So far in our series through Romans we have explored 4 broad topics. The first was called “The Message of Salvation”. Does anyone remember what the message of salvation is? It is the gospel. The second was called “The Necessity of Salvation”. Can anyone tell me why we need to be saved? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The third was called “The First Phase of Salvation”. Does anyone recall what the first phase of salvation is? It is justification. Last Sunday we began with the fourth topic “The Ongoing Phase of Salvation”. Do you know what it is? That’s right - sanctification.
Baptists define sanctification as “the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.” Last week we talked about regeneration as the launching point of sanctification, whereby we die to sin, are freed from it, and made alive to God. Regenerate persons are “new creations” in Christ, having been born again spiritually through Him.
But a person is both body and spirit. Though a person is made alive spiritually with Christ at the moment of salvation, their flesh remains defiled. Thus, a progression is initiated in which their bodies begin a journey which leads them from their present fallen condition toward Christ-likeness. This is the experience of sanctification, and it requires a daily commitment to the LORD.
Today we will continue our study of sanctification as we consider three practices which we will help us move toward spiritual maturity - our presentation to God, our service to God, and our receiving from God.
I. PRESENT YOURSELVES WELL (Romans 6:12-14)
“Therefore” because you have been regenerated, or born again do not allow sin to reign over your flesh. Don’t continue to obey its wicked lusts which allure you. Do not keep submitting your body as an instrument of immoral and ungodly purposes. You have died to sin, been freed from its absolute sway, and are now made alive with Christ - so act like it! Present yourself to God as one who is alive, and your body of flesh as an agent of righteousness.
Have you ever had to present yourself to someone? Perhaps its was for a job interview, or maybe you were going to meet your newlyweds parents for the first time. When Janice and I were dating while in college years ago, I still remember driving to her house in Oklahoma one night to pick her up; she was already there, though I can’t recall why. Anyway, this was going to be my first encounter with her parents so I put on a suit because I wanted to make a good impression. I made the three hour drive, arriving there well after dark, all dressed up. Ridiculous right? Well, maybe not as much as you think - that was 22 years ago and we are still together.
Back then I wanted to present myself well to Janice’s folks. I wonder, how well do we present ourselves to God? Do we even think about it? When we come into the presence of the LORD each day, do we approach Him in the drab garments of our old sinful selves or do we come adorned in the righteousness of Christ Jesus? Don’t let sin be the master over your body, but rather let grace reign over it.
II. BE ENSLAVED TO GOD (Romans 6:15-19)
This passage is speaking of a person who presents themselves to someone as a slave - in other words, they sell themselves into slavery. We have a very specific view of slavery based upon American history, but Biblical slavery as referred to here was more like indentured servitude. Jews would intentionally sell themselves into the ownership of a master is a means to pay off a debt that was owed.
We are servants of the one we choose to obey - either of sin or of righteousness. Jesus taught that no one can serve two masters. “He will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” The conclusion is this we can’t ride the fence. If we are truly slaves of righteousness then we will be devoted in our obedience to God. The Lordship of Christ over our lives will be apparent, and though we may stumble at times, it will be clear that He is our master.
Imagine for a moment being so indebted to your master that there is no chance you will ever be able to repay them. Thus, it appears that you will be their slave forever. But then, a Redeemer appears and pays the enormous debt for you, effectively freeing you from the previous master and purchasing you for himself. Then, amazingly, this new master forgives the debt he has taken upon himself and asks that you serve him out of love rather than obligation. Why would anyone abandon his new gracious master and return to the oppression of the first one?
Paul thanks God that the Roman Christians have become slaves of righteousness. He encourages them to continually present themselves to the LORD as such, which results in sanctification. Likewise, as we steadily submit to Him over time we too will become more fully sanctified. Increasingly we will look different from the world, and more obviously set apart for the purposes of God.
III. CHOOSE BENEFICIAL COMPENSATION (Romans 6:20-23)
The behaviors we committed while still slaves to sin offered no real benefit. While our sinfulness may have resulted in some temporary gratification, ultimately its outcome was only death. While we were still in sin, the compensation we received for our work was not a means of gain but rather a vehicle of destruction.
Now we are enslaved to God and have derived our benefit. It is profitable to us in at least 2 ways. First, it results in sanctification as God molds us more closely into the image of His Son. Secondly, it affords us eternal life with Him in heaven. What greater benefit could we receive?
Over the years, I have used Romans 6:23 as my “go-to verse” for sharing the gospel message. So have countless others, as it clearly presents the choice that confronts all of us. We will either choose sin and receive the death that accompanies it, or we will turn to God through Jesus Christ and receive the gift of eternal life. It’s one or the other… there is no other alternative.
The process of sanctification presents us with three questions that we must answer again and again every day. How do we want to present ourselves to God? Which master are we going to serve? What benefit do we wish to receive? The problem is that many of us go through life never consciously asking ourselves these questions, never submitting to God, never renewing our efforts to be obedient to Him...
The process of justification, which Paul addressed in the preceding chapters, pictures Jesus as our Savior. He forgives us of the sinful crimes that we’ve committed, pardons us from the sentence of death that we’ve received, and expunges our record by declaring us righteous in Christ Jesus.
The process of sanctification, which we are discussing now, pictures Jesus as Lord. Just as He reigns over us spiritually, He also should rule over our flesh. We must present our bodies to Him in obedience to His righteous commands. We must allow Him to be the master of our lives.
You see, salvation involves both justification and sanctification. That said, those who have had a genuine salvation experience will accept Jesus as both Savior and Lord. This is the Biblical model of Christianity - a person who has truly experienced the life-changing grace of God will walk with Him throughout their lives.
Jesus is not exclusively a master to be pleased, nor is He exclusively a savior to be praised. Rather, He is both of these. It is as though we were drowning in the sea of sin, and Jesus threw us a lifering. Once we grabbed hold of it we were immediately saved, floating securely even though still in the midst of the raging sea. Now He is pulling us toward the boat, and with each heave we draw closer and closer to Him. One day, He will lift us up out of the water and onto the boat, where we will ever be with Him - our Lord and Savior.