Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Walk Out! Why We Stay in Prison After Freedom

Sunday Message (October 6): A 3C Church

Message Audio: Listen HERE

I began a new series, Connect, on Sunday - laying groundwork for the exciting Connect Group changes coming to TCOC in January 2014! The message unpacked how salvation is more than a simple spiritual transaction but rather a cosmic transformation. It emphasized how individual transformation contributes to cosmic transformation. I wrapped the message up reinforcing TCOC's spiritual transformation model:

          Engage the Unchurched + Connect to Christ + Connect to Others = Transformation

I spent some time in Romans 6:1-14 addressing baptism as a starting point for transformation. In this post, I dig further into Romans 6:1-14 and challenge you regarding your "New Life" in Jesus.

In Romans 6, Paul debunks the notion that more sin leads to more grace. The fallacy reads: If grace covers sin, then the more I sin the more grace I receive. My sins magnify the power of God's grace!" Paul's response, "Fools!" Not his actual written response, but he probably thought it. Paul goes on to deconstruct this line of thinking by explaining that accepting God's grace through baptism effectively means a death to the old, sinful self and receiving a new life in Jesus Christ.

When talking about Jesus' affect on our former life, our sinful self, Paul uses language like: it [sinful self] was crucified with Christ, done away with and as a result you are dead to sin. Have you ever seen the dead? Boring! Definitely not entertaining. Useless really.

I rode my bike to and from classes during grad school. One day, as I pedaled home, I came across a dead cat who unfortunately had not been as successful as the chicken. It sat their on the side of the road. The next day, it was still there. The next? Still there. This cat did not even have the decency to move it's rotting corpse to a more appropriate decomposing location. It wouldn't play, eat, climb, jump, or even meow! It was powerless. It was dead! Exactly. Paul says, if you are in Christ, sin no longer has power over your body. Jesus freed you from sin!

Freedom from sin is the other image Paul uses to reorient the Roman disciples to the transforming power of grace. He closes this section with the words:

 So don’t let sin rule your body, which is going to die. Don’t obey its evil longings. Don’t give the parts of your body to serve sin. Don’t let them be used to do evil. Instead, give yourselves to God. You have been brought from death to life. Give the parts of your body to him to do what is right.

 Sin will not be your master. Law does not rule you. God’s grace has set you free.

He says, "Quit obeying sin." You don't have to do what it tells you, because sin is no longer your master. You have been emancipated! Before Jesus, you had no choice. Sin was in charge. You were compelled to obey, but Jesus killed your old task-master. He blew a hole in the prison wall, unlocked your cell door and broke the shackles restraining your ankles and wrists. He set you free.

I love this truth!! Don't you? But if you are like me, you might wonder "If Paul is right, then why does it feel like sin is in control so much of the time?" Shawshank Redemption provides a possible solution.

Shawshank Redemption, a 1994 film staring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, tells the story of Andy's (Tim Robbins) genius escape from prison. Early on, the film introduces an inmate named Brooks who has spent the last 50 years of his life behind bars. After half a century the department of corrections decides he is rehabilitated enough to be released on parole. On the day of his release, Brooks, a harmless and gentle inmate, loses his mind, grabs another inmate, pulls a shank and is preparing to slit his throat when Andy talks him down. Brooks was sabatoging his own parole. Finally after 50 years he was free, but all he knew was life behind bars. He had been there too long. 

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation. Jesus has freed you. The door is open but you refuse to walk out. Slavery is all you know. Sin is comfortable. It is familiar. It is a part of you. Somehow you still believe that life behind the "bars of sin" is better than a life of freedom in Christ. My challenge today...WALK OUT!

Maybe you have struggled with pornography for years. It consumes your life and your thoughts. WALK OUT! It is not your master. Get help. Call someone. Confess. Do it now!

Maybe you worship money and success. WALK OUT! Cut your work hours. Take a demotion. Give something! Volunteer for an organization that serves the poor. 

Maybe you are living with your boyfriend or girlfriend, living outside God's design for the sexual relationship. WALK OUT! Sit down. Define the relationship. Decide if you are ready to get married. If not, figure out new living arrangements.

Maybe your self-righteousness manifests itself in a judgmental spirit. WALK OUT! Invite someone you have judged to lunch. Listen to their story. Don't talk. Just listen.

Maybe bitterness and an unforgiving spirit holds you hostage. WALK OUT! Pray for a spirit of forgiveness today. If you are too angry to pray for a forgiving spirit, ask someone you trust to pray the prayer for you. Re-engage the broken relationship.

Maybe drugs and alcohol control your life. WALK OUT! Call someone and tell them to make sure you attend an AA meeting or a Celebrate Recovery gathering. Check yourself into rehab.

Maybe you are in an affair. WALK OUT! End the relationship. Call someone you know loves you. Tell them you need their help.

Listen to Paul. You are dead to sin. Sin is no longer your master. You have been set free from sin. Trust that your life is in Christ. Don't sit in you cell any longer. Jesus opened the door. WALK OUT!

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