Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Since there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, can a Christian freely sin?

A Christian can sin, he does sin, but he doesn’t want to sin. Why? Because he loves God and doesn’t want to be separated from Him. Sin separates us from God because there is no darkness, no sin, in God. He has no fellowship with darkness or sin. Therefore, a Christian avoids sin and quickly confesses, repents, and seeks forgiveness when he does sin, so he can maintain his fellowship with God.

1John 1:5-6 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

However, Satan tells us we won’t go to Hell if we sin; there is no condemnation; we can get forgiveness, so why not sin, enjoy life, and still go to Heaven. If a Christian falls for this deception, he soon discovers that he doesn’t enjoy the consequences of sin—things he didn’t realize would happen. Because he has grieved the Holy Spirit, he experiences a loss of joy, a loss of peace, a loss of fellowship with God, a loss of power, and feels constant fear and oppression from Satan.

If Satan cannot separate us from the love of God, He tries to take away our love for God, so we will separate ourselves from God and follow him instead of Jesus.

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, Christian author Philip Yancey writes about a friend who invited him out for a cup of coffee one night. This friend, it turns out, is contemplating leaving his wife after 15 years of marriage because he’s found someone younger and prettier, someone he says makes him feel alive. As a Christian, Yancey’s friend knows his decision will devastate his wife and permanently damage his three kids. He also knows that his relationship with God will never be the same again. Even so, the evil spirit pulling him toward this other woman was like a powerful magnet. So finally, he asks, "Do you think God can forgive what I’m about to do?’

Yancey’s friend was looking for assurance that he’d still be accepted by God, still under the cover of God’s grace. Because of this misconception about grace, many Christians through the years have felt that it is OK to live sinful, immoral lives.

Read Romans 6

So here in chapter 6, Paul anticipates our misunderstanding of grace, namely that we can continue in sin and it magnifies God’s grace more. He points out that is stinking thinking. We don’t need more sin, we just need more of God in us, and we don’t need to sin in order to get that.

Paul reminds us that through baptism the Christian has died to sin. That is, when you accept Jesus as Lord, you go to the cross with Him and into the grave – your old self is buried – then you are resurrected with a new life, born again of the Holy Spirit.

Although our body is the same, the Holy Spirit has come to live inside of us – changing our heart and giving us a new life. After that, life becomes a process of transformation into the image of Christ.

Because our bodies aren’t transformed, we continue to struggle with our sin nature—habits and patterns of behavior that are deeply ingrained, as part of the old self. So even though our kingdom has changed from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God, we still struggle with habits and patterns characteristic of our old way of life.

Ephesians 2:1-3 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  

When we find ourselves struggling with the old habits because of our sin nature, we need to remind ourselves that we died to that nature through baptism.

Notice the first part of Romans 6 doesn’t command us to do anything. It simply asserts that this death to sin is a fact that’s true of every person who has trusted in Jesus Christ. There are no followers of Jesus Christ who have not died to sin, because this is true of each and every Christian. When we begin to doubt this fact, Paul encourages us to remember our baptism and what it symbolized, that we’ve died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and risen with Christ. We’re dead to our previous life. We have no obligation to obey our sinful desires.

The first command of the chapter comes in v. 11--"count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God." In other words, we are to change the way we think about ourselves in relation to sin and God. We are dead to sin and we are alive to God. This command is in the present tense, which means it’s a command we need to obey again and again, throughout our lives, sometimes several times a day.

We are not to allow sin to rule and reign in our lives as we go through the activities of life. We are to stop offering the parts of our body to sin as instruments of wickedness. Living life as our old self, we were accustomed to offering our mouth to wickedness by gossiping and lying, offering our eyes to wickedness by watching things that were immoral, offering our sexuality to wickedness by involving ourselves in activities that contradict God’s Word, and so forth.

But since we’ve died to sin and are joined to Jesus in His resurrection, now we are to offer ourselves to God. Instead of lying with our mouths, we’re to build people up with words of love and truth. Instead of hitting people with our hands, we’re to use our hands to serve the needs of others, even when they deserve to be hit. Every part of our body is to be used to glorify God.

There are only two things we can do. We can offer ourselves to sin or to God, either as instruments of wickedness or as instruments of righteousness. We like to think we can choose a third way, a way where we make the rules, serve ourselves, but we also don’t rebel against God. However, that option doesn’t exist. Any way of living, other than following Jesus is sin. It’s either sin or Jesus, wickedness or righteousness.

Verse 14 tells us we’re no longer under the rule of sin and the law, but under God’s grace. Sure we still struggle with sin, and of course we still fall, but we’re not obligated to obey sin as our master anymore. By saying we’re no longer under law but under grace, Paul is saying we no longer live under the old creation, the old self, but we’ve been brought into a new reality—the realty of grace—the new creation born of the Holy Spirit.

Because we’ve changed kingdoms, we’ve also changed masters. The new reality of grace, where Jesus is king and where sin and death are defeated foes, places us under the lordship of a new Master, Jesus Christ, who leads us by His Spirit. But we must continually choose to yield ourselves to the lordship of this new Master. Once we’ve encountered God’s grace, we must make the decision to offer ourselves to our new master again and again, every day.

Grace doesn’t give us an excuse to sin or a license to live any old way we want to. If that’s what we think, then we’ve entirely misunderstood what grace means. We’ve not understood how we’ve passed from one reality to another, from one kingdom to another, from one master to another.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

God’s grace changes us, because when we encounter it, we die to our old way of life and we are born again of the Holy Spirit to a new way of living in Jesus. God’s grace doesn’t just make us better, it makes us a new creation, a new person.

Philip Yancey says he sat across the table from his friend for quite a while before answering his friend’s question. He listened to all the rationalization, and only after three cups of coffee did he dare answer it. His answer went something like this: "Can God forgive you? Of course. Forgiveness is our problem, not God’s. But, what we have to go through to commit sin, distances us from God…and there’s no guarantee we will ever come back. You ask me about forgiveness now, but will you even want it later, especially since it involves repentance? Can God forgive? Yes. Will you be the kind of person who wants God’s forgiveness and is willing to repent? That’s another question entirely."

Although sin does not bring immediate death, it destroys our character and our personality. It makes us into someone we think no one can love, including God. Sin causes us to quit loving God and others.

Think back to your life before Christ—what was it really like? "What benefit did you reap from things you are now ashamed of?" Sin never gives what it promises—why not be done with it?

We only have two choices: become a slave to sin, which leads to death, or become a slave to righteousness, which leads to life. Bob Dylan once sang a song – “You’ve Got To Serve Somebody – It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you got to serve somebody!”

The good news is: we get to choose whom we want to serve! Slavery to God is in our own best interest, because freedom (at least in the sense of having limitless choices) is not all it's cracked up to be! Slavery to sin leads to death. Slavery to God leads to eternal life!

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 

The sinful nature that we still have in this “mortal” body will try to entice us into doing things that are neither in agreement with God’s character nor His Word. What Paul is telling us is that we have the power and grace to say “no” to temptation and “yes” to God. It’s God’s grace, His power, which enables us to make the right choice.

If we disobey the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, we become a slave of the thing we choose. Think of all the addictions we have in the world today – alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, money, eating, computer games, and etc. There are so many we can’t count them. People don’t plan to become addicted. We get fooled into thinking that we can handle it – but that’s deception. The enemy knows if we give in, pretty soon he’ll have us as a slave. Even if we don’t go to hell, he will have made us ineffective for God’s kingdom, and that’s good enough for Satan.

I’d like to conclude by making three statements to help us differentiate between freedom and slavery when it comes to sin and grace.

1. Don’t confuse freedom with permission. Don’t forfeit the grace God has given you.

Jonah 2:8 Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

1 Corinthians 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me” -but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”-but I will not be mastered by anything.

We are free—free to serve someone else besides sin, our flesh, and the devil. Submitting to God leads to life, submitting to our idols or sinful desires leads to death. So we don’t need to think about whether something is permissible, but whether it will lead to life or death.

2. Deny sin the attention it demands.

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

As entertaining as they may be, an alcoholic who watches an hour’s worth of ads for Budweiser is going to be more prone to fall. I’m not saying turn off your mind – but put a filter on what you allow in – especially in those areas where you are weak. The battle with Satan begins in our minds. Regardless of the difficulty, we must resist the enemy and his temptations to give in. Deny him attention and rebuke him in the name of Jesus!

1 Peter 5:8-10 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

3. Focus on worship. Not just in church—focus on offering up your life to God, which is our spiritual act of worship. If we are focusing on worshiping God, we are not focusing on sin or temptations around us.

Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name.

Not only should we filter out the bad stuff, we need to focus on the good stuff: good role models, good books and music, good relationships.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

Every day, we are confronted with choices that will affect our lives in a larger way. As Christians, it is essential that our choices reflect our obedience to God. Because Who We Obey, We End Up Serving. Who we obey, we end up reflecting to everyone around us.

Gal 5:24–25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The Lord challenges us with a choice this morning, “Choose this day whom you will serve!” Will it continue to be sin, our old Master? Or will it be Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We will be challenged with this choice every day, many times a day.

Remember, you are dead and the life you live, you live for the glory of God by the grace of God. The following Scripture should be our motto:

Galatians 2:19-21 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.

If you have never made a choice to give your life to Jesus, then you are still under the law and not under grace. If you don’t choose Jesus, you have chosen sin and the punishment for it under the law. However, if you want to get free from that sentence of death, choose Jesus as your Lord and repent of being your own master. Confess Jesus as the Son of God, and accept His atonement for your sin upon the cross. Die to your old self in baptism so Jesus can give you a new life born of the Holy Spirit. This grace is a free gift offered to you.