Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
"DO NOT LET SIN BE BOSS IN YOUR LIFE."
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Psalm 119:50 & Hymn 24:6,7
Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Can you tell me who your boss is? No, donít tell me who you might be working for. What Iím interested in this morning is: who is it that tells you what to do any and every hour of the day? So: is sin your boss, or grace your boss? Is Satan your boss, or God? Who is your boss?
With respect to our place in the work-force: some of us work for another, while others of us are self-employed. Those of us who work for another get their daily program set by the employer; we need to do what weíre told to do, need to listen to the boss. On the other hand, those of us who are self-employed get to make our own plans for the day; weíre our own boss, even get to tell others what to do. I suppose that most of us prefer to be our own boss; most of us donít particularly like being told what to do.
Iím asking you now: who is your boss? Is your boss sin or grace, Satan or God? Weíd like to answer that question with: Iím my own boss, I do what I think I should do. In the work-force, brothers and sisters, maybe you can be your own boss. But the Lord would have us know that in the final sense you can never be on top of the ladder yourself. Always, always there is someone higher than you on the ladder, someone who inclines your heart this way or that way and hence determines what you do. Always, always you have a boss, and that boss is either sin or grace, Satan or God.
Who is your boss? To whom do you listen? Who pulls the strings in your life? Because of our fall into sin, the whole human race by nature acknowledges Satan as boss, listens to him. Those for whom Christ died, though, have a new boss, a new Master, and Christians listen to their new Master. That reality gives to Godís people the obligation to reject instructions from the old boss. In the words of our text: "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body."
I summarise the sermon with this theme:
DO NOT LET SIN BE BOSS IN YOUR LIFE.
I ask your attention for the following points:
1. "Therefore," says Paul, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body." We have here, congregation, a striking formulation. The word translated for us as Ďreigní is simply the word for Ďkingí, cast into verbal form. So: "do not let sin be king."
Weíre well aware, no doubt, of what a king is. Itís true: in our western culture royalty is largely a figurehead, without authority. Not so in the Bible. When Israel in the days of the Judges demanded a king, Samuel had to tell the people what a king in practice was. I quote:
"He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemenÖ. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakersÖ. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants" (I Sam 8:11ff).
Notice the emphasis in this passage on the word Ďtakeí. Thatís a king: he takes, takes sons and daughters and servants and donkeys for himself, and the result is that "you will be his servants." Unpleasant. No longer were the people free to do as they wished; in the king they received a boss Ė who well and truly influenced what the people did day by day. So thereís a King Saul who disturbed the peace of Israel-as-a-whole by getting Israelís young men (heíd conscripted them into his army) to chase David for him. And thereís a King Solomon who "raised up a labor force out of all Israel; and the labor force was thirty thousand men" (I Kings 5:13f). As kings they imposed their will upon the people. And what shall we say of the king with whom the saints of Rome were familiar? The emperor of Rome certainly influenced the lives of the RomansÖ. Yes, the saints of Rome knew very well what a Ďkingí was all aboutÖ.
Now Paul speaks in our text about a king. Heís not speaking, though, of Saul or Solomon Ė nor even of the emperor. He speaks of Ďsiní as a king. Thatís the text, literally: "do not let sin be king in your mortal body." The implication is: sin is a king; at least, sin wants to be a king, tries to be king.
This concept of sin-as-king in peopleís lives is not far-fetched. The apostle works here with the reality of the fall into sin as recorded in Gen 3. He knows: when Adam fell into sin, the entire human race rejected God as Lord and Master and chose to serve Satan instead. Satan became our boss. Or, better said, we chose to acknowledge this Liar-from-the-beginning as our boss, chose to listen to him. Through our rebellion against God in Paradise we crowned Satan, crowned sin as our king; in disobeying God we let sin reign in our lives. Ever since that rebellion in Paradise, sin in effect has been king over our mortal bodies. Thatís why David prayed as he did in Ps 19:
"Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me" (vs 13).
And in Ps 119:
"Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me" (vs 133).
Similarly, in Rom 5 Paul acknowledges that sin is a king; in vs 21 he describes the effect of the fall into sin like this: "sin reigned in death". That is: ever since the fall into sin, sin has dominion over man, sin is in control in this fallen world, sin rules.
In practical terms, beloved, the reality that sin is a king means this: people are never neutral, people always have a something or somebody above them that dictates conduct. And that Ďsomethingí or Ďsomebodyí is sin, is Satan. Sin reigns, sin is king Ė and fallen, depraved people naturally, readily, invariably listen to this king. I ask you, then, who your boss is. The answer, beloved, is this: by nature your boss, my boss, Davidís boss, Saulís boss, Aaronís, Noahís, Adamís boss is sin, is Satan.
And make no mistake: by nature we are good servants of this evil boss; by nature we do what this boss tells us to do. Thatís the instruction of Rom 3:
"There is none righteous, no, not oneÖ;
There is none who seeks after GodÖ.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their waysÖ" (vss 10ff).
But see: in our text the apostle tells the saints of Rome not to let sin be king in their lives! The very people who in the beginning joined in crowning sin as king are now encouraged not to submit to this king any more! The implication is: the saints of Rome are somehow in a position to reject this king, are somehow in a position where they can choose not to listen to sin. We wonder: how is this possible? Is this an instruction that somehow may apply to us too? Might it be so that we too are in a position to disown sin as king?? This brings us to our second point: Paulís instruction in our text is not impossible.
2. That the instruction in fact, brothers and sisters, is not impossible is caught in the little word Ďthereforeí which begins our text. We understand the word: the term Ďthereforeí describes our text as the conclusion Paul has drawn from the material written before. In this second point, then, we need to listen to what Paul says in the vss 1-11. On what basis can he tell the saints of Rome not to let sin be boss in their lives? And does his instruction in these verses pertain also to us in Kelmscott?
Chap 6 begins with a predictable question. The question is this: "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" Itís a logical question, I say. After all, Paulís emphatic instruction in chaps 3 & 4 had been that I donít need to seek Godís favour through my conduct, I donít need to because God has graciously given me His favour. For He gave up His only Son "as a propitiation by His blood" (3:25), gave His Son to take upon Himself the judgment we deserved Ė and by so doing sovereignly, graciously made sinners His dear children. Without price to men, out of pure grace on Godís part, God established peace between Himself and sinners, reconciled to Himself countless who of themselves willingly submitted to that boss called Sin. The result is, as we heard last week, that "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (5:2b). For we have His wonderful favour, have it without cost to us, have it because we respond in the only way fitting to such a glorious message: we accept it Ė faith.
Well now, if Godís favour came to freely, came to us without cost to us, hey, why shouldnít we continue in sin?? If God freely, graciously established peace between Himself and us even "while we were still sinners" (5:8), why should we not continue to let sin tell us what to do, so that God in turn can show us even more grace? Thatís the question of chap 6.
Then Paulís answer is simple: "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" We "died to sin," he says. Remember: in chap 5 "sin" was described as a king, as reigning. Thatís 5:21: "sin reigned in death." Now we all know that when a person dies he canít serve the king any more, canít obey the king any more. After Uriah, for example, died, king David could give him all the instructions in the world but Uriah was no longer in a position to submit to the king, to do what the king told him to do. Now Paul says in 6:2 that we "died to sin". That is: with respect to sin as king, we have died. If we have died-to-sin, how can sin-as-king still tell us what to do?! Paulís logic is so simple: if you have died with respect to sin, you canít listen to this king no more than dead Uriah could still listen to David.
Now, we for our part donít feel very dead; our hearts are still ticking, weíre breathing. So was Paul, and so were the Romans to whom he wrote this letter. Whatís Paul mean, then, when he says that "we Ö died to sin"? As it turns out, heís not talking about physical death; his point is different. He speaks in vs 3 about being "baptised into [Christís] death," and in vs 4 about being "buried with Him through baptism into death" and being "raised from the dead" with Christ, and all of it together means, says Paul, that "we also should walk in newness of life."
Whatís Paulís point with these words? Briefly, his point is this: when Christ on Calvary suffered for sin and died, God in heaven did not see on the cross just the one man Jesus; God in heaven saw included with Christ all those for whom God had sent His Son into the world. Thatís the point of the word Ďbaptismí here; the word Ďbaptiseí means that one is dipped into something and so becomes part and parcel of what one is dipped into. A ship baptised in the sea sinks in the sea and so becomes part and parcel of the sea; it rests on the bottom. To be baptised into Christís death, then, is, in some way, to become part and parcel of His death, to be included in His death, to be dead with Him. Thatís Paulís point: by Godís gracious decree believers are united with Godís dearly beloved Son, are made one with Him. So God considers His people to have been with Jesus when He died on the cross, was buried, rose again. One may think here of the high priest in the Old Testament: when he entered the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, he entered alone Ė and yet, in some way, all the people of Israel entered Godís presence with him. That they were somehow included with the High Priest was symbolised by the names of the twelve tribes engraved on his breastplate (cf Ex 28:29). God has given Christ for us as the great High Priest, and when He entered the halls of Godís judgment on Calvary we were in some way "in" Him, "with" Him. He was alone on the cross, as alone as the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies. Yet God did not reckon Him to be alone; as the High Priest, through the names engraved on his breastplate, took the people with him into Godís presence, so Jesus ĖHe had Godís people on His heart- took His people with Him when He died on the cross of Calvary, when He was buried, when He arose. To the mind of God, then (and His mind is the standard for our thinking, His mind is the measure of reality!) to the mind of God, then, when Christ died we died, and when Christ was buried we were buried, and when Christ arose from the dead we arose. Paulís reference to our dying and being buried is not a reference to our physical death or to our own graves; no, itís a reference to dying when Christ died, a reference to being laid in His grave. So when He arose, we arose. This union with Christ is the whole punch of the passage; vs 4: we were buried with Him, vs 5: we were united together in the likeness of His death, vs 6: our old man was crucified with Him, vs 8: we died with Christ, vs 8 again: are made alive with Him. Thatís the point: God in heaven reckons us to have been with Christ on Calvary.
Well, then: just what was Calvary all about? What did Christ do there? Or, to cast the question differently, if we were in Godís eyes present with Christ on Calvary, what does God consider us to have accomplished when we died with Him, were buried with Him, arose with Him? Paul draws out the answer to that question in the vss 5-11. Christís death on the cross meant the defeat of sin and Satan; through Christís triumph sin was king no more, Satan was king no longer. That was Christís work: to break the power of sin, to break the domination of sin. And in that He was successful, as Paul says in 6:9: "death no longer has dominion over" Christ.
But if Christ was triumphant, then the children of God who were "in Christ" are before God also considered to have been triumphant. As Christ died and rose again so that death no longer has dominion over Him, so the children of God are considered to have died and risen again so that death no longer has dominion over them. But if death has no dominion, the prince of death has no dominion. Satan is broken, sin is broken. In the words of vs 11: "likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin." And you are to reckon yourselves to be dead to sin because God reckons you to be dead to sin; youíve died with Christ, and so sin canít tell you what to do Ė youíve died. Yet thatís not the end of the matter; those who died with Christ arose with Him also, arose to new life and therefore also to a new master. And that new master, of course, is the Christ who triumphed over sin.
We understand: thereís some very profound material captured in the vss 1-11. And itís all this very profound material that Paul catches in that single word Ďthereforeí at the beginning of our text. Paul Ėand heís inspired by the Spirit of God- tells the saints of Rome that they are not to let sin be their king. The implication of that instruction is that somehow the saints of Rome are actually in a position to refuse the instructions of the king called Sin. We know now how come they are in that position: God reckons His people to have been with Christ on the cross, to have died with Him, been buried with Him, raised with Him. So these saints of Rome have died to sin (vs 2). But if theyíve died, the king hasnít got any authority over them any more; if theyíve died with respect to sin that king called Sin canít insist upon them obeying him any more. And thatís why Paul in our text tells the Roman saints not to let sin be boss in their lives any more. That is: theyíve got to work with the reality of Calvary! God says: ĎMy favour is for you, I have given My only Son for your salvation, I consider you to have been present with My Son when He died on Calvary, when He was buried, when He arose.í Says God: ĎThatís why I declare that sin is not your boss any more Ė because of Calvary.í And the conclusion is this: thatís the reason why youíre not to let sin be your boss any more!
Does this mean, beloved, that the saints of Rome somehow had strength within and of themselves to resist sin, to say No to that old king? Let it be clear: it does not mean that at all! But if God says: ĎI consider you to have died with Christ to sin,í and if God on the strength of that reality further says: Ďtherefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body,í then surely, beloved, here is promise, a promise that the God Who has graciously granted His favour and made sinners His children will also give to these sinners the strength they need to resist, yes, to ignore the commands of that king called Sin. That brings us to our last point: the instruction of our text demands a response.
3. I asked you earlier, brothers and sisters, who your boss was. Weíve heard Godís answer to the question of who was boss of the saints of Rome. God had come to them, unworthy as they were, with the gospel of free grace in Jesus Christ, and they responded to His gracious gospel of free salvation in Jesus Christ in the only way that was fitting; they believed His Word of grace. So God reckoned this response to them as righteousness Ė He was pleased with them, blessed them. Sovereignly God united them with Christ so that they died with Christ, were buried with Christ, arose with Christ, so that sin no longer was their master, sin no longer had dominion over them. Their boss was their Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Who, my beloved, is your boss? The answer to that question depends on your response to gospel God sets before you. Have you responded to Godís words of grace in the only fitting way: like Abram by accepting what God says, that is, faith? That is a question that you alone can answer. And I for my part can tell you the result. For where your response to Godís gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ is a humble accepting of Godís promise, there you are united with Christ so that you have died to sin; in Godís books, when Christ died you died, when Christ was buried you were buried, when Christ arose to new life you did too. Then the reality in your life today is: sin is not your boss, your king; God in Christ has brought you out of the land of slavery to that king called Sin, has set you free from his bondage. And we understand: thatís a most glorious reality, for sin is a most cruel master.
But if thatís the reality in your life, beloved, if you accept Godís promises in Jesus Christ, then a consequence follows, and the consequence is this: "therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body." Godís act of deliverance in Jesus Christ demands a response from Godís people. And remember it: not letting sin be boss in your life, yes, defying the commands of the king called Sin, is not an impossible instruction. For Christ has defeated this evil boss on the cross, and in Christ you have too (cf vss 6f). Thatís why the apostle says in vs 14: "sin shall not have dominion over you." So: be what God in Christ has made you to be. That is: be not a slave to the evil boss Sin (for "sin shall not have dominion over you"), but a slave to your gracious and loving boss, your Father in Jesus Christ (6:22).
And what if you do let sin be your boss, do let sin reign in your mortal body? What if you find yourself giving yourself to excessive drink, to pornographic literature or movies, to subtle theft, to attitudes of jealousy and hate towards another, etc, and do so quite willingly? I tell you, beloved, that then Sin is still your king. And if Sin is still your king, you have not died with Christ to sin, God has not united you with Christ. And if God has not united you with Christ itís because you have not responded to Godís promises of salvation in Jesus Christ in the only way fitting; you have not accepted Godís gospel Ė there is not faith. As Jesus once said: you know a tree by its fruits. So I say to you: you need to repent, go back to the material of Rom 3 & 4 and accept what God has promised to you in His covenant of grace with you. Where His promises are accepted, there is union with Christ and therefore in Christ triumph over sin Ė Sin is not your boss any more.
Who, my brothers, my sisters, is your boss? Whether or not you let sin reign in your life Ė that gives the answer to the question. Amen.