WHAT ARE YOU GIVING YOUR LIFE TO?
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 35
Romans 6:15-23 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
Years ago while in Bible college, I remember a young student who stood up during chapel to tell of a recent experience about sharing his faith. It seems the person he was relating to took immediate offense at the young man’s testimony. In no uncertain terms he was informed, “I don’t want to be one of those Jesus fanatics!” Undetered by the man’s stinging rejection the student came back with a great response: “We’re all fanatics about something. What are you a fanatic about?” Great question! He hit the proverbial nail on the head.
Let’s face it, we’re all fanatics about something, it’s just a matter of what. Some are fanatics of their work. They are consumed with the demands, projects, deadlines of their career. Vacations are out of the question unless it is a working vacation. And more than likely that is just to appease their guilty conscience of neglecting their family.
Some are fanatics about possessions. Their constant pursuit of contentment never allows them to enjoy what they have. For them, if they just have a little more, they’ll be a little closer to achieving contentment.
Others are fanatics about the approval of others. Fear of possible loneliness and rejection drives them to constantly monitor their internal gauge of acceptance and in a chameleon like fashion adjust to become what they think will bring the approval of another.
A recent fanaticism that is becoming more prevalent is an extreme love affair with self, otherwise known as narcissism. The term itself has been borrowed by psychologists from a figure in Roman mythology named Narcisus. Falling in love with his own reflection in a stream, Narcisus tried to kiss the object of his love. But the moment his lips touched the water, the image disappeared leaving him heartbroken. Unwilling to risk losing his lover forever, he chose to never take another drink from the stream. Narcissist eventually died of thirst due to his extreme love affair with himself. We’re all fanatics about something, it is just a matter of what.
Open with me to Romans 6. This morning our passage in Romans is essentially asking us the question: What are you a fanatic about? What are you giving your life to?
To help us get a handle on where we’re at in Romans, chapter six is about sanctification – the application, or putting to work, our justification we have in Christ (Romans 3-5). Justification means God has declared us to be right with Him through our faith in Christ. Because we have been declared right with God, it also means we are now free from the power and the penalty of sin. Using language his readers would clearly understand, the Apostle Paul says in Romans 6:6 we’re no longer slaves to sin. Or, to put it another way, we’re no longer fanatics about sin. Remember in 6:1-14 Paul gave us three things we need in order to begin putting our new right standing with God to work: We need to know we were baptized into to Christ death, burial, and resurrection. We need to believe it to be true. And then he said we there is something we need to do – we need to give ourselves fully to God.
Now, in the last ten verses, Paul is going to give us three reasons why we should give ourselves completely over to God. The key word to understanding this section is the word “present.” It is used five times in chapter six. It means to put your life at God’s full disposal. It has the ring of finality to it, a once-for-all decision. No turning back. It doesn’t mean that you won’t sin again. It means there has been a defining moment in your life when you said, “Here’s my whole life God. It’s yours. Use it however you want for your Glory.” The same word is used in 12:1 present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice. In the OT the sacrifices were dead. The Bible says we are to be living sacrifices. You know what the problem with being a living sacrifice is? We want to crawl off of the altar! It’s hard to live for Christ. Why? It has to do with focus. Read Romans 6:14-23. WHY GIVE MY LIFE TO GOD? 1) God has made me new, 2) God has set me free, 3) God has given me eternal life.
- God has made me new. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! (Romans 6:14-15). The first reason Paul says we should give our lives completely to God is because He has, by His amazing grace, wiped the slate clean of our sins and given us a brand-new life in Him. We’re no longer under the tyranny of the Law.
Paul throws out a rhetorical question: Well if we’re no longer under the slave-driving whip of the Law, then does that mean we can live how we want? Paul’s emotional response is: May it never be! What an absurd idea! Have you forgotten the purpose of the Law? He’s asking. Don’t you remember the Law revealed your slavery to sin, it didn’t remove it. The Law is powerless to save you. Sin and Law work together: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law(1 Cor. 15:56). God’s grace freed you from sin’s slavery and Law’s tyranny. Why would you choose to submit to a master whose purpose is to keep you enslaved to sin and kill you? Doesn’t make any sense does it? F.F. Bruce writes, To make being ‘under grace’ and excuse for sinning is a sign that one is not really ‘under grace’ at all.
A friend of mine spent his early years enslaved to methamphetamines and wild living. Along the way he came to Christ and his life completely changed. Today he serves as a pastor of a growing congregation. Whenever he speaks of his past, he often says, “If the life of drugs and wild living was so great then why don’t I return to it?” The obvious answer is because the drugs and loose living ultimately don’t satisfy. They don’t lead to greater fulfillment but to deeper enslavement! He knows as a new creation in Christ.
Why give your life to God? Because God’s grace has made me new and only Christ fulfills, only Christ ultimately satisfies.
- God has set me free. But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). Paul’s language of slavery resonated easily in the minds of those he was writing to. It is thought that a third of Rome’s population was made up of slaves. The population was so great that the suggestion slaves be made to wear a distinctive style of clothing was quickly turned down because it would reveal their numerical strength. Added to this, many of those who were free had once been slaves. It is likely that more than half of Rome’s population had been enslaved. Paul’s readers had no problem understanding what he meant by slavery (V. 19).
Paul’s readers understood the hallmark of slavery is obedience. They also understood from personal experience something happened when they received the grace of God through faith. When they became, as Paul says, obedient from the heartto Jesus, they were given a new heart and a new nature that hates sin and desires to obey a new master, righteousness. They were no longer fanatics of sin, but of Jesus. God had set them free.
The truth be known, for many, Christianity is the exact opposite of freedom. It spells slavery with a capital “S”. Elsewhere Paul says it is the aroma of death to those who don’t know Christ (2 Cor. 2:16). Why is that? Slavery to righteousness is a spiritual truth that cannot be explained, it must be experienced in order to understand it. The reality is slavery to God is the greatest freedom we can possibly know.
In the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, Adam and Eve had everything we really desire in freedom. They had ultimate safety and security, complete relational harmony with each other, unbroken fellowship with God, and fulfilling purpose. They knew who they were and why they were here. They were not in need of anything. They had it all: safety, security, meaning, purpose. But they lost all of that in the Fall. Sin instantly brought tension, confusion, and separation in their relationship with God and each other. Fear replaced peace. Dread replaced security. Confusion replaced purpose.
The grace of God changed all of that. Because of Christ, peace with God and each other, security, satisfaction, meaning, purpose is restored. Sin still gets in the way, but our experience of God’s grace restores a freedom our hearts long for. There is no freedom without God’s grace.
Sin, like a mind-altering drug, offers a false sense of freedom. Medical experts tell us these drugs have a double whammy effect. They increase the user’s need for the drug while decreasing his or her body’s response. The same is true with sin. It gives immediate gratification and the illusion it is meeting a God-given need for peace, security, safety, and so on. Sin does not free, it enslaves. For the unbeliever, sin looks like freedom and God’s righteousness looks like bondage.
The Prodigal Son is an example of this (Lk. 15:11-24). While under his father’s roof he was in bondage. He wanted to be free. So he left home to find and enjoy himself. Much like the youth today who thinks, “I want to be free!” So they join the military! It turns out the Prodigal’s rebellion only led him from freedom to slavery. Wanting to find himself, he lost himself. It was only when he returned home and submitted to his father, he found real freedom. When we surrender our lives to Christ, we are coming Home to our Heavenly Father. The more we learn to depend on God as the source of our satisfaction, the more we understand and experience true freedom.
The second reason why we should give our lives to God is we realize sin can never meet our real needs, only God can. He gives us a genuine satisfying freedom our hearts need and desire.
- God has given me eternal life. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:21-23). Paul urges us to look both inward and backward at our lives before we came to Christ: What did you really gain from pursuing a life of sin? Nothing but regret, shame, and death.
It is not unusual for someone to say after they’ve come to Christ, “Oh, how I wish I would have turned Jesus sooner! I have so much regret!” For the first time their eyes are open to what a life without Christ means – regret, shame, and death.
Why is Paul reminding us of our past? His purpose is not to drag us through the mud of all our past shame and guilt. Rather, he is leveraging the past as a motivator toward godly living. He’s telling us what sanctification means; continual growth in becoming like the One who purchased our lives with His blood and experiencing what it means to know Him more and more.
WHY GIVE MY LIFE TO GOD? 1) God has made me new, 2) God has set me free, 3) God has given me eternal life. The Christian life can be hard! Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it is hardly worth it. It seems at times it would be far easier to give up. Paul is saying, Don’t! Keep your eyes on the prize! If you give up, you’ll only regret it. In our hallway there is a picture my wife took of me years ago looking at a rolling mountain range filled with green pine trees. One year she framed it with a verse from Isaiah and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. The verse is God speaking to the nation of Israel: Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug(Isaiah 51:1). Don’t forget where you came from and how you got to where you are. Don’t give up. Keep pursuing God and His plans for you.
If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have a daily choice you need to make. The answer will either lead to life or death. Whose slave am I? What am I giving my life to?