What Are You Chained To?
There is a story of a man who found a frozen snake on the road. Having compassion on the snake he decided to pick it up and hold it under his shirt hoping to revive it. Sure enough the snake revived and promptly bit the man. The man couldn’t believe it! “Why did you bite me?” he asked the snake. And the snake said. “what did you expect? You knew I was a snake when you picked me up!”
Your old unbaptized self is a snake. He was crucified with Christ when you were baptized.....leave him on the cross...don’t pick him up and play with him, or he will rise up and bite you!
Ro 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!
16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I counted 12 direct references to slaves and obedience in those few short verses of Scripture. Why all the talk about slavery and obedience? Paul answers that question in v 19. “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh” He wants to take the subject of “sanctification,” or living as Christians, and put it in terms the Romans would understand. Namely slavery and obedience.
The Romans knew slavery. It is estimated that anywhere from 25 to 40 % of the population of Rome was slaves. We know the church at Rome included both slaves and slave owners. And so Paul knew that those who would read and hear this letter would get his point.
His audience knew that masters had complete power over their slaves. When a master said “jump”, the slave would reply “how high?”
If you were a slave, you had better understand this obedience thing, because your master had the power of life and death over you. Your master could kill you at any time and for any reason and would not face any punishment.
Paul is almost apologetic for even bringing the subject up and I imagine that the congregation in Rome could’ve felt a little uncomfortable as the matter is brought up.
Yet, isn’t it refreshing that he felt he could use slavery and obedience to a master as an analogy in order to bring home a great spiritual truth? It speaks of a church that has been set free from guilt and shame. This church evidently knew the truth of Ga 3:28
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So Paul charges right into their “sensitivities” because they’ve been put under the blood of Jesus and are no longer an issue. You see Paul has a very important point to make. A point that he desperately wants them to understand. So he uses an example all would understand.
Now I think this Scripture would’ve preached very well in our churches in the 1800's because people were familiar with slavery. But I’m not so sure we can really appreciate it in modern day America. We like to think of ourselves as free people. Independent. No one is going to tell me what to do, and we miss the blessings of obedience unto righteousness.
So what can I use to get the point across to you this morning? What illustration will help you understand the importance of obeying the right Master? The only thing I can think of is addiction. Most of you have had experience with addictions. You have either been addicted yourself or have seen it’s devastating effects on people close to you.
When an addiction tells you to do something....you are going to do it...because if you don’t do it....you almost feel like you are going to die. You have got to do what your addiction tells you to do. Addictions carried to their extreme indeed have the power of life or death over the addicted.
When your addiction tells you to have a cigarette....you are going to light up. When your addiction tells you to drink some alcohol.....you are going to have a drink. When your addiction tells you to eat some food....you are going to eat.
To give you an idea of the power of addiction let me tell you about cocaine and a study conducted on laboratory animals. An animal will work extremely hard for a single injection of cocaine. They will press a bar 0ver 10,000 times just to get a fix.
They will choose cocaine over food and water and will even take cocaine when that behavior is associated with punishment. If there are no restraints on the animals they will OD on the stuff. Cocaine has the same effect on human beings. They will go to extreme lengths to get the drug and continue taking it even when it hurts their school or job performance and their relationship with loved ones.
When cocaine says “jump” the addict will say, “how high?” Cocaine is the master, the addict is the slave.
In Paul’s illustration, there are two possible masters....sin, or obedience. Isn’t that interesting? Sin, is simply defined as disobedience. We have a choice....disobey or obey. In my illustration, there are two possible addictions....sin or obedience, and we are addicted (slaves) to one or the other.
There is no “middle ground” with the Savior. Mt 12:30 "He who is not with Me is against Me,
And look at the end result for both addictions. Disobedience ends up in death, while obedience results in righteousness or eternal life. (v16)
In v17 Paul says, “But God be thanked!” Why? Why should God be thanked? We’re not talking about the mindless “thank God” that we hear so much on the street. We are talking about a heartfelt “God be thanked” because if there is any addiction to righteousness is His doing, not ours!
You and I were born addicted to disobedience, like a crack baby born into a cocaine addiction, only we were born with a sin addiction, but by the grace of baptism we were detoxified by the water and the Word! He did something in our heart that changed all that. He created a desire in our heart to be addicted to obedience to Him and His Word. (v17)
So God be thanked! He set you free by giving you the faith to believe and trust His Word.! The problem is, He didn’t do away with the old addict. He’s still in our hearts clamoring for the short-term deadly high of lawless living.
And like that laboratory rat, he’ll push that bar as often as necessary to try and get you to indulge. So what can we do about it? Well, you must purpose in your heart to present yourself as a slave to God! Paul says,
“And now, just as you once presented your body as an instrument of disobedience, to be spotted with the uncleanness of sin, and just as you presented your body to lawlessness, (no rules but your own.....if it feels good do it) which led to more and more degenerate living,
NOW present your bodies in the same way to obedience for holiness. Don’t miss the connection here. Disobedience leads to more disobedience. And obedience leads to more obedience or holiness. More obedience produces more God-pleasing living. The choice is yours.
What do you want to be addicted to? Disobedience or obedience? How do you want to start your day?
Do you want to start your day with this prayer, “Oh Lord, just for today, I am going to ignore everything about Your Word. I am going to indulge in every temptation that the devil, the world, and my flesh throws my way” In Jesus name, Amen.
Or would you rather pray the prayer of Romans 12:1?
Ro 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
One addiction leads to death, the other leads to eternal life.
In v20,21 Paul asks us to remember our past life of addiction to sin. Wasn’t it great to be free of the slave collar of righteousness? Wasn’t it great to be free of the restraints found in God’s Word?
Wasn’t it great to take the name of the Lord in vain? Remember how you felt like “one of the guys” when you talked like that? What great fruit! Why you were just like them!
Remember how great it was to be able to sleep in on Sunday , or play a round of golf or some basketball, instead of thanking and praising God for His great gift of salvation? That’s what I used to do while Joanie took the kids to church. What great and long lasting fruit golf and basketball have brought forth in my life!
Remember how great it was to have hangovers? To have sex without commitment? To be able to abort a baby? To be able to get a divorce for any reason? To keep all my money instead of giving 10% to the church? Oh those were the days when we weren’t bothered with the righteousness of God!
And to anyone who has experienced a life surrendered to disobedience rather than obedience, but by God’s grace have seen the light and surrendered to Him, you know what Paul is talking about when he says...those things for which you are now ashamed.” You are ashamed of them...all of them...even to this day and praise God for it because it is a sign that God has changed you!
You may admit that you did them and include them in your testimony, but you would never replay them on a screen in front of the church and say you were proud of them. You have what the Bible calls “godly sorrow.” over the things you did when you presented yourself as an instrument of sin.
2Co 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
There are two kinds of sorrow. The sorrow of the world is produced simply because you got caught, but godly sorrow is the realization that you have offended a holy and loving God.
In v22 Paul tells us the way it is for the one are addicted to obedience. Every command you obey, every promise you trust, works in the process of producing more fruit that is pleasant and pleasing to God, to the end that it is evidence of your undying faith and devotion to Jesus.
It is the works that prove you have faith in Jesus and therefore eternal life.
And lest there be any confusion over the matter of works and salvation, Paul concludes in v 23, the wages of addiction to sin is death.....you earn it! You’ve got it coming and you will get it.
But, he says, the GIFT of God is eternal life, no wage here. Eternal life is nothing you can earn, it is a gift freely given by God! God be thanked! It’s not what we do, it’s who we are trusting in, and what He has already done for us.
Show the picture!
We have two natures in our hearts. One that desires to be a addicted to disobedience and one that was deposited in us at our baptism that desires to be addicted to obedience. It’s a constant struggle and at times our old nature gives in.
But that’s why we’re here today. We are here to hear the good news that though our sins be as scarlet, through trust in Christ, they shall be white as snow.
Even though you and I did some things, thought some things, or left some things undone today, this past week, this past month, or throughout our lives, Jesus paid the wage on our behalf and offers forgiveness freely to all who are willing to receive it..
Take time to reflect on those things, confess them, and then gladly come forward and put them all under the blood of Jesus at His table. Hear His Words of forgiveness for you once again, “Given for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”