My dad used a couple of expressions to describe people. He called some “can’t men” — because they were negative about trying new or difficult things. The other was also for negative people who always made excuses. He called them “yeah, buts” — because they agreed about good ideas but always had a reason for rejecting them.
In the Bible, the word “but” is negative in some passages, yet it is more often positive, a transition between what used to be but now is — describing the way sin once held me in its grasp but next telling I am now set free from its enslavement.
I realize my need to be alert, constantly and consistently listening to God and yielding to Him. This week I’ve been deeply aware of sin’s power and my own weaknesses. Reminders of past sins can yank me back. I know that I’m not taking forgiveness for granted, yet some do that. In any case, this passage from Romans is both a warning to not slide backwards and an encouragement to walk in the freedom of salvation by grace through faith.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
This is not saying my obedience earns righteousness — rather it produces the righteousness of Christ that has already been given to me. I imagine it as a tool handed to a slave. The Master says, “Here, use this. Live by it. It is your new life.” I have the choice of doing just that or trying to accomplish this life by ignoring the means given to me by God and living without Him. Not only is that attitude sinful, so are the results. Sometimes they look good on the outside, but are self-motivated, self-accomplished and self-centered. God says there is another way . . .
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Instead of thinking old thoughts and doing things in my old ways and in my own strength, my Lord and Master makes it possible to say yes to His way. That old way of thinking and acting is not obedience to God at all; it is obedience to sin and lawlessness, leading me deeper into more of the same. Yet obeying God leads to right living, drawing me deeper into a life that is set apart for God. I have that life handed to me as a gift. It is important to use it, to live by it.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
This is negative motivation. It tells me the works of the flesh are fruitless, no peace and joy, no eternal reward. Eventually I will be ashamed of them — which is totally true. If I persist, my spiritual life with God becomes deader and deader. Persisting in sin could even lead to physical death if God determined my life was a terrible hindrance to the well-being and advance of His kingdom.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:15–23)
This “BUT” is the kicker. But now I am set free from that old life and can live a life set apart for God. I am not trapped into thinking I’ve only one choice, or into picking up the wrong stuff for the task of living. Those ways are costly. Freedom is living by the gift of eternal life, not by any of the old ways, but by the life of Jesus Christ, a life that is eternal, that pleases God and blesses others.
Lord Jesus, Your life not only blesses others but blesses me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You also bless me with forgiveness each time I slip and each time I make foolish choices. I am fully aware that I cannot save myself nor fight sin in my own power. Your faithfulness and gracious mercy are overwhelming — an awesome inclusion in that free gift of life eternal.
Today’s thankful list . . .
Sweet time of worship with God’s family.
Encouraging visit with a young woman who knows how to live for Christ.
Sunshine after rain.
Frig full of food so I will not need to cook giving time to help a friend pack to move.
Not getting upset that it took hours to scan a hard-copy document to .pdf, then to Word so I could edit and store it digitally, and that I likely need better software.
Peace in my heart.