Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16 (NRS)
In the next few weeks we will enter into the Passion Week, which recounts the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as He journeyed to the Cross. During that week, Jesus was very intentional and direct as He prepared his disciples for the gruesome ending of His physical life. Jesus was to die for our sins and receive the penalty we deserved. His substitutional death would fulfill God’s decree formulated before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) yet revealed to man in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). In the end, Jesus Christ would declare His obedience in a different garden—The Garden of Gethsemane—to die and release us from the bondage of sin.
Jesus announced His arrival as the promised Messiah in the synagogue at Nazareth—the one anointed to “release the captives and to let the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Jesus accomplished that purpose on Easter Sunday, when He rose from the dead, breaking the power and the penalty of sin in our lives—sins we committed in the past, in the present, and in the future. When we reach heaven, we will finally be delivered from the presence of sin. Because of Jesus’ victory over sin, we are free, able to grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18), and obediently serve the Lord.
So why are we still acting like slaves?
Paul challenged the young church at Rome to follow in obedience the word of Christ which had been delivered to them. I guess you could call them “hokey-pokey” Christians in that they had “one foot in the Church and one foot in the world.” That is the same “obedience challenge” we face daily while still in our earthly flesh. Until we are delivered from the presence of sin, we must doggedly declare “ourselves dead to sin and alive to God” (Rom. 6:11). We must exercise our freedom in Christ to leave behind sinful patterns and influences which move us away from God. We must not take God’s glorious gift of grace for granted and continue in sin through our disobedience.
Paul described the reversal of sin’s slavery in Romans 6:15-18:
“What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
During this season of Lent, many of us are practicing the discipline of fasting—that is, giving up for a period of time, some habit, practice, or “vice” and replacing it with new activities that draw us closer to Jesus. This includes more time in prayer, studying the Word, or solitude. It is a period of denying our “flesh” and of self-reflection, hopefully leading us to greater spiritual maturity and obedience.
But let’s be honest, aren’t there some things we should stop doing beyond Lenten season? Some sin(s) that are keeping us enslaved to the world and Satan? Are you choosing to remain “shackled” by sin when Christ has set you free from sin’s power and penalty?
“You are slaves of the one you obey.” Who are you obedient to?