Made New To Serve
Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 6:15–6:23, John 8:34, Matthew 11:28–11:30, Hebrews 13:20–13:21
Made New to Serve - Romans 6:15-23
 What then? Are we to 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 who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,  and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  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.
 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Today, Paul wants us to understand that:
We have been made new,
set free through Jesus Christ,
in order to serve a New Master
Two weeks ago we began to transition from earlier chapters in Romans on Justification (the way that we’re acceptable before God) to Sanctification (being conformed, over time, into the image of Jesus Christ).
Paul began chapter 6 by not only giving us the motivation for a gospel-centered life, provided three practical ways that we participate in being transformed by the good news that we have received: Know, Consider & Present.
Let’s take a look at each of these statements together today.
We Have Been Made New
Teachers-of-old used to say it this way: this chapter in Romans teaches why the faith that alone justifies, is never alone, but always brings a holiness of life with it.
What we’re looking at today may be called the ‘presentation principle' because it is dealing with what we will choose to ‘present’ ourselves to, that which has rule over our lives.
Do we present ourselves to the Master that enslaves us in sin -or- do we present ourselves to the Master who frees us to service for his Kingdom?
Verse 16 seems to capture the main point that Paul wants to get across to us today:
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)
Not many of us would be brave enough to say this out loud: welp, might as well sin since we’re under grace!
Yet, how many of us can functionally think or even act this way at times, whether through neglect or willingly doing what we know we shouldn’t.
Paul wants us to understand that -for those who believe- God has taken away the threat of failure, our salvation being up to us - this is GRACE!
How could I say such a thing? Verses 17-18 say it this way:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart [...] having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18)
The threat of failure, condemnation, judgement - all of these have been removed! We have been changed, made new!
If we were to consider what motivates obedience, we might, in our human thinking, consider things like guilt, shame, etc. and that may produce an immediate result, for a short period - with terrible fruit, damage and consequences over time… I don’t recommend trying that on people at all!
Then there’s grace - with all of the ways that it wrestles control out of our hands and placing the control in the nail scarred hands of our Savior - grace is the motivating ENGINE of the Gospel. God’s radical and outrageous Grace is the only thing that can fuel a long joyful obedience in the same direction.
Maybe grace seems too-good-to-be-true so you’ve decided not to buy into it - To that I believe Paul wants to agree with you and he wants to offer what the alternative will lead to.
Perhaps you find yourself in the place of a new believer and you’re overwhelmed by God’s grace, that’s wonderful, never let that fade!
You’re just beginning to see the things that God is calling you to over the lifetime you have left on this earth and that may seem overwhelming. Please hear this: the same grace that saves you is powerful enough to sustain you in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.
Perhaps you’re in a different place today… you understand grace but it’s been so long since that initial experience with God - you’ve been walking with him for some time and, to be honest, a lot-of-life has happened since then.
Perhaps you’ve even dabbled a bit with the old you… drinking a little more, turning back to pills, scouring the web for something more sexually, escaping through hobbies or activities from God-given responsibilities in the home. To that Paul would say: DON’T GO BACK BECAUSE GRACE REMAINS FOR YOU!
This is where the ‘presentation principle’ becomes very practical for each and every one of us here today, no matter where we find ourselves in our relationship with God, he has something to say to us, something to reveal to us. There are some tough concepts ahead; slavery, sin, Masters, presentation / participation, etc. we’ll take them slowly.
Allow me to take a moment to address the issue of Slavery: it’s right for our initial reaction to the word to be one of recoil, given our own nation’s past related to slavery, the ways we’re aware of it being used as a tool of oppression, the way it dehumanizes those who are created as image-bearers of God himself.
Paul is using something that was actually quite common in Rome and was vastly different in it’s overall expression to what our minds run to in our American Context. Rome’s system was not built exclusively on race or oppression.
There were a variety of reasons someone may have been a slave which included conquer, paying back a debt or even employment for a specified term (usually 7 years).
Many of these slaves were able to own property, have families, even live separately from their ‘Masters’ or the house they were serving. There were those who served in public roles or in individual homes.
In Rome the population was somewhere between 20-35% slaves depending on the era or recent conquests.
There were actually a number of state-recognized categories for these individuals in Rome’s census:
- Slaves: paying off a debt, carrying out a sentence from judgement, etc.
- Bondservants: a wide range of freedoms and possessions related to and outside of their area of service
- Servants: those who were employed willingly for specified term(s)
Somewhere close to half of the church in Rome that Paul is writing this letter to were likely slaves of any kind so, Paul knows who he is talking to and he knows the understanding they would have had of what he was saying. My hope today is to bring us to this understanding as well...
I think it’s most helpful to understand that Paul is using this illustration of slavery to help draw distinction between people who are ensared to slavery in Sin and individuals who - in their new nature as those who are in Christ - are in service to this New Kingdom of God since it is he who rules and reigns over their lives. It’s a willing service, an overflow of a grateful heart - why? Because they are recipients of Grace!
Perhaps we could update the reading of Romans 6:17-18 like this to illustrate:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once [enslaved by] sin have become obedient from the heart [...] having been set free from sin, have become [servants] of righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18)
In Rome there was something that was universal of slavery in it’s many forms: it was an obedience that came from being under a Master, and this is true for enslavements we can experience today.
Let me ask this - Did you know? It is possible to sit next to a slave and not realize it. It is also possible that the person sitting next to you is sitting next to a slave of some form! It’s not always something we wear: Think about it this way...
- Some people are enslaved to their work. They have one abiding allegiance in life and that is the job, where they live out slavish obedience.
- Some are enslaved to things—possessions. They walk out their obedience to this by having all their waking thoughts are given to taking care of what they have or dreaming about how they can acquire more.
- Others are enslaved to habits that dominate their existence. The examples are limitless.
- The ill-tempered are slaves to their tempers - obedience expressed through anger
- The sensual, enslaved to their bodies - obedience displayed in a variety of lusts
- The point here is this: We obey the things that enslave us.
Paul, in verse 16 applies this principle spiritually as it relates to what we present ourselves to. What we put ourselves in front of -or- what we put in front of ourselves.
Jesus’ own words, in an exchange with his contemporaries, illustrates this for us - in context here Jesus is promising a freedom that no one else can give - why is that? It’s because this freedom is based on truth that he alone possesses
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” - John 8:34
I think we’ve all met or seen the person who is trapped in something… we can go so far as to say that characteristically, the most enslaved argue with those around them that they are actually the most free.
This perceived freedom is not the case with sin, no. There’s a cost, it may be the searing of our conscience, it may be the burden carried for our actions, but there is a cost, a toll on us.
There’s also a death that comes with sin - as we saw a few weeks ago - this death can happen in three parts: Spiritual, Physical and Eternal. But, there is good news for us who believe in Jesus...
Set Free through Jesus Christ
If you’ll allow me to, for a moment, address something as it relates to sin.
I think it’s important for us to understand rightly what sin is - as well as have a healthy approach to overcoming sin.
You may wonder what defining sin has to do with being set free through Jesus Christ - I’d say this: it helps us accurately understand what we’ve been set free from.
We’ve been set free from enslavement to something that is contrary to God’s Created ‘good’.
Paul can, at times, in talking about our right standing with God seem to address sin like it’s only in the past - gathered here today I know we’d say: “I’d love for that to be true but… I still seem to struggle with sin”
What follows is adapted from materials by Wayne Greudem and Al Mohler from his daily podcast called ‘The Briefing’. - I’ve included a link in the online version of my notes today for you to have opportunity to review the full version for yourself at a later time. I’ve added some commentary along the way as well...
We may ask ourselves: What is Sin? Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.
Conformity is not a popular concept, I don’t know that it ever has been… certainly isn’t celebrated today.
Isn’t this where we’re faced with a challenge as individuals? In seeking GROW, ourselves -or- to help others think and act biblically, we’re never given permission to think or act unbiblically ourselves (seems like that kind of permission might speed things along… unfortunately this usually only compounds acts of Evil.)
Be honest, about the struggle with sin. Do not declare premature victory over the struggle with sin - nor despair. The struggle with sin is to drive us into a deeper understanding of the grace of God, demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ. And if you are a believer in the Lord, Jesus Christ, then you are united to Christ who is not united to sin. You have the Holy Spirit living within you. And you can find help. You can find help in Christ. You can find help in Christ’s people.
Do not hide behind therapeutic or euphemistic labels. Therapy has its place -but- it is not the rescue when it comes to sin. Only Christ is.
Recognize the enemy. Your enemy is not another human being - we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. Yes, you have an enemy. Satan is your enemy and he is the accuser.
Trust Christ. Christ never promises to release us in this life from a pattern of temptation. Christ does not promise to release us from the struggle with sin. In fact, we are told that, that will follow us all the way to the grave, but there it will end for those who are in Christ.
Please know that you can come to the church for help. And come to the church when you have trouble.
The church as the body of Christ is to love you unto faithfulness within the fellowship of the church.
We should not expect to have any victory against sin if we do not avail ourselves of the means of grace that God has given us whereby to fight that very fight.
We must recognize the complexities of sin. Let’s not suffer under the illusion that we can go into business with sin and somehow avoid being drawn ever deeper into sin yourself.
From a Christian biblical worldview, it is very important that you'd never hurt anyone, yourself or anyone else.
If you experienced that kind of temptation, then get help. Even if that helped means that you need to begin with a call to a suicide helpline, that you need to call 911 and just cry out for help.
Feel free to call the church, call a pastor, call another Christian, call someone and get help.
Lastly, never abandon hope. To understand Christianity is to understand that we never abandon hope.
Sam Storms in commentary on this Chapter in Romans says this - that there are three principles for the Christian Life (how we’re called to be set free) we learn about Sanctification (how we’re changed)
1) THOSE WHOM GOD CHOOSES, HE CHANGES.
This is the remedy for passivity. Holiness is not optional, God commands it.
2) WHATEVER GOD REQUIRES, HE PROVIDES.
This is the remedy for powerlessness. Holiness is not impossible, God creates it.
3) WHATEVER GOD STARTS, HE FINISHES.
This is the remedy for pessimism. Holiness is not fleeting, God completes it.
To Serve a New Master
Paul uses human terms here, as he says in verse 19, knowing that there are aspects of slavery that he would not want us to attribute to our relation to righteousness or to God
this does not mean that he’s stepping out of the inspired word of God, or this gives us reason to ignore it - Paul is using the things that are common to all of his recipient’s experiences to illustrate things about God’s nature - but God is now our Master since we are not under sin’s dominion (rule) - let’s think back to the 2 Masters we’re introduced to in Verse 15 - along with what benefits we experience...
Two Masters - Introduced in v.15
Master 1: Under Law
Master 2: Under Grace
Who will you submit yourself to, today? Will you continue to be enslaved to sin, the very thing you’ve been rescued from, the way of escape eternally provided for you… -or- will you be a servant of the King of Grace? The one who calls you his own by his grace, extends favor to you eternally through his mercy
If we were to compare verse 21 and 22 we’d realize that there is a question of the Fruit produced through our lives… I think all of us here would say we want to have fruitful -or- fruit-filled lives.
Paul is engaging with this part of us, created to bring Glory to God and letting us know that the Master we submit our lives, loves, actions, etc. to will bear fruit:
The things you are now ashamed of? Those brought the fruit of death (v.21)
The submission in service to God? This brings the fruit of sanctification and eternal life (v.22)
Simply Put, as Paul does; Sin pays a wage, God gives a gift.
The wage sin pays - after our efforts have been given to them, we have been drained of life by carrying them, being enslaved by them - is death.
The gift God gives - the bonus on top of our grace-filled and spirit enabled efforts - is eternal life.
Here’s where we actually realize that God is revealing himself as the one who both requires something of us as his followers -and- provides so richly - over and above - for that requirement.
Perhaps this is a good place to share a closing illustration to help us understand how this is about God’s heart for us as his people and not just about obedience (although, it’s not about less than obedience).
ILLUS: Growing up here in Central Florida, I distinctly recall field trips to the Central Florida Zoo just up the road in Sanford. One of my favorite things to get there was a molded animal to commemorate my trip there.
The machine itself was called the Mold-A-Rama or Mold-A-Matic - if you don’t recall or haven’t seen these machines, Cristian helped me put this graphic together for us to be able to visualize and know a bit more of what I’m talking about.
The basic concept is this, pay the fee, a block of molten wax goes into forms, air is blown in to create the hollow area inside the form, everything’s cooled and distributed - all right in front of you!
Let’s consider the picture...
We’ve been made completely new, acceptable, set free and Justified through the price that Christ paid - we don’t belong to the machine that once had us trapped inside of it - enslaved in the darkness we were contained within.
Once we’re made completely new, we’re given the spirit to breathe life into us, now being transformed (molded) to the image of Christ, from the inside out - more and more accurately representing his rule and reign in our lives - not wanting to return to the darkness, the emptiness, the bondage - fulfilling the role we were created for, bringing joy to others, being a blessing to others, reppin’ the kingdom of God wherever we go because we’ve been made new for this purpose - to serve our new Master: King Jesus!
This is the Father’s good purpose for us as his children, not only in Justifying us through Salvation, but through Making us completely his, in thought, word and deed in the process Paul is describing to us called Sanctification.
More than just a Master over his Servants, this reveals his heart to us as a father, not some austere master-creator who is stand-offish with us, a scowl on his face because he’s saying: “well, I created you, what more do you want?!”
No, He is a father who loves us, in his grace he calls and mercifully conforms us - all of this work being done from a place of victory that he purchased for us on the cross.
He now breathes new life into us by his Spirit enabled grace at work in us. Why? Because as Paul instructs in Romans 6:15-23
We have been made new,
set free through Jesus Christ,
in order to serve a New Master
This changes who we present ourselves to as ‘Master’ and it changes the motivation that we serve from.
Church, we’ve been made new to serve a new Master and his Kingdom. Whenever we see by the power of the Holy Spirit, realize or are shown by others that we fall short - let’s run to him as our Father who loves us and provides for our every need.
Call to Respond
Romans 12 reminds us not to be conformed (past tense) but be transformed (made completely new through sanctification)
Have you felt the cost of sin? Is it drawing life from you today and you want to know that flourishing life that we’ve talked about today? Hear the words of Jesus today when he says:Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:28–30
If you’re here today and you’ve not responded to the Lordship that Jesus claims on your life, you can come to him, right now, today and experience the goodness of his Mastery over your life…
If you’re here today and you responded long ago to Jesus Lordship over your life but you’ve been stepping outside of Jesus’ mastery over you and continue to conform, return and present yourself to an old Master - you can return to him today and he will not turn you away!
We can find rest for our souls in him because of this truth: He is Gentle and Lowly in Heart and He is here for you...
The God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do God’s will, working among us that which is pleasing in God’s sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever! - from Hebrews 13:20-21