Who Will You Serve, Now?
© C. O. Bishop 11/28/2015 THCF 11/29/2015
When I was in Bible School, the outline for this chapter was simple: “Know, Reckon, and Yield”. It seemed a revelation, to me, but it was years before I could see any way to make it work at all, because I still felt myself enslaved to sin. I found my experience to be far closer to that of Paul in Romans chapter seven than I was to the reality of chapter eight.
Romans chapter six does indeed tell us that we do not have to sin. Paul is emphatic about it: he says that “…sin shall not reign in your mortal bodies.” That is pretty strong language. In legal terms, the word “shall” denotes something that is mandatory. So how can I see this become a reality in my life?
In those long-ago classes, the outline form of “Know, Reckon and Yield” was correct, but did not point out that the “reckon” portion of it meant a working faith in the reality of the “know” portion. I has cockily quoted the “Know, Reckon, and Yield” to a pastor friend when I was just a year out of school, and he quietly asked, “But how is it to be done?” I couldn’t answer, and didn’t even really understand the question. I had dropped anchor on “knowledge” so completely that I was missing the “reckoning” part, entirely. His answer? “By faith!”
I had been trying to “yield myself” to God without really believing that I was free from the authority of sin in my life. It was years before I realized this fact, and began to put my faith in it.
Who do you work for? How did it happen that He became your master? Does that mean that your old master no longer exists, or simply that it no longer has authority?
Separated From the Old Master
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul says that I am to know (Greek, eido: to know a fact…this is not some sort of ‘experiential knowledge’…it is simply the truth.) that Jesus, having died, and having been resurrected from the dead, cannot die again. Death has no more authority over his body. And, we are to know that we died with Him.
When Jesus died, His spirit and soul were separated from his body, and He spent three days and three nights in Paradise—the “good half” of Sheol, fulfilling his prophecies. When he was resurrected, his body was changed to what is called a “glorified” body. It can eat, but does not suffer hunger. It can walk, but does not have to walk—it could simply be where He willed it to be—into a locked room, for example…and back out. He was completely free of the normal shackles of the earthly life. He was free to live out the reality that He alone is God-in-the-flesh: Immanuel!
So Paul says that because we know that (as a fact), we are to reckon it to be so: not as my “Texas roots” would use the phrase, “well, I reckon it’s so…” (meaning they think it’s so), but rather, “account it to be true!” He says that we are to account ourselves to be also free to live for God, by the same authority; because we are in Christ!
My Old Boss
Almost 30 years ago, I briefly worked for a foreman who once worked in the same railcar manufacturing plant where I worked for 30 years. (He retired years ago.) He despised me, and let me know it, but I did my best to please him and do exactly as he ordered. I was only on loan to his department, so it was with considerable relief that I welcomed the move back to my own department.
Skipping forward about ten years; I had moved around quite a bit in the interim, but was now in an area near his department again, where we did specialty repairs. One day he brought a side-frame for a railcar truck-assembly to us, needing repair welding performed.
Railcar truck-assembly side-frames are made of cast steel, and, as there are several different possibilities as to the particular grade of steel in question, there are different weld procedures that must be used. Failure to adhere to these procedures not only voids the warranty, but risks catastrophic failure. We cannot afford such a risk, so we follow such standards faithfully. I was aware of these restrictions, so, when this older foreman brought the side-frame to us, I assured him that I would begin work on it the moment I received the weld-repair procedure from the manufacturer. He angrily demanded that I skip that, and begin work immediately.
It was actually a pleasant experience in a way: I was not at all put out by his insistence: I knew my limitations, and more to the point, I knew his limitations! I no longer worked for him! It simply did not matter what he thought of me, or how angry he became! So I cheerfully reiterated that I would begin the moment I got the information I needed (which would only take 30 minutes or so to get), but that I could not and would not begin without knowing for sure how to proceed.
He angrily stomped out of our office, loudly saying that I would have to answer to his supervisors. I was not at all worried, because I knew they would submit to the authority of the Railroad Welding Code, and the manufacturer’s recommendations, just as surely as I did.
Why was I so cheerful in the face of his anger and threats? Because I was completely resting in the fact that I no longer worked for him, and was in no way accountable to him. I was completely free to do what I knew to be right and good, and safe, rather than having to do what he wanted done, which was none of the above.
So how do we apply this to the Christian life? We are to completely rest in the fact that we are in Christ, and that because He is dead to sin, we also are dead to sin. Sin has no more authority in our lives.
We Have a New Master
Just as I was at complete peace in disobeying my old Boss, we should feel completely free to ignore the haranguing of our old nature, demanding satisfaction for the old sinful desires. We don’t work for it anymore. It has no further authority in our lives.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
If I had obeyed the demands of my old boss, out of habit or out of fear, I would have been in trouble with my new supervisor. I would have had no defense for my actions, because what the old boss was demanding was completely wrong, and he certainly would not have backed me, admitting that he had ordered me to do wrong. But even if he had done so, I would have been wrong, because he had no authority, and I knew he had no authority. I had no excuse for failure.
In all honesty, I still have no excuse for failure. I cannot say, “Well, my old sin nature came along and made me do this…” That is not true! If I sin, I have to choose to follow my old sinful ways. The old nature has no “power” to force me into service. I have to choose to obey, even if it is an unconscious choice (and usually it is not).
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Ironically, your new nature has no power to force you to obey righteousness, either. You still have to choose. A lot of people have gotten the idea that the new nature is the indwelling Spirit of God. That is not true, because God says (Ephesians 4:24) that the new nature is a created entity, and the Holy Spirit is God—the Creator. So, my old nature is the one I received at conception, and which I will lose when I die or am raptured. It is connected with my mortal body, so it will cease to exist when this body dies or is changed to an immortal body.
I received my new nature when I was re-born as a child of God. The new nature is righteous, and has righteous desires, but has no power to force obedience. God wants a righteous choice, and has given me the wherewithal to make it. Before I possessed this new nature, I could not choose righteousness, because my every choice was dominated by my sin. It was the only nature I had. I was completely under its control. When I believed the Gospel, and was born again, I received a new nature, and I now have a real choice. I have been transferred to a new department.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
When I was moved to that new department, at work, I had a new supervisor who was committed to doing things right. I had had that commitment for years, but was employed by those who did not: I had one foreman, in fact, who, when I protested that a particular weld-joint constituted an “illegal weld” (meaning “prohibited by the code”), he just laughed, and said, “It’s only illegal if you get caught, Chet!”
But now I was under a boss that would support doing things correctly. So I was not to worry about what the old bosses thought, but just go ahead and choose the right way. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? That is because I had already been committed to doing right, and was grieved to be working for those who were not.
But what if it had been different? What if I had been in complete agreement with doing whatever one could “get away with”, and had never had any inclination to do right? Would having a new boss change everything I thought overnight? Would my new position under him be easy to grasp? I really doubt it, because when the rules have changed, over the years, it has sometimes been difficult for me to let go of the old ways, and embrace the new. But that is what Paul is telling me to do, right here.
I am to consciously respond to my new Master, choosing to obey Him. The whole truth of Romans 6 is wrapped around this idea. It is a relational truth: my position in Him is secure, but my daily walk with Him—my relationship with Him—is definitely affected by how I live. I am to respond to HIM, not to my old desires, just as I was to respond to my new boss, not my old, at work. Incidentally, all the bosses I have had at work who made for really negative experiences, no longer work there. They have been replaced, mostly by someone better. Do I miss them? Not one bit! I certainly do not want them back!
Why Would You Want the Old Ways?
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
In the old days at work, for instance, welders were not required to wear respirators. We were “free” from the restriction of a respirator, but we were slowly being poisoned by the fumes we inhaled as a result of the lack thereof. How profitable was that? The result could have been a fatal lung disease, or a crippling disability…and in many cases, it was.
We did not like the new “rules” which required the respirators, but we gradually became convinced that they were a good idea…and now we look back and shake our heads over our foolish risk-taking in the old days. There was nothing good about it. Our “freedom” from the respirators resulted in disability or death for many workers. The same was true for many other safety precautions we once scorned, but which are now required.
Now we enjoy freedom from the inhaled pollutants, and the debilitating results thereof, and we choose gladly to “serve good sense” and reap relative health. I don’t miss the “bad old days” one bit!
At one time, seat-belts in automobiles were optional, and most people ignored them, because they didn’t like the “restrictive” nature of even the lap belts, let alone shoulder straps (though the Advocates of seat-belts reminded those reluctant ones that “wheelchairs are even more restrictive!”)
When the seat-belts and shoulder straps became a requirement, the death-toll in auto accidents was sharply reduced. We had been “free” from the restraining lap-belts and shoulder straps, but we are now free from the likelihood of being ejected from the car and killed, in an auto accident.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
So, Paul argues, you were free from righteousness, and the results were uniformly bad. Now you are free from the clutches of your old sin nature. You have everlasting life as a result of that choice. Now you are to choose to respond to the personal, moment by moment call of Jesus Christ to live for Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to produce real fruit in your life.
The deaths from being thrown out of cars, and from breathing dangerous fumes were not caused by the danger, but by our proximity to the danger. We have been separated from that proximity to a certain degree, by safety belts and respirators, so the deaths are less common.
We have been separated, positionally from the penalty of sin. How does one distance oneself from the danger of sin? 1st Timothy 6:11 gives us s pretty good start on the answer to that question. He says, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things (temptations, that is) and follow after Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Patience, Meekness.” He says to distance yourself from the temptations, and get closer to the things of Christ.
- Vernon McGee shared how a little child fell out of bed one night, and when her mother came into the room to comfort her and get her safely in bed again, the mother asked “How did you fall out of bed?” The child responded, “I think I just stayed too close to where I got in!” That is pretty perceptive, actually, and highly applicable to the Christian life. The further we move away from our old ways, the harder it will be to fall back into them.
Paul closes this passage with a reminder that while the old ways continually earned the results—the “wages”—they deserved, which was separation from God, the eternal life we now have is not to be earned at all. It is a gift. He says,
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
My position in Christ is the result of pure Grace… the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. But if you want to experience that life on a daily basis, you will have to respond to Him as your Lord, as well. He is our new boss, and He is the one to whom we need to answer, not our old sin nature. Meditate on this passage and ask God to make it clear to you. I freely admit that I have not “arrived”, in this matter, and that it is a struggle for me as well.
Lord Jesus, Help us to understand your Word, and to listen to the pleading of the Holy Spirit, so that we can daily respond to you in faith and obey your will in our daily lives.