Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus





ENSLAVED BY CHOICE

    In the 1960's and 70's, the Minnesota Vikings fielded a daunting defensive line nicknamed the Purple People Eaters. Defensive tackle Jim Marshall led his team and the entire NFL at the time in the most consecutive starts, fumble recoveries, and quarterback sacks. The Vikings and San Francisco 49ers met on October 25th of 1964. With the Vikings leading by ten points, the 49ers completed a short pass in the fourth quarter to their own 34 yard line. As Marshall scrambled toward the receiver, three other Vikings reached him first, and one of them stripped the ball so that it rolled out right in front of Jim Marshall. The star tackle scooped up the ball and dashed 66 yards ... into the wrong endzone.
    When Jim Marshall rushed the quarterback, he did a good thing. When he switched directions to pursue the pass, he did a good thing. When he recovered the fumble, he did a great thing. Next he ran with the ball (which is usually a good thing) all the way to the endzone, but Jim Marshall is famous today not for his consecutive starts, or his record fumble recoveries, or record number of sacks. Jim Marshall is famous for pursuing the wrong goal.
    First century Jews had two very good goals. They wanted to see the Daniel 2:44 kingdom of God replace the kingdom of Rome as a better earthly kingdom. They also each wanted to personally achieve the Daniel 12:2 goal of eternal life. The goals of the Jews caused them to ask Jesus and John repeatedly if they were the promised Messiah (King) of the new kingdom. They also asked questions like, "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" Pursuing the goals of earthly kingdoms and eternal life, the first century Jews missed the goals Jesus presented them of glorifying God and turning people from the power of sin.
    Christians today ironically elevate the same two goals as the first century Jews: 1) getting people into eternal life and 2) improving the kingdoms of this world. We want our nations to exhibit better morals. We want prayer in our earthly schools. We want better government leaders. We do well to pursue such goals, but God's top goals still appear to be 1) glorifying God and 2) turning people from sin's power. We must not marginalize the #1 goal which is glorifying God, and we need to elevate the goal of breaking people free from the current power of sin - not just the punishment of sin.

ESCAPING SIN'S POWER
    Few Christians realize they have already escaped the power of sin although Romans 5 explicitly says it. Having escaped from the domain of sin into the kingdom of grace, Paul commanded believers to take up two habits directly related to their freedom from sin. As noted in the previous article, Paul commanded us in Romans 6:11 to daily count ourselves as 1) dead to sin, 2) alive to God, and 3) in King Jesus. Just as God counted those three things to the citizens of Jesus, so too we must count to ourselves in order to walk out those truths. We must obey Paul's second command in Romans six as well. He commanded us to count ourselves (R6:2-11) and present ourselves (R6:12-19).
    Romans 6:12, "Therefore don't let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its desires." Paul had just commanded us to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus. So in verse twelve, he commands us to do what every Christian wants to do: stop letting sin control us. The next verse will tell us how.
    6:13a, "Nor present your body-parts to sin as instruments of unrighteousness..." In order for Queen Sin to rule us, Paul says we have to give her at least one of our body parts. We have to walk into a part of town where we know we should not go or log into a website which we know we should not view or entertain a line of thinking which we know to be unhealthy. When a man believes God has made Jesus the King, that man immediately escapes the authority of Queen Sin and comes under the authority of Queen Grace (R5:21). Queen Sin has no control over the free man unless he offers her one of his body parts for her use.
    6:13b, "but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your body-parts as instruments of righteousness to God." Paul does not leave us to live the negative life of constantly trying to avoid Queen Sin. Paul commands us to engage the positive life by presenting our body-parts to God for His use. Countless believers can attest that they struggle with temptation and sin far more often when they are idle or engaged in entertaining themselves. The believer who presents her mind, her hands, her legs, and her lungs to worship God and actively serve Him is a believer who has little time to serving Queen Sin.
    6:14-16, "For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Will we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not! Don't you know that to whomever you present yourselves as obeying servants, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?" Paul showed us how the man who consistently presents his body-parts to Queen Sin, obeying her desires must ask himself what he believes about Jesus. Is Jesus the King of the world or the religious curiosity of the world? If Jesus is my King, I obey Him. Having confronted us with our sin, Paul will turn us once again to counting ourselves...
    6:17, "But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were servants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered." When I wonder whether Jesus is truly my King, Paul said I should thank God for giving me obedience to the commands of Jesus "to which you were delivered." In other words, he  said I should count myself yet again as "dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus."
    6:18, "Being made free from sin, you became servants of righteousness." Doesn't it sound like Paul is counting us as dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus? If the reader thinks I am putting words in Paul's mouth, the next verse affirms this for living out our freedom from sin's power.
    6:19, "I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh, for as you presented your body-parts as servants to uncleanness and to wickedness upon wickedness, even so now present your body-parts as servants to righteousness for sanctification." Paul wrote "because of the weakness of your flesh." He commanded us to count our sinful identity as dead, count our new identity as alive to God, and count ourselves as being in King Jesus. Then Paul commanded us repeatedly to present our bodily organs to God for His use. If Jim Marshall had "presented" his bodily organs to the task of running in the correct direction on October 25th of 1964, he would not have scored a safety for the 49ers. It would not have been physically possible. Likewise when we present our body-parts to God in worship and work, those body-parts and (our renewed minds) have neither the time, nor the interest to serve sin.
    King Jesus set us free from the domain of darkness. The believers who walk out their freedom are the believers who prayerfully present their body-parts daily to God as His tools for righteous activity and prayerfully identify themselves daily as "dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus." These two habits must operate together in order to serve the new King and enjoy our freedom from Sin's authority.

TWO COMMANDED HABITS FOR THE SLAVES OF KING JESUS:
     #1 COUNTING OURSELVES (6:11)
     #2 PRESENTING OURSELVES (6:19)

                                                    
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"Enslaved by Choice" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on August 16th, 2013. All rights are reserved.