Romans 6 – Week 8
Many of us were saddened by the death of General Colin Powell this week. The 84-year-old was the first African American Secretary of State, served as the national security advisor as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I believe it was during the Gulf War that General Powell became a household name for most of us. I remember specifically that I was at a car dealership when the news broke announcing that the U.S. had gone to war. I was in my early to mid-twenties at that time and I can recall the fear of watching this all unfold. There were rumors of starting the military draft back up and the thought terrified me. I was married at the time and had an older brother; both my husband and my brother would have been ripe for a draft. I started my research on what exempted men from being drafted. I had always heard that if a male had flat feet that he would automatically be disqualified and exempt from the draft. Knowing that my brother was extremely flat-footed allowed me to not worry so much about him. My husband, however, didn’t have any disqualifying features. A day or two into the war, he informed me that he was considering signing up to go to war. The look I gave him should have squashed the conversation right then and there. But it didn’t. We went back and forth on the issue for quite some time. He was willing to risk his safety, his comfort, his life to fight against the enemy. Me? I was willing to re-enact Kathy Bates’ role from Misery on him and break both of his ankles to keep him safe (well, sort of, I guess) at home. Because to voluntarily go to war is preposterous, isn’t it?
Not for everyone. And it shouldn’t be for Christians.
As we discussed last week, two men in the history of the world have had profound effects on every last one of us. Adam, through his one act of disobedience, shackled us all to sin. Jesus, through His one act of sacrifice, not only broke those chains of sin but also eliminated the result of sin (death) from those who choose Him.
Since the day we were born, because of that inheritance we received from Adam, we’ve lived in a state of war. Good vs. evil. Right vs. wrong. Every human being is faced with that same battle. Some fight it; some don’t. Some born-again Christians volunteer for the front line in combat positions against the enemy’s army while many others volunteer to work in the kitchen as a cook or in the office filing papers. You know, a safe and comfortable place. All are considered active military and they all receive benefits, but some voluntarily go to war against the enemy every day while some are content to let others go fight.
What is your toughest battle as a Christian?
Some may say that finding time to study God’s Word is a daily struggle. Others may wrestle with hearing God’s voice and knowing His will for their days. Many find it difficult to love others as God would have us to do. But I’ve got to believe that with very few exceptions, the toughest battle we face is resisting sinfulness.
Here’s a very simple but, at the same time, very deep and thought-provoking question. Why do we sin?
Some may think we can’t help it because it’s in our nature to sin. Blame Adam for that one! Paul gives us another reason in chapter 3 of Romans when he blatantly states that some have “no respect or fear of God”. We don’t like to think of ourselves in this manner. We like to think that we respect and fear God appropriately, so we don’t claim that as our excuse for sinning. And then in last week’s discussion, at the end of Romans 5, Paul, in verse 20 states, “But the more we see our sinfulness, the more we see God’s abounding grace forgiving us.” TLB
It’s almost as if we have this mentality of being given an unlimited amount of Get Out of Jail cards when we become saved. We tend to live with this safety net of “God loves me and He’ll always forgive me” so I can always use my “get out of jail” cards when I mess up and because I have an unlimited amount, I don’t have to be so careful. Paul tells me that God’s grace is more abundant than my sin so I’m covered no matter what I do.
There have been movies and TV shows as well as true stories about diplomatic immunity. This immunity exempts diplomats from certain laws and taxes normally enforced by the country in which they are working. As you can imagine, great advantage is taken. In six years, foreign diplomats racked up more than 150,000 parking tickets. Not $150,000 worth; literally 150,000 separate tickets. They escape penalty and fines by claiming to be on “official duty” and that exempts them automatically. To put it in perspective, that’s an average of nearly 70 parking tickets every day of the year. Seven days a week. The unpaid fines are now over $17 million. And, get this. Those figures are from New York alone. [i]Having that immunity unquestionably gives them a sense of entitlement to do whatever they choose to do. And it doesn’t begin and end with just parking tickets. There have been much greater crimes involved over the years simply because forgiveness has been granted before the crime is even committed.
Well knowing that the Romans would have had the same thought process as we do today, Paul starts off Romans 6 with a bang.
“So do you think that we should continue sinning so that God will give us more and more grace? 2 No! We died to our old sinful lives. So how can we continue living with sin?” Romans 6:1-2 ICB
As children of God, we come to realize that Jesus’ blood paid the ransom for the bondage of sin to which we were enslaved. Do you know what’s ironic? Do you recall ever hearing of a person who was held captive, then released because someone paid their ransom, and yet, they still returned to the one who held them as a prisoner? That would be considered insane, would it not? But don’t be so quick to pass judgment because that’s exactly what we do as we claim the blood of Jesus over our sin, thank Him for the price He paid on our behalf and then turn right back around and do it all over again! Even though our ransom has been paid, we go back, time and time again, to our captor.
Romans 6:3-6 ICB Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized? We shared his death in our baptism. 4 So when we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. We were buried with him so that we could live a new life, just as Christ was raised from death by the wonderful power of the Father.
5 Christ died, and we have been joined with Christ by dying too. So we will also be joined with him by rising from death as he did. 6 We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross. This was so that our sinful selves would have no power over us, and we would not be slaves to sin. 7 Anyone who has died is made free from sin’s control.
Even if you’ve never participated in a game of tug of war, you’ve seen it and understand the concept behind it. There’s a long rope with a ribbon or flag tied right in the middle. Opposing teams each pull on one end of the rope to get the flag or ribbon on their side of the middle line. It’s usually a back and forth struggle which comes down to which side has the greatest strength. That ribbon, that flag is us. We are sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly the object that’s being fought over. The difference is that the flag or ribbon doesn’t have any say as to which team wins. We do. Although we belong to God, we are His child, the free will that He has allowed us gives us that flexibility to be pulled to the other side if we aren’t diligent and careful. It’s spiritual warfare at its finest.
Luke 9:23 RSV “And he said to all, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ “ Daily! Daily we are to pick up the cross and deny ourselves. Not just once upon salvation. Not just once during our baptism. Not when we are taking communion. We must make that choice daily because the battles are ongoing.
Do you truthfully start each day cognizant of the spiritual warfare, not just in the world, but in your own life? Here’s something I learned this week that astounded me. Since the year 1776, the United States has been at war for 93% of the time.[ii] Were you aware of that? Real-life war has been going on for the majority of our life and most of us don’t give it a second thought because truthfully, we consider it so far removed from us. Because we are not walking in rubble and debris, we aren’t taking shelter from missiles, we don’t train our ears for air raid sirens, we don’t consider our country to be at war. Unless we have a family member or a close friend stationed in the warzone, it’s not a daily concern for us. Well, spiritual war has been going on for all of our lives and sadly, most of us don’t give it much thought because we just kind of prefer to be anywhere but on the front line in combat. Even though we witness up close the rubble and debris caused by greed, lustfulness, hatred, unforgiveness and we have the fiery darts of the enemy flying at us and if we were to listen carefully, there would be the unmistakable cry of the Holy Spirit, we don’t necessarily see our life as a warzone. But, the denial doesn’t make it any less real.
Every day, we are faced with tests, temptations, opportunities to choose who we serve right there, at that moment. Jesus said in Matthew that we cannot serve two masters. Paul reiterates this thought in Romans 6:16-17 ERV “ Surely you know that you become the slaves of whatever you give yourselves to. Anything or anyone you follow will be your master. You can follow sin, or you can obey God. Following sin brings spiritual death, but obeying God makes you right with him. 17 In the past you were slaves to sin—sin controlled you. But thank God, you fully obeyed what you were taught.”
Are there areas of your life that completely and 100% belong to God? Are there other areas of your life on which the enemy still pulls the string? The enemy keeps his inventory full of gossip, laziness, worrying, lust, greed, pride and he uses those tools frequently. We are often tempted by what we consider to be harmless and innocuous teensy weensy sins and we just kind of shrug our shoulders and roll our eyes as if to say, “So I gave in to the temptation. It could have been worse.”
I was talking with a friend earlier who just recently celebrated her birthday. She’s been on a no sugar, low carb eating plan for a little over a month and has defiantly stuck with it. Until her birthday. She admitted she had a couple of bites of cheesecake; although she stressed, it was just a few bites and not the whole piece. She said it just looked so good and the temptation was too great. She had an opportunity to say no but she chose to give in. Can you relate? It may not be cheesecake, but there’s some thing that is always guaranteed to tempt us. “Opportunity may only knock once, but temptation will lean on the doorbell.” Anonymous
Let’s face it. The temptation to sin is constant. It’s part of life, again, thanks to Adam. 1 Peter 4:12 NIV “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” We shouldn’t be surprised or not expect temptation or sinfulness to cross our paths daily. We have to be prepared to fight it. We must daily take up our cross, put on the full armor of God, and be alert for the enemy.
One of the coolest stories I ever heard about General Colin Powell came after someone visited his office in Frankfurt, Germany during the Cold War. General Powell was a commander and responsible for defending Germany from the persistent threats of the Soviets. Noticeably placed in his personal office was a large photograph of a Soviet general. The visitor couldn’t help but question why. Powell’s response was, “Because when I see the enemy coming through the battlefield, I want to know who I’m looking for.” Scripture tells us that Satan disguises himself. Do you know what your enemy looks like?
Romans 6:12-14 NLV 12 “So do not let sin have power over your body here on earth. You must not obey the body and let it do what it wants to do. 13 Do not give any part of your body for sinful use. Instead, give yourself to God as a living person who has been raised from the dead. Give every part of your body to God to do what is right. 14 Sin must not have power over you. You are not living by the Law. You have life because of God’s loving-favor.”
If I were to ask if sin had power over you, could you give a flat “yes” or “no” answer to that? Somehow, I believe that most people would answer, “No, but…” Satan not only gets us to sin, but he’s even more proficient at giving us a thesis as to why we are justified in doing what we did. That justification is what keeps us in our sin. The justification is the chain that keeps us bound to whatever our sin of choice may be. Jesus died to justify sinners, but He didn’t die to justify the sin because there is no biblical justification for any sin.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Jesus came to fight sinfulness. As His co-heirs, is that not our responsibility as well?
I was watching a talk show the other day and a veteran who was having marital issues made the statement that most veterans leave as one person, but after engaging in war, they return as someone completely different. They are wounded, scarred, changed; sometimes outwardly, but most certainly inwardly. How could they not be? If we are engaging in war on behalf of God’s army, we should also expect changes. Who we once were is not who we are now. At least, we shouldn’t be. Spiritual combat will place us in opposition of the enemy, it will put us on the front line and put a target on us. 2 Corinthians 4:9 “We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.”
When retired General Colin Powell speaks with wounded soldiers, he asks a rhetorical question rather than focus on the soldier’s injuries. The question he always asked was, “Were you a good soldier?” Powell finds soldiers want their service records acknowledged and honored. “They are not looking for sympathy,” he said. “Rather than commiserate with them, I want to talk to them about their service.” [iii]
2 Timothy 2:3 TPT “Overcome every form of evil as a victorious soldier of Jesus the Anointed One. 4 For every soldier called to active duty must divorce himself from the distractions of this world so that he may fully satisfy the one who chose him.”
At the end of your service in God’s army, what will be your answer should someone ask, “Were you a good soldier?”
Sometimes Satan will softly knock to draw us closer in order to hear him better. We must look before answering the door.
We must be more vigilant.
Are you and good & faithful servant of God’s?
Even though we’ve got life insurance, we still need to fight!
Take advantage of God’s opportunities and avoid temptation.