Buried with Christ

April 7, 2017 – Friday
tomb
Read: Romans 6:1-11
Focus: vs. 4

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

“Repent and be baptized!” That was the cry in the wilderness from John the Baptist as he prepared the way for Jesus to come and minister. The idea of repentance is to turn completely around and go the opposite direction. If you are heading north, repentance would turn you back to the south. East and west aren’t good enough. When we repent from sin we are choosing to turn around and walk in the opposite direction.

Paul takes up the issue of repentance in Romans 6 when he deals with the question of “shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” At the end of chapter 5 he says, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” This introduces some crazy logic that Paul needs to dispute. If the increase in sin causes an increase in grace then it follows that even more sin will bring about even more grace. And who doesn’t want more grace? So sin away in order that you may experience more grace! The problem is repentance. Paul says this is crazy talk because we have been baptized into the death of Jesus; we were buried with him. We have died to sin and, if that is the case, then how can we act as if we are alive to it? If you’ve turned around and gone the other direction from sin, how can you keep on sinning?

Paul goes on to say, in verse 7, that “anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” This is in reference to the idea of slavery he introduced in verse 6 (“we should no longer be slaves to sin”). Before accepting Jesus into our hearts we are slaves to the master of this world. Sin had dominion over us but, since we are buried with Jesus and now are alive in Him, sin no longer has that dominion. The bond has been broken so that it is no longer our master. In verse 10 Paul talks about Christ defeating death when was resurrected. He says, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” In Christ, then, we are “dead to sin but alive to God.” Sin no longer has dominion over us.

Maybe that’s all a lot of theological gobbledygook. It can get muddy for sure but here is the point: Before accepting Jesus sin was your master – but not anymore. This means that, before, you were bent towards sinning – you leaned towards it and it was natural for you. But now, you are bent the other direction – you lean towards holiness as God changes your nature. It’s a fight that will continue as long as you still live in a world, and with a body, that leans toward sin. So you still sin but you’re getting stronger at choosing a better way to live – a way that pleases God. You still sin, but you’re heart just isn’t in it anymore and you find your desires are to please God and forsake sin. Yes, you can blame Jesus for that. He’s changing you every day and the taste of sin is getting worse by the minute. Praise God that we’ve been buried with Christ so that we can live a new life with Him!

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The Gift of God

April 5, 2017 – Wednesday
gift
Read:  Romans 6:15 – 23, NIV
Focus:  v. 23, NIV

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In a somewhat free-ranging discussion at one of our “coffee” times recently, someone was mentioning that they were working three jobs and going to school. That reminded me of my last year of college when I worked three part-time jobs while going to school full-time. Between the campus Post Office, Mersereau Hall, Chili Plastics and keeping up with my classes, there was not much time left for myself or any activities I might have wanted to get involved in. However, I was able to graduate without taking an additional semester of classes and was thus able to get into the work force earlier to pay off some of those school bills. Wages were not very high in those days so it was often a real struggle.

Our focus verse speaks of wages and a gift. Gifts are nice, aren’t they? I remember occasionally receiving a gift in the mail while at college from a family member or friend of the family. I was always very grateful and appreciative as that enabled me to occasionally stop at a café for a cup of coffee or a hamburger. Anything was a welcome change from cafeteria food! But, talk about opposites, what a difference between the wages. It would seem like an easy choice, right? Apparently we have a problem with that gift, though, because it seems so hard to believe it really is a gift! Think about it. Why is it such a problem? Sin, going the way of the world, leads to death and there is a free gift offered that leads to eternal life! On the surface, at least, it seems a no-brainer. However, we humans seem to always want to look a gift horse in the mouth and be mightily suspicious. All Jesus really seems to be saying here is, “You can continue to work for death or you can receive a free gift of eternal life instead.” Why make it so hard? Either we work and slave just to receive death or we receive God’s gift of eternal life “in Jesus Christ our Lord.” The little word “BUT” in there is simply telling us we have a really valid choice here. Why not accept it at face value?

We work for someone. We slave for someone. Those are the terms Paul is presenting here. We are basically “owned” (slaves) by what or who we work for. The end result is what we have to be aware of. Am I working just to die? Or, am I working to live eternally? Paul makes the issue very clear, doesn’t he? So, whose slave are you? Who is your boss? Is it this world or God? Are you working for death or life?

Day 12 – Welcome Home Children

Thursday – December 8, 2016

Read: Romans 6:23
Focus: vs 23
day-12
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

You know that feeling you get when you are almost home after a long, tiresome trip? Call it excitement, call it relief, call it happiness – at the very best, call it good! We are a very long way from our birth home, but we have lived several places where our new friends greeted us with “Welcome Home” and it became truly so. Lincoln, Nebraska was one such place and we loved it so much that I always expected it to be our retirement destination. A couple of days ago we passed through Lincoln at near the tail end of a very long but pleasurable trip. Immediately I penned a new definition of the word “eternity!” The traffic has become so frenzied since we last visited my favorite city that it became an hour-long panic attack – it lasted an “eternity” in my mind and body! So I thought I’d ask the question, “how do you define eternity?” If you are truly home, then eternity means “never having to leave this favorite place.” This definition also works if you are a true child of God and you are planning on Heaven. Imagine though, if you have not chosen Christ and your eternity is sure to become “never escaping this weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Sometimes the fact that eternity lasts forever is a good thing, but other times, not so much!

I recall with joy our feeling of “We are home” when we crossed the Nebraska line for the first time in 1975. I recall with joy the sign on the church marquee when we first entered Enid, Oklahoma (WELCOME HOME, PASTOR!). Our move to Iowa was very much a “God thing” with a unanimous call to pastor the church and the feeling of family that quickly enveloped us. Our most recent move to Red Cloud, Nebraska was a “Coming home” long before we ever got here! But the “Welcome Home!” that I am most longing to hear is when I claim the gift that Jesus purchased for me long ago when He died on the Cross to forgive my sins and then to prepare a place for me with Him in Heaven! That will be the last “Welcome Home” that I hear, and it will last forever! What a gift-giver my Savior is!

“Lord, I thank You so much for your many gifts but most of all for my redemption and for the assurance it gives that I may spend eternity with You. This Christmas help me to generously share with others this gift that keeps on giving!”

MAR