What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.Romans 6:15-19
Would you be free from the patterns of your life that constantly cause you grief? In the ultimate analysis, in most cases, these patterns are patterns of sin. In certain cases is it very obvious to anyone. Substance addiction, another term to describe what the Bible calls drunkenness, is an obvious sin. Sexual immorality, whether the physical involvement with a person not our spouse or involvement with pornography, is sinful. Although I will admit that in our present culture in America Satan has used his age-old tactic to good effect. He simply questions what God has said, “Is pornography really sin? Afterall no one is harmed.” And much of humanity, even Christian humanity, accepts the temptation instead of speaking the word of God back to the devil, “You shall not commit adultery.” All forms of sexual immorality are subsets of adultery, unfaithfulness to a marriage partner. Even if you are not yet married, the principle applies. One day you will more than likely be married and you will have already been unfaithful to your future spouse.
Thank God that he has said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1
Those of us who understand that our salvation is by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone and not by any works which we can do are susceptible to an error. That error assumes that we are never active in the application of salvation to our lives. Paul takes this error on head first in Romans 6-8. There is a definite dimension of cooperation we have to participate in for God’s intent to take place in our lives in the here and now. God desires our sanctification, that is, he wants us to behave like Jesus, an obedient Son, One who perfectly reflects the Father. In our text for today Paul makes it plain that we make a choice to either present ourselves to sin or we present ourselves to obedience to righteousness. This is our part. We decide, will we or won’t we? Continued obedience to sin leads to death while obedience to righteousness leads to eternal life.
I can’t leave it with that. Human effort alone will never accomplish the kind of obedience of which Paul speaks. A little further on in his argument Paul makes it clear that we are only able to present ourselves to obedience to righteousness in the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:1-4
We are to exercise our will to do the will of God but we cannot accomplish it by our will alone. We must rely on the Spirit of Jesus and on the word of God. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”2
I mentioned in an earlier post an anachronym from a book by Steve Smith, Spirit Walk. It goes like this, S.W.A.P. It is a “formula,” if you will, for how to walk in the Spirit.
S stands for surrender completely to the will and word of God.
W stands for wait on God.
A stands for avoid sin.
P stands for pursue the promptings of the Spirit.
These are not sequential. They are simultaneous actions that go on all the time in the life of a Spirit-filled follower of Jesus. It is the Spirit who gives us the power to make good on the decisions to obey righteousness and not be slaves to sin. He, the Holy Spirit, is our silent partner in the pursuit of Biblical holiness.
This is the key to freedom.