3rd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 7) LSB #761
Text – Romans 6:12 NLT
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
PUTTING SIN IN CONTROL
Do you remember from the sermon last Sunday, one reason all of us struggle to repent of our sins? Repentance involves recognizing & acknowledging that we will surely die. In fact, it involves recognizing & acknowledging that you & I are already, here & now, dead! We have no life in us apart from Jesus Christ. None! Not one ounce of life.
Jesus is the only answer to death. All the looting, rioting & arson that went on – it’s because people are already dead. Jesus is the only answer. The “officer involved killings” going on – they’re because human beings are already dead. Jesus is the only answer. Climate change & the unequal distribution of wealth, they’re signs of the obvious – you & I are already dead.
Jesus is the only answer. There is comfort & hope in that, but this Sunday, St. Paul, in writing to the church at Rome applies that answer & that comfort to our daily living. What do we do now that we are dead in sin & yet also alive in Christ? When we put sin in control of daily decisions trouble arises – every time, even if we don’t reap the consequences immediately.
It hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage in the media as the looting & rioting, but there are people asking, “What is the way forward out of all this mess of racism & lawlessness & brutality?” You know the answer! You have the answer, but you are afraid to say it! You are afraid to tell people that if they do not follow Jesus, racism, lawlessness & rioting is their future!
As you heard in the sermon text, “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” That is how people who follow Jesus move forward out of the mess of racism, lawlessness & brutality. They begin by acknowledging that without Christ they are dead & therefore helpless. They need their Creator’s power even to breathe, let alone to help the world move beyond its self-destructive impulses. Verse 13 makes clear that once God claims us at Baptism, we face an on-going, moment by moment tug of war – obedience or bondage, saint or sinner, new creation or old creation: “Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.” (Romans 6:13a NLT)
Paul is urging us to actively & continually oppose a return to being enslaved to sin. Rioting, looting & burning is a perfect picture of slavery to sin. People who do so are putting sin in control of their lives. They are selling out to the Devil. Police officers who use excessive force are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control.
People who pollute the water or the air are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control. People who practice sexual immorality are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control. People who kill innocent children just to make money are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control.
Those who judge others based on their skin color are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control. And why do people live like that? Because they are dead. Paul wants us to recognize that, acknowledge it, & then stop trying to live on our own. In order to actually live we need to surrender & repent as often as we put sin in control.
In Galatians 5, Paul speaks about nine fruits of the Spirit & one of them is self-control. It is a gift, given to us at Baptism by the Holy Spirit, & we need the Holy Spirit’s help to develop that gift. You might have a gift to make music, but you still have to develop that gift through practice & hard work, & many people do.
Many Christians develop the gift of self-control, but it doesn’t happen by accident, or by magic. Parents are given to children by God in order to be their authority until the child has learned to develop & to put into use the gift of self-control. “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.” (Romans 6:12-13b NLT) If that sounds like you should be willingly making sacrifices, you are correct. Later in the book of Romans Paul wrote:
“I appeal to you therefore… by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy & acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (12:1-2 ESV) Living the new life that Christ has given us is to worship our heavenly Father. We don’t worship Him to earn His favor; we do so because we already have God’s favor. In Christ, we are alive!
In Christ, we do not put sin in control, but we practice self-control. Does that look pretty? Not at all. It is warfare, because the Devil is taking this battle to the death. You may not like warfare, but it is a reality & the losers are those who refuse to acknowledge that apart from Jesus they are dead; that apart from Jesus they will never have success that lasts.
And yet, the moment we begin to look for success is the moment we get into trouble again. Spiritual success is not something we can see in this life. We don’t have the eyes for it. Our vision is far too worldly focused. The very thought of trying to see if we are spiritually successful comes from the Devil himself & is based entirely upon the law.
Our “success,” if we can call it that, rests completely in eternal life, which has been given to us by the heavenly Father. We cannot see because we are not there yet. Many of the screaming people in our culture seem to want heaven here on earth, the perfect life with no looting, no brutality, no racism, no climate change, and no unwanted children.
They are not willing to believe the reality that sin has completely & totally corrupted our world. Nothing will ever be perfect in this life & sin will never be eliminated. The best we can do still requires us to repent each day of our sin. God has mercy on sinners who repent, yet the screaming people in our culture want everyone else to be perfect or die. That’s kind of the bottom line for them. They feel superior to those who are not politically correct & they have no problem being judgmental even as they accuse Christians of being nothing but that. And certainly there are Christians who fall into that sin – each of us at one time or another.
Sodom & Gomorrah were dead in their sins. It seems clear that our nation is rapidly approaching that as well. Jesus is the only answer. Repentance is how we reconnect with Jesus whenever we go astray. It’s simply acknowledging that we are dead & then turning back to God’s Son for renewed life. Like self-control, repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
It takes practice & hard work to develop that gift. It takes the power of God’s Spirit too, because on our own, none of us has the power even to repent. We do have the power to refuse that gift, however. That’s called putting sin in control. It’s an active refusal of God’s grace & mercy. It is rebellion at its heart.
Dirty cops are putting sin in control. Racists are putting sin in control. Rioters & looters & arsonists are putting sin in control. Power hungry politicians are putting sin in control, & they are on both sides of the aisle, Republican & Democrat. Jesus is the only answer. Even you & I, daily put sin in control. Thank God we have been taught to repent of our sin.
That fixes everything because it is the path to heaven. In this life we will have much trouble & sorrow. The message Jesus taught is that He has overcome this world. Those who follow Him do everything in their power to make it a better place, but we’re also realistic. This world will never be rid of sin. Jesus is the only answer.
It’s not easy to live like that. It’s not easy to wholeheartedly believe that message every day. It requires surrendering our will to Christ. God’s Spirit works that in us as well, but if you are still trying to be in control of your life the reality is you are putting sin in control! Until we reach heaven, our sinful nature will always be stronger than our saintly nature. God allows that to keep us humble, to keep us turning back to Him, again & again each hour of every day. The good news is that, although Paul knows you & I are sinners, he is not lying when he writes:
“You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin & have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness & result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:21b-23 NLT)
Yes, both are true, we are at the same time, saints & sinners, 100% of each. Yet, Jesus has conquered sin & death. Those who trust in Him to lead shall follow in His footsteps to heaven. Amen.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; let the water & the blood, from Thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure: cleanse me from its guilt & power. Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy Law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, & Thou alone. Amen. LSB 761:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet