Please turn with me to Romans 6. We’ll be covering the entire chapter. I’ll read the odd verses and please respond with the even verses.
Why do some people thrive in the Christian life and why do some people stumble? Haven’t you ever wondered that? Why some believers soar on wings like eagles and why others seem to barely get off the ground.
For some, there is intimacy with Christ, and joy, and peace, and love for others, and freedom, and transformed lives.
And for others, there is no fruit, there is constant struggle, problems with addictions and idolatry, a lot of going through the motions, a religious life, a life of form but no power.
According to the Bible, every Christian has been given a new life in Christ.
v4 – We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
New life. Not a better life. Not an improved life. But a completely new life.
What does it mean to live a new life? A life where we bear fruit and have victory over our sin and intimacy with Christ.
Today, I want to talk about what it means to live that new life in Christ promised here in Romans 6. Let’s call it as a life that thrives.
From this text, I believe there are two components involved in a life that thrives, a life that moves forward toward God in greater holiness and dependence on the Lord, a life that does not fall back into old patterns and sins.
How do we thrive in the Lord?
I think the key verse for this chapter is in v11 — count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
First, to thrive spiritually, we have to count ourselves dead to sin.
Second, we have to be alive to God in Christ.
The book of Romans is Paul’s theological treatise. In Rom 1-5, Paul talks about justification. This is how God frees us from the PENALTY of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Then, starting from Rom 6, Paul talks about sanctification. This is how God frees us from the POWER of sin.
And starting in Romans 8, Paul talks about glorification. How God will one day save us from the PRESENCE of sin.
Justification – freed from the penalty of sin. Sanctification – freed from the power of sin. Glorification – freed from the presence of sin.
Salvation was never meant to be a one time decision. It’s a lifelong process and the working out of our salvation will not be completed until we see Jesus face to face. Our salvation starts with a decision when we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. That’s justification — we are justified by the blood of Jesus only. This is where salvation begins.
But from that salvation moment going forward and for the rest of our lives, we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). This is sanctification and that’s what we’ll spend most of our time today on because this is the actual practical stuff that matters in Christian life. A life that thrives is a life that is sanctified by the Lord.
Let me start with Paul’s conclusion to this chapter in v23.
v23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the core of the gospel. It’s what we have been talking about the last few weeks. We are enemies of God and God is a holy and just God and he cannot allow sin to go unpunished. And while we were still sinners and enemies of God, Christ died for us.
The wages of sin is death and the punishment we deserved was poured out on Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, literally went to hell. He was utterly forsaken by God. And for the first time in all eternity, Jesus was separated from God.
And this gracious substitution where Jesus received the punishment of death and separation from God that we deserved is the greatest gift humankind could have ever received.
We didn’t earn it through our good works or morality. We were not worthy in terms of virtue or character to receive this gift. It’s not like we were seeking God. God didn’t send his Son to die for us because we were close friends of God. No, while we were enemies, sinners, Christ died for us.
It’s a gift and all we can do is to receive it. This is the foundation for a new life in Christ. We all know this. But where do we go from here?
I grew up in the church and I only went because my parents went. And church was boring. The messages were boring. The kids my age were cliquish. During fellowship time, the parents talked about what score their kids got on the SAT, or what university their kids were going to, or some other worldly comparison. And I was frankly sick of church. All I had to look forward to were the donuts. That’s about it.
Going to church didn’t make me a Christian. Because I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. I couldn’t wait until church ended and I could go home.
But God pursued me and as a sophomore in college, 1993, I surrendered my life to the Lord. That’s when my spiritual life began. Justification.
So it’s important to have a starting point. We are not born into Christianity. It is a decision that you and I make to follow Jesus.
BUT, we do a great disservice if we over-simplify salvation and call it a one-time decision.
We make a grave mistake if we rely too much on our conversion experience. Yeah, I went forward during an altar call when I was a young kid. But you look at that person and Christ has not made a single difference in that person’s life. How do we know if our conversion experience was genuine? It comes down to sanctification.
Are there signs of life along the way from that starting point until now? If you’ve been a Christian for 5, 10, 15 years and there is absolutely no change, it may be that you never started properly.
Matt 7:13-14 speaks about salvation as a small gate. We enter through a small gate and a few find it. That’s the entry point. We enter and we begin our salvation journey. But we mustn’t forget the second half of that verse. After we enter the small gate, we are saved. We are justified. But it says narrow is the road that leads to life. We enter through the gate of Jesus’ death on the cross, but we must also remain on the narrow road. The narrow road is the road of sanctification.
Salvation is a lifelong process. And a life that is sanctified by the Lord is a life that thrives. Unless we realize that from the moment we are saved until the end of our lives that we need to be sanctified, there will be no lasting fruit, or abundance, or joy of salvation, or soaring on wings like eagles.