Re:Life: Why We Need It (Romans 6:1-7)
Topic: Romans Passage: Romans 6:1–6:7
Re:Life: How Resurrection Changes Everything
Re:Life: Why We Need It
(One Lord: What is Man?)
April 6th, 2014
I. Meeting or Creating?
Think for a minute about the commercials you see on television, or the billboards you see on the freeway, or the ads you see in a magazine or on the internet. Which ones do you remember? Which ones are effective? Which ones have made an impact on you, even on your pocketbook? Now in light of all that, think about this question: Do you think the marketers who create those ads are meeting or creating needs?
Have they determined the basic needs of the average consumer and from there, are trying to meet those needs in creative ways, OR are they trying to make you believe that you cannot live another second, or get ahead in life, that you simply will not be happy if you don't have whatever product their clients have paid them to promote?
This morning, my goal is to first be an instrument of God, and then to be used by Him, not to create, but to MEET a genuine need that every single one of us has; a need so deep and so big, there is and there can be no need more important.
Turn with me to Romans 6.
II. The Passage: “Are We to Continue in Sin” (6:1-7)
Let me read for you the first seven verses of Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome. This is what read, beginning in verse 1...
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Now, there is so much here that it is going to take us four weeks just to unpack everything that Paul has given us. But this morning, I want to begin by doing just two things: first, we need to exalt newness of life, and second, in connection with that, we need to explain oldness of life.
A. Exalting Newness of Life
Let me tackle that first goal by pointing you back to verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. All of those verses repeat the same idea. Do you that common thread? It is the fact that Paul's readers have, in some sense, died. They have died! How is that possible? It's possible because Paul is not talking about their physical deaths. The only physical death Paul is describing is the death of Jesus. But through that death, Paul's readers have died spiritually, by grace, through faith.
Why is that important to point out? Because the sobering reality of their dying with Christ is used by Paul to bring to them to the glorious reality that they have also been, and will be, raised up with Christ because of His resurrection. In the present, in the 'right now', this reality of resurrection is called, verse 4, “newness of life”. Doesn't that sound good? “Newness of life” (2x). Paul's whole goal in these verses is to get his readers to both recognize and embrace this “newness of life” that Jesus has made possible through His resurrection from the dead.
Because of that connection, I think we can also refer to that life as “resurrection life”. Over the next month I want us to explore this idea of resurrection life. That's why I've called this series Re:Life. Not only is Re:Life a study regarding a kind of life (as you might see in an e-mail with that “re” prefix), not only is this series about Re:Life, about doing something again (like REcycling or REplaying a song), but essentially I want you to see Re:Life as an abbreviation for resurrection life.
I am firmly convinced that this morning, that this month, as we study His word, God wants you to long for this resurrection life, to hunger for it with all your heart.
B. Examining Oldness of Life
But before you or anyone will hunger for resurrection life, you must know, you must be convinced that you need it. Again, I am not trying to create this need in you. I simply want God to pull back the veil and help you see into your own heart; to see there a throbbing need for what God is describing through Paul.
And how can you recognize that need? By understanding it. By examining it. You see, if there is a “newness of life”, there must also be an oldness of life. It is the very thing that Paul declares has come to end if we have died with Jesus and through Jesus. And so, to understand our need, THE need, this morning, we have to examine this oldness of life. And we can do that by using the context to bring out what Paul has has taught and is teaching them about oldness of life. And that context not only includes the verses we already looked at together, but also what came before this in Paul's letter.
1. Slaves to Sin
Let's touch on four aspects of what God, through Paul, has revealed about this oldness of life. The first aspect has been made abundantly clear in our passage this morning, and will continue to be explained throughout chapter 6: oldness of life is about being a slave to sin.
This is explicit in verses 6 and 7: We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.
If “newness of life” is about being set free, then how could Paul's readers, verse 1, “continue in sin”, or, verse 2, “still live in it”, as if they were still taking orders from sin as their master? That “body of sin” that Paul mentions in verse 6, that “old self” has been “brought to nothing”. But once, it was something. What? A slave; powerless under slaves tyranny. Look at how Paul describes this horrible bondage in chapter 3, 10-12...
...as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;  no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
Is that what you really want, that oldness?
2. Inheritors of Death
The next thing Paul has made clear to us about this oldness is that oldness of life is about being an inheritor of death.
Look back into the previous chapter, at verse 12 of chapter 5. Paul writes:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...
In the Roman world in which Paul wrote, many slaves could one day buy their freedom. But the slavery we suffer under because of this oldness of life, that slavery will not one result in freedom. It will result in death, the end of your life in this world; being cutoff from everyone and everything.
This past Friday, after 49 years of employment, my dad retired. He said goodbye to the workforce. And in his final days at work, he received many gifts and well wishes and parties to honor his service. But when your service to sin comes to end, there won't be a commemorative plaque or a farewell party. There will only be death.
Is that what you really want, that oldness?
3. Enemies of God
But if we continue to back up in chapter 5, Paul reveals something else, something astounding about this oldness. He reveals that oldness of life is about being an enemy of God. Look at chapter 5, verse 10...
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
It only makes sense that, in oldness of life we are slaves to sin, then we must be enemies of God. Why is that the case? Because sin cannot be defined apart from God. You see, sin is not simply selfishness or self-centeredness, it is self-centeredness in a God-centered universe. Sin is not simply doing wrong things. It is doing what is wrong by violating God's commands. Sin is not simply honoring evil. It is honoring anything other than the only One who is worthy of our honor. Of course we are enemies of God.
But think about that for a minute. Why would anyone ever want to be God's enemy. To fight against God is to fight against all that is right and true and good and fulfilling and lovely and satisfying and healthy and blessed and joy-giving and peace-promoting and life-affirming. What's more, to fight against God is to guarantee defeat, for who could ever defeat God? And on top of that, what will happen to anyone who sets himself or herself up against God? Yes, they will be defeated, but can you imagine the severity of that defeat? To pit yourself against corporate America or an overzealous HOA is one thing, but pitting yourself God?
Is that what you really want, that oldness?
4. Forfeiters of Heaven
But there's one more aspect of this oldness that we could highlight. Paul touches on it back in chapter 3. Look back there and look at the final words of verse 22, right on into verse 23...
...For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...
What is oldness of life? Oldness of life is about being a forfeiter of heaven. In both verse 16 and verse 18 of Romans 5, Paul emphasizes that Adam's sin has brought condemnation for all people. And that condemnation is not only manifest in our physical deaths, but also in the fact that in the oldness of life, each of us will fail to reach, will come short of “the glory of God”. What is the “glory of God”. Well chapter 5, verse 2 speaks of “the hope of the glory of God” And in 8:18 Paul writes, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
The glory of God in this context is the glory of God's presence. And God invites us to bask in His glory for all eternity. But when we walk in oldness of life, not only will we be cut off from this life, but we will also be cut off from that life, that eternal life. No joy, no peace, no wholeness, no healing, no God. In oldness of life we can only expect the opposite of those things. Why? Because even in eternity we will remain slaves of sin. And if we are slaves of sin, we are enemies of God. And if we are enemies of God, God will, for all eternity, put down and punish our rebellion.
Is that what you really want, that oldness?
III. Neediness and Newness
Brothers and sisters, friends, I believe if you recognize and embrace what I just outlined for you, you will, at least you should, have a deep, deep hunger for resurrection life.
If you accept that these things are true, and I mean true for you personally, then you will be crushed under the weight of your neediness. Listen to how the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon described our need for a sobering awareness of sin:
“Acknowledge the evil of sin; ask God to make you feel it. Do not treat it as a trifle, for it is not. To redeem the sinner from the effects of sin, Christ Himself had to die; and unless you are delivered from sin, you must die eternally. Therefore, do not play with sin. Do not confess it as though it were some venial fault that would not have been noticed unless God had been too severe; but labor to see sin as God sees it, as an offense against all that is good, a rebellion against all that is kind. See it to be treason, to be ingratitude, to be a low and base thing.” (Charles Spurgeon)
If you take Spurgeon's advice, you will feel the weight of your neediness, the weight of that oldness of life. But it's more than that. Imagine a child who is born into slavery, sold away from his family, and treated cruelly day after day. Imagine that one day, he accidentally gets left behind in town and from a distance sees a boy his own age who is enjoying the day with his family. This boy is playing and laughing. This boy is happy. This boy is loved. This is boy is well-fed and nurtured. This boy belongs.
I think in that instance, the slave will feel his neediness in a whole new way. Not only will he wince under his awful conditions, not only will he despair of what IS, but even more so in light of what could BE. Brothers and sisters, friends, God wants you to not only understand how bad oldness of life really is, but He also wants you to taste how good “newness of life” really is.
But here's what makes this oldness even worse: our condition itself keeps us from seeing our condition itself. Oldness of life always deceives us. It tricks us into believing we are in the very best situation: masters of our own destinies; free to do as we please; strutting in our pride or even comforted by and content with our vices.
You see this oldness doesn’t keep us from seeing we are needy. It simply deceives us into believing there are many other things we need that are greater than “newness of life”: a new car, a new job, a new house, a new spouse, new friends, new toys, new experiences. But none of those things can change the fact we are slaves, inheritors, enemies, and forfeiters.
This what we read in Hebrews 3: But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13) Isn’t that what Paul is doing here? Are we doing that with one another?
You see, God can open our eyes. He can pull back the veil, as we talked about. Who am I speaking to this morning? Who is God speaking to this morning? To all of us! To those who have never known “newness of life” AND to those who have already received it. Remember who Paul is writing to in Romans 6. To Christians who have spiritually died with Christ and been spiritually raised with Christ.
So is Paul saying that resurrection life is something we can lose? Or that it's something we slip in and out of? Absolutely not. But he is affirming that even if we have received that resurrection life through faith, we can struggle to walk in it.
Once we truly have those new glasses, we can never lose those glasses. But that doesn't mean they won’t slip down the bridge of our nose; that we won’t drift back to the old desires and old habits.
That may have been what was happening here, as Romans 6 reveals. Or that may have been the accusation hurled at the gospel of grace. But notice that Paul doesn’t deny that his readers have resurrection life. He simply points reminds them of it; points them back to it. Listen again:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? [How can we?!]
This morning my goal is simple: to awaken you, either for the first time, or for the fiftieth thousand and first time, to your desperate need for resurrection life. How would you define your needs this morning? Better financial position? Better home life? Better working conditions? Better prospects for your happiness or health or hope? None of those things can truly compare with, but all of those things are connected to, your need for resurrection life, or we might say, your need to walk in newness of life.
Admit your neediness to God this morning. You don’t have to be afraid to feel needy out of a fear that your need will never be met. Jesus died and rose again to guarantee that this need could be met. So be disgusted by this oldness of life. Long for resurrection life. Through Jesus, trust God for it.
Over the course of this month, we will continue to dig out the treasures God has for us Romans 6:1-7, and in doing so, I am praying God will take us deeper into an experience of this Re:Life in Jesus. Let’s ask God for that very thing.