "Harry Handcuff Houdini" on a tour of Europe where he challenged police to keep him locked up. Which they NEVER could… except once. As good as he was, there was one jail Houdini didn’t really “escape” from. It was a Scottish town jail. He was searched and manacled, and then the old turnkey (the jailer) shut him his cell and walked away.
Houdini had an added advantage over other escape artists. Apparently, he had a pouch of skin in his mouth where he hid his picks – so that even a thorough search would not find the tools of his trade. When the jailer left, Houdini used his picks to quickly free himself from his shackles and then turned his attention to the lock on the cell door. He worked at it hard and long, but the lock just wouldn’t budge. It didn’t seem to respond as other locks had. So, despite all his efforts, he couldn’t get it unlocked. Finally, exhausted he fell against the door in frustration.
APPLY: He couldn’t get out! The master of escape was trapped! And no matter what he did, or how hard he tried… nothing worked!!!
The Bible tells us that sin is a lot like that. Sin is a prison cell from which we can’t escape no matter how hard we try.
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah (Jesus) would come “… to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” Isaiah 42:7
Peter wrote that false teachers were influencing new Christians in the churches and “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” 2 Peter 2:19
And Jesus told Paul that He was sending him “to open (sinners’) eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:18
Our text this morning tells us - that the only way to escape the prison of sins is by turning to the power of Christ. By dying to our sins, being buried with Jesus in a watery grave, and the rising with Jesus from that water to walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4 says “We were buried… with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
When we surrender to Christ He changes us. He restores us, remakes us and re---forms us into His image. And when He does that… we’re freed from the prison of our sins and we’re made into a totally new person.
Of course, that all happens when we become Christians, but God promises that when we sin (and it does happen) even AFTER we’ve been saved, we have the promise that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Essentially, God repeatedly renews our lives and gives us hope to be freed from the guilt of sin.
But now, a lot of people have a problem with that. I mean, they know they are trapped in sin. They feel the guilt and shame. They know their failings and shortcomings, and they don’t like themselves very much. And so they try to fill the silence of life with noise so they don’t have to think about their disappointment in their morality too much. The TV blares all day, or their music shakes the city blocks as they drive down the road, or the noises of their computer games surround them as they play. Silence makes them uncomfortable. They seek anything to shut out the feelings; anything to make it so they don’t have to “think” because when they have time to think their minds drift off to things they’d rather not think about. When God says “Be STILL and know that I am God” doesn’t work for them.
When they DO think, they try to fill their thoughts with “How can I make this right?” They’re constantly striving to do good stuff to pay off the debt of guilt. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it makes them generally nicer to be around. But it doesn’t really solve their problem of guilt. It’s still there!
Still others play the tough guy. They harden their hearts because they figure – hey, if I’m going to feel bad I may as well go all the way! They’ll often just give up and surrender to their sin and say “That’s just who I am!”