Sunday, July 31, 2022

You Are A Slave!

 Romans 6:19-23

I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the outcome of those things is death.  But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sermon for 7-SAT                                     7/31/22

A Slave Either Way

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Commonly thought of as his greatest work, Luther wrote his Bondage of the Will as part of his debate with Erasmus of Rotterdam.  Erasmus had written "The Freedom of the Will ".  Erasmus believed the Roman doctrine of the necessity of the involvement of the will of the person in becoming a Christian.  To be saved, they teach, the individual must prepare him- or herself by an act of will and by good works and love.  Roman theology looks at sin as a ‘stain' or blemish on a person, rather than the corruption of the will and nature of the person, so they believe that even though troubled by sin, there is something that a man can do to prepare himself for conversion and faith, and thus co-operate with the Holy Spirit in his conversion.  That is the freedom of the will, in Roman theology, and that is the distinguishing characteristic of the one who is saved over against the one who is lost - he did the work, prepared his heart, and cooperated with God.

Luther disagreed.  On the basis of Scripture, including particularly our Epistle this morning, Luther categorically denied the freedom of the will, and spoke of the bondage of the will instead.  He pointed out that while one might speak of someone as being free, either as a Christian or as an unbeliever, that freedom was not absolute.  It was, in fact, relative and in relation only to the bondage of that person, which bondage was, in fact, absolute.  It worked out as our text explains, and as we will talk about this morning.  Our theme today is - A Slave Either Way.

Now, I want you to make note of the fact that Paul says that "[he] is speaking in human terms because of the weakness of [our] flesh."  He means to say that what he is saying is not as it is in and of itself, but this is the closest human analogy can come to the truth of it.  What he says is true, but the reality is deeper and more far-reaching than our concepts can readily express.  Keep in mind also that we have jumped in here, as it were, into the middle of this discussion, not at the beginning.

Our freedom is not absolute, and our slavery is more complete and deep and thorough-going than we can imagine.  No one can control the heart or the mind of a slave in this world.  You can make them obey, even make them afraid to misstep, but you cannot actually control their thinking.  They do that.  You cannot make them love you or admire your cause.  They may choose to do that, and even become a terrorist-like zealot for your cause, but it is by their decisions, not your work.  Even brainwashing doesn't work until the victim cooperates by choice - horrible and extreme choice, perhaps, but a choice nonetheless.  Hypnosis requires a willing subject to really work.  Because we are insulated and actually quite alone inside our heads, no man can make another his absolute slave without his cooperation.

Our slavery in sin is another matter.  We are corrupt.  Sin has become entangled in our very nature since the fall.  To use a farming image, the original breeding stock became corrupted and so all of their offspring carry the same corruption of sin.  We are twisted by nature.  Sin turns us from looking to God and caring about others - as we were created to do - into creatures that turn their gaze to themselves, and view our families and our neighbors, the world, and God Himself, through the twisted perspective of ourselves, our wants, our needs, our lusts, our personal advantage, our feelings, and our own guilt and sin.  The Latin, and you know how I love the Latin, is "curvatus in se".  It means "turned in on one's self".

And the one who pulls our strings is the father of evil, the devil himself.  We are absolutely his slaves – slaves of sin.  We no longer possess the capability, by nature, to think without sin, to speak without sin, to act with proper motives.  Worse than that, when sin calls, our very nature jumps to serve.  We want to do it, and we feel cheated when we hold ourselves back from it, let alone when someone else prevents us from doing it.  We can do hideous things to others simply because they are not US.  They are not ME.

This evil, to which we are enslaved by nature, earns death.  Paul writes, "Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death."  The death Paul writes about is eternal death, not merely death of the body.  He means to put the reader in mind of that death which is not the cessation of existence and consciousness, but the beginning of the torments of the damned.  The outcome of sin is death, for "the wages of sin is death."  That is what sin earns, merits, deserves, and receives without fail.

This is where the Gospel comes in for us.  Our sin receives the sentence of death, too.  It is carried out - but not on us.  Jesus bore that sentence on the cross.  He died, what we have earned, and endured the very torments of hell on the cross and in His passion.  Because Jesus died for our sins, we have been redeemed, and by His resurrection God the Father has declared us forgiven, and given us the righteousness of Christ as a gift of grace, which is received through faith.

When you were a slave of sin, you were entirely free in regard to righteousness.  You couldn't choose it, and you couldn't do it.  It had no appeal to you, and even if you did the same things as a righteous man did in righteousness, they were evil and sinful because they flowed from a sinful heart and mind.  The good tree produces good fruit, and the evil tree produces evil fruit.  The good tree cannot produce evil fruit and the evil tree cannot produce good fruit.  You and I were, and most of mankind is yet today, slaves of sin.

But now that Jesus has redeemed us by His death on the cross and claimed us in the washing of Baptism, and adopted us into His family, we have been set free from sin.  "Even so, reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."  "He who has died is freed from sin" and we have died with Christ in our Baptism.  Romans 6:14 promises - and commands, "Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace."  So you are freed by Christ from sin, but you immediately become the slave of righteousness.  If you are dead to sin, you cannot live in it any longer.  Since you live this new life by the power of the Holy Ghost, you must humble yourself to be guided by the Holy Ghost.  Jesus is now your Master, and you are at the same time His brother and His slave.  But when the outcome of this ‘slavery' is life everlasting and righteousness - who objects?

And this slavery is deeper and more thorough-going than you realize.  You cannot feel it in its truth because you still wear the quisling flesh.  Your flesh is still hungry for sin and evil, but you are now the holy servant of God.  Your will is shaped to be like His will.  He shaped it, not you.  You cannot "feel" that will, but it is at work in you.  The outcome of your new slavery is "your sanctification."  You can see it in your life more easily than you can feel it in your consciousness.  God is at work in you, bringing your life and conduct into conformity with His will.  The task is never complete while we wear this flesh, infected with sin, but it is happening, and in the end, the outcome of all this work of God is eternal life for us!

So, since we must be slaves, Paul encourages us,"so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification."  In other words, if you are going to be a slave either way, – and you are – choose to be deliberately God's slave while you have the power, His power, in you to make that choice.  Be deliberately Christian.  Think about what you do, and what you say, and even where you allow your mind to go, and serve the one whose rewards and wages are what you want to receive.

Of course, we want to remember that while death is earned, eternal life is a gift, given to those who do not deserve it, for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Your service does not earn you a thing before God, since God is working all these good things in you by His will and His power, but those who are His slaves have been selected by Him to receive the free gift of life everlasting.

I want life eternal.  I am sure you do too.  My flesh wants to sin, and, in fact, it is still enslaved to sin.  But I want to go to heaven, and so I discipline my body, and I apply the one thing God has given me to combat sin in my life - the Gospel.  I apply it by hearing the Word.  I apply it by remembering my Baptism.  I apply it by receiving the body and blood of my Lord Jesus often, taking what is called "the medicine of immortality".  I apply it by reading the Word of God daily.  I apply the Gospel by fellowshipping with believers, and being encouraged in my faith and life as God's slave by them, and encouraging them in turn.

Since I am a slave either way, I give up notions of what I deserve, or what my rights are, and I choose to live more for Christ.  I suffer insults and discourtesies for Him.  I stand alone, if needs be in the battle of life, upon His truth, and holding His banner high.  I welcome all who are His, and I invite the slaves of our enemy to join us in Christ's saving service by speaking God's powerful Word to them.  I want to do this, but even that desire is by the power of God in me, and not by my own will.  Even in the good I do, I am a slave - cheerfully and gladly - but a slave to righteousness and sanctification, and a slave of God.  If you gotta be a slave either way, and you do, serving God and receiving eternal life is the best way to go.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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