Romans 6:1-14                 “Walk in New Life”

 

           

            It amazes me that this issue comes up so quickly in the church in Rome that Paul needs to address it in his letter back to them. Paul, if you recall, is writing this letter from the church in Corinth in Greece. He has only heard either by rumor or by a letter from people in the church in Rome that there are some people in the church who have gotten it into their heads that because Christ has relieved us of our sin through grace, that they can now go out and do whatever it is that they like—right or wrong—because Christ will forgive them in the end.

            Do you know how kids sometimes say to their parents when they have done something that has garnered scorn: “Well, it is not my fault. I did not ask to be born!” This is as if the real issue is that they never wanted to come out of the womb in the first place. They were really happy inside the mother! And, you know, birth itself is just such an awful painful and messy thing for both the mother and the child. Because of that, anything that happens afterwards is “off the table” for discussion.

            It is almost as if the church in Rome were saying the same thing: “You know, it is not my fault that I am sinning now. I never asked Jesus to die on the Cross for me. I never asked to be born again through Christ!” In this way, people can say, “It is kind of God’s fault that I am a sinner today—don’t put the blame on me.”

            But, if you could change right now and walk in a new life, would you not want to?

           

            In Bible study this last Tuesday I mentioned how the first line in the text uses the word “continue” but that it is from επιμενω in the Greek and really means to “hang around meandering in the same spot.” This is important because it contrasts so nicely with the final line of the first segment that says “walk in new life.” We are given that choice right now today. We can just meander through life bumping our heads, or we can choose that direction which is the walk towards new life in Christ.

            Isaiah 43:18, this was the theme for last week’s Aha Pae Aina in Honolulu, “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing. . .” The word that is translated as “about” here is “ata” in the Hebrew, and it literally means “for now.” “For now I am doing a new thing.”  And so, I always question this verse about God doing new things in our lives and say that it equals God doing a “now” thing in our lives. “Behold, God is doing a ‘now’ thing in your lives right now.” Walk in the newness and the nowness of life.

            Helen, my wife, that Helen, at the Bible study mentioned what happened to her last Sunday before worship. That was Fathers’ Day. She needed something from the market for the hotdog feast. As she went into the store, there stood the homeless guy with no shirt on. Helen already knows that he likes the musubi, so she asked him if he would like to have that for breakfast. Of course, he was good with that. Helen went into the market, came back out, and gave him the food. Then, as she was driving away, she saw someone who had been hospital just the day before, so she stopped and was happy to reconnect with that person and offer a prayer for healing.

            She related all of that back to what is also plainly in our texts that we should be instruments of God. That is to say that we need to be instrumental to God’s plan in the world. Coming to church on Sunday is great stuff; however, if God is calling you ut to do street ministry, then be instruments of God.

            Actually at the Aha Pae Aina in Honolulu I was getting so bored with all the talk about God doing a new thing, and it really just sounded like the same old thing, that I left the Parish Hall at Central Union Church with an armful of leftover breakfast bentos and went over to the little park on Young Street that I passed walking to the church from the hotel. There in that park there were plenty homeless people with really magnificently overloaded shopping carts with personal items. I offered out the leftovers from the church meeting where the talk about doing a new thing continued on. Instead of the new thing, I did the now thing. Feeding those in need is not a new thing. Even Jesus says we will always have the hungry and poor with us. It is just a now thing.

            It felt like I was walking in the newness of life though. When you do the godly “now” thing, somehow it makes life seem new again!

 

            At the Aha Pae Aina, our church helped to sponsor a resolution that called for a ceasefire in Gaza. Actually that was a new thing. In the history of our churches, we have never collectively called for a resolution of peace in the Middle East. Wow, that is for sure the least that we could do as believers in Christ–you know, try to stop the killing.

            During the discussion of the resolution with all of our sister churches, Professor Chu Lak stood up and recanted the history of 3500 years of animosity between the people of Gaza and Israel. This was a profound reminder that was in the Middle East is certainly not anything new. However, the intensity of the fighting and the mass casualties taking place make it certainly a “now” thing.

            We pray that the people of Gaza and Israel can now walk in the newness of life, rather than repeating the history of death and destruction.

                       

            Should we once we have seen the promise and hope of Christ continue to live in our old selves, fighting through each day, not seeming to recognize the change that has happened to us? By no means! That is what Paul tells us. Some of you with King James version Bibles might see the words “God forbid!” in this section of the text. I have no idea where that translation comes from. The Greek does not say, “God forbid” at all. I think the best way to translate what is in the Greek would be “Don’t let that come to be!” And, we shall not let that come to be that we, after hearing the message of eternal life through the grace of Jesus Christ, shall live just the same old lives we had before!

            You know, in seminary when they talk to young pastors about preaching, the professors say that one should always have humor in the sermons. The Apostle Paul has a very funny line in the scripture that for some reason we seem to take seriously-maybe because everything else seems so serious in his writing. But, let us look at verse 7 of today’s lesson. Can we actually read that with a straight face? “Whoever has died is freed from sin.” Do you catch the joke? How many dead people do you know who still have the time and energy to go around sinning? Ha ha ha! This deserves at least a moment of courtesy laughter.

            We are supposed to be dead to sin. This is Paul’s point in fact. Dead people do not sin, nor should we. We have already accepted our life in eternity with Christ when we accept Christ’s death and resurrection. We are not as we were before but are rather reborn.

            This is an important point that I like to bring up especially at memorial services for those who have passed from us into God’s realm: Our eternal lives with God do not suddenly begin when we die. Our eternal lives with Christ begin when we accept Christ’s grace over our lives. We have to let our old selves die to be reborn with Christ here and now. 

            Verse 11, “So you must also consider yourself dead to sin and alive to Christ!”

 

            Lastly, I want to look at this idea of “presenting your bodies” that we see in the last paragraph of today’s text. Paul says in verse 13 that we must not “present our members to sin as instruments of wickedness.” The Greek here actually gives the idea of standing up before someone or something and presenting one’s own body (παραστανετε). It is the idea of, for instance, how we present our offering to the altar at the time of our giving. It is meant as that kind of presentation.

            In Rome at that time, the Christian persecutions had started. Christians were being thrown to the lions, burned alive, and even still crucified. However, if you were accused of being Christian, you could save yourself by presenting yourself before a pagan idol of Rome. You could go to the Temple of Jupiter or to the virgins of the goddess Vesta. Because of this, many Christians would make a habit of visiting the pagan temples even though they believed in Jesus. It was a way to keep the authorities off their scent. They would go and present themselves on a regular basis, especially during popular festivals so that others would in fact see them doing it.

            Today we are still doing the same thing. We present ourselves to other lesser gods. Every time a major chain store opens on this island, we get very excited and we go to present ourselves to the store. I recall when a major discount wholesaler opened about five years ago, and everyone came up to me to ask if I had been inside yet–like I ahd to present my body to the store!

            Jesus wants us to present our members to God. That is again what Paul writes. Do not present your members to anything else—much less sin. Be careful to present your members to God. So, may I present you members to God this morning? Ha ha! We are to be righteous instruments for His glory alone.

 

            Do not sin any more. Let that be your old life that is left behind now. You are alive in Christ, walk in the newness of life now. Amen.