Responsive Reading: Romans 6:1-14
Key Verse(s): Romans 6:4; 8:12
Background Scripture: Romans 13:8-14
God is love and in His love, Paul wrote in our key verse that we, genuine believers, were buried with Christ through baptism into death and as He was raised from the dead, even so we also should walk in newness of life. God is love and in His love there is newness through the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son. Do you realize the great debt we owe to the Lord today to have our sins forgiven and to be able to walk in newness?
Our Great Debt
My hope is that we would understand the great debt we owe in the giving of Christ. However, if not, then in order to understand what I mean by the great debt we owe, I feel we must first understand what the resurrection truly means for all of us who have believed.
Reconciled through Christ
Firstly, the resurrection confirms that Jesus truly was/is the only begotten Son of God. Remember how Satan sarcastically spoke about how the Father would not allow the Son to be harmed when he tempted Jesus (Matt. 4:6)? Well, Jesus, even though He was crucified, was not truly cast down because He overcame the grave, sin, and the world and got the victory for all of us.
So, on that note, secondly, the resurrection of Christ confirmed that the Lord is faithful to what He promised in the garden in that Satan and sin were defeated. Jesus proclaimed victory and all authority when He rose from the grave with all power in His hands (Matt. 28:18; 1 Pet. 3:18-20). Thirdly, the resurrection of Christ, as you have heard me say in recent weeks, is confirmation of God’s love for mankind.
So, because God is love, He reconciled all of us unto Himself through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19). Reconciliation, we should remember, is the restoration of harmony – fellowship – between us and the Lord. Now, prior to the reconciliatory work of Christ, man could not live in fellowship with the Lord because of our iniquities; they separated us from God (Is. 59:2).
Yet, because of Christ, the one of genuine faith is now inseparable from the Lord. Through our fellowship, the Holy Spirit is transforming our hearts around the clock and making us ready for God. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).”
Through Christ, all of us have been washed by His blood. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, we are born again with the promise that because of our faith we will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:3,16). I tell you that there is a great debt we owe through this work of reconciliation.
Compelled to Pay Back the Debt We Owe
So, let me ask you this: How does it make you feel to know that God has loved you with the depth of love to save you from sin? How does it make you feel to know that God has never forsaken you, but bears with you in all things, including when you disobey Him?
Personally, the fact that God loves me in all of my faults – they are many – feels me with indescribable joy. Sadly, I feel like too many of us take for granted His love and the promise of inheriting the heavenly kingdom with Christ. The work of reconciliation and the promise of God fills me with much hope.
We are debtors
In his letters, Paul was very sincere when he spoke about the love that he had received from the Lord.
For example, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Cor. 5:14-15).”
So, Paul felt compelled to live for Christ because of the love God had shown him and he felt we should do the same. As we know, Paul was a man that ruthlessly persecuted Christ and the church. Paul realized that had God not loved him, he was on a path that would have ended in his eternal destruction. So Paul was very grateful for his end destination to no longer be eternal destruction but eternal peace, happiness, and joy.
In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul wrote, “we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:12).” This, again, expresses Paul’s gratefulness for the love he received from God and calls for us to come to realize the same.
Do you realize you are a debtor today? A debtor is one who owes another a debt. The notion from Paul is that we are not in debt to our flesh; we do not owe our lives to satisfy the lusts of our flesh. Paul was stating that we owe our lives to the one that saved us — the Lord!
Again, why do we owe our lives to God? As we saw Paul say to the Romans last week, we did not receive the spirit of bondage to fear from the Lord. No, through Christ, we received the Spirit of adoption by the Father to be heirs of His and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:15-17). The heavenly kingdom is ours to inherit today because of Christ!
So, why do so many of us live our lives and work so hard like we owe it to our flesh to satisfy its lusts instead of working towards heaven? Honestly, when you think about it, it is absolutely crazy how many of us put our flesh and its lusts before the Lord! Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with living to enjoy life and be happy but I much rather live for the better by putting God first over the lusts of my flesh.
This will sound crazy to many but think about it, what has being obedient to the lusts of your flesh done for you? Where has this obedience gotten you? Did satisfying your lusts wash you clean of your sins so that you can walk in newness? Did satisfying your lusts make it so that you live in eternal happiness, peace, and joy?
I get that this may sound like foolishness to some but as you have heard me say before, the happiness from fulfilling our lusts and earthly desires will pass away over time. In the end, the only thing fulfilling the lusts of the flesh has ever truly done for mankind is create conflict over a bunch of mess that tears us further apart. Not only does obedience to the flesh tear us apart but it continues to create a gulf of separation between us and the Lord.
As a man who understood his sin – how he tore others apart and was separating himself from God – Paul was grateful to be saved from destruction. Paul was so grateful to be saved that he chose to throw away his selfish ambitions and live his life paying back the debt he owed God.
What about you? Would you choose to live in a manner to pay back the great debt you owe to the Lord today or ignore your debt? My hope is that over these last four sermons in this series, you have considered the love God has shown you throughout your life, and that you will now choose to pay back your debt by choosing to live for Him.
Paying Back the Debt We Owe
As Paul said, I now say to you today as well: We are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh and its lusts; we are debtors to God who loved us with so great a depth of love that He saved us from the guilt of sin.
Walking in newness
In order for us to pay back the debt we owe, Paul said that we should walk in the newness of life we have received through Christ. Specifically, we will see that Paul stated that we should not let sin reign in our mortal bodies and obey its lusts (Rom. 6:12).
In order to walk in newness, Paul encouraged us to present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead (sin); we are to commit our members (our bodies) as instruments of righteousness to God (Rom. 6:13). As you have heard me say a lot this year, it is time for us to truly cast off our old ways — our unrighteousness. This manner of living is actually represented to all of us through the cross and the resurrection as well.
Again, in our key verse, Paul said that we died and were buried with Christ. Think about this: on the cross, we know that Christ became sin and died bearing our sins. If we were buried with Christ, and risen with Him, then guess what should still be left behind in the grave?
When Christ was resurrected, He was no longer what He had become while hanging on the cross. Jesus rose from the grave and was holy and righteous — He was glorified! Paul wrote that Christ is the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:15-18); He is the image of the glory that we can and will be if we faithfully follow Him.
Therefore, since we are risen with Him through faith, our sins should remain in the grave so that we can also walk in newness. So, the first step we should take in paying back the debt we owe the Lord is to put off our old man and obeying its lusts.
Staying faithful to the word
Now, with that step in mind, I would then tell you that the second step to paying back the debt we owe is to walk in faith. You see, it would be completely devastating for one to say that they are being faithful but fall back into unrighteousness.
To understand this devastation, the writer of Hebrews wrote that it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and the word of God to be renewed after they openly shame the death and resurrection of Christ (Heb. 6:4-6). To fall back into the ways of wickedness would be to invalidate all that Christ did for us when He chose to drink from the cup of bitterness. I want you to understand that when one falls out of faith, they are making the death and resurrection of Christ vain (meaningless).
It is truly devastating to make vain the cross as it crosses that unpardonable line and blasphemes the Lord. The one that falls back, and makes the cross vain, commit themselves to live according to their lusts rather than the Spirit. Paul said that this one’s living is evident through such acts of uncleanness, selfishness, contentions, and hatred (Gal. 5:19-21). So, rather than paying back the debt they owe, the apostate in falling out of faith, makes a mockery of the love of God.
As one who truly recognizes the great debt we owe, we should never move to invalidate God’s love by turning back to sin. I repeat to you, again, we are debtors to the Lord. Therefore, if you recognize this and desire to pay back the great debt you owe, you must be faithful to Him rather than the lusts of your flesh.
Loving our neighbors
Next, in order for us to pay back the great debt we owe, Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “owe no one anything except to love on another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:8).” This is a desire, I believe, should dwell in the hearts of all of those who truly are sincere in their faith in the Lord — we should feel compelled to love. As John said in his first epistle, we should be compelled to love because the Lord first loved us even when we were a sinful mess.
To the believers in Rome, Paul shared with them the commandments of the (Rom. 13:9): do not commit adultery, nor murder, steal, bear false witness, nor covet anything of another. As you often hear me reference, Jesus said we should love the Lord and our neighbors as we love ourselves. One who chooses to ignore these commandments is one that is openly putting to shame the death and resurrection.
I often preach about how we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves because it is the fulfillment of the law — the fulfillment of what God desires from us (Matt. 22:37-40). God is love and in His love, He uplifts us. Therefore, we pay back the great debt we owe by doing just as Him – loving and uplifting our neighbor (Rom. 13:10).
Living for Christ
In all of these things, we truly pay back the debt we owe when we live for the one who gave His life for us; we pay back the debt we owe when we live for Christ. Paul, we will see, stated that the time is now for us to awake out of sleep because our salvation is nearer than we first believed (Rom. 13:11).
This thought calls our attention to the whole purpose for Christ being manifested in our world, dying on the cross, and then rising from the grave. The whole purpose for Christ was to bring us salvation and not condemnation (John 3:17). Jesus said it Himself that He was not sent into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
You see, some believe that salvation is a time that is way off in the distant future from now but Christ made it clear that He can return at any moment in time. Let us remember that Jesus said that no one knows the day and hour of His coming; not even the angels in heaven nor the Son knows when He will return. Jesus said that only the Father knows the day and the hour of His coming (Mark 13:32).
So, what does this mean for us? What this means for us is that we should take heed, watch, pray, and live diligently expecting for the Lord to come back any due to collect (Mark 13:33). So, again, as Paul said, if we desire to pay back the great debt we owe to God, we should do as Paul said and “cast off the works of darkness” and put on the “armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).
Resurrection Sunday – Easter – is considered by many to be the least popular holiday there is; probably because outside of a rabbit, eggs, and candy, there is no way to really commercialize it. Those that are sincere in the faith are those truly rejoicing today. Yes, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ today but I want you to understand that we also celebrate our resurrection today as well. Through Christ, our spirits have been awakened – made alive – and are no longer dead.
We are debtors not to the flesh, but to Christ. Therefore, because we are debtors to Christ, we should live for Christ; we must not make His death and resurrection meaningless. Paul encouraged us to “walk properly” and not in “revelry and drunkenness” nor “in lewdness and lusts”; not in strife and envy (Rom. 13:13). This is how we faithfully live for Christ and not fall into apostasy and its destruction.
I want to close out this series on this note: God is love and He did not create us for eternal destruction; He saved us from damnation. Because God loves us, the debt we owe is to share with others that salvation is near and it is time to wake up! Yes, God is drawing nearer to collect what is due and we don’t want to be caught lacking! Therefore, let us diligently strive to pay back the great debt of love we owe the Lord by faithfully walking in the newness given to us by Christ.