Saturday 1 July 2017

Turning to Paul’s Letter to Romans, in Chapter 6 v.12/23 A chapter on holy living

Paul is writing to new Christians in Rome who had come to know Christ, repented of past sin, were baptised, and figuratively by passing through water, died to all sins and became born again into a new life. Some were suggesting that since they had experienced the grace of God they felt they could go on sinning and God would forgive them. This kind of thinking is still very prevalent to day as people say God will forgive me so I can go out and enjoy myself and live it up.

This passage could mean different things to each of us. Some people know they are not living as a Christian should; they don’t want to, but things get the better of us, and there is remorse and regret afterwards. You wish you could be something else.

Others don’t really experience any of that regret or remorse. Either because they don’t care about living God’s way, or because we think that any sins we commit are so small and insignificant that it doesn’t really count.

Paul in this passage has words of encouragement for those who are struggling and words of challenge for those who are comfortable.

Paul uses the example of slavery. Life becomes a form of slavery, we become slaves to sin or slaves of Christ, we have a choice and there is a cost in both cases. Following Jesus can be costly; Jesus always made it very clear that following him would mean paying a price. Your friends may cool off you, within families people fall out when one wants to attend Church and live a true Christian life.

A lot of people say I’m a Christian, whether they are in the true biblical sense or not, they think that it is acceptable to engage in illicit relationships, engage in immoral or illegal behaviour, and believe they will be forgiven. Paul is pointing out this is not on and says control the way you live. He says there has to be a complete change in the way a Christians lives, there has to be commitment and devotion.

Athletes in major competitions will spend up to eight hours a day or more, training in order to succeed in races, and we Christians must be committed in the race of life. Paul is eager to ward off any suggestion we are free to do anything which comes into our mind.

When you pass your driving test you are required to observe the traffic laws, you don’t have unrestricted freedom to speed as fast you like or drive on the wrong side of the road, you drive within the framework of law.

Freedom is not a moral vacuum, it comes as the result of the death of Jesus on the Cross, and whilst we may have to sacrifice doing some of the things we may once have done, the reward we will receive one day when we appear before the Lord will more than recompense us. Those having their pleasures and enjoyment in this life will pay a much heavier price in the next.

When you move home to a totally different part of the country you have to learn the roads. Driving in a new city can be a total nightmare with all the restrictions and one way signs which apply. Just as it matters which road you choose to take, so there are restrictions and one way choices for Christian living.

Jesus told in Matthew’s gospel there are two roads in life; one is narrow and the other is broad. The broad road is spacious, there is plenty of room on it and there are plenty of people on it. It is the road of self-gratification without any restrictions. There are even otherwise decent men and women on it, so many claiming to be Christians albeit without due cause.

The narrow road is the one which Jesus wants His people to take, but says only few take it, and those who do must do through Him. John 14 despite being none correct in many Churches now, still states ‘no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ.’ He is the only way.

Being narrow these days means you are classed as bigoted or phobic. You are expected to be broad minded, be modern, 2+2=5. The road is narrow because it is the way of truth and truth is always narrow. It is the way of holiness and righteousness.

There are only two roads, no third, no alternative. This is not generally liked as it is seen as being too restrictive, and intolerant. These roads lead to two different destinies, heaven or hell

It is like coming to a cross roads. Jesus said there is a life to come and it is a long life, it is eternal, and as you come to the crossroads, you alone choose which one to take. God will not push you; He gave you the ability to choose and lets you do so. Where you end up in eternity will be determined by which road you take, so what you do in the world is important.

One of these roads leads to destruction the other to life with Jesus. He took time to remind people of the seriousness of salvation. He wanted all to be sure of the future. People do prefer the easy road in life but Jesus made it plain He wants us to journey down the difficult road.

If we are motivated by a desire to please society, true disciples of Jesus Christ will not play to the galleries or form values according to the passing approval of people in general. God’s approval is all that matters.

Jesus spoke firmly and rather profoundly when He said not all who think they are to enter the Kingdom of heaven will in fact do so. But it can be hard to be a Christian in this country at the present time and many find the going too hard. There is so much harassment of Christians which is not reported here, and you have to listen to the American news channels to discover what is going on in this country.

As Christians we must always seek to glorify the Lord in our ways and speech. Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it.

The Bible makes it clear that there is no middle ground. Either we are slaves to sin or we are slaves to God. If we place our trust in Christ Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation then we will be living in righteousness, and must live in righteousness, because we serve our new master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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