Do Not Let Sin Reign in Your Mortal Body, Part 2
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
The Battleground and Its Participants
Last week from these verses we described the battleground and the participants in the struggle. Let me review that quickly.
- Verse 12: There is a throne or a reign. "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body."
- Verse 12: There is a challenger to the throne: sin. "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body."
- Verse 12: There is a castle where sin threatens to reign: the human body. "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body."
- Verse 12: There are loyal servants in the castle who may go over to the other side and join the conspiracy as enemy agents inside the walls of the castle: desires. "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its (that is, the body's) desires."
- Verse 12: There is incremental surrender possible in this conflict: obedience to disloyal desires. "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires."
- Verse 13: There is a true king on the throne who has the reign in the castle: God. "Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments [weapons] of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments [weapons] of righteousness to God."
- Verse 13: There are weapons in the castle that can be used to advance the cause of the true king, God, or the cause of the pretender to the throne, sin: members [parts] of the human body. "Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments [o[pla, weapons] of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments [o[pla, weapons] of righteousness to God."
- Verse 14: There is a constitutional authority in the kingdom: grace, not law. "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace."
How the Enemy Does Battle
Then we saw how the enemy does battle. Sin is the enemy, the rebel, the pretender to the throne. And the main way sin does battle against us is to turn servants into traitors. It turns servant-desires into conspirators against the throne. Desires which were appointed by God to serve us – like desire for food, desire for drink, desire for sex, desire for rest, desire for friends, desire for approval – are attacked by sin and captured and corrupted and turned into betrayers – Judas-desires, Delilah-desires. Then these desires – now in the service of sin instead of God – lure us to obey them. When that happens we hand over our members – eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, sexual organs, vocal cords, etc. – to serve these desires and their master, sin, and our members become weapons of unrighteousness.
How does sin succeed at this? How do the desires that he captures and turns into betrayers turn us into slaves of sin? They do this by making obedience to the Judas-desires seem very rewarding. They lie to us with half-truths. "It will feel good." Obeying Judas-desires does feel good. But only for a short time. Then later comes the misery and destruction. That's why Hebrews 11:25 refers to "the fleeting pleasures of sin." These Judas-desires are very deceitful. Ephesians 4:22 says that our "old man" is corrupted by the "desires of deceit." 1 Peter 1:14 refers to "the desires of your former ignorance."
Sin takes our desires and makes liars out of them. They promise satisfaction and happiness, and they deliver cheap, fleeting, shallow stimulation that leaves us less content and less peaceful and less hopeful and more guilty, more restless, more discouraged, more enslaved. In the end, if we don't fight the way this text tells us to, we may be cut off from God in hell. That's why Romans 6:21 says, "The outcome of those things is death." And that's why 1 Peter 2:11 says, "Abstain from fleshly desires which wage war against the soul." There is a war for the soul going on. Sin is fighting for the throne of your soul; it is using your desires as betrayers; and it is turning your members into weapons of unrighteousness.
Lest you have in your mind here only the so-called gross sins like drunkenness or fornication or adultery or stealing or murder, keep this in mind: The book of James says that the most deadly member of our body – the most deadly weapon of unrighteousness – is the tongue. "The tongue is a small part of the body. . . . See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. . . . No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison" (James 3:5-8). That is what happens when sin perverts our desires so that we present our tongues to these Judas-desires as a weapon of unrighteousness. What a weapon of destruction it can be! So this battle strategy is for everybody here, not just for someone you might point your finger at.
How Shall We Do Battle Against Sin?
How then shall we fight? I want to look with you now at how Romans 6:11-14 teaches us to do battle with sin.
First, remember that five chapters on God, sin, and justification have gone before chapter 6. Paul does not teach us how to do battle with sin until we have learned how Christ has done battle with sin first and done what we could not do and what the law could not do. This is astonishing for us pragmatic Americans. Five chapters to help us see why justification by faith is utterly essential as a foundation for doing battle with sin! You cannot fight sin successfully until you know your sin is forgiven. The only sin that you can triumph over in practice is a sin that Christ has died for. If he had not died to take away our condemnation, we could make no progress at all in sanctification. You don't make yourself holy in order to be justified. You are justified by faith in order to become holy. That is why Romans 1-5 precedes Romans 6. Your triumph over sin in the body follows Christ's triumph over sin on the cross.
Strategy #1 – Christ Died for Your Sin
So strategy #1 in your battle with sin is that Christ died for your sin. Romans 3:25 said, "God displayed [him] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith." That is, Christ shed his blood so that God's wrath would be propitiated, that is, satisfied, appeased, taken away. Or as Romans 5:8-9 says, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." That is strategy #1 in our battle against sin. Don't ever skip it. If you do, Satan will defeat you with a hopeless and guilty conscience.
Strategy #2 – You Died and Rose with Christ
Strategy #2 is that when Christ died and rose again, you died and rose again. Or to be more precise, God viewed you as united with Christ so that his execution for sin, became your execution and his reward with resurrection became your reward. Romans 6:6, "Our old self was crucified with him." Verse 8: "We have died with Christ." (See Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14.) These first two strategies of defeating sin in our lives happened historically outside ourselves before we were even born. This is history.
Strategy #3 – We Have Become United with Christ
Strategy #3: God united us with Christ by faith. This is the application to us of what was accomplished for us on the cross and in the life of Jesus. Romans 6:5, "We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death." How does this happen? Paul answers in 1 Corinthians 1:30, "But by [God's] doing ["from him," evx auvtou] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." God grafted us into Christ. What was our part? Faith in Christ – looking on what he has done and what he is and what he promises to do, and receiving that as a free gift as our treasure in life.
Strategy #4 – God Justifies Us
Strategy #4: God justifies us by this faith because we are united with Christ. He forgives all our sins and imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it like this: "[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." As God reckoned Christ to be sinful though he was righteous, so he reckons us to be righteous, though we are sinful. And he does this because we are "in Christ."
So far, then. Strategy #1: Christ died for our sins. Strategy #2: We died with him. Strategy #3: God united us to Christ through our faith. Strategy #4: God justifies us because of our union with Christ. He counts our sins as punished in Christ and Christ's righteousness as credited to us. All of that precedes the command of Romans 6:11. That is the difference between Christianity and every other religion and every other moral improvement program.
Strategy #5 – Consider Yourselves Dead to Sin
But now comes strategy #5 in the battle with sin – and it is really an extension of the faith in Strategy #4. But Paul treats it separately, so I will too. Strategy #5 is a mental and volitional act preceding direct engagement with temptation. It's found in Romans 6:11, "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."
Notice two things about this strategy:
1) It is something you do with your reason and your will. You "reckon" something to be so. (For "reckoning," see 2:26; 8:18, 36; 14:14.) "Reckon yourselves" (logi,zesqe e`autou.j) to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." The "even so" at the beginning of verse 11 refers back to verse 10 where Paul said Christ died to sin and lives to God. "Even so" – as you have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection – "even so" bring your mind and will into alignment with this. Think this way. Know yourself this way. Count this to be the truth about yourself. You died and you rose with Christ.
2) Notice that this deadness to sin and life to God is "in Christ." Paul is still, amazingly, at the objective level of what is true outside of yourself. He is pointing you still to a reality about you that is objective and external to yourself. In the strategy of verse 11, your death to sin and life to God is not yet something in experience. Paul is saying: first bring your mind and heart into alignment with all that objective reality in the first four steps: Christ died for you, you died in him, you were united with him by God's doing through faith, you were justified. Now think this way. Know yourself this way. Seize this reality as who you truly are. Welcome and embrace this work of God and all it means for you as your treasure in life. (This is why I said that this strategy is an extension of the faith of Strategy #4. Reckoning ourselves to have died and risen with Christ is believing it and embracing it with all its promises as precious beyond all earthly things.)
Strategy #6 – Say No . . . and Choose God
Now comes the direct engagement with temptation in Strategy #6: When sin sends deceitful Judas-desires to tempt you to present your members as weapons of unrighteousness, prefer another Ruler, God.
Notice the "therefore" at the beginning of verse 12. "Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts." The active engagement of our will now in verse 12 comes after and is based on all the other strategies of God. The bumper sticker and the T-shirt morality, "Just Say No," is not Christian. You don't just say no. Five great things have preceded and undergirded and enabled us to say no. Saying no is Strategy #6.
O we must say No. When sin attacks with the Judas-desire of lust, we say, No! When he attacks with the Judas-desire of covetousness we say, No! When he attacks with the Judas-desire of alcohol or nicotine or marijuana or crack cocaine, we say, No! When sin attacks with the Judas-desire for retaliation or gossip, we say, No! So yes, there is a real engagement of our will. Choose to say, No!
But it is so much more. It is based on what God did in Christ, and what happened to us in Christ, and who God is for us in Christ and who we know ourselves to be in Christ. We embrace all that as our treasure. And because of that, we say, No.
But there is one more thing to stress about this last Strategy #6 (verse 12) – "Don't let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires." Notice that sin is attacking through desires, Judas-desires. We are called to choose against those desires. "Don't let sin reign." Don't present your eyes and tongue to fulfill that desire. Don't choose those desires.
But what is this choosing? It is preferring. To choose is to prefer one thing over another thing. If God is to get glory in our choosing against sin, it must be because we regard God and what he is and promises as preferable. Choosing is finding one thing preferable to another thing. So you can describe the battle at this point in negative terms: Say no to the Judas-desires of sin on the basis of what God has done and who you are in Christ. You are dead to sin and its desires; they do not look preferable. Or you can describe the battle positively: When sin sends his Judas-desires to tempt you, prefer God and his work and his ways and his promises. See God as preferable to the fleeting pleasures of sin. You are alive to God and he looks preferable. If Satan attacks with deceitful desires, counter with reliable desires that will not let you down, and that lead to everlasting joy.
In other words, the front-line battle against sin, which glorifies God, is based on what he has done for us in Christ to forgive all our sins and count us righteous in him, and is fought by experiencing death to Judas-desires and life to new desires, new preferences – God and his way!
O labor to know what God has done for you in Christ. And look to him continually until you see him as preferable to all other things.