Shall We Go On Sinning?

Sermon Text – 10.13.2019
[Romans 6]
          There’s a guy named Wilbur Chapman, Dr J. Wilbur Chapman who tells a story about a distinguished minister from Australia named Dr Howard. Now one day Dr Howard preached a sermon that was very strong about the topic of sin. And after the service, one of the church leaders came to talk with him in his office. “Dr. Howard,” He said, “we don’t want you to talk as openly as you do about man’s guilt and corruption. Because if our children hear you discussing the subject, they will more easily become sinners. Please do not speak plainly about sin.” So the pastor got up from his chair and pulled a small bottle out of his cupboard in his office. “Do you see this label? It says strychnine —and then in big bold red letters it has the word “Poison!” Because that’s what it is, we use it on rats and vermin. But do you understand what you are asking me to do? You are suggesting that I should change the label. So let’s suppose I do, I paste over it with the words, “Essence of Peppermint” – don’t you see what might happen? Someone would use it, not knowing the danger involved and then they would die. So it is, with sin – the milder you make your label, the more dangerous you make your poison.  

          Today we continue with our sermon series called Road to Rome, Part II. Two months ago we did a series on the first four chapters of Romans – and for the most part it was all about where God’s at – how glorious God is. This sermon series is part II, which is all about where we’re at – how not so glorious human are. We got started last week by talking about sin and suffering – which of course are super fun topics, but today we get to focus on much, much happier things – like death and slavery. I’m excited, let’s get started.

          Now, I’m not making this up – last week I went to Youth Group, and I was late, because of Pizza with the Pastor, so Tramell was already into a really solid lesson. And of course, we get a little off topic and the kids asked about the sermon last week. Which, first, can we just pause to marvel at that for a second. I’m just glad they’re in the room, usually they sit right here in the front row, but when I find out they’re actually listening to the sermon – makes me a little nervous to be honest. I think if they start taking notes I might pass out. So anyways, some of the youth asked about the core of the message – about suffering and sin. Basically they asked, if God can turn them into good things – shouldn’t we keep sinning, to give God more glory? Like, if where sin increased, grace increases – wouldn’t it increase grace to increase sin..? And like, a little bit they were joking, but a little bit they’re serious. And I got irrationally excited, because chapter 6 literally starts out, [read v.1]. The youth of this church, after reading chapter 5, spontaneously came up with the next question Paul addresses in the text. This is why it’s so cool to read the bible one chapter right after another. When we jump around, we miss the flow – and how the thing they said at the end of chapter five leads right up to the question at the beginning of chapter 6. What does this message about sin mean? Shall we go on sinning? [read v.2] And Paul is very clear – By. No. Means. Then he pushes – we are those who have died to sin. I don’t know how you could be more extreme about it, the next eight verses are basically Paul making one big point – sin is a matter of Life and Death.
It says, [read v.3-4]. Did you not know? If you’re gonna do this Jesus thing, if you’re going to claim Jesus as the Lord of your life – we are baptized into death. It’s kind of extreme, and he doesn’t let up the pressure, verse 6 [read 6-7]. I have a lot of friends who are pastors, and we want our churches to grow, we want to reach people for Jesus – and so for a long time, we in church leadership tried to make church easier to stomach. Come back to church, it’s not that big a deal. We try to dial down the weird, and ask less of people, make you more comfortable, tell you what you want to hear – hoping more people will agree to come. We lowered the bar, we made church worth less. Paul, in Romans, uses the opposite tactic – Paul dials up the weird. He’s like, No – I’m not going to make this easy. I’m not going to teach you something that’ worth less – I’m giving you nothing less than the full gospel. Paul says this sin thing is a matter of life and death. Sin in our lives is not something we shrug about, well – I guess I “tried my best” – which is code for didn’t really try at all. When we turn to Jesus, our old self was crucified. Our old self, our sinful desires, we offer them up to die. See, here’s the problem – I think a lot of people look at religion as a method of self-improvement. And we want to pick and choose where we need to improve. Imagine life is a set of keys. And we come to God, and we say “I want you in the drivers seat God” and he says I need the keys, and we say – well, how about the key to Sunday morning. I’ll give you the key to the occasional Tuesday night. But God says, no – I need all the keys. I need your entire life. Paul doesn’t lower the bar, hoping more people will come to him. Paul raises the bar, hoping you understand the meaning of top shelf. We’re not going to water down the gospel to give you something that is worth less than what Jesus is really offering. God needs the keys to your entire life. If I had to guess a lot of you in the room have given God some of your life – but you kept some keys for yourself, didn’t you? You’ve been in this church for years, but you’ve never felt the need to give it all to Jesus. Don’t worry about it, you’re not alone. There was this guy a long time ago, his name was St. Augustine. Well, most people just called him Augustine, the saint thing came later. When he was a young man he struggled with his sin, particularly sexual sin. He really liked have sex with whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted. But he knew that God was calling him to a higher sexual ethic. He didn’t want to. In his book Confessions, you can feel the turmoil – the struggle in his life to hand over all the keys to Jesus. Scholars have oversimplified his story into three stages. First Augustine prayed, Lord make me good, but not yet. Sort of saying – I’ll give you the keys, later. Then he prayed, Lord make me good, but not entirely. Let me give you some of the keys, but not all. And then finally, Augustine said, “Lord make me good.” You have to take the entire set of keys, your entire life and put it at the feet of Jesus. Religion is not self-improvement. It’s self-abandonment. Where we hand over all the keys to Jesus – give control completely to God, keep nothing back for ourselves.
          It continues in verse 11, [read 11-14]. First he highlights that sin is a big deal, it’s a matter of life and death – and then Paul builds on that by basically saying “get away from sin.” Offer no part of your life to sin. Offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. And honestly? It seems a little extreme, right? Like, Paul – common man, why are you making such a big deal about it? What’s the harm if I want to keep a key or two for myself? Why do I have to give everything to God? Can’t I just show up a couple Sundays a year, kinda sorta try to be a good person when it’s convenient and call it a day? Verse 16 tells us, [read v.16-18]. That’s why Paul is being so extreme. He’s moving from one super intense metaphor to the next. First death – you gotta die to sin, and now slavery! Paul you’re killing me, the visitors are never gonna come back. You are a slave to the one you obey. Here’s the crazy thing – it’s not fun to think about, but that line is absolutely true. Whether you’re religious or not, spiritual or not – you are a slave to the one you obey. It’s kinda tied in with the idea from chapter one that we all worship something – even if that something is ourselves. You can be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness – those are the only options. And I know some folk will respond: well, I just won’t be a slave. I’ll be my own man, obey no one but myself. Verse 20 he says, [read v.20-21]. Paul takes a second to pause, let’s look at the other side – remember how it used to be? When you are in control of all the parts of your life – how’d that work out for you? You were free from all the restrictions of trying to be a good person, free from trying to live God’s way, you get to do whatever you want – how’d that go for you? Before you found Jesus, living in all that freedom – did you feel free? For most of us – when we are behind the wheel, when we hang on to the keys, we crash the car. But maybe not you. Maybe you’ve had a great life, haven’t made any major mistakes, no big sins – you’re doing great. Maybe life is good without God – but let me ask you, with your human success many years from now – does it change the end of the story? Does the richest most successful man in the world have a different ending than the poorest beggar? You can be a slave to sin, which includes being a slave to yourself, but that leads to death. OR you can be a slave to righteousness, which leads to eternal life. 

Verse 19, [read it]. I’m so glad verse 19 is in there. He says, “I’m using examples from everyday life” Basically Paul is just confirming the use of metaphor here. I’m talking about death and slavery as a metaphor to help you understand. Then he says, remember how it used to be? You used to offer yourself to impurity, to an ever-increasing wickedness. Mike Yaconelli tells a story that I think helps, he writes, “If you ever ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, he’ll probably say, “Well, cows start out nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it look ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. Then it sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.” We are in the process of nibbling our way to being lost. We keep moving from one tuft of activity to another, never noticing how far we have gone from home and how far away from the truth we have managed to end up.”  Like the cows – nibbling tufts of grass, it starts small, but soon enough we’ve nibbled ourselves far away from God’s truth. When we live in sin, it’s an ever-increasing wickedness. It finishes up with these beautiful words, [read v.22-23]. You are a slave to the one you obey, it’s just a reality of the world, so Paul says why not obey the one that leads to eternal life.


          Every single person in this room has the same exact story. Though all the details are different, the names and faces are swapped, the content of our calamity varies creatively – but the story is the same. We have been slaves. We have lived life away from God, and we know that it leads to death. We have held on to our keys. We insisted on driving ourselves, and at one point or another the vehicle of life got wrapped around a telephone pole. We tried it our way, and we failed. We tried it our way and it led to death. So let me ask you – what is your slavery? What key are you holding onto? What thing in your life keeps you from handing it all over to Christ? Are you keeping the key of a failed marriage? Or a broken relationship? Are you hanging on to your drug addiction? Are you holding back the key of your sexuality? Or maybe struggling with pornography? Is alcohol the key you keep in your back pocket? What keys are you keeping from Jesus? Do you give up Sunday morning to God, but hold back the keys to Friday night? God I will give you my voice in song on Sunday, but I will fill my mouth with profanity on Monday. I’m not going to give you my Monday morning key. What is your slavery? Are you a slave to pride? To gossip? To judging others? Will you serve this world? Will you keep the keys for yourself? [put the keys on the altar] Or will you let this life, this self, die with Christ, so that you can have a new life. The good news this morning is that God brings new life. But if you want new life, the old life has to die. You have to give all the keys to Jesus. You have to take everything you are, everything you’re proud of, everything you’re humiliated about, and everything you are in-between and you have to put it in front of Jesus. Come before Jesus as we are, die with him. Rise with him. A new person – a new life. Shall we go on sinning? Do you see how ridiculous that sounds? Consider yourself dead to sin, but alive in Jesus Christ.


          There’s two parts to the application today. First, choose your master. Choose who you obey. Paul lays it out in very simple language. Sin is a matter of life and death, so get away from sin. You are a slave to the one you obey, and when you obey yourself, or when you obey the world – it leads to death. Choose the one that leads to life! Choose your master. Verse 17 says, [read it]. We all used to be slaves to sin. But God has claimed your allegiance. Once you choose your master, the second part is to serve your master. Notice the phrasing. It doesn’t say you are a slave to the one you agree with. It doesn’t say you are a slave to the one on your nametag, or the labels you use or the t-shirts you wear. It says you are a slave to the one you obey. Our world is full of plenty of people who claim to be Christians, but we need to live it. Verse 13 gives it to us, [read it]. Think about this for a second, this is the last thing I’m going to say – What does it look like in your life to be an instrument of righteousness? What could God do through you if you were to offer all the keys to him? What would it look like to shift from a passive consumer of the American Christian culture to an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ, determined to transform the world? Choose your master. Serve your master.


          Man, Paul is not lightening up with these metaphors. The topics have been heavy, but the labels have been big and scary. I don’t throw around words like death and slavery lightly. Like Dr Howard with his Strychnine poison label – the milder you make your label, the more dangerous you make your poison. And so I’ll leave you with this – May you die with Christ, and let your sins stay good and dead. May you give God all the keys, lay your entire life the good and the bad in front of Jesus on the cross. And then may you rise with Christ, that God can use you to transform the world. Amen.