SIN, LAW AND GRACE
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
In the preceeding passage Paul speaks of the way we should live so close to Christ that Christ's life shines through us. In practical terms, our Christian life is not an emotional experience, but rather a way of life -- a discipline. We are sent into the world to live a life worthy of Christ. When we go to church to encounter Christ, or perhaps go out in nature and experience the peace of God in the quietness around us, it is easy to have a warm feeling about our Christianity. But when our relationship with God stops at the emotional level, we have stopped short in our faith life. The peace that we feel in the quiet with God must be translated into the restlessness of our daily activities. Our Christian faith can never be only an experience in the safety of the secret place. It must be alive in the market place as well.
When we go out into the world we are confronted with often frightening situations. Daily we are confronted with choices that rely on our spiritual strength to remain true to God. Paul sees it this way: Both God and the evil one are looking for weapons to use in the battle of prinipalities and powers.
God needs His people. If God wants a word spoken, He needs someone to speak it. If God wants a deed done, He needs someone to do it. If God wants a tired soul cheered, encouraged, strengthened and helped, He has to get you and me to do the lifting up. God is looking everywhere for willing hands to use.
And it is the same with sin. Sin is also looking for willing hands to lead astray by their example and seduction into sin. It is as if Paul is saying: "In this world there is an eternal battle between God and Evil. Chose your side." We are daily faced with the alternative of making ourselves available as a weapon of sin or righteousness.
When confronted with such a monumental decision we may be tempted to say, "This is to much for me, I'm bound to fail. So why even try?!" Paul encourages us not to despair because sin no longer has a hold on us.
We are no longer under law but under grace. We are no longertrying to satisfy the demands of the law. Rather we are trying to be worthy of God's gift of love. God no longer appears to us as a stern rruler and judge who is waiting to catch us in the act so that He can punish us. Instead He is waiting for us to accept His grace, that He may heal our wounded souls. There is no inspiration in the world like love. Love can move mountains. The Christian life is not a burden but a privilege.
It is not restraint but inspiration which makes us free from sin. Not Mount Sinai, where the Law was given, but Calvary, where the love of God paid the price for our sin.
Regulations and the commands of the law cannot keep a person from sinning. At best, the law can restrain a person from overstepping the boundaries out of fear of punishment. At worst, it can create an attitude that 'laws are made to be broken."
However, it is difficult to sin against someone who gives us their unconditional love and acceptance. We find it hard to disappoint someone who believes in us. God's love redeems us through the inspiration to become more like Christ. More loving. More giving. More accepting. More forgiving. More kind. More disciplined. More caring for others.
Our inspiration to live a holy and worthy life comes from God's acts of grace and mercy to us.
But there is always a temptation here for us, and Paul hits the nail on the head. He says: 15 What then? Are we to go on sinning because we are under grace and not under law? The temptation is to say, "If forgiveness is as easy as that... if God's single greatest desire is to forgive our sins... then why worry about sin?! Why not do as we like? It will not matter in the end anyway.
Paul uses the example of a slave to counter this argument. "Once you gave yourselves to sin as the slave of sin; when you did that, righteousness had no claim over you. But now you have given yourselves to God as the slaves of righteousness; when you did that sin no longer has a claim over you."
At one time we were the slaves of sin. Sin had exclusive possession of our life at that time. But now, we have chosen God as our master. God has the exclusive rights over us. By the purchase power of Christ's blood on Calvary we have been bought to live a holy and worth life.
And so, as Christians we embark on a journey to become more and more like Christ. It is a process of transformation and cleansing. Putting off the old life of sin, and continuing to work on those stubborn petty sins that we have a tendency of shrugging off as inconsequential.
We need to remember that every time that we give in to temptations we hurt the Body of Christ. Everytime we say, "Oh well, just this once won't make a difference," we drive another nail through the hands of Jesus on the cross.
Finally, Paul shows us the price tag. 22 now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If we got the pay we have earned it would be death. It is death that is due to us as a right. We have it coming. But, what we have received is a free gift. We did not earn it nor deserve it. Out of His grace and love God has given us life. Eternal life.