Every year people like to make New Year’s resolutions.
But I noticed on social media that the New Year’s resolutions going into 2021 were a bit downgraded.
One person on Twitter listed their resolution as:
“Walk to the other side of the room.”
Another said they wanted to:
“Cut screen time from 12 hours a day to 11 hours a day.”
Another’s goal was to:
“Eat a vegetable.”
And my personal favorite resolution for 2021:
People made more serious resolutions, too. Most were based on wanting to improve their physical, mental, or emotional health.
But you know what I didn’t find on Twitter?
I never found a resolution that said, “Stop sinning.”
Or some kind of variant:
Stop looking at porn.
Stop being racist.
Stop yelling at my kids.
“Extinguishing sin” doesn’t usually make it onto New Year’s lists.
Yet the reality is that there is nothing that can more easily derails God’s plan for you in 2021 than sin.
Our goal today is find motivation from God’s Word to make battling sin a top priority in 2021.
Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. What Sin says to Jesus
The lesson for today comes from Romans 6. The book of Romans is an excellent source of teaching. It’s similar to our Starting Point series. It’s a great summary of Biblical truth.
Chapters 1 & 2 teach about the plague of sin on all humanity.
The first half of chapter 3 teaches our deep need for a Savior
The second half of chapter 3 teaches that the world has a Savior in Jesus.
Chapter 4 & 5 teach the free forgiveness that is ours by faith in Jesus
Chapter 6 contains a shift in thought. It poses a rhetorical question that just about any sinful person has asked when hearing about the free forgiveness of Jesus.
What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1)
Imagine you did some Christmas shopping on Etsy. You bought $100 in crocheted Baby Yoda coffee koozies from your friend Sally. Now you get the bill.
But you don’t have the money.
So, you write an email explaining that you lost work during the pandemic, you don’t have the money, and could you have an extension to pay off the bill without interest.
And the unthinkable happens.
Your friend Sally says, ‘It’s ok. I’ll cancel. Keep the Koozies. You don’t owe me anything.”
How many of you would respond to that incredible gracious email with another email that says,
“Awesome! Then, can I order another 20 more koozies? If you want give me those for free too, I’ll write a really good review on your website.”
That’s not the appropriate response.
We can’t do the same thing with sin. Reread the rhetorical question and listen to Paul’s non-rhetorical answer: Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! (v.2a)
Another way of answering this might be:
Or definitely not!
Or positively not!
Or even…NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!
Sin is an UNGODLY response to God’s grace.
It’s not thankfulness.
It’s not godly.
It’s selfishness and ungodliness.
It’s telling the one who unselfishly gave up his life on the cross, “Hmm…Thanks Jesus. But uh…can I add on a few more sins? I know it’ll probably hurt you, but I really like the way this sin feels on me.”
But the problem is deeper than that…
II. Sin’s Dangerous Path
Check out the next reason Paul gives for fighting against sin:
We died to sin. How can we go on living in it any longer? (v.2)
Have you ever been talking on your phone and it beeps? It’s telling you that it’s about to die. You need to plug the phone in or else you won’t be able to finish the conversation about the new Bachelor.
Or have you ever been on your laptop and suddenly the screen grows dim? It’s your computers way of conserving energy because it’s about to die and when it does, you’ll be unable to finish writing your blogpost about how awesome Doordash is.
Or you’re watching a squirrel play out on your lawn. It’s entertaining to watch it run back and forth – find a nut – open a nut – chew on a nut. Until the squirrel runs out into oncoming traffic and…you aren’t able to watch Mr. Squirrel anymore.
Death always means the end of something.
Sin always leads to death.
Sin always leads to THE END of something
Sin is the reason that physical death is a part of this world.
Sin is the reason your lungs end their breathing.
Sin is the reason your heart ends its beating.
Sin is the reason your brain neurons end their firing.
But sin can cause end of something long before your physical body ends…
Drinking too much means THE END of your chances of being a good parent.
Cheating on your spouse means THE END to your marriage.
Gossiping about your friends means DEATH to your friendships.
Being grouchy around everyone else at work means THE END of others wanting to be around you.
Being lazy at your job means THE END of your employment.
Posting racist comments means THE END of people’s good perception of you.
Staying away from God’s Word means THE END of your faith.
Bragging to everyone about how awesome you are at following Jesus means THE END of your chance of encouraging them to follow Jesus.
Sin is responsible for so much death.
Based on the law of culpability…
If we keep sinning, that makes us responsible too.
III. The Baptism Effect
But here’s the thing about Jesus.
He hates death.
He hates that sin causes death.
He hates that our sins means our death.
He underwent death to put to death our death-causing sin.
He underwent death to put to death our death causer, sin.
He underwent death to put to death…Death.
Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (v.3)
This changes at least one Trivia questions.
Do you guys know how many people died on Mount Calvary with Jesus?
You might be thinking two?
A criminal to his right.
A criminal to his left.
But that’s incorrect.
There’s one guy to his left.
And one guy to his right.
But you forgot about the one who died on the same cross as Jesus.
This is deep theology. Scripture isn’t talking about your physical body. Obviously, you are alive and well.
Scripture is talking about your sinful identity.
Your sinful identity died in Christ.
Your identity as “jerk”? It’s dead. No more.
Your identity as “easy?” Dead. Long gone.
Your identity as “addict?” It’s dead. Bled out there on the cross.
You are convict no more.
You are racist no more.
You are vengeful no more.
You are bitter no more.
You are lazy no more.
You are sinner no more.
Your SINFUL IDENTITY died in Christ.
I suppose this is strange to think of, but Paul is really saying that baptism is a funeral.
Maybe we need to start treating baptisms differently.
Maybe we should cover the font with a black shroud.
Maybe we should add black flowers to the altar.
Maybe we should provide packages of tissues for all the crying that will happen as a result of the impending death.
But then again…
The one who’s dying, no one is going to miss!
No one will miss their sinful identity.
No one misses the one responsible for our own impending death.
Maybe we should treat baptism more like a celebration.
More party music.
Maybe even a pinata!
This is more of a Wicked Witch of the East situation.
Ding dong the Witch is dead?
Ding dong our sinful identity is dead!
And in its place?
We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection. (v.4-5)
If you’re united with Jesus in his death.
You are also united with him in his resurrection.
And when Jesus rose, he had a new identity:
He was no longer the dead Lord, but the resurrected one.
He was no longer the one who will save us, but the one who did save us.
He was no longer the one can conquer death, but the one who did.
Jesus had a new identity.
Because you are connected to him,
You have a new identity you too.
You have a NEW Identity in Jesus.
You are no longer felon, but forgiven.
You are no longer angry, but at peace.
You are no longer impure, but pure.
You are no longer faithless, but faithful.
You are no longer sinner, but sin fighter.
And this new identity comes with some new power.
We know that our old self was crucified with him, to make our sinful body powerless, so that we would not continue to serve sin. For the person who has died has been declared free from sin. (v.6-7)
It’s just like the game of Mario Bros. Have you played it? You start out as regular old Mario with the ability to jump, wear plumber overalls, and stomp tiny walking mushrooms.
But if you touch a fire flower, your power source changes.
You don’t have to just jump on the Goombas.
Now you can throw a fireball at that.
Because of Jesus, you have been changed.
You are no longer SINFUL you, but SAVED.
You have a NEW POWER in Jesus.
This power is to fight sin.
This power is to do what’s right.
This power is to follow your Lord and Savior in 2021 and beyond.
And it’s a very powerful power.
Because it comes directly from a very powerful God.
Have you ever heard about Jesus’ baptism?
It was unlike any other baptism.
Number one, Jesus didn’t need to be baptized to connect with himself and wash away his sins.
He was sinless.
But he needed for an entirely different reason.
As John the Baptist completed pouring water on Jesus’ head, the skies opened up.
A brilliant light shine.
A dove came out of that light and hovered over Jesus’ head.
A voice spoke and said, “This is my son, whom I love.”
Power to rip open the sky.
Power to speak with a booming voice.
Power to be Triune – three person – one being.
That’s the power you have on your side.
That’s the power that works with you to defeat your sin.
That’s the power that works with you in 2021.