The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Buried
6th Sunday after Pentecost
July 16, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Buried
Dear friends in Christ,
In the last four weeks we have looked at some wonderful words that describe what our Lord Jesus has done to save us. Each of these words pictures our salvation in a different way. We first marveled at the atonement. Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice that covered all our sins. Next, Paul talked about righteousness. Only Jesus did everything God demanded, and his righteousness is credited to us by faith, just as it was with Abraham. Then Paul talked about reconciliation. Through Christ our relationship with God went from sworn enemies to friends forever. And last week we examined the reversal that Jesus accomplished. Adam's sin had set all of mankind on the path to eternal hell and Christ reversed our course through his own death for the sin of the world.
These are all amazing ways that God has saved us. He covered our sins, counted us as righteous, made us his friends and set us on a certain path to heaven! This is the gospel. This is good news. Paul could have stopped after chapter five and Romans would still be a wonderful book of the Bible (as every book is). However, Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us more. He has told us how Christ changed our status before God and now he moves into some chapters about what that will look like in a believer's life.
The first issue Paul addresses is the believer who thinks that the grace of God in Jesus is a license to sin. This was an accusation against the Lutherans at the time of the Reformation. Pius Roman Catholics objected to proclaiming that people are completely forgiven by grace and not works. They thought all this talk of free forgiveness would give people the idea that they could live any way they wanted, that they did not need to obey the commandments, that they could live completely immoral lives because God would forgive them for anything. Listen again to Paul's answer to those who used God's forgiveness as a reason to continue to sin all they wanted.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Paul's answer is an emphatic, “By no means!” Being a Christian does not give you more reasons to sin. Christians are not to be less serious about sin and have the attitude, “Sin is no big deal because God will just forgive me.” Paul is giving a warning to all believers so that we do not become complacent about sin.
Imagine if a drug company came up with a calorie eating pill. Each pill consumed 500 calories if you took the pill shortly after eating. No side effects. You could eat anything thing you wanted and as much as your stomach can hold and never gain a pound. How many people would still make an effort to control what they eat and get regular exercise? A few, maybe. But many would use this calorie consuming pill so they can eat anything. Dessert? Three please. Large Coke? Make it super extra large. Fries with that? Of course. Cheesecake for breakfast? Every day.
That is how our sinful nature thinks. That sinful nature is lurking in you and will use any excuse to sin all it wants. It will even use the mercy and grace of God to sin more and more. Maybe you have known someone who is good at using the kindness of someone else to get away with everything. A student knows just what to say to get out of trouble with the teacher. A coworker who abuses the trusting nature of a boss to get paid for doing almost nothing. Plenty of internet and telephone scammers take advantage of someone's kindness and trust to steal their money.
We dare not think that the God who created the universe is gullible or easily taken advantage of. He knows every evil thought and desire of our sinful nature. And he has done the only thing sensible to do with something so dangerous. He buried it.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Our sinful nature cannot be reformed. It cannot be changed. It does not get better. It will always be God's enemy. It will always seek to sin. It will never trust in Jesus. So God killed and buried it. This happened through your baptism. We usually think of the baptism of a child as a wonderful day, a day when that child become a child of God. And it is all this and more. But also remember that on the day someone is baptized a death has occurred. The old sinful self is crucified with Christ on that day. That slave master who rules the lives of every person dies on that day. And that person who was and would be mastered by sin for life and eternity is free.
Think back to your baptism as a day of freedom, a day when the evil ruler of your life died, a day when you were united with Christ. When Jesus was crucified he took your sins to the cross with him and they were paid in full. In baptism you have the promise of full forgiveness. When you were baptized, your sinful nature was crucified with Christ so that it no longer controls you. Therefore we will not see how much we can sin since God will just forgive us anyway. By no means! We died to sin and don't want to live in it anymore.
And what is more, in baptism we were given new life. Not only was the sinful nature buried with Christ, but a new nature rose just as Christ rose from the dead. The promise of God connected with water did amazing things in your life. You were united with Christ. The sinful nature was buried and you were given a new nature. You were connected with the death and resurrection of Christ. All through water and the Word. Remember you baptism daily.
We do this to thank our God for his grace and mercy to us. We remember our baptism daily because we need the power of being united with Christ each day. You see, the sinful nature was buried but it continues to rise each day. It is on life support and will be gone the day we enter heaven. But we don't want to help it while it is on life support. We don't want to feed it by giving in to greed and selfishness, by holding on to bitterness and anger, by seeking our own happiness instead of listening to the Word of God. What do we do when we slip into sin every day? Every day we return to our baptism and bury the sinful nature again and again and again. We bury it with daily repentance. We bury it with daily trusting in the forgiveness of Jesus.
Maybe you do this with time in God's Word each day, listening to the promises he makes to you. Maybe you use a devotional like the Meditations or an online version. You could read through the confession and absolution in the bulletin or hymnal. As you were united with Christ's death and resurrection at your baptism, continue to be united with him. Continue to bury your sin and sinful nature. Continue to be strengthened in the Word so that new person in you will show more and more.
Our sinful nature asks,“How much can I get away with?” Our new nature asks, “How can I live for Christ?” However, there is no exact template given in Scripture for what living for Christ looks like. It does not say you need to become a Lutheran pastor, get married and have three children. You can live for Christ in many occupations in life. You can live for Christ if you are single or married, with kids or without, with plenty of money or not much. The question our new self asks is, “How can I serve the Savior who freed me from sin in whatever situation I am in?” Don't wait until you have enough time, money, or abilities to live for Christ. He knows who you are. He made the new you. Live for him every day in every situation. And do this by feeding the new self with the gospel and continually burying the old self with daily repentance.
Martin Luther commented on this in the Small Catechism.
The Meaning of Baptism for Our Daily Life
Fourth: What does baptizing with water mean?
Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?
Saint Paul says in Romans, chapter 6, “We were,...buried with [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
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