Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 4, 2018
Today marks the first Sunday in February, that means a new monthly memory verse. Our memory verse is located in our text that we will be studying today. Most likely, it is a familiar one to many of you, but all of us, young and old, new Christians and old Christians need to be equipped with this verse significantly important verse, Romans 6:23. Let us read it together. “For the wages of sin is death, both the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In your bulletins, you should have a sheet of paper that has every single memory verse we have had since we began Romans. Hopefully, this sheet will help you and your family brush up on the past verses and keep you moving forward on the new verse.
This morning, I want to once again remind you why we have monthly memory verses. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” The purpose of God providing Shepherds and teachers, which is just another way to say Pastor, is to equip each of you for ministry. My role, my calling by God, is to equip you. To give you what you need to be successful in the work that God has prepared for you.
The primary piece of equipment that you need to accomplish the work of God is the Word of God. Without the Word of God, you don’t stand a chance against Satan’s attacks. Parents, if you want your children to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, teach them these verses. If you want them to overcome the schemes of Satan that can wreak havoc on their lives, teach them these verses.
Right before Moses died he said these words in Deuteronomy 32:46-47, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.” These memory verses are not empty, they are your very life. Do you view them that way? You should.
With that said, let us turn out attention to our words of life for this morning. Please stand for the reading of our God’s Holy Word. We are in Romans 6:15-23.
Our text this morning picks up where we left off last time. If you notice, verse 15 is almost identical to verse 1. In verse 1 Paul asks the questions, are we to continue to sin that grace may about?” In verse 15 Paul asks the question, “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” To both of those questions, Paul vehemently states, “By no means!”
As we saw last week, this kind broken theology is satanic; for arguing that followers of Jesus are free to sin as these please, completely undermines the truth that undergirds our salvation. This truth being that when a person, repents and believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, a supernatural transformative event occurs. We call this event conversion. It is the moment that through faith we are unified with Christ and our old self dies. We ended last week with a quote from Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
For every Christian, there was a specific point in time where this event of conversion occurred. There is no such thing as in between. You are either born again, or you are dead. Therefore, there is a historical moment in your life, in fact it is the biggest moment in your life, when you became a new creation. Now, for some of you, especially those who grew up in a Christian home, you may not know when that was. Was it when you were five? Was it when you were at Church camp? Was it when you were in college? Was it when you first started coming to this Church? You are just not sure because you don’t have this outward miraculous display like a lightning bolt hitting you, but make no mistake if you are a true Christian, there was a moment where you were united with Jesus Christ.
Slaves to Sin
But how do you know if you are true Christian? Great question. I think this question should be asked by more people. We are told there are 2 billion Christians in this world. And this statistic is based on self-reporting people who claim to be a Christian. Now the problem with self-reporting is that your opinion about your salvation is not always accurate. You may think you are a Christian, when you are in fact not. So how do you know?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
The way you know if you are saved, i.e. a “good tree”, is to examine your fruit. To examine what you produce in your life day after day. If you are saved, the evidence of your salvation will be good things. If you are not saved, the evidence of your condemnation will be bad things.
In our text today, we are unpacking the exact same fundamental truth. Look at verse 16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” If you present yourself to sinning, then that proves that you are a slave to sin. It proves that sin is your master. It proves that sin is your Lord. Christians do not submit to sin, just like apple trees do not produce thorns.
The apostle John speaks about this same issue in 1 John 3:9 when he says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” That is strong language, “No one.” What is important to understand is that this statement in both 1 John 3 and Romans 6 is a spiritual fact. It is not a suggestion. It is not optional. It is truth. If you have been united to Christ through faith, then everything automatically changes.
Now before we move on, I want to draw your attention to important truth that our text teaches us. Romans 6 teaches us that there is no such thing as absolute human freedom. You are either in one of two camps, a slave to sin or a slave to God. Over the years I have heard it dozens and dozens of times that God has given us free will. Many people believe that the concept of free will is what makes us truly human. But what does God's Word say in Romans 6? It says we are either slaves of sin or slaves to God. Where do we find free will in those descriptions? It is not there. There is no room for free will, when you are a slave.
And this is how we must see humanity. We must understand the two forces that act upon us: the power of sin and the power of God. Humanity does not live in a spiritual vacuum. God has designed mankind to be disposed in one direction or the other. There is no neutrality. You are either a slave to sin or a slave to God.
Now if you call yourself a Christian, yet you continue to practice sin, if you continue to offer yourself up to sin as your Master, then I am afraid to tell you that you are not saved. Not because good works earn you salvation, but because good works prove your salvation. And that is fundamentally important, so let me say it again. Good works do not earn your salvation; good works prove your salvation. And why is this? It is because the death of Christ not only pays the penalty for your sin, it also gives you power over sin. Therefore if you display a power over sin, it is proof that you are a new creature in Christ and you are therefore destined for glory. If you do not display this power, in some form, then it is evidence you are still the same old sinful self under the wrath of God.
And this truth, this understanding, is the heart of Church discipline. For the Church is the called out assembly of God's people. Only God's people are to be part of the Church. But how do you know if someone is born of God. First, if they believe and confess that Jesus is Savior and Lord that is the first step. But after that we must evaluate their progress in the faith. If they sin, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 that we are to go to them one on one and confront them in their sin. If they repent, praise the Lord. However, if they continue to sin, we are commanded to take a small group of people to confront them again. If they repent, praise the Lord. However, if they continue to sin the entire Church is to confront the person about their sin. If they repent, praise the Lord. However, if they don't show signs of true repentance, then Jesus commands us that we must remove them out of his Church. Why? Because you will know a tree by its fruit, and their ongoing practice of sin is evidence that they are still a slave to sin and do not have the power from God to defeat it.
And not only do they not have the power to defeat the sin in their life, but as it says in verse 19, their lawlessness will lead to more lawlessness. If you are still a slave to sin, your sin leads to more sin. Here is an easy example of this. You commit a sin, and you have to cover it up, so what do you do? You lie. Then you get caught, and what is response? Anger, self pity, slandering your accuser. Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness.
And what is the ultimate end to this ever increasing lawlessness? Look at the first half of verse 23, “For the wages of sin is death.”
This reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” That is a poem for life, for the person who picks the path of sin, his destiny is death. Your choice in this life makes all the difference in your destiny, life or death.
What kind of death? It is the death that is the opposite of eternal life, therefore it is an eternal death. A death that has no ending. A death that is suffocating in its weight. A death that is described in the Bible as eternal torment, eternal punishment, eternal destruction, an eternal fire, and unquenchable fire, a fiery furnace, a place that there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place that there is no rest day or night, a place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, a place of gloom and utter darkness. It is a death whereby God's wrath is forever poured out on your mind, body, and soul for all time with no hope for escape. And this is what we have earned if we offer ourselves up to sin as our Master. Is it worth it? To continue to present your bodies to sin? Is it worth selling your soul to gain the world?
Slaves to God
So is their hope? Yes. Look at verse 17, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Notice who is being thanked in verse 17, God. God is the one who is our hope. God is the one who saves us. It is God's plan. It is God's Son. It is God's Spirit. It is God's power. From beginning to end, God gets all the glory for our victory over sins' penalty and power.
So what does God do to change our destiny? Verse 17 tells us that we have become obedient from the heart. What does that mean? It means that God transforms us from the inside out. He changes our heart. He changes our spiritual taste-buds. He changes our affections. Instead of loving sin, we hate it. Instead of hating God, we love Him. And he does this through the power of the gospel. The gospel is what converts us. It is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.
In Ezekiel 36:26, a book written over 500 years before Jesus was born, God spoke of this future reality in Christ when he said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Did you catch that, this new heart, this new spirit that God gives us will cause us to walk in God's ways. That sounds a lot like Romans 6, Matthew 7, and 1 John 3.
This is our new way of life, to walk in God's ways. No longer do we do what pleases us. We do what pleases Him. When this spiritual heart surgery occurs we go from being a slave to sin to a slave to righteousness, a slave to God. He is now our Master. He is now our Lord. Whatever he asks of us, we are to say, “Yes, Lord.” No matter what the cost. No matter what the risk.
But is that they way you see you life? Is that the way others would see you life? As a slave to God. When people watch you make decisions; when people listen to you speak; when people see what you spend your money on; when people see your posts on facebook, do they see a slave of God or a friend of the World? As it says in James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
There is a reason that I chose to title this sermon with the most in your face phrase that is found in our verses. I want us to feel the shock of this statement and for us to see how inconsistent the Bible is with how we life our lives. I want us to understand that if you are a Christian, this is your calling. This is your purpose. This is your destiny. And this is your freedom. This is your joy to be a slave of God.
Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote this words from a Romans prison. Philippians 1:18-26, “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
Paul begins the prison letter of Philippians describing himself as a slave of Jesus. And in this text he is rejoicing knowing that his two options are either die and be with Jesus, or live and be an instrument in the hands of God for the faith and joy of others. And in between these two options we see Paul saying, “In this I rejoice.” Paul was most alive, when he died to self and lived for God.
So I leave you each with a question, who is your master? Who is making decisions in your life? Are you, or is God? Are you ready to present your members to righteousness? Are you ready to present yourself to your God, who formed you, and called you, and justified you, and who will glorify you. Are you finally ready to pick up your cross and follow Jesus? Trust me, you will not regret it.