Thanks for bearing with me through a challenging Bible text last Sunday morning. The notion that “death to sin” is one of the primary goals (if not the primary goal) for us in our trials is a hard one to comprehend. You and I are familiar with our own personal struggle with sin ; trials and hardships have the potential for aggravating that struggle. God allows that struggle to take place, I think, because He is intent on weaning us away from the power of sin in our lives. And, of course, He has completely released us from the eternal penalty of sin through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Much about death to sin is taught, not in 1 Peter, but in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Often, I find it helpful to read the book of Romans in the J.B. Phillips version of the Bible, … and to try to read as much of it as I can in a single sitting in order to get the full effect of Paul’s arguments.
I love what Phillips has written in his introduction to the letter. He says this : “The theme is almost entirely that of God’s ‘salvation’ and needs a little explanation to the modern mind.” What a beautifully understated truth ! Salvation needs a little explanation to the modern mind ! We have trouble grasping it fully ourselves ; how little do most people in our sophisticated world outside the church understand it … and their need for it. Phillips goes on to elaborate :
“To Paul, brought up under the rigid Jewish Law, God was pre-eminently the God of Righteousness, i.e. moral perfection. In these days when the majority of people assume God to be a vague easy-going Benevolence, it is difficult to appreciate the force of Paul’s problem, or the wonder of its solution. If we are prepared to grant the absolute moral perfection of God, eternally aflame with positive goodness, truth and beauty, we can perhaps understand that any form of sin or evil cannot approach God without instant dissolution. This is as inevitable as, for example, the destruction of certain germs by the light of the sun. How then, asks Paul, can man who has failed and, moreover, sinned deliberately, ever approach God or hope to share in his timeless existence ?”
Phillips goes on to explain the solution :
“The heart of the Gospel is that God himself meets this deadlock by a personal visit to this world. God, as Jesus Christ, became representative man, and as such deliberately accepted the eventual consequence of evil, namely, suffering and death. Any man therefore who sincerely entrusts his life to Christ can now be accepted by God by virtue of God’s personal act of atonement. Salvation, i.e. being safe from the horrible long-term consequences of sin and safe in the presence of God’s utter holiness, now becomes a matter of ‘believing’ and not ‘achieving.’”
Paul, in ways similar to Peter, expresses death to sin – and life to God – in these terms :
“Now what is our response to be ? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God ? What a terrible thought ! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer ?” (Romans 6:1-2).
“Do not, then, allow sin to establish any power over your moral bodies in making you give way to its lusts. Nor hand over your bodily parts to be, as it were, weapons of evil for the devil’s purposes. But, like men rescued from certain death, put yourselves in God’s hands as weapons of good for his own purposes. For sin can never be your master – you are no longer living under the Law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
“Now, what shall we do ? Shall we go on sinning because we have no Law to condemn us any more, but are living under grace ? Never ! Just think what it would mean. You belong to the power which you choose to obey, whether you choose sin, whose reward is death, or God, obedience to whom means the reward of righteousness” (Romans 6:15-16).
I find these to be comforting and helpful thoughts. I, like you, struggle with dying to sin and living to God. The key may be found in Phillips’ unique wording of Romans 12:2 —
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-make you …” (Romans 12:2).
A question to consider : In what way(s) are you letting the world squeeze you into its mold ?
A few important reminders and dates to make sure you have in your calendar :
Ministry Team Leaders (“Staff”) Meeting this Sunday morning at 8:30.
Can you imagine what a great summer of ministry and renewal may lie ahead of us ? We’re going to nail down a summer calendar this Sunday morning. We need representatives from Elders, Stewards, Essence, Missions, Greeters, Overflow, JAM, Seedling, Women’s Bible Study, VBS, Nursery, and more ! Thank you ! The adult Gospel of John class will meet this Sunday at 9:00 ; those in the adult 201 class not attending the Staff Meeting are welcome to join the Gospel of John class.
If you made a commitment, following the 301 “Discovering My Ministry” class, to meet with the Elder Board for the purpose of discussing your “SHAPE,” we are hoping to meet with you either Wednesday evening, April 9, or Wednesday, April 23. I’ll be sending out a separate email for you to consider what time you could come. About a half-hour is all you’ll need. We can’t wait to hear what you discovered about yourself through the SHAPE Personal Profile. If you attended the 301 class but did not indicate an interest in following up with the elders, it’s not too late. Just let me know. Thanks !
Seder Meal on Good Friday evening. Space is limited, so we need you to please sign up. Sign up sheets are available at the church.
Easter Sunday morning :
8:00 — “Zoe,” a time of worship and discussion led by some of the youth at Emmanuel
9:00 – continental, carry-in breakfast (More details coming on what you can bring.)
10:00 — baptisms, just prior to the start of worship
10:15 – Easter worship
If you are interested in being baptized that morning, please let Jeff or me know as soon as possible !
I struggle some with vision these days – my life is so full without Diana that sometimes just getting through each week seems like a tremendous accomplishment. (As I look out the window and see the grass turning green, I am definitely wondering how mowing the grass fits into the weekly equation ! Maybe winter wasn’t so bad after all ? Just kidding.)
Nevertheless, when I let myself go and dream for Emmanuel, I can envision some things happening, … and I wonder, “Why not sooner rather than later ?”
The Elder Board has some goals of adding courses to our growing adult curriculum, and considering how we can assimilate young people being reached through Seedling, JAM, and Overflow – along with their parents – into God’s Church.
We have as a long-term goal to identify 25 lay teachers at Emmanuel. I firmly believe more of us have been given an ability to teach than are using it. Teaching (adults or young people) is a form of discipleship and a wonderful opportunity to impact people for eternity.
Our women’s Bible study group has been reaching women in the community so effectively ; I wonder what it would take to grow more ministry like that ?
We have great, gifted, spiritual men at church. It would be wonderful to have a robust men’s ministry.
The elders noticed, in preparing the 401 course on witnessing, that we have little in the church geared specifically toward new believers or pre-believers who want to explore the Christian faith more deeply.
And why not build again ? As I participated with my kids in the JAM Family Fun Night last Friday night, playing dodge ball and I don’t know what-all-else in the church auditorium with a pretty rowdy group of kids and parents (!), I thought to myself, “This room just needs to become what it was designed to be – a gymnasium.” That would mean a separate worship facility which is, of course, part of the plan. Well, first things first. Let’s see how we can contribute to the new Welcome space being developed in the entry of our current building, and let’s give generously to pay for the facilities we currently have.
Hope to see you Sunday !
Staff Meeting at 8:30.
Gospel of John class for adults at 9:00.
Worship at 10:15.