If someone asked me how they were supposed to “reign in life,” I would bring them right here to the sixth chapter of Romans. The tragedy is that so many Christians fail to understand God’s principles of victory and holiness. When this finally became a reality for me, I was finally able to walk free of cigarettes, a friend of mine became free of Lemon Pies, which may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was sweet liberty (no pun intended) for him. When my wife was diagnosed with cancer we didn’t panic because we were convinced our Lord had provided us victory. Yes we made use of medical science—but our Lord gave us magnificent peace during the whole ordeal.
Instead of following God’s principles, many run off to Barnes & Noble and find a book in the self-help section; they start taking Yoga lessons; change their diet—they follow every imaginable fleshly scheme and carnal method. They try self-improvement techniques. They try self-discipline techniques. They try confession of sin (which is good and right, see 1 John 1:8-10) but the confession doesn’t seem to stop the sinning and they fall into the sin-confess-sin-confess-sin-confess cycle (constantly confessing their sins but never able to forsake their sins). They struggle, they work at it, they strive to do better . . . but it is always the same old story—DEFEAT! Paul hits it right on the head when he wrote:
It ain’t working. I need something more! I know what the rules are, but I still can’t keep them, the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. What a wretched man I am!
Yes, that was my paraphrase of Paul’s comments, but that is the essence of his comments. The problem is, many want to hang on that passage to explain their failure. “See! Obviously Paul couldn’t do it, how can I do it?”
Well you soggy-bottom pollywog . . . read the gad dern text!—before and after that passage!
— Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ
— Sin has lost its power in our lives.
— We are no longer slaves to sin.
— We were set free from the power of sin.
— Count yourselves dead to sin
— Do not let sin reign in your mortal body
— Sin is not your master
— Is there no one who can do anything for me? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.
— Through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death
— What the law was powerless to do, God did (not “going to” He “did”) by sending his own Son
When you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one to whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God that, though you used to (the operative words being: used to—past-tense) used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and are now slaves to righteousness.
Could it be any clearer? What more could He have been done, except killing you the moment you believed? It would be like the man who walked up to his pastor and asked him to pray that he would quit sinning—the pastor was shocked and replied, “You want me to pray that you will die?”
“Well, no . . . just that I won’t sin anymore.”
“The only way to do that is to put you in the grave, today. Hey, you can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can sure shootin’ stop them from nesting in your hair!”
As Paul explained:
“I speak this way, using the illustration of slaves and masters, because it is easy to understand. Before, you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became, the less freedom you had. You let yourselves be slaves of impurity and lawlessness. Now you must choose to be slaves of righteousness so that you will become holy.
“As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you recall that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.
“But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.”
Shore Shootin’! How in the world can you stay seated? If you are listening to this teaching while driving your car, you better pull to the side of road and have yourself a “Hallelujah-Shoutin’ Party.” If you’re seated at a desk and reading this, then let it sink deep into the core of your being! If you let this rumble around in your spirit, it will “light you up!” Even the most staid, fuddy-duddy Congregationalist shouldn’t be able to contain their excitement over what we have just read! You are free!
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome