Alive in Christ – June 22, 2014 – Romans 6: 1 – 11

Romans 6:1-11 – New International Version (NIV)
Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 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.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

We’ve all heard the term “dysfunctional family.” There have been countless self-help books written about healing from your dysfunctional family. Psychologists have treated millions of patients needing healing from their dysfunctional family. A dysfunctional family makes for a great sitcom or movie. We laugh and cry at the comic and heartbreaking aspects of being part of a dysfunctional family (1).

I think my favorite sitcom about dysfunctional families is “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Marie and Frank are the parents of Raymond and Robert. Marie and Frank live across the street from the favored son Raymond and his wife Debra and their kids. Marie torments Debra with her constant judgment and emotional manipulates Raymond with guilt. Robert has neuroses from feeling neglected, because he was the second born and produced grandchildren. All the while, Frank is happy to eat and sit in a recliner.

The show is brilliant. If you’ve watched an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” you can identify people in your family who are similar to any one of the characters. I can identify my whole nuclear family in the characters of the show. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. The dysfunctional family makes for good comedy, except when you’re living it.

The Bible is full of stories of dysfunctional families. In the first family, Cain killed Abel. From there, dysfunction follows through each family. Abraham almost kills Isaac. Rachel and Leah fight over their husband. Jacob favors Joseph which leads to his brothers drastic actions to rid themselves of Dad’s favored son. Saul tries to kill his son’s best friend, David. David’s son rapes his sister, Tamar.

Dysfunction is a part of the human family, because sin is a part of the human condition. If we call the church a family, we can easily see how sin has caused dysfunction in our family.

I would much rather talk about grace, than sin. I like to avoid talking about sin. I even thought about giving a stewardship sermon today, just to avoid talking about sin. Still, I think every once in a while it is good to be reminded that we are sinners in need of the grace freely given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I define sin as any thought or action that causes brokenness between ourselves, one another, and God. We can sin against ourselves when we think things like, “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have what my neighbor has,” “I am not faithful enough,” “I’m fat.” I could go on, but you get the idea of all the ways we can sin against ourselves. We sin against ourselves when we think we are less than a beautifully and wonderfully child created by God.

We probably know well how we sin against others. Sin against others varies from judgment and jealousy to murder and terrorism. All sin against ourselves and one another is sin against God. Any time we dishonor our createdness or the createdness of another is a sin against the image of God within that person. I remember once saying that sin is sin is sin. No one sin is greater than another, because all sin is worthy of God’s judgment. We humans have a value system to judge the seriousness of sin, but God judges all sin the same. All is worthy of judgment.

Sin is a part of who we are and interferes in all of our relationships. A mentor once said, “Relationships wouldn’t be a problem if people weren’t involved.” She also said, “I love the church. It’d be great without all the people.” Sin affects all of our relationships, including the family bonds in the church.

Ugh! Is that enough about sin?

I guess not, since I haven’t yet talked about what Paul says about death to sin. To truly understand what Paul says about sin, we need to back up to chapter 5 of Romans. Romans 6, the text we read this morning, is a commentary on chapter 5, so I’ll give you some highlights from chapter 5. There are some pretty familiar verses from the chapter.

Romans is a letter written by Paul to the church in Rome. Some scholars believe it is Paul’s manifesto, his last will and testament. Some of Paul’s letters were written to churches for specify reasons, like to commend a new preacher, answers questions, encourage a church he started, or chastise a community. Romans was written to the church strictly to instruct them in Paul’s understanding of the Gospel. If you want a summary of Paul’s theology, Romans is a good book to read.

In chapter 5, Paul says that we are justified through faith through our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 1). We should endure our sufferings because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope (v. 4). While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (v. 8). Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (v. 12). Those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (v. 17)! The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (v. 20 – 21).

Paul’s chapter 6 is the answer to the church’s question, “So what?” (2) So what shall we learn from his diatribe about sin, judgment, justification, and grace? They may have even been thinking, “so, if we are so good at sinning and God is so good at showing us grace and sin is the occasion for grace, maybe we should go on sinner so God can go on showing us grace.” (3)

Paul’s initial response is, basically, “You’ve got to be kidding me. (4) Seriously, you’re going to show your thanks for grace by sinning.” Paul uses the image of baptism to make his point. We have been changed when we were baptized. We were have new life through the glory of the Father. When we were immersed, we were buried in the grave and, when we were raised up out of the water, we were resurrected like Jesus. Because our sins were buried, we should no longer live as if we are ruled by sin. What he was saying is, “Stop acting like a sinner and live the new life you’ve been given.” (5)

If we are to stop sinning, we have to let go of something within us to allow new life to break through. We have all let go of something. We all still have things to let go of.

I found a couple examples of ways in which we give ourselves over to death in order to live. These examples are from a pastor William Willimon who was at the preaching conference I just attended. He asked some people in a church, “Have you ever had to die in order to be a Christian?” I won’t ask you the question, because you did so well at being interactive last week. I’ll let Will’s people speak today.

One man said, “I thought that I couldn’t live in a world where black people were the same as white people. When segregation ended, I thought I would die. But, I didn’t. I was reborn. My next door neighbor, my best friend, is black. Something old had to die in me for something new to be born.”

Another woman said, “I used to be terribly frightened to be alone by myself. When my husband went out of town on business, I either went with him or took the children and stayed with a neighbor. But, the night that my eight year-old child died of leukemia, I stopped being afraid. When she died, I did too. Once you’ve died, there is nothing left to fear.”

Paul too knew death. On that road to Damascus, Paul was met by Christ. His murderous ways of hunting Christians died and he became a new life in Christ when he was baptized. (6)

When we read a text like this about baptism, we are called to remember our own baptism. Not the place, day, or pastor. We are called to remember that we are a new person continually dying to sin so that we may have new life. We are called to remember that we are alive in Christ. We no longer have to live as slaves to sin but have freedom to live as one in the glory of the Father.

The church is a place that requires death to sin. In our family, we remember our sin when we judge one another or have a disagreement with one another or mourn our past. Death to sin is letting go of what someone did to our domain and new life is appreciating what is being done. Death to sin is not judging someone for their absence and new life is being glad when they are here. Death to sin is letting go of our past and new life is being excited about the future. Death to sin is letting go of the belief that someone else will do it and new life is getting busy doing what needs done. Death to sin and new life is living our baptism every time we decide to let go of something and live. So, live the abundant life set free from our burdens by grace for the glory of God. Amen.

(1) From Rev. Dr. Lisa Davison’s ordination sermon
(2) http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=66
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.
(6) http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1002

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