Sunday’s Sermon June 21, 2020

Alive in Christ

Romans 6:1b-11


Video – One Way Love –a prison conversion story.


The video is a real and powerful account of how God can miraculously enter into and change a life


The woman in the video said she used crystal meth for 15 years, and branched off into dealing in it to raise money for her addiction, and when she called upon God for help, God took her life and raised it back up.


The point to the video and the lesson today is that God has the power to deliver every person into a life that is worth living. The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church of Rome as an introduction to his thinking and preaching before arriving there, and this is one of the important points Paul was trying to teach.


In Chapter 5 Paul had been writing about God’s justifying grace. Justify means to be put right. This is the grace of God that forgives us and puts us right with God even though we are sinners. Paul makes it clear that no matter what the sin, there is forgiveness to be found in Jesus Christ, by which we may enter a new relationship with God.


Now in chapter 6 Paul is arguing against the next logical philosophical point to which he knows some of the people are going to be drawn. The argument follows that if the greater my sin, the greater God’s grace, then why not continue to eat drink and be merry and do as one may wish, relying on grace to be present all the more. There is the thought that a person should live any way a person wants, because God is in the business of forgiveness. In the book of Romans, sometimes Paul employs a literary convention of asking a question that his reader might have just so he can answer the question. So, Paul puts the question in this manner, Romans 6:1 (NRSV): “1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?”


Sin all the more so that grace might be all the more! Paul answers this question by saying, “By no means”! The conversation for Paul then goes to the issues of life and death. He takes the people back to the beginning of their profession of faith. He reminds them of their baptism.


From the very beginning baptism has been at the entrance way of faith and life. As a person heard about Jesus and came to believe, then they were baptized. There is this profession of faith, but theologically what we are recognizing in baptism is the grace of God that has been poured out upon us whether we are able to receive it or not. We are entering into the life that Jesus lived, but that life is available only because Jesus died. While we were yet sinners died for us.


Paul connects the idea of baptism as being a participation in the grace found in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”


I once baptized one of my church members. She wanted to be immersed and so we arranged to do the baptism in a church with a baptistery. They had a large enough pool of water for immersing people, but it was not filled up too high.


So, I lower her down into the water and she didn’t immediately go under. Now I heard a story of a person who once complained about how they were baptized and never went down all the way under and water, and I made up my mind that whenever I would baptize a person by immersion that that person would be immersed.


So there my church member was not really all the way under, but I had a solution. As I had her cross their arms over her chest, I placed my hand centered on their arms and simply pushed her all the way down under and brought her back up.


We got her baptized, but later said, “I thought you were trying to drown me.” I told her no, I was just making sure she went all the way under. After all drowning new church members is not a very good plan for church growth.


But the point is well made in that tale. There is a symbolic understanding within baptism of dying and rising again. It is not any less real with less water, but it is probably most aptly demonstrated within a baptism by immersion. One is plunged under the waters and momentarily buried and cutoff from the world above. For us life cannot be sustained forever under the water. There may even be a sense of fear about being so cut off and then one is brought back up. Resurrected to a new life and Jesus Christ.


As Jesus came up out of the tomb to embrace life and glory, so on the other side of baptism we too profess our connection to that life and glory. That which is of the old life is to be considered dead, and we are raised up to something new. So, Paul looks at this whole matter and basically is saying that is what grace is about. Grace has not been given to you so that you can continue living a sad life as before, but grace has been given to you so that the Glory of God and the Life of Christ might live in you.


Grace is a life and death matter. Through Jesus God has put to death the old life of sin and empowered you to be live being alive to God. Forgiveness is abundant, transformation is possible, and if you are in Christ then you are new life enabled.


Now I put it that way, because sometimes I think the text raises the question. Do you have struggles, sin, or hardships in your life? Are you dead to sin and alive to God or do you still feel like you have a struggle going on?


Sometimes we see people like what we saw on the video I played. A bright shining face after 15 years of using crystal meth. She went from being a user and dealer who was about ready to be put away for years, to working as a chaplain trying to convince others who are in her “use to be place” that they can have hope and a changed life.


But one thing, I think, is left out of that story is without a doubt the fact that the full nature of that change didn’t happen overnight. God entering into her life and changing her heart happened in an instant, but that woman had to have made a lot of right decisions along the way. She had to have found the right people to depend upon and others who help support her while she made different chooses for herself. Without a doubt God was there and she got a few phenomenal breaks, and in faith she found the strength to stand and not fall again. She made it through one year of probation and the next few years that followed. She kept herself clean and out of trouble and turned her life around, but every day could not have been an easy day. However, every day was another day that she found she could depend upon God, and her faith grew and her life was healed, and she became a person who was able to offer the same to others.


I think that I am right. Grace does abound with ever need we have in this life. There is nothing that God cannot forgive you of. There is no depth to which you may fall that God is not able to redeem. You are loved. This I am sure of.


But every person must avail themselves to that grace for the sake of living a redeemed and transformed life. Stay in prayer. Look toward God’s leading within your life. Be in the relationship with Christ that God has invited you into and know that ultimately you can have the life that God offers you. It might not happen overnight, but no matter where you are God is with you. Therefore, choose life.


Think about it do we fail because we have no good answers in this life, or do we fail because we give up too easily and make a bad decision.


God’s love is real and vital. Paul says, “The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”


Paul uses participatory language. We are to consider ourselves participants in the death and life of Christ. We can enter in and be a part of the work God has done in Jesus Christ. All we have to do is ask God for this very thing and continue in faith and pray. God is faithful and in this you will be alive in Christ today and always. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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