January 8 2012 Sermon
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Just a couple of years ago, a man by the name Jon Metz purchased an old home in Connecticut that he was fixing up. One day he was cleaning an old boiler-style furnace in the basement when his arm became lodged inside the old furnace. The harder Jon tried to free himself from the furnace the more his arm swelled and he became entrapped. After two days of being trapped in the furnace, he realized that his situation was getting worse. In his attempts to free himself, he had cut himself on the filthy furnace. The cut had now become infected and infection was spreading to his body. He realized that it would cost him his life. His arm, once dear to him, was now threatening his life. Somehow, in an incredible act, Jon was able to reach tools nearby. He fashioned a tourniquet and amputated his arm. Doctors later agreed Jon’s act saved his life.
In our text, Romans 6, St. Paul describes the death-to-life experience of Holy Baptism and what the baptized in Christ give up for the sake of the new life they now have. In Baptism we receive the benefits of Christ giving his life for us. Today, we learn how:
IN OUR BAPTISM OUR OLD SELF IS DROWNED AND CUT OFF SO THAT WE THEN ARISE TO A NEW LIFE IN JESUS.
Today is the first Sunday after the Epiphany. Epiphany is God making himself known to his people. It is God revealing that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior from sin. The first Sunday after the Epiphany the church celebrates the Baptism of our Lord and our own Baptism as well. We pray in the collect that God would grant that all who are baptized in Jesus’ name would remain faithful in their calling as his children and heirs of life with Christ.
You see, our old self desires to continue sinning. And Satan is cunning and deceptive. He invents the lie that so many of us have swallowed and tells us, “If you are covered by God’s grace, why not sin all the more? It’s already taken care of. God’s grace is big enough to cover your sin, so keep doing it and later you can just ask for his grace and forgiveness to cover it.”
Sounds plausible. That’s exactly what people were telling St. Paul. They were saying, “Look here, Paul. If God’s grace abounds all the more where sin increases, should we not continue in sin so that his grace might abound?”
Just think of it. We could do all sorts of things we might like to do. We could lie, cheat, steal and gossip. We could sleep around with anyone we wanted to. We could drink all night on New Years’ Eve and sleep it off the next morning. But just who is it that finds these ideas attractive? It is our old sinful self. The sinner inside each and every one of us.
What was Paul’s response? “No way!” Sin separates the believer from Christ. Sin is a rejection of the life God designed for his people. Purposeful and willful sin is a rejection of the forgiveness God offers us in his Son, Jesus Christ. Like the poison of an infection spreading to the body, sin kills. As a gangrenous member of the body must be cut off and removed, sin must be cut off and removed from our life.
Jesus did indeed die to atone for our sins. He paid for each and every sin so that God’s grace does cover every sin we could ever commit. Yes, his grace does cover our lying, our stealing, our cheating, our gossiping. It does cover adultery and drunkenness. But continuing to live in sin is a rejection of his grace and forgiveness. Repentance means turning around. It means turning your back on you sins and renouncing them. It means fleeing from sin and attempting to purge it from your life. Continuing to live in sin is a rejection of the life God has designed for his people. A life of sin is a rejection of God! Those who reject God will get just what they want: an eternity without him. Eternal separation from God, eternal darkness and damnation. There is no gospel message for the unrepentant person living a life of sin. There is no message of forgiveness, no absolution, because he has rejected God’s forgiveness.
But that old self; that old man of sinful flesh, has been drowned and cut off by Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus died for all your sins. God’s grace does indeed cover them all, past, present and future. And Jesus died also to deliver us from our sin. In Baptism we have died with Christ to sin. For the death he died he died to sin. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. We are baptized into Christ’s death to sin. We are literally drowned to the sin that once separated us from God and enslaved us. Like the young man cutting off his arm, sin is cut off from the Christian, giving us a new lease on life.
We are then resurrected with Christ to a new life! The true believer does not continue in sin, but lives a new life in Christ. A life of righteousness. Seeking to rid himself of sin and walk in the way of God; in love for one another. In serving others rather than self. The true believer uses his body as an instrument for righteousness. Paul says, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Sin shall have no dominion over you.
Like Jon Metz who cut off his arm to save his life, God cut off his Son, Jesus, on the cross to save your life. Our holy and righteous living is a fruit of faith and the expression of the Holy Spirit working this new life in us. The true believer yearns to be rid of sin and bear the fruit of righteousness for Christ. That fruit is created by the Holy Spirit who lives in you and creates repentance and faith in you.
Therefore, we arise to a new life in Christ that is totally different from the old. We are raised to new life with Christ by his resurrection. Like Lazarus we cast off our grave clothes and former ways. We clothe ourselves with Christ. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” says St. Paul. Therefore, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.” “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry….In these things you once walked when you were living in them. But now put away all anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk, and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all, put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Put on the full armor of God to stand firm against the schemes of Satan, against his lie that you can be a true believer and still live in willful and purposeful sin. For as God’s baptized children we walk in a newness of life. Consider yourselves to be dead to sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So, in the same way that Jon Metz cut off his entrapped and infected arm to save his life, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was infected with our sin and enslaved by judgment and death. In your Baptism you were buried with Christ in his death to sin and resurrected with him to a new life. Given new life through the forgiveness of your sin and the certainty of eternal life, now consider the new life you have in him and what it means to live to his glory. Cut off all that infects you and cast off all that entangles you. Amen.