A second congregational goal or objective given us by the elders to encourage us as we seek to make disciples of Jesus who are eager to do good works is this:
We seek to increase love and godly behavior.

This evening I want us to focus on a teaching that I understand to be critical to spiritual existence in Christ. I want to focus on it by looking at Romans 6. Begin with me by looking with me at Romans 6:12-14.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

  1. When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he was concerned about a huge problem that plagued the early Christian movement: Jewish Christians did not want Gentiles to become Christians unless they first were converted to Judaism.
    1. Why? What was the problem?
      1. When Christianity first began (Acts 2-9), only Jews or converts to Judaism were Christians.
      2. When Christianity was taught to and was accepted by people who were not Jews, it gravely distressed Jewish Christians (Acts 11, 15).
      3. It took Jewish people several hundred years to learn, but they finally understood God despises idol worship.
      4. Most of the first century Mediterranean world [in which Christianity began and spread] was composed of idol worshippers.
      5. Most Jewish Christians did not believe anyone could go from being a pagan idol worshipper to a follower of Jesus Christ without first converting to Judaism.
        1. First century idol worshippers were too often drunken, self-indulgent people who had few sexual morals, who lied without conscience, and who were totally untrustworthy--many Jews held the way they lived in contempt.
        2. They did not know God's rules!
        3. They did not know how to keep God's rules in the proper way!
        4. However, the Jews had been making gentile converts (proselytes) for a long time, and they understood how to get the paganism out of the pagans.
        5. To teach them grace would not correct the problem--if they were to have their paganism taken out of them, they had to learn the rules and the right way to keep the rules.
        6. Teaching the grace would not get their pagan ways out of them, but making good proselytes out of gentiles would get pagan ways out of them, and then they were ready to be Christians.
    2. Allow me to use an illustration.
      1. In the south and southwest most churches define sin in the same way.
        1. In fact, some religious groups are more conservative in their definition of sin than many in the Church of Christ are.
        2. Thus most of our discussions, disagreements, and issues in the south and southwest do not discuss what is and is not sin.
        3. In the south and southwest, most of our disagreements focus on two things:
          1. Conversion matters. (How to become a Christian.)
          2. Theological positions. (What to believe as a Christian.)
      2. Suppose for a moment you have to move to an entirely different region of this country, far removed from the south or southwest region.
        1. You move just assuming "everybody knows 'X' is wrong."
        2. However, you do not live in this new region long before you are acutely aware that your understanding of sin and the understanding of sin of most of those around you is quite different.
        3. For example, for you, it is a sin not to worship and commune on Sunday, but most of the people you meet could care less about worshipping on Sunday.
          1. In fact, they are more likely to invite you to go do something purely for fun on Sunday than you are to invite them to worship.
          2. And that just blows your mind!
          3. If you meet people who attend a church, often their basic concept of church has little in common with your concept--there are truly fundamental differences in your concept of church.
          4. But more likely, you encounter pure apathy when it comes to Christian concerns--you have never seen that kind of apathy before! People don't have the same conscience, the same definitions of right and wrong, the same views of what is evil that you have.
      3. If the church is to influence people toward a Christian concept of sin and spiritual responsibility in that environment, what needs to be done?
        1. "Well, I am not certain about what needs to be done--it is a confusing situation!"
        2. "But I know this much--we do not need to convert 'people like that' or they will have a terrible influence on Christians!"
        3. That was the Jewish Christians' concern--if you do not get all of the paganism out of these gentiles before they are baptized, they will have a terrible influence on Christianity--they will encourage Christians to do all kinds of ungodly things, and have no conscience against those things!
    3. Too often we, as Christians of today, are the victim of an enormous problem as we use scripture.
      1. We become [in all likelihood legitimately] concerned about a "now" problem that gravely troubles us.
        1. We in our concern go to the Bible with a big box and find a box full of texts that we can apply to our "right now" problem that troubles us.
        2. Our primary concern as we collect our box of texts is this: "does it say what I feel needs to be said; does it say it in the way I want to say it."
        3. The question is not: "did the inspired writer address this type of concern when he wrote these words?"
        4. If the writer heard me make my statements and points, would he say, "I did not have that concern or emphasis in mind when I wrote those words; I was not even addressing that type of concern."
      2. In our concern, we do not emphasize what scripture stresses, but we emphasize what we stress.
        1. If we are not extremely careful, we stress what concerns us rather than what concerns God.
        2. We are not trying to ignore or be disrespectful to God.
        3. The problem is this: we are so confident that we know what God's concerns are that we do not take the time to actually listen to God.

  2. Consider Romans 6.
    1. I suspect that the majority of sermons most of us have heard that use any part of Romans 6 as text are sermons that stress the importance and the mode of baptism.
      1. I would suspect that many of us who have heard or read Romans 6 would say that it is about baptism.
      2. However, Romans 6 is not about baptism.
        1. It was written to people who already had been baptized.
        2. Romans 6 is about dying to sin.
        3. Baptism is only an illustration to those who had been baptized that "if you follow Christ you must die to sin."
    2. Paul said, "Christians, you do not accept God's grace revealed in Jesus Christ to continue to live (in a knowing, deliberate manner) an ungodly life."
      1. The person who comes to Jesus Christ comes to make Jesus the master of his or her existence.
        1. There are only two basic life controlling masters: the resurrected Jesus and sin (evil).
        2. In the biblical worldview, either sin rules you, or Jesus rules you.
        3. The whole purpose of baptism is the conscious choice to allow Jesus to rule you.
        4. That is why in the act of baptism we consciously, knowingly, deliberately die to sin--we begin the deliberate process of killing sin in our lives.
        5. Why?
          1. Jesus was resurrected.
          2. Jesus can give us life.
          3. Jesus can give us forgiveness.
          4. In Jesus, a person can truly begin again, start over.
      2. Romans 6 is not about atonement (a biblical concept), but about responsibility.
        1. The person who becomes a Christian declares to himself, to God, and to the world that he will no longer let sin be his/her master.
          1. "I will not let evil control me."
          2. "I will not let evil use my physical existence to accomplish its purposes."
          3. "I will not let evil define who I am and what my life is about."
        2. The person declares to himself, to God, and to the world that he chooses the resurrected Jesus Christ to be the master of his life.
          1. "I consciously will let Jesus Christ control me."
          2. "I will let my physical existence be used to accomplish righteous purposes."
          3. "I will let Jesus define who I am and what my life is about."
      3. In Romans 6 Paul says the person who becomes a Christian knowingly, deliberately chooses to die to sin.
        1. Paul emphasizes this dying is a continuing process, not a one time achievement.
        2. It is not an irresponsible undertaking.
        3. God's grace is not to be confused with deliberate, irresponsible behavior.
        4. A Christian cannot claim to belong to God and deliberately choose to live his or her in an ungodly lifestyle.
        5. The commitment to die to sin is a serious commitment, one given and followed without reservation, pursued wholeheartedly.
        6. The person knows what he/she was when sin was his/her master, and the person knows what he/she is now that Jesus Christ is his/her master.
        7. He/she is happy, appreciative to have Jesus Christ as master.
        8. All he/she had to look to in the future with sin as master was death, but with Jesus Christ as master he looks forward to eternal life.

Romans 6 points to a terrible problem among Christians that caused destruction from the beginning. The reason Romans 6 focused on the problem is because the problem existed in the first century. It still exists. It destroyed Christians then. It destroys Christians now.

What problem? The problem of people being baptized when they have no intention of dying to sin. Too often people are afraid not to be baptized, but they have no intention of dying to sin. If we do not commit ourselves to dying to sin, there is no blessing or benefit in being baptized. For baptism to yield the blessing of the gift of salvation, the person has to responsibly commit to (1) Jesus Christ being his/her master and (2) dying to sin.

Increasing my love for God is a process. Increasing my godly behavior is a process. Both involve maturing. Both involve understanding. Both involve growth. Both are an every day process and progression, not a one time accomplishment. I can make today's commitment today. I can face today's temptations today. I can place today's trust in God today. I can make tomorrow's commitment, face tomorrow's temptations, place tomorrow's trust in God only when tomorrow becomes today. I take care of today as a godly person to equip myself to take care of tomorrow as a godly person.

What commitment did you make to God when you were baptized?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 24 October 2004
 Link to related sermon: Increasing Love and Godly Behavior - Part 1 by Chris Benjamin

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