“Present Yourselves to God” (Romans 6:12-23)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“Present Yourselves to God” (Romans 6:12-23)

“Under New Ownership.” Have you ever seen that sign on a storefront? It means that the business has been bought out by a new owner, that the old owner is no longer in charge. And the new owner may have a different way that he wants to run the business. Things will be different now, perhaps vastly different.

“Under New Ownership.” Hey, that sign could be placed on you! For you have come under new ownership. Ever since your baptism, you have belonged to a new owner–to God, who purchased and won you with the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. And in your baptism, you were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, to act as a sort of internal guidance system, to redirect your life, to trust in God and to do the will of God from a happy and willing heart. You are under new ownership now. You belong to God.

And God’s way of doing business will be vastly different from the way of your old owner, when you were under the power of sin. God’s way we can call the way of righteousness, the way of life that conforms to God’s will, as expressed in his commandments. Righteous living that we can call walking according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. It’s the new way of living that proceeds from you being a new person now, alive to God.

You have been brought from death to life. You were crucified with Christ when you were baptized. The old man of sin was put to death and buried with Christ. A new man emerged, a new you, raised from the dead to walk in newness of life. All this God did by his power, by his grace. You did not bring yourself from death to life. God did it. The new you is God’s doing.

But now that you have been made alive, now that you have been liberated from the power of sin, now you are able to respond to God’s call and choose to do his will. And that is why the apostle Paul can say to us Christians–and expect us to respond positively when he tells us–“Present Yourselves to God.”

“Present yourselves to God.” You see, you’ve got a new owner, a new master. There is a new king reigning over you. Before, the king that was reigning over you was sin. You were a slave to sin; that was your master. But God has set you free from that old tyrant. You have been liberated. Like the Israelites being brought out of Pharaoh’s bondage through the waters of the Red Sea, so you and I have been brought out of slavery to sin when we passed through the waters of Holy Baptism.

So now do you want to go back to Egypt? That would be pretty stupid, wouldn’t it? No, we have been set free from that slavery. Why delude ourselves into thinking we are still under the control of sin? Why return to the old ways of obeying our sinful desires? This is what Paul is getting at in our text.

You’re going to be the slave of somebody. The question is: Who is it going to be? Will it be your old master, sin? Or will it be your new master, God? Slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness? Gotta serve somebody, and those are the only two possibilities. Serving sin will lead to death. Serving God, obeying him, listening to his voice–this is walking in the way of life, the life you were meant to live, the life your Creator has designed for you.

Lent is a time for repentance. It’s time for rethinking who you are and how you’re living. Re-evaluating your life’s direction, and making changes accordingly. Think again, consider your true identity as one who belongs to God, as someone who is dead to sin and alive to God. Look at yourself as the new you that you are in Christ. What, in the way that you are living, belongs to the old ways of sin and death and impurity? What, in the way that you could be living, would belong to the way of righteousness and life and love? Humble yourselves before God, dear Christians, seek and receive his forgiveness, and ask for his help to live in the new way that his word says is right. This is repentance.

“Present yourselves to God,” Paul says. This means to come before God and say, “Reporting for duty!” You are recognizing that you belong to God now, that you are dedicated to his service, and so you offer yourself, wholly, body and soul, to do his will. It’s the whole person, the whole you, that comes before God. It starts from the inside out.

But then this willing obedience does work its way out. From the willing heart, from the internal command center, you offer your members to do God’s will. “Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Present your members to God, that is, all the parts of your being, your mind, your senses, the various parts of your body–all of them, all of you, working together for the same purpose.

This willing obedience goes out to your members. It starts in the heart and works its way out. When a soldier reports for duty, the command comes, “Present arms!’ And the soldier extends his rifle outward, indicating his respect and honor and willing obedience toward his commanding officer. The soldier is offering his arms in the service of his commander.

So it is when we present ourselves before God. “Present arms!” the command comes. And so we present our arms–and our legs, our hands and feet, our eyes, ears, mouth, and all the other parts of our body–we present all of our members to do the will of God.

And why not? Is the will of God a bad thing, some odious burden that will spoil our fun and ruin our life? No, no way! But that is the lie we sometimes believe. God’s out to deprive us, to make our lives miserable. That’s the old lie that Adam and Eve fell for, and we sons of Adam and daughters of Eve have been falling for it ever since. We think we’ve got to take matters into our own hands, if we’re going to have a happy life. Foolish thinking, that!

So think again. Consider who you are, as baptized, forgiven children of God. Consider who God is, your kind and loving heavenly Father. He will not mistreat you. He knows what is best for you. Indeed, God gave his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for your sins, to win your forgiveness, and to rise from the dead, to show you the eternal life that is waiting for you. You have been justified, freely, for Christ’s sake. You know this to be true. The Holy Spirit is testifying this to you, deep in your soul. Listen to the Spirit’s leading.

“For when you were slaves of sin,” Paul writes, “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. 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.”

Dear friends, there are two ways. One is the way of sin and death. It is a dead end, literally. The other way is the way of righteousness and life. This is the path of life; walk ye in it. I know you will, because you are a new person now in Christ. You’ve been baptized. You have come under new ownership, you have a new master to serve, a new king to reign over you. And being slaves of God, slaves of righteousness, is the only true freedom there is.

“Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” And so we pray:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only for my King;
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use
Ev’ry power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

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Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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