“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14 ESV)
I was walking around the corner into our living room when the projectile hit me right in the eye. I wasn’t hurt badly (the projectile was a soft, rubbery ball), but it did sting quite a bit and it did surprise me, and so I got mad and growled at the culprit, now sheepishly holding his new slingshot behind his back. “You need to not aim that thing at someone’s face! It’s not kind to try to hurt someone!” “I’m sorry, Dad. I won’t do it ever again,” was the response I got. The words were said at near tears, for my little boy loves me and felt remorse because he had provoked me. Forgiveness was asked for and was granted, and amends were made. But I’m not sure if he can keep his promise to not ever do it again. I’ve gotten pegged by toys one too many times to not be skeptical. Real change, honest change, is not an easy proposition.
At the beginning of a new year, we’re often introspective. We’re encouraged to make “New Year’s Resolutions.” For the Christian, this introspection often is uncomfortable, because when we look at ourselves honestly, we see so many ways in which we have habits of missing the mark – of sinning against God and against others. In the face of besetting sin, we often feel overwhelmed. It’s not hard to look back and see how often our response to God and to others has been “I’m sorry! I won’t ever do it again.” Perhaps our response has gotten more measured: “I’ll try not to do that again.” But how can one break free from besetting sin? Paul deals with this topic at the beginning of Romans chapter 6. His advice for us is that we offer up ourselves to God “as those who have been brought from death to life.” This is to say that as we struggle with the temptation to use our body to sin, we should present ourselves to God, recalling his mercy. His teaching culminates in vs. 14 “For sin will have no dominion over you for you are not under law, but under grace.” The grace of God brings us out from under sin’s dominion in several important ways:
First, the grace of God delivers us from the penalty of sin. Sin would have had mastery over us, because it causes us to break God’s holy law. Grace delivers us from the penalty of our lawbreaking, placing the penalty of our sin upon Jesus Christ. This is a humbling thing, because we must accept that the innocent Son of God received our penalty. But it is also a joyful thing, because he did it willingly, out of love. And having received our penalty, he overcame sin and death and is risen victoriously. So, far from getting what we deserve, instead we are given forgiveness, we are credited with righteousness, and we are promised an inheritance with God the father. Sin no longer has dominion over us in its aim to damn our souls. All because of grace.
And secondly, God’s grace breaks sin’s dominion over us because grace gives us a new way to obey. Without the grace of God, our prospects of change would be gloomy indeed. Here are the tools we would have toward obeying God: God’s perfect moral law, spotless in its goodness and its beneficial intent toward man; our own corrupted will, sometimes afflicted by our conscience; and a phenomenally large track record of having broken each of God’s holy commands. The law alone, holy as it is, cannot tame our rebel hearts. But the cross breaks the grip of sin, because it changes our hearts. God loved us when we were unlovable. And believing, we are moved by His Spirit to gratitude, and we begin to obey the law out of a love for God and others.
Do you desire to change, friend? When you have failed, or you’re tempted, present yourself before God just as you are. Consider the cross and the grace which you continue to be shown. You will find with a habit of such remembrance that God’s Holy Spirit will strengthen you to become the new you.