Scripture: Romans 6:1-11
When I was young and growing up outside of Bridgewater, there was a small lake just down the road from my house. We could bike there in less than 5 minutes. It was our swimming hole and our fishing hole. I caught 5 fish there one evening, which totally frustrated my neighbour who caught none, despite our hooks being just feet apart. But that’s not what I want to tell you about this lake.
Actually, I don’t know if you’d actually call it a lake, it’s more like a good sized pond. If you were so inclined, you could swim across it quite easily, although we never did. There were a lot of weeds on the other side of the lake, which we weren’t too keen on getting mixed up in.
We spent many days every summer on this pond. We had a rudimentary raft, which I’m not sure how we ever survived it without drowning, where we could hang out all day if we wanted. And there were many days when we did.
The question every spring was “When could we go swimming?”
Once I got to junior high and we could go ourselves, we would try and get in as early as possible. Usually that meant the May long weekend.
You might be thinking to yourself, “wouldn’t that be cold?”
And the answer is “yes,” empathically, “YES!”
It was freezing cold. Often around mid-May, at least in the rest of the province, you can expect warm temperatures. But, as we all know, it takes a lot of hot days to warm up a body of water, no matter how small the pond may be!
But, as teenage boys, it was more about the adventure, or more likely the bragging rights of getting into the lake first, which inspired our actions.
Now, of course, these were not day long swims like we might take in August, we would be in and out pretty quick to say the least. But we did it! We were the first again!
And refreshing! Woo! Was it ever!
In some ways, those chilly dips in the lake were our sign that summer was well on its way, and it gave us something to look forward to. We might not go back for a few weeks to swim, but we were ready.
It quickly became our welcome to summer as we counted down the days to the end of school.
We all like to have something to look forward to, don’t we? And with the nice weather we’ve had the last couple of weeks, we look forward to when the kids, or grandkids, are out of school and we plan some family adventures to parks, camping, beaches, hiking, BBQs, sporting events like soccer or baseball, all great things we love to do together when the weather is nice.
It’s good to have something to look forward to. It’s even healthy when you think about it. After a long, cold winter, it’s good to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and beauty of this island we call home.
But we can hold off on the swimming for a few more weeks I think.
As Christians we also have something we can look forward to. We look forward to living for all eternity with God through our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a wonderful gift we are offered by our Father, our heavenly Father, who longs for us to come home to Him. And as people who profess Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, we have received this gift of love offered freely.
In our reading from Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he lifts up an important question for us this morning.
If we have received from God a great gift of love and grace, does it matter how we live? If God loves us unconditionally, then does it really matter what kind of life we live here on this earth?
It sounds to me like early Christians struggled with what it meant to live a life for Christ. It sounds like they realized the amazing grace of our God, and realized there was nothing they could do to make God love them any more or any less, and decided to take advantage of it.
I think you sense how this is not a good idea.
Yet, they still did it. They still chose to do things which were considered sinful. So Paul is writing to show them the error of their ways, to try and bring them back into line with how God wants us to live, and how He showed us how to live through the life of Jesus.
Paul tells us how we are all connected to the life, death and resurrection of our Lord. In Jesus, we saw him baptized by John and started his ministry. Baptism is seen as a sign of God washing us clean for His purposes, and Jesus is the one who took what was once a sign and actually made it into a moment when God’s grace enters a life.
Remember what happened at the baptism of Jesus. When Jesus came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended from heaven and came upon him. This was not the first baptism ever performed, John had been baptizing all kinds of people before Jesus came along. But when Jesus was baptized, everything changed. He took a ritual and made it holy, a moment where God’s grace has become visible and tangible.
So now it’s clear God is in Jesus, and Jesus is with God throughout his ministry.
Paul reminds us, that in our own baptism, we are now connected with Jesus in a powerful way. We too have been made holy by the Spirit of God. And in promising our life to follow in his way, we are made one with Jesus Christ.
Which then means, if we are one with Christ in our baptism, then we are also one with him in his death.
And in his death, Jesus died to the sin of the world, even our own sin.
So if we are baptized with Jesus, and if we die with him to sin, this means that we also have died to sin.
Does this mean we will never sin again?
No, of course not. We are human beings, with human emotions, with human reactions, we will make mistakes, we will sin. Now, if you can say that you have never sinned since you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour, good for you! I’m am very happy for you, and I will tell you that you are a very, very, very special and unique person because that is not the case for the rest of us.
We sin. We just do. We don’t want to. And when we realize we’ve done it, we feel pretty bad about it knowing we’ve probably disappointed God or something.
But there’s good news for us. Because we are one with Christ, and because we recognize our sin, and usually pretty quickly, we are able to lay it before God and ask for His forgiveness. And we’re pretty sincere about it too, because we know what we’ve done and how it has impacted our life before and how it will again if we keep it up.
Sin hurts our ability to know God, but it also impacts how others see God when we are supposed to be His representatives on earth. If people see us living in sin, then how do they view the church, or more importantly, God?
So when we catch ourselves sinning, we need to repent and remember how God wants us to live.
All of this because we recognize we are one with Christ through our baptism.
Somedays don’t you think it would be easier if we just had a glass of water by our bed so when we get up every morning we can splash some water on our faces to remember our baptism and to not sin any more?
If only it were that easy, right?
But we are indeed one with Christ since he took our sin to the cross and gave his life for our’s. In our baptism, we are one with Jesus in both his life and his death.
But it doesn’t end there. When we die with Christ to sin, as he did for us on the cross, we are also one with him in his resurrection! We are alive with Christ for all time!
Jesus showed us in his resurrection that sin and death cannot hold him down; sin and death are not the end, they are not the be all and end all of this life.
So often we let our sin define us. We look at ourselves and think that we are unworthy of the promises of God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
We beat ourselves up because we keep falling short over and over again. We are weak creatures, we are creatures of habit, and not usually good ones either.
Yet, Jesus still stands victorious. He still shows us that this life, this broken, sinful life we live is not what defines us. What defines us is how we live for him.
And that means avoiding sin. It means when we do sin, we seek forgiveness from God and from those we harm through our sin. It means we make things right and ask for God to show us the right way to respond, so next time, maybe we can get it right.
This is who we are. This is how we need to define our lives as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.
Die to sin and live with Christ.
Who or what will define you this week?
Will it be your mistakes, your failures, your sin?
Or will it be Jesus Christ who is alive in you?
Choose life. Choose Jesus.
Like a cool dip on a spring day, let Jesus refresh you and revive you.
Let us pray,
In you we have abundant life. You have shown us that our sin does not control us, that it does not define us, that it is dead to us because you have overcome it.
You have shown us when we give our lives to you, you will define who we are as we seek to follow in your way.
It’s in your so very generous love and grace we have life. A life we could never find on our own. What love you have for us that you would take all our sin and die with it to give us this life.
Help us to live in you, Lord Jesus. Help us see how much greater life will be when we submit ourselves to you.
This we ask in your most holy name.
Amen and amen.