Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Slave to Righteousness

Several years ago, a year or two before Isabelle was born, we went to see the Newsboys in concert at the Minnesota state fair.  The concert included Go Fish, before they were a kids group, and New Song.  It was a great and memorable concert although it didn't start that way.  When this outdoor concert started it was pouring rain.  POURING.  We managed to sneak up to some empty seats under the upper deck until it stopped but so many people sat in the pouring rain listening to Go Fish start us out.  I would have left.  Random about me:  The only thing that makes me crankier than being cold is being wet and cold.  Luckily I didn't get too wet and since it was August, once the rain stopped it warmed up and I dried off and managed to pull myself together.

We love all 3 bands and the whole concert was fantastic but the most memorable part was at the end of the concert.  The album "Adoration" had just come out and we ended the evening all singing the chorus "Holy, holy is our God almighty.  Holy, holy is his name alone." Over and over and over and over.  At first it was fine.  You sing it a couple times without thinking about it, then you are still singing so you think about it and acknowledge it is good.  But after that you are still singing and it starts to feel awkward, how much longer are we going to repeat this chorus?  Until it happens, you let go and let it become part of you and experience the power of God's presence as you sing of his holiness.

This past week I had the same experience with a passage of scripture.  I read Romans 6 every day for a week.   My friend Jen had written this post for Easter.  We had been discussing the editing process of the post and so she sent me her original draft as well for discussion.  In her first draft she had suggested reading Romans 6 every day for a week after Easter as one of her tips.  I like direction and had just finished reading John so I figured I would see what God might have to say in this passage.

I find that scripture speaks to me different depending on what is going on in my life. This passage is about the fact that we are no longer slaves to sin because of Christ's resurrection.  The first couple days I really had to concentrate on the readings because it made me think about other people who have sin issues!  Way easier to see others sin than my own.

The third day I decided to map it out a little.  On the one hand the chapter doesn't seem that complicated but on the other hand it is really complicated.  I kept feeling like if I could track the conversation better I would know what was going on.  Here is my summary.  (click here to read the passage in the bible first.)

1-We are no longer sinners because our sin died with Christ.  No guilt, we are forgiven and our sin is forgotten.

2-We are free from sin. It no longer controls us.  We are no longer slaves to sin.--yet for some reason we keep going back to it.

3-Because of the resurrection and our share in it we live with Christ.  Death does not control us, Jesus died for our sins, we cannot die again for them.  Our future with Christ is secure.

4-Therefore (As Chuck Swindoll says, whenever you see a therefore ask yourself what is is there for.)  Therefore (see 1-3), we offer ourselves over to God.  Don't pursue sin, pursue righteousness.  Don't let sin control you, sin is not your master.  I am under the law of grace.

5-We are not free to sin because we are forgiven through grace, we have chosen obedience to God and are now slaves to righteousness.--I realized here we end up slaves either way, will we chose sin or righteousness.

6-Offer yourself to God as you used to offer yourself to sin.  Sin leads to death but obedience and righteousness lead to holiness and eternal life.

That was day 3, the day I started thinking about my own sin.  And the day in the song progression where you have moved beyond just singing for singing and realize it is a good song.  But now you want it to be over, yet day 4 comes and I am still singing!  What else is there to say about this passage?
v13, "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, for sin shall not be your master because you are not under the law but under grace."
On the surface of this verse, day 1-3, I don't think about offering my body to sin.  I am not a prostitute, I don't do drugs, only have the occasional glass of wine, I don't steal, I don't go seeking out sin, I am not standing on the corner asking sin to come my way.  Clearly this does not apply to me.  But then day 4 comes along and God has you just where he wants you.

On day 4 I was feeling a little stressed about a work situation and right here in my living room God nails me with the truth that my stress is the offering of my body to sin.  Really I was stressed because of fear I was experiencing at a maybe event in the future.  If I am now a slave to righteousness I don't need to fear because whatever happens God will be there.  As a matter of fact God repeated this message to me this morning when our pastor talking about saying to ourselves, "what's the worst that could happen?" said maybe the real question is, "how will God's grace meet me if the worst happened?"
v 16,"Don't you know when you offer yourselves to someone to obey you are slaves to the one you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?"
Point 5 above comes from this, we are slaves one way or another, do we want to be slaves to sin or righteousness?  Satan or God?  Personally, I choose God.
v20, When you were slaves to sin you were free from control of righteousness." 
Day 6 had me asking the question, "is this what our culture really wants?"  Freedom from control of righteousness?  This is the moment in that repetitive singing that God really became present.  Seeing the world the way He does.  Watching people choose to be slaves to sin because they think that is freedom when really our freedom comes when we choose Christ.  Paul, the writer of Romans, asks "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!"  What I see today is people who are not ashamed of their sin but proud of it.  Yet don't understand or won't accept that those actions lead to death.  How hard that is to see and accept.

v23, "for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
What is my summary at the end of this week?  I am a sinner.  I don't want to be a slave to sin but I keep offering myself right back up to it.  As I thought about all the people in my life that look to me for encouragement, children, family, friends and strangers I meet throughout my day, I wondered how I, as sinner, could have anything to offer.  The truth is I have nothing to offer but Christ in me.  And the best way to ensure people will meet Him through me is to be constantly seeking to know Him better.  And what I realized is that the moment I start thinking I have this whole sin/righteousnes thing all wrapped up, I stagnate, I can't know Christ better when I refuse to see my sin.  Every day I must offer myself a new as a slave to righteousness rather than sin.

This Easter I heard a new song I just love.  The bridge is, "O Death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory?  I choose to be a slave to righteousness and death has lost its sting.  Alleluia.

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