Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 13:1-6; Romans 6:11-23
Robert L. Getty, Ph.D.
July 2, 2017
Have you ever made a bad choice! Here’s some examples of bad decisions. Sam Philips sold a small recording company to RCA in 1955 for $35,000. It included an exclusive contract with a young man called Elvis Presley. Unknowingly he forfeited millions of dollars in royalties. Tom Sellick turned down the lead role for Indiana Jones. A thief tried to steal 2 live lobsters and he decided to stick them down his pants. In Germany, a bank robber pulls out a gun and demands money. The teller says she needs to see his ID. So, he gets it out, takes the cash and leaves the ID behind.
Robert H. Schuller, told this story about choices,
I remember one winter my dad needed firewood, and he found a dead tree and sawed it down. In the spring, to his dismay, new shoots sprouted around the trunk. He said, “I thought sure it was dead. The leaves had all dropped in the wintertime. It was so cold that twigs snapped as if there were no life left in the old tree. But now I see that there was still life at the taproot.” He looked at me and said, “Bob, don’t forget this important lesson. Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst mood. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”
Christians understand that salvation in Jesus Christ involves key choices. The tone of Paul’s message is relentless. He assaults vacillating thought and behavior. Paul grabs us and shakes us into spiritual sensibility. You are Christians! Sin no longer reigns, as it once did in you. You are Christians! Intentional self-indulgence, contradicts trust in Christ. You are Christians! Stop bowing to sin as if it were still your master. You are Christians! Stop excusing lapses in holiness “since we are under grace.” You are Christians! You now belong to Jesus Christ, so act like it! Paul delivers an “in-your-face” message that leaves no doubt about Christian behavior. When Christians embrace Christ with this level of fervor, people will remark, “My, you’ve changed.”
Freedom is deeply embedded in democratic cultures. Much is done in the name of freedom. But is the promotion of freedom enough? Paul reminded his audience that Christians are freed from sin’s reign. But this freedom comes in exchange for becoming servants of righteousness in Christ. To simply emphasize freedom to the neglect of obedience to God’s righteousness is to consider only half the story.
Paul spelled out in practical terms what it means to transfer our obedience from sin to God. We are no longer to place any part of our bodies at the disposal of sin to be used as an instrument of unrighteousness. If the metaphor is military, Paul was saying, “Don’t let sin take command of any part of your body and use it as a weapon for evil purposes.” “We are faced with the tremendous alternative,” writes Barclay, “of making ourselves weapons in the hand of God or weapons in the hand of sin.” Now Christians are “under grace” in that they have entered the new era in which the power to overcome sin is readily attainable. Believers no longer live under the condemnation of the law but with the realization that God by his grace has placed them in a totally new relationship to himself.
Yield! Paul says it negatively and positively: “Don’t yield!” and “Yield!” Don’t yield what? “The parts of your body.” Yield what? “The parts of your body.” He’s very specific about it. “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness.” You’ll never know victory if you try to live in both worlds. The way to spiritual victory is to understand that you are now God’s man or woman and you must now live for him. Then asks a second and similar rhetorical question, shall we sin because we are under grace rather than law? Again, Paul uses his strongest negative interjection, as the answer to both questions. He uses the Greek word which last week I said I like the sound of. The word is me genoito! “By no means!”
With the careless attitude, that Grace does allow us to do anything we want, some unusual conversations may occur. When you mention grace to one person, he says, “Hey, I know I’m going to heaven. Why not live it up until I get there?” What do you say to him? When you confront another, she replies, “I know it’s wrong. You don’t have to tell me that. I know it’s a sin. But I know God understands and I know He’ll forgive me.” What do you say to her? Still another says to you, “Look, I’m going to heaven and that’s the only thing that matters to me. I don’t mind taking a back seat up there and let the rest of you sit towards the front of the class, just so long as I make it. That’s all I care about. The rest of it doesn’t matter.” What do you say to him? Now that I am saved, does it make any difference how I live? Yes or no? Can I excuse my behavior because God saves me by his grace? Paul again declares, me genoito! By no means! Certainty Not! That’s absurd!
Freedom is not a question of whether we would like to serve, but the choice of which master we will serve. Righteousness leads to holiness; sin as a master, promotes wickedness. Righteousness reverses the moral direction taken by sin and leads to sanctification. In both cases a process is under way. Christians who entertain sin find themselves in an ethical tug-of-war they are bound to lose. The answer to this conflict is practical; surrender your body to those activities that are good and pure rather than to those that defile.
Not only is the contrast between death and life, but also between earning and giving. Sinners earn what they receive. By obeying the impulses of sin, they are storing up the reward for sinning. Their severance check is death—eternal separation from God, who alone is life. By yielding to the impulses of righteousness, believers do not earn anything. They do, however, receive a gift—the gift of eternal life, which comes by faith through Jesus Christ their Lord. Paul declared that if you fully realized your position as sons of God, you would feel it impossible even to think of sinning willingly.
The drift of Paul’s message seems to be this: You don’t live in the realm of sin any longer. You live in God’s kingdom. Now you have a choice of how you will live. Exactly what is the choice? Paul explains it this way. Once You were a slave to sin. Now you’ve been transferred to the Kingdom of God where you can become a slave to righteousness. Every day you have two ways you can go. You can go toward sin or you can go toward God. If you go toward sin, you know what you are? You’re a slave to sin. If you go toward God, you know what you are? That’s the issue. You’ve got to deal with it every single day. You see, it’s not good enough to go to church and go through the religious rigmarole, unless during the week you back it up with a truly Christian life. Whose slave, are you? You don’t answer that question by coming to church on Sunday morning. You answer that question by the choices you make during the week.
But then Paul says, you gave yourself “to ever-increasing wickedness.” What an unusual phrase. You know what that means? It means you can tell a lie but you can’t tell just one. You tell a lie and then you tell another. Then you tell another one to cover up the second one. You tell another one to cover up the third one. One sin leads to another. Envy leads to envy leads to envy. Lust leads to lust leads to lust. Bitterness leads to bitterness leads to bitterness. Sin is like that. It’s an ever-increasing thing. “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” The Bible says that men love darkness rather than light because they’re ashamed of their deeds. Ashamed of their faults, ashamed of their actions. Sin makes you ashamed. Number one is slavery, number two is shame, number three is death.
All my life, I’ve read that the wages of sin is death and I always thought that it was talking exclusively about death in hell. But I found out this week, it’s not necessarily so. Paul used an interesting word here for wages. He used a word which came from the Roman military. The word he used refers to the daily food ration a soldier would receive. Do your job, get your food, do your job, get your food. It’s the word referring to a daily payment. There’s another word that means money at the end of the pay period, money at the end of the month. That’s not the word that’s used here. It’s the word for daily payment. Paul is addressing the daily payment for daily sin. This is saying the daily payment of sin is daily death. You die a little bit each time you choose to sin. If you want to live that way, this is what you’re going to get: slavery, shame, death. And you’re going to get it every single day.
What does God pay off? Well, it’s just the opposite. He pays off in righteousness, a new way of living. He pays off in holiness, a new way of pleasing God, and he pays off in eternal life. The wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in, or through Jesus Christ our Lord. That’s what Paul is saying. If you thought sin was fun, try some holiness for a while. It’s really fun! There’s no bad aftertaste, and there’s no guilty conscience, and there’s nothing left to be remorseful about. Sin satisfies for a little while. Holiness satisfies forever.
Praise the Lord! We have been set free from sin, and no longer serve it. We serve God. Jesus is our Lord and we submit ourselves to His Lordship. Sometimes the choices we make are really simple and obvious. Would you like coffee this morning or not? Sometimes they are more difficult; which tax forms would you like to file? Sometimes we don’t really understand the
choices that are set before us, and we wind up choosing something we don’t really want. Today, each one of us has a very serious choice to make. It should be a very easy choice. The choice that stands before us today should be obvious. Don’t get confused on such on easy and obvious choice. Choose consciously and intentionally. Let us choose life by following God in Christ, Jesus. Our citizenship is in heaven! Victory over the flesh has been won through Christ! Be fully persuaded that the old nature has died. Let us choose to serve Jesus with our whole life! Amen