One of the foundational tenets of our American culture is freedom. From the beginning of our nation’s history, freedom has been paramount. We, as Americans, possess what has been called, The Freedom Documents— “The Constitution,” “The Declaration of Independence,” and “The Bill of Rights” all written during the infancy of our nation. They outline and address our freedom as American citizens. In the Declaration of Independence we can gain some insight as to why freedom was so important to our Founding Fathers. Listen to these words from the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness… when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. (The Declaration of Independence, 1776)
It was the injustice of the King of Great Britain that led those early settlers to declare their independence and set out to establish a new government, a new way of living, and to pursue freedom from tyranny and injustice.
Throughout our history freedom has been talked about, fought for, and treasured as a priceless jewel, but are we truly free? Is it possible to be absolutely free from any authority? Some think so, but I think not. Even those who claim to be the autonomous man or woman are far from being free—as a matter of fact they are slaves to their own desires.
In our lesson for today we will see that the Apostle Paul makes it very clear for us that we are going to serve somebody. The question for you and me this morning is, “Who’s your Master?” Let’s take a look at our Scripture found in Romans 6:12-23.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey– whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:12-23 NIV)
Going back to Romans 5, Paul taught us the invaluable lesson of the two camps of humanity. We are born into Adam. We are born sinners with a natural propensity towards sin. God created us, He has a plan for each of our lives, but our nature is to rebel against God and go our own way. God’s way is the way of holiness and righteousness. Our way is the way of selfishness and sin.
This is not good news, but, if you will remember, I did share good news with you back in Romans 5 and the good news is that God has sent His Son Jesus to create a new humanity. Those who will accept what God has done through Jesus will be grafted into the new humanity—they will be “in Christ” rather than “in Adam. God will give them a new nature, a new hope, a new power for living, and a new destiny.
As we came to the opening verses of Romans 6 we learned that those who will turn from their sin and turn to Jesus are given a new power to live a new life. Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-4.
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4 NIV)
“We were buried with him through baptism into death…” We have died. We, who have turned to Jesus by faith, have died to our old way of living, our old way of thinking, our old way of talking, and our old way of seeking and doing what we want. Now, our highest aim in life, our greatest passion in life, is to do the will of God, to bring glory and honor to His name.
If Paul would have stopped at this point then we would have a nice, sanitized, saintly existence for the rest of our life. You and I both know that this is not the case. Life is messy. Sin continues to plague us even after we surrender our lives to Jesus. This is one of the problems that an unbelieving world has with you and me. They hear that we are Christians, followers of Jesus, and they expect us to “be” Jesus, to live a holy life, and never make a mistake. You know what I am talking about. You have folks that you work with, kids that you go to school with, or neighbors that you live by who are not followers of Jesus. They see you or me act in a way that does not reflect the character of Jesus’ life, and they say things like, “Well, if that’s what being a Christian is all about, then count me out.” Or they will say, “I know people who call themselves Christians and they are mean, they are greedy, they cuss like a sailor, yell at their kids, and play golf on Sunday instead of going to church. I’m more moral than they are.”
What is this? I thought that we were “buried with Christ in baptism” so that we might live a new life? If these things are true when why do we continue to struggle with sin? Why do we so often fail to reflect the holiness and righteous of our King? Those are great questions my friends. Turn with me to Romans 6:12-13. Paul writes,
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:12-13 NIV)
Paul is exactly right when he wrote about all that God has done for us so that we might live a new life, but now that God has done these things we must not let sin reign in our mortal bodies so that we obey its evil desires. I want to show you something that has really been an eye-opener for me this week as I have been studying God’s Word. Take a look at verse 12. Do you see where Paul says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body…” The Greek word for “reign” is “basileuo” and it means, “to be king, to exercise kingly power,” or “to reign.” The word that Paul uses here is the verb form of the noun, “king.” What Paul is saying is, “Do not let sin be king over you. Don’t let sin be the master of your body.”
I have some friends who are not Christians and they tell me that they don’t want anybody telling them what to do with their life. They say, “This is my life and I want to live it how I want to live it.” That sounds good. Sounds logical even, but it is an absurd statement. What they are trying to say is, “I want to be free from all outside influences so that I can do what I want. I want to call the shots for my own life.” If you are one of those folks who believe this way then I want to encourage you to really think through what you are saying.
Each and every day you are living under the authority of someone. If you have a job, then you are working under someone’s authority. You can’t do what you want at work and expect to keep your job. If you go to school, you can’t pick and choose which assignments you want to turn in and expect to pass the class. If you own a car, you can’t drive however you want to drive and expect to keep your license. If you are married, then you can’t treat your spouse however you want and expect to stay married.
Paul boils things down to their most basic elements and says to us that we are either living under the rule of sin or under the rule of God. You might say, “I’m not opposed to God, I’m just doing what I want.” My friend, by nature we are opposed to God. God says, “Don’t lie,” yet we lie whenever it is convenient for us. God says, “Don’t steal,” yet we take what is not ours. God says, “Be selfless,” yet we are selfish. God says, “Be holy,” yet we are unholy. God says, “Be pure” sexually, yet we are impure. This is our nature. This is the way we naturally behave. Yet, remember, we were buried with Christ so that we might live a new life! How do we live the new life in Christ? In Romans 6:13 Paul writes,
13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13 NIV)
Paul says, “Don’t make yourself available to sin, but make yourself available to God.” Every day when you and I get out of bed we have a decision to make: “Who will be my master today? Will I serve my sinful nature and do what I want to do or will I serve God?” If we are going to serve God then we cannot offer ourselves to our old nature. Let me show you a key to understanding what I am talking about. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul wrote,
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
It is quite easy to see from this passage of Scripture that our bodies are not evil, they are not the enemy, it is the use of our bodies that should be our uttermost concern. We, who have committed our lives to serving Jesus, are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. Our bodies—our minds, our eyes, our ears, our hands, our feet, and our tongues are to be used to bring glory and honor to God.
Paul says in Romans 12:2 that we are not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world. What is “the pattern of this world?” What characterizes “worldly” living? What is important to the people who are not sold out for Christ? We are not to be squeezed into the mold that shapes the people who are not following Jesus.
When I was a Youth Minister in Plano, Texas I was much more aware of what the kids in my youth group were watching on t.v., what music they were listening to, and which movies were popular among teenagers than I am today. I can remember sharing this verse from Romans 12:1-2 with the kids in my youth group as well as my own children. The counsel that we receive from Romans 12:1-2 is not just for young people, it is for all of us. There is no debating that what we allow into our eyes and ears shapes our soul. Is it any wonder that Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” (Job 31:1 NIV) Is it any wonder that Paul told the people in Philippi,
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
We are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our minds can be our biggest enemy don’t you think? Stop and think about it. How many times have you allowed your mind to convince you of things that just weren’t true? How many times has your mind led you into despair, depression, and anxiety because of the thoughts that you dwelled on? How many times have you become convinced that something would be fun, good, or beneficial for you when in reality it was far from what God would have had for you?
Our minds need to be renewed. Paul wrote to the people of Corinth and said, 16 …But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16 NIV) Through what God has done for us in Jesus we can experience the renewing of our minds. We are not enslaved to our old ways of thinking any longer. We are now under new management and we can set our mind on the things of God. I have to be honest with you and tell you that this is not an easy thing. When you become a follower of Jesus, God does not switch off your old thought patterns. He does not disconnect your worldly thoughts, your destructive thoughts, or your ungodly thoughts, but He does give you the power to establish new thought patterns.
Before we come to Christ we have no defense against our minds, but now that we have died to ourselves and been made alive in Christ we have the Holy Spirit to empower us. We must apply ourselves like an athlete applies him or herself to gain the skills that they need to perform on the field of competition. Paul makes mention of this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 when he writes,
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)
Runners run. While others are relaxing or doing whatever they want to do, runners are disciplined and commit themselves to doing what they need to do to win the prize. What is true of runners is true of all athletes. It takes commitment to be an athlete. It takes determination to be an athlete. It takes focus to be an athlete. It takes stamina to be an athlete. An athlete must do what they must do even when they don’t feel like doing it. What is true for an athlete is even more true for the followers of Jesus. Paul wrote,
8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV)
I want to make something very clear for us before we leave here today. When we read through Romans 6:12-23 there is one word that appears more than any other word, it is the word, “slave” or “slavery.” The Greek word that is used is “doulos” and it means, “a slave, bondman,” or “one who gives himself up to another’s will.” This word, in its various forms, appears over 130 times in the New Testament.
John Mac Arthur has a great chapter in his book, Today’s Gospel: Good News or Bad? In the chapter entitled, “What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, ‘Follow Me?” Mac Arthur writes,
Doulos speaks of slavery, pure and simple. It is not at all a hazy or uncertain term. It describes someone lacking personal freedom and personal rights whose very existence is defined by his service to another. It is the sort of slavery in which ‘human autonomy is set aside and an alien will takes precedence of one’s own.’ This is total, unqualified submission to the control and the directives of a higher authority—slavery, not merely service at one’s own discretion.
Mac Arthur talks extensively about how we have such a bad taste in our mouths about slavery because of the history of the word in our own nation. He also reminds us that slavery was alive and well at the time that Romans was written. Mac Arthur writes,
It was a fixture in Roman societies—perfectly legal, pervasive, and rarely challenged. Not all slaves were mistreated, but many were, and Roman-style slavery was notorious for its inability to curtail the terrible abuses that did occur. Slaves themselves, of course, had absolutely no control over whether they were well treated or oppressed. So even though slavery was widely regarded as a necessary component of the social and economic structure, the idea of being a slave was universally loathsome. No one wanted to be anyone’s doulos. (John Mac Arthur, What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, ‘Follow Me?’ pg. 29)
The truth of the matter is that the word “slave” has always left a bad taste in the mouths of people, yet Jesus never backed away from using the term regarding our relationship to God. Jesus wasn’t trying to appeal to the masses. He wasn’t trying to win a popularity contest. Jesus called for the absolute surrender of our wills to His Lordship over our lives. Jesus told His followers,
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35 NIV)
Everything within us wants to throw off the shackles of slavery and declare ourselves free! I understand why this is so. We are so used to being taken advantage of by others, we’ve heard the horror stories of how slaves were abused, raped, and even killed by their masters. What we fail to recognize is that when we are the “masters” of our own destiny we do the same things to ourselves. Look at the lives of those who have turned away from the Lord and declared themselves to be free. They have become slaves to their own desires. They are eaten up with greed or addictions or workaholism or sexual promiscuity or…the list could go on and on. That is why Paul says,
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:20-22 NIV)
When we are free from the control of righteousness, bondage to God, we reap what we sow and we end up doing things that we are ashamed of. What is the end result? Paul says that it is death. Don’t just think about physical death even though that is certainly a possibility, but think more broadly. Those who live apart from God and do whatever they want witness death in a number of ways. They experience the death of what they could become. They experience the death of relationships. They experience the death of any possibility of experiencing the joy and meaning of serving the King of all kings!
On the other hand, Paul says that when we become a slave to God the result of our slavery is holiness. Our lives begin to change. Our thoughts begin to change. Our lifestyle begins to change. We grow less and less enamored by the things of this world and more and more passionate about the things of God. We begin to see Jesus working in us so that our lives begin to look more like His life. What is the end result of this kind of life? Paul says that it is eternal life. Abundant life. Not just in the hereafter, but in the here and now.
We all have problems. Whether you are a follower of Jesus or not you have problems that you have to deal with in your every day life, but when you are a slave of God you begin to see your problems in a different light. You no longer see yourself as a victim of life, but you begin to understand that God is sovereign over all of life and that He knows about your problems. Even more than that, He is using your problems to grow your dependence upon Him and shape your character. That is why James was able to write,
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
Let me close by saying that my highest aim in life is to be a slave to the Lord. I want to declare that I’m not nearly as concerned with my rights as I am His will. I want to declare to you today that the Lord is my Master and I want to be His slave as long as I have breath in my lungs. I have been a slave to others and they have abused me, taken advantage of me, and used me for their own purposes. I have been a slave to my own passions and desires and they got me nowhere. He has called me and I am His. Do with me what You want Lord. Use me how You desire Lord. Let my life be an offering to You. Let my words bring glory to Your Name. Let my mind reflect the mind of Christ. Let my feet bring good news to those who do not know You. Let my hands be used to minister in Your name.
Is this your desire? Do you sense the Lord is calling you to be His slave this morning? If not then let me ask you, “Who’s your Master?” Are you the master of your own life? Then prepare for what will come my friend. You’ve heard this morning the truth of what will come so now prepare for the destruction and death that you will bring upon yourself. I want to urge you who do not know Jesus as Lord of our life, as Master of your every moment, to cry out to Him this very morning and ask Him to come into your life.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 12, 2013