Dead to Sin, Alive to God:Old Truth for a New Year

Dead to Sin, Alive to God:Old Truth for a New Year

“Dead to Sin, Alive to God: 

Old Truth for a New Year”

(Romans 6:1-14)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

  • Take your Bibles and open to Romans, chapter 6.

We’re going to be looking at a helpful passage for living in the power of the gospel in this new year, old truth for a new year.  Next week we’ll start our series REBUILD, a study of the Book of Nehemiah.  So you may want to overview the Book of Nehemiah this week in preparation for our study.

But this morning, a new year message from Romans 6 and as I’ve said, this passage is helpful to us in living in the power of the gospel.  Let me say in connection to this I’ll be leading a study on Wednesdays beginning on the 23rd, Wednesday evenings after our fellowship meal, I’ll be leading a study of the book, The Gospel for Real Life.  The Gospel is not just for proclaiming or believing, the gospel is for living.  Living in the power of the gospel every day in real life. 

Have you found Romans 6?  My prayer this morning is that this passage frees us from the power of sin and temptation.  We’re going to be studying verses 1 through 14 but we’ll read the first few to get started and then pray.

In context, Paul has been teaching that Christian salvation lasts forever.  Once we place our faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, God justifies us.  He declares us righteous and that righteousness lasts forever and ever.  It’s like an outfit that we wear forever.  It never comes off.  God clothes us in the righteousness of Christ.  He always sees us in Christ!  He says near the end of chapter 5 that this is true no matter how much we have sinned.  He writes, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”  So that leads to the question Paul raises at the beginning of chapter 6.

  • Please stand for the reading of the Word of God. 

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  

2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  

3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  

  • Pray: “Help us Lord to walk in newness of life in this new year, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

Many of you know that I was a parole officer before I was in the ministry.  I worked for seven years in North Georgia supervising a caseload of convicted felons.  I often joke that my job as a parole officer was my preparation for pastoral ministry!  There are similarities.  

Prison overcrowding gave rise to my job with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.  There simply wasn’t enough space to hold prisoners so the Board began releasing less violent offenders, placing them on parole—which simply means that a prisoner can serve his time outside of the prison.  He is free to live outside the prison, hold a job, and enjoy life and the remainder of his sentence is served under parole supervision.  Essentially, all the parolee has to do is stay out of trouble and report periodically to the parole office.

But I learned about a thing called recidivism.  Recidivism is a word that describes the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend, to break another law and go back to jail or prison.  The recidivism rate in Georgia at that time was around 40%.  In other words, close to half of those convicted of crimes and released from jail or prison, reoffended within three years.  

So in spite of having freedom, four out of every ten defaulted to their former lifestyle.  The irony is that many of them outwardly did not want to reoffend, but their former lifestyle was so ingrained in their thinking, that they frequently found themselves back in prison.

There are many professing Christians who have been set free from the power of sin.  They have died to it.  They genuinely do not wish to reoffend by placing themselves back under the power of sin.  And yet, in spite of having freedom, the “spiritual recidivism rate” of their lives is high.  They default to their former lifestyle.  They frequently find themselves back in the prison of sin’s clutches.

Maybe that describes some of you.  You’ve battled sin and temptation for so long and have failed so many times you may wonder if you’ll ever be free from sin’s clutches.  This passage in Romans 6 will help us live in the power and freedom of the gospel.

If you’ll permit me in the time remaining, I’ll share three truths in which Christians can rejoice.  Three truths that call for rejoicing.  First:

  1. Rejoice in Your Identity in Christ (1-4)

Your new identity.  If you are a Christian you have a wonderful new identity in Christ. 

Chapter 5 teaches that all persons everywhere have an identity.  They are either “in Adam” or “in Christ.”  Our lives are bound up in, or we have union with one or the other.  We identify with one or the other.  We are born “in Adam” and we remain “in Adam” forever—unless we have trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior.  If we have done that, then we have moved from Adam to Christ.  We have changed our address.  We have a new identity, a new union, in Christ.  

So at the beginning of chapter 6 Paul reminds Christians of this new identity in Christ.  He says that a person who has been born again, and justified by faith, declared righteous by God, is a person who no longer lives as he once did.  He never asks this  question in verse 1, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”  Paul replies with, “Certainly not!” This phrase in the original Greek is the strongest way to say “No” in the New Testament.  And look again at why Paul says, “Certainly not.”  He asks, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

He is saying, “Christian, you have a new identity.  You no longer identify with all the guilt and shame of belonging to Adam and his family.  Adam’s sin in the garden that led to your guilt and gave you a nature bent toward sin.  You are now in Christ.  You no longer identify with Adam, but with Christ.  You have ‘died to sin.” 

Well, maybe we hear that in verse 2—you have died to sin—and then we think, “But I still struggle with sin.  How can you say I have died to sin if I still battle sin and temptation?”

Paul is not saying Christians do not sin at all, or never sin again—a view called sinless perfectionism.  He is not saying that.  What he is saying is that the tyranny of sin is over.  It’s reign is over.  The domination and rule of sin in our lives has been defeated.  So while sin remains, it no longer reigns.

At the end of chapter 5 Paul describes the reign of sin.  That’s a reference to where we used to be in Adam.  We used to live in the realm of Adam, a reign dominated by sin.  That’s where we used to live, but we have had a change of address.  We have moved from the realm of Adam to the realm of Christ.  We have a new identity in Christ.

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “the wrong side of town” or “the wrong side of the tracks.”  It refers to the bad part of town where all the trouble is.

You might think of our identity in Christ like this.  We were once identified with Adam, once living on the wrong side of the tracks, living in the realm of Adam, or the neighborhood of Adam.  On the other side of the tracks is the realm of Christ.  Oh, if we could only move from the neighborhood of Adam to the neighborhood of Christ!  Well, that’s what justification does.  By our faith in Christ, God declares us righteous.  Not guilty of sin. It is as though he picks us up from the realm of Adam and places us “across the tracks” into the new realm of Christ.  

So when Paul says in verse 2 that we “died to sin” and we “no longer live in it,” he is not saying Christians no longer battle sin and temptation.  He is saying that we have died to our old identity, our old address across the tracks.  We don’t live there anymore.  We have moved.  We are no longer identified with Adam.  Sin no longer defines us.  We are now identified with Christ.  Now this change of address is pictured in baptism.

3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  

Now before we talk about baptism, water baptism, as an ordinance, as something we do  after we are saved, it’s important to recognize another sense of baptism that occurs during salvation or at the moment of salvation.  The word “baptism” in the New Testament means plunged or immersed.  So when we trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit plunges us or immerses us into Christ Jesus so that we identify now with Him.  It’s a plunging into Christ, an immersion into our new identity.

Once that has happened, once we have trusted Christ, we then undergo Christian baptism, water baptism, as a sign or symbol of our new identity in Christ.  Our union with Jesus Christ.  In the New Testament, believers were baptized almost immediately after placing their faith in Christ. 

So there is all this rich symbolism going on in baptism.  It’s a celebration of one’s being plunged into Christ, immersed into a new nature, new union with Christ, new identity.  Baptism says, “I am in Christ.  I am bound up together with Him so that what happened to Him has happened to me.”

Paul says in verse 4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death.”  We identify with Christ’s burial.  There is a real sense in which when Christ died, we were there with Him.”

You know that spiritual song we sing sometimes at Easter?  It can be kind of confusing as it asks this question: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  You know that one?  Were you there when they crucified My Lord?  And the answer is, “Yes.”  Yes, I was there in that it was my sins for which He died.  I was there.  I was holding the hammer when they crucified the Lord.  When He died, I was present with Him when He bore my sins on the cross.  And by faith, I identify with Him.  I believe it was for me He died.

Baptism pictures that.  Paul assumes every Christian has been baptized.  That’s why he uses baptism here to illustrate this new identity in Christ.  Baptism by immersion is the physical outward symbol of a spiritual, inward change.  Just as Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead, so every Christian died, was buried, and rose again.  We died to sin, died to the old life, and we have been raised with Christ, raised in the power of His resurrection that we may “walk in newness of life.”

Baptism pictures our forever union with Christ, our forever identity in Him.  We rejoice in this new identity because it defines who we are.  We are no longer hopeless sinners trapped in Adam.  We are in Christ!  And we are forever united to Him and to all the blessings of being in Him.  Never separated.

I heard Collin Smith refer to this teaching as the difference between socks and pants.  You know how when you wash your socks, there’s always one that gets away?  You have a pair of socks and one mysteriously disappears into sock oblivion!  Just gone.  So you have a single sock that lost its pair. You wash a pair of pants, or trousers, on the other hand and you’ll never have one of the legs missing!  They are untied together.  Forever.  

Our identity in Christ is not like a sock.  It’s not as though Christians are always asking God for more socks.  And blessings are given in the forms of socks.  Here’s another sock and here’s another sock.  The blessings of Christ are bound up with us in our lives.  We are united to Him as two pant legs united together forever.  And all that belongs to Christ is ours.  Union.  Identity.  Blessings that last forever.  God accepts you not because you’re a good sock.  God accepts you because you are united together with His Son Jesus Christ.  Rejoice in Your Identity in Christ.  Secondly:

  1. Rejoice in Your Liberty in Christ (5-10)

Beginning in verse 5, Paul describes the Christian’s liberty, our newfound freedom, in Christ.  This all comes to us as a result of our union with Christ.

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,  

6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  

7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.  

Baptism pictures our having died to the power of sin and our having been raised in the power of Christ’s resurrection.  That’s verse 5.  Then he says, verse 6, we know that “our old man was crucified with Him.”  Our “old man” is who we were in Adam.  Our old residence, the old neighborhood across the tracks.  

The “old man” is the person I once was. There was once a Todd Linn from birth up till about age 15.  That’s when I received Christ as Lord and Savior.  That’s when my identity changed.  That’s when I died to the “old man” who once lived across the tracks. 

Christians died to the “old man” so that, again verse 6, “the body of sin might be done away with.”  That phrase is better translated, “that sin is rendered powerless.”  Sin is no longer rules or reigns in our lives.  Sin is no longer our master and we are no longer its slaves.  We have died to sin, verse 7, so we are now freed from sin.  We are free.

Now you may say, “Well, I don’t feel free!  I don’t know what you’re talking about here.  I mean, I know I am forgiven and everything, but I don’t feel like I am free from sin.  Remember that helpful phrase we have mentioned: for the Christian, sin remains—we still struggle with it—but no longer reigns.  

When Paul says in verse 7 “for he who has died has been freed from sin” he’s talking about sin’s no longer having mastery over our lives.  It’s power has been broken.  It no longer reigns because we have moved out of the old neighborhood.  We have a new Master now in our new neighborhood.  Sin does not reign.  Freedom reigns.  

Again, we once were living in the realm of Adam but now we’re living in the realm of Christ.  Through Christian conversion, God has moved us to a new address.  We have been picked up by God and moved to the new neighborhood across the tracks.  

So we don’t live over there in the old reign—but—and get this here!—but, the old neighborhood is still there.  We have moved, but if we look across the tracks we can still see the old haunt.  Its influence is still there, too.  The prince of that old kingdom is still there, too.  He lives there.  His name is Satan.  And he sees you in your new kingdom.  He sees you in the new neighborhood across the tracks and he can shout over to you.  He tries to influence you.  He tries to get you to come back over across the tracks.  He will try for the rest of his days to convince you that your move was unnecessary.  He’ll shout over to you and do all he can to get you to come back over to the old neighborhood.  “Let Adam represent you again!  Remember how much fun it was to be in Adam?!  Forget about the new.  The old is better.  Come back to the old reign and rule of Adam!”  But we have died to that old reign.

Our union with Christ is not only the basis of our forgiveness, but also the basis of our freedom.  He writes: 

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,  

9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.  

10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  

Paul is teaching that we may defeat sin and temptation by drawing upon the resurrection power that is available to us.  Christians are not only united together in Christ’s death, but we are also united in Christ’s resurrection.  We may live in the power that raised Christ from the dead.  And so Paul takes us from this point to tells us specifically how we may we do this, how we may successfully battle sin and temptation.  Number three:

  1. Rejoice in Your Victory in Christ (11-14)

In order to rejoice in victory over sin, Christians must realize that the mastery of sin has been broken.  Sin no longer reigns as a dominant force or overriding principle in our lives.  Sin’s power has been broken so that Christians may live in victory.  How do we realize the mastery of sin has been broken?  How do we remind ourselves of this truth?

11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Remember that you died to sin.  You died to the old realm and you are now living in a new realm.  You were once in the realm of Adam and you are now in the realm of Christ.  So “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To “reckon” means to “consider,” to think through this truth and apply it in your life.  You must do this regularly.  Every time you face sin and temptation, you must regularly say, “I am dead to that.  That’s the old life.  That’s the old realm.  That’s the old man.  That’s the old Todd.  That’s the old neighborhood.  I’ve moved.  I live somewhere else now.  I’m dead to that.  And I’m alive in Christ Jesus.”  

I’ve got to do that over and over and over throughout the day as many times as necessary.  Reckon yourself dead indeed to sin.  “I’m dead to that.”  Verse 12:

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  

Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body.  You see, there’s a choice involved, Christian.  Don’t “let.”  You have the freedom to say no.  You can choose to not sin.  When you were in the old realm, the old neighborhood, you didn’t really have a choice.  You were under the rule and reign of Satan.  You were hopelessly bound “in Adam.”  But God has delivered you and placed you in a new realm, the realm of Christ.  You have a new Master now.  You are free from the rule and reign of sin so “do not let sin reign (for even a moment!) in your mortal body.”

When the sun goes down in your new neighborhood, when you’re alone and feeling vulnerable, you look over at that old neighborhood, you look across the tracks.  There’s your old friend over there.  Do you hear the voice of someone shouting over to you?  “Come over here,” he pleads.  “You don’t need to come for very long.  Come on, you deserve it!  Just indulge the flesh a little.  It’s okay.  Come on, everybody does it.  You’re only human.”

And you slink across the tracks and you visit the old haunt.  You visit the old neighborhood.  And all the while, there’s another voice within you, the voice of your new Master. He’s saying, “Don’t do it.   You’re dead to this, remember?”  But if you tune Him out and you cross the tracks, you sin.  That journey can take hours or it can happen all in a moment.  But however it happens, it’s a journey across the tracks.  Stay out of that old neighborhood.  You don’t belong there anymore.

13 And do not present your members (that is, the parts of your body—eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, sexual organs) as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Some of you have read CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce.  It’s a book about heaven and hell.  It’s inspired by Dante’s “Inferno” in The Divine Comedy.   Lewis’ book is an imaginative story not meant to be pressed for accurate teaching on the afterlife.  But it’s pretty cool.  It’s about a guy who takes a bus ride to the outskirts of heaven and sees a lot of people who have not made it into heaven because the ways of the world are still with them.  They are too bound up with sin and self to enjoy the pleasures of Christ.

There’s this one guy Lewis describes who has a red lizard on his shoulder.  And the red lizard, as it turns out, represents something of the man’s tempter to indulge in sin.  And so the guy’s going about his life, but this lizard is always whispering to him, trying to get him to lust and sin.  And the man is saying back to the lizard, “Stop it!  Be quiet!”  But as the lizard persists, the man eventually gives in and begins to smile.

Then there’s an angel who says to the man, “You want me to quiet that lizard?”  And the guy is like, “Yes!  Please!”  And the angel says, “Then I will kill him.”  And the guy’s like, “Wait, what?  You didn’t say anything about killing him.”  And he starts wavering.   And the angel says, “But it’s the only way.”  And the conversation goes back and forth with the guy trying to compromise in some way, somehow keep the lizard close by, and the angel repeatedly asking, “May I kill it?  It’s the only way.”

Finally, the man succumbs and allows the angel to kill it.  And the angel moves forward and there’s this burning light and the mans is like, “Get back, you’re burning me!”  And the angel is like, “I never said it wouldn’t hurt.”   And eventually the lizard is killed and the man is transformed into a picture of victory.

Paul says in verse 13, “Do not present your members (parts of your body) as instruments of unrighteousness to sin…”  And many Christians do not have victory, because they really don’t want to break with their sin.  They want to keep it kind of close by like a lizard on their shoulder.  Like a little pet.  In one sense they don’t want it there and so they say, “Go away!  Be quiet!  Quit tempting me!”  But they also like it, too.  It’s a pet sin.  The only way to have it gone forever is to kill it.  And it isn’t always easy.  It may hurt as the burning fire of the Holy Spirit destroys it.  But when it is gone, there is victory, real victory.!

So offer the parts of your body not to sin, but to God.  That’s what he’s saying and he tells us that we are to do this by continually reckoning ourselves dead to sin.  Dead to sin, alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

I want to tell you that there is incredible power in simply saying this: “I’m dead to that.”  When you face temptation, respond with, “I’m dead to that.”  That’s what verse 11 means, “to reckon yourselves dead to sin” and “alive to God.”  That’s a very practical way to offer the parts of your body not as instruments of unrighteousness to sin,” but, “as instruments of righteousness to God.”  When tempted say, “I’m dead to that” and feel the strength of God to overcome.

To be sure, it’s not just saying no to sin.  We have to say yes to the Lord.  We’ll talk more about this evening.  If this morning is the negative aspect—they saying no—then this evening represents the positive aspect—the saying yes.

I want to invite you to write this down:

“I’m Dead to That!”

It’s not like some magical fix, the power of verbal suggestion, or anything like that.  It is, rather, God’s honoring His Word—particularly verse 11—and giving you the same power that raised Christ from the dead, giving you that power to overcome sin and temptation so that you may walk in newness of life.  God gives you the grace necessary to overcome sin.  He meets you there at the point of your greatest need if you will turn to Him.

I want to challenge you to live that way this week.  When you’re faced with temptation of any kind, reply with, “I’m dead to that.”  Reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.

When someone says something hurtful to you, rather than returning evil for evil, or identifying with the hurtful comments, say to yourself, “I’m dead to that” and walk away.  

When the conversation at the workplace turns worldly and carnal, or vulgar and crude, say to yourself, “I’m dead to that.”

When the TV catches your eye and lures you to cross the tracks and spend a little time indulging your flesh with impure programming say, “I’m dead to that.”

When an image on the internet seems to wink at you, inviting you to click for further indulgence into the “old man” across the tracks, immediately say: “I’m dead to that” and walk away.

When tempted to pick up that old habit—smoking, drinking, overeating—say, “I’m dead to that.”

When the old feelings of yesterday’s hurts resurface, rather than re-feeling the hurt and becoming bitter and resentful say, “I’m dead to that.”

Guys, when the inappropriately dressed girl saunters by you and Satan whispers in your ear like a red lizard on your shoulder say, “I’m dead to that.”

Ladies, when that guy is there and he always seems so caring and willing to listen to you and you’ve been frustrated with your husband and this other guy seems so sweet and supportive, just stop the emotional tug taking place and say, “I’m dead to that!”

Can it really help, just saying the word, “I’m dead to that?”  Pastor James MacDonald talks about this truth and illustrates it by recalling how they built a bridge across the gorge at Niagara Falls.

Someone had the great idea of building a bridge across the gorge, but the obvious question was, “How?”  The water rushed so violently that architects were at a loss to try to figure out how to begin building.  Then someone got a kite and flew it across the gorge.  They took that kite and tied a string to it and flew it across the gorge.  They got the string across and then attached a cord to it.  Then they pulled the cord across.  Then they attached a rope and pulled the rope across.   Then they attached a chain and pulled the chain across.  Then they attached a cable and pulled the cable across.  And they built the entire bridge on those mighty cables that started with a flimsy little string.

You may feel that those words “I’m dead to that” are like a flimsy, little string, but if you’ll say those words this week when faced with temptation, you will change.  You’ll pull that string across, and you’ll pull that cord across, and you’ll pull that rope across, and you’ll pull that chain across—and you’ll build a life that will be strong and sure for the glory of God.

  • Let’s pray.

Response: “I Run to Christ”

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