Today’s passage ends with the reminder that because we died with Jesus, we now live with him, not by the ‘written code’ but by ‘the Spirit’. Hmmmm, I wonder.
If you are a Christian and have come across the concept of ‘living by the Spirit’ before, I’m sure you would agree with Paul’s statement in our passage. However, if I were to ask you on any other given day when you didn’t have this concept at the front of your minds: ‘Who or what guides your life, directing how you live?’, I wonder what your response would be. I would hazard a guess that for most of us we wouldn’t jump to ‘the Spirit’, but rather would say ‘the bible’. Our written code……..
Hmmmm, what to make of that!?!
I have a wonderful wife. She is loving, kind, and I don’t know where I would be without her. She also reads this blog, so I had better stop here or else……
I want to imagine for one moment that I wasn’t in such a great marriage. I am being abused, taken advantage of, fearful for my life. For some this is a reality and my prayers are truly with you. Back to my imagination: this wreck of a marriage that I am in has no expiry date. It can only end through death and my spouse happens to be eternal! There is no hope. As the apostle Paul says in verse 24, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Because this wretched marriage is not my lot, because my life on the face of it before I turned to Jesus was pretty much ok, as far as it can be for a 7 year old, I don’t think I appreciate the full weight of the question that Paul asks here. However, just because I was unaware of my plight before God, it doesn’t mean that I too wasn’t in the same state as Paul portrays in this chapter. And it doesn’t mean that I too shouldn’t rejoice as Paul does, saying, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
There is a fascinating phrase in today’s passage that really intrigues me. It is in verse 17 when Paul is talking about the transition from being slaves to sin, to being slaves to righteousness. You see, when I think of being a slave, I think of being under the control of someone or something. That means being obedient and doing what you are commanded – following laws and rules. But when Paul uses the phrase ‘you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching’, he creates an image of something far less black and white, far less explicit.
We have not been set free from the Law of Moses to then be tied to another Law. As this passage begins, we are under grace. Rather there is a type, style, essence of teaching that informs our obedience to God. If, like me, you really appreciate things to be black or white, to have a high degree of clarity, then a ‘form of teaching’ may not sit so easily.
Something else to wrestle with and allow God to soften my heart to his ways.
Recently in church we were presented with two sides of a debate that has gone on through the ages: as a Christian, do I identify myself as a saint or a sinner? I was not involved in this discussion at the time, but today’s reading allows me to nail my colours.
I have died with Christ. Sin is no longer my master. Sin doesn’t reign in my life. The apostle Paul tells us to therefore not offer any part of our body to sin. All this doesn’t mean that I will never sin again, but that it does not have control over me and I can, with God’s help, resist its advances. For me, the best way I can describe this is that I am a saint who sins from time to time. I sin because I choose to sin. Sin does not have control of me, it doesn’t force me to sin.
This actually gives me a great deal of comfort. On the one hand I rejoice that I am free from the power of sin – it doesn’t have mastery over me. On the other hand I rejoice that when I do sin, it is a slip on my part for which Christ forgives me, and that I haven’t now ceded control over to the dark side – I remain in the light.
Praise be to God who has bought my freedom!
Why is it so darn easy to sin? Let’s face it, I don’t have to try too hard to give in, let it slip, shrug my shoulders and say “next time I’ll resist”. Whatever the reason, it is often a very short step to then seek to justify or excuse my slip. Two of the main ones tend to be that it was really someone else’s fault, or that I didn’t realise at the time the nature of my choice.
In chapter 6, Paul addresses two other excuses for sin, though I’m not sure I’ve used either of them recently. The first excuse is that the end justifies the means – if I sin, then it demonstrates just how wonderful God is that he forgives me. The more I sin, the brighter shines God’s grace! The second seeks to say that as we are not under the Law anymore, then there really is no such thing as sin anymore.
Paul’s response to both is similar. If you focus just on Jesus’ death and the forgiveness you have received, you miss the part that Jesus is risen and living, and that we now live in him. Our faith is not just about an event in the past that secured an eternal prize, but also about a life spent now in honour of Jesus.
So next time I’m faced with temptation, I’ll try not to focus in on the saving grace that I have received, but choose to live in the ongoing life of Christ that demonstrates my change of allegiance.
Have you ever built a house of cards? Maybe more of a pyramid or shanty-town shack? Isn’t it annoying when you are just about finished and then someone, usually a sibling, pulls out one of the cards on the bottom level and it all comes crashing down. All that effort, patience and time taken to construct something of worth, trashed in the blink of an eye.
It is always so much easier to break something down than it is to build it in the first place. Maybe you can think of pictures of the demolition of large buildings – a pile of rubble in a matter of seconds.
As I read today’s passage my mind likened it to this analogy. That which God had carefully and wonderfully created all came crashing down with the arrival of the very first sin. Thanks Adam! If you see the destructive nature of sin in this way, can I also then ask you to view the incredibly powerful force that grace is. All it took was Jesus’ sacrifice and grace set to work to rebuild all that had been broken down.
It is on days like this that I am tempted to pull out a commentary on Romans and share the insights of someone much wiser than I. It may only be three verses today, but by the time I’ve read them, re-read them, and then repeated this process a few times, I have to admit that I am still not much clearer on how to explain this. But then I am reminded of the whole point of this blog – it is not a vehicle by which I share my wisdom and great theological learning with those in Kings Hill Christian Fellowship and anyone else who cares to listen. It is attempting to say: join me in opening the bible, asking God’s Spirit to bring revelation and speak words of life to us today. So this is what came to me…..
Whilst I have been saved because of Jesus’ death on the cross, I can now live my life in the power of the one who lives for evermore.
So what comes to you as you read these verses?