Calvary Road Baptist Church

“I RECKON”

Romans 6.12-14 

Some of you may know that several of us recently celebrated Sarah’s birthday, which this year fell on Friday. Being her father, and becoming somewhat more sentimental of late, I got to reminiscing about a past birthday of hers.

When Sarah turned five one of the delightful gifts that she received was a set of checkers. So Sarah and her daddy began to do a great deal of checkers playing. We played game after game after game and had a delightful time. I remember that, besides the fact that she occasionally liked to jump from black squares to red squares in a game, she had the makings of a pretty good checkers player for a kid her age. That said, she had one incredibly bad gaming characteristic that stifled her progress toward checkers expertise. She absolutely loved to surrender her checkers to daddy. She thought it was just the neatest thing in the world to cross daddy’s path and set herself up to be jumped. Of course, she did not much realize at the time that the whole concept of checkers is to keep her checkers out of harm’s way while taking my checkers off the board. Until she appreciated that she would never enjoy success in checkers when playing against her dad. But when playing against her dad, her object was not to win but for us to enjoy each other’s company. And we did. We had a great time.

Let me apply Sarah’s checkers philosophy from years ago to real life. I do this so you will see one of the profound differences between Christians who seem to enjoy great spiritual success and those who do not ever seem to enjoy or experience victory in the Christian life.

We learned in Romans 6.11 that the believer’s response to the great work of Jesus Christ in dying on Calvary’s cross and saving our sinful souls is to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God. To reckon is to account something as so because the Bible declares that it is so. Reckon yourself to be dead unto sin because you are, and reckon yourself to be alive unto God because you are. It doesn’t seem like it, it doesn’t feel like, but God says it’s so. So it’s so!

I submit to you that it is the reckoning believer who really comprehends how the life of a believer in Jesus Christ is to be lived. Because, you see, the reckoning believer reacts to his situation by responding predictably. That predictable way is found in our text for today, which is Romans 6.12-14: 

12  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

13  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

14  For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 

The player who is successful in checkers demonstrates behavior that is, in certain respects, entirely predictable. He will do everything he can to minimize the loss of his checkers while maximizing the losses he inflicts upon his opponent. And that’s not unchristian. It’s a game.

In like manner, the believer who reckons will characteristically respond in the following three ways: 

First, YOUR RESPONSE TO PROHIBITIONS (12-13a) 

12  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

13  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. . . . 

As a result of seeking to obey Paul’s command to reckon himself dead to sin and alive to God, the reckoning believer will exercise his will to obey the following two commands issued by Paul:

First, you will refuse to allow sin to reign in your mortal body. You might think that sounds like a fight. It is a fight. Understand that this command is capable of being ignored. Any believer can allow sin to reign in his mortal body. Any believer can submit to the unauthorized rule of sin. But remember, when the Lord Jesus Christ did what He did for you and me He died unto sin, Romans 6.10. That means we, too, are dead to sin, Romans 6.8. Therefore, we do not have to submit to sin’s attempt to rule our lives. And when sin seeks to rule in our lives, or when we sin allowing sin to rule in our lives, we need to recognize it as illegitimate and unauthorized and unnecessary. The very fact that we have been issued a command should convince us that obedience is within our reach, and that success is a matter of the believer’s will. Why is it important that you not allow sin to reign in your mortal body? Because if you do, you will obey the lustful urges of your mortal body. And I guarantee you that you cannot obey God and the lusts of your body at the same time. They are mutually exclusive.

Second, you will refuse to yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. There are two words, here at the beginning of verse 13, that need closer examination: First, we have the word “yield.” Follow me on this. In English, the word “yield” gives the impression that Paul is urging us not passively to yield our members. But this weakness in English gives rise to the error that there are three attitudes that a believer can take: First, the believer can oppose allowing his members being instruments of unrighteousness. Second, he can yield, allowing control of his members to be taken from him to be instruments of unrighteousness. And third, to actively seek to turn control of his members over to unrighteousness. That, however, is a wrong view of this issue. There are not three positions that one can take as a believer. There are only two. You can actively use your members to do right or actively use your members to do wrong. There is no middle ground, as might be misunderstood by some. Paul, then, is prohibiting the presentation of your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. Now for the word “instruments.” Greek soldiers were called “hoplites.” The word here for “instruments” is "hoplon." What we are dealing with, here, are weapons. Friend, when are you going to realize you are a lean, mean, fighting machine, created in Christ Jesus to wage a very effective spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons? We are, without exception, capable of victory in the spiritual arena. And part of your combat weaponry is the physical body and the personality that you have been given by God. What Paul is telling us is, “Sarah, don’t voluntarily turn your checkers over to your opponent. Soldier, don’t give your rifle to the enemy. Believer, don’t turn control of your faculties over to your spiritual opponent. He cannot make you and I forbid you.” If a Sarah turns her checkers over to her opponent, she will lose that game of checkers. If a soldier turns his rifle over to the enemy, he is a traitor and will be court-martialed and punished if he lives long enough to come to trial. At least that was what happened before Bowe Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan.[1] But when a Christian turns control of his faculties over to the enemy, and the way he does that is sometimes by doing nothing, he has impaired his effectiveness for the cause of Christ. Recognize, Christian, that when you do not reckon yourself to be dead unto sin and alive unto God, that when you do wrong instead of doing right (and no one forces you to do wrong), you have just turned the weapons issued to you by the Lord over to the enemy. 

Second, YOUR RESPONSE OF PRESENTATIONS (13b) 

“. . . but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” 

We have seen what the reckoning Christian will not do. Now let us see what you will do:

First, you will yield yourself unto God as a person who is alive from the dead. And why will you do this? Because you feel like doing this? Because you want to do this? Because it seems to be easy to do this? Because you are without opposition from unsaved loved ones and friends when you do this? No to all of these. No to all of these. You will present yourself to God because you have been commanded to. And you have been commanded to do that which you can do by God’s grace. And you can do that because you really, really are alive from the dead. Though you do not yet have a resurrection body, you very much do have a resurrection life as a Christian. But you can only present to God what is under your own control. And whether it feels like it to you or not, the reckoning believer takes God’s Word for it that his faculties are sufficiently under his control and discretion that he actually can yield them or present them to God. Romans 12.1 shows this to be true. You have to get a hold of yourself, by God’s grace, before you can present yourself to God.

Stated another way, second, you will present your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Understand that “members” refers to your body parts, but that Paul may also be using this word to describe your faculties of thinking and reasoning as well as your capacity to do things. Every single capability that you have has been weaponized by the Spirit of God for usefulness in spiritual conflict. The word “instruments” is, again, the word for weapons or tools that can be used in warfare. The parallel that Paul is drawing here is between presenting yourself to God and presenting your members to God, as well. You see, you simply are not presenting yourself to God unless at the same time you are presenting your faculties to God for the doing of His will. It is the essence of evangelical folly to think that you can present yourself to God without also presenting your members to God. Evangelicals too often think there is a separation, a distinctness, between one’s inner spiritual life and one’s outer spiritual conduct as though the two are disconnected. Be careful. That is how pretenders convince themselves they are believers in Christ when they are not. The reality is that no one really loves God who does not obey God. That reality is expressed in other passages, but we see the principle stated here. You have not given yourself to God unless you try and reach the lost, unless you faithfully attend Church unless you give to the cause of Christ. If you do not do those things, you do not love God. Though there is a distinction between my faculties and me, between you and your members, you will not have presented yourself to God without, at the same time, presenting your members to God also. And visa versa. So we see that the reckoning believer will not turn over his weapons to sin. But you will turn both yourself and your members over to God to do the will of God. Sarah came to be successful in checkers when she responded with greater wisdom and began to use her checkers to take those of her opponent. The soldier wins the fire fight when he uses his rifle to actually shoot the enemy. The believer experiences victory when he uses his faculties to actually serve God and not serve sin. 

Finally, YOUR RESPONSE TO THE PROMISE (14) 

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” 

The believer will not reckon himself to be dead unto sin and alive unto God, will not refuse to do that which is prohibited, and will not present his entire being to God unless he responds to and receives this promise as being as certainly true as the rising of the sun every morning. And did not the Apostle Peter declare that we live the Christian life according to God’s promises, Second Peter 1.4?

Let us, then, examine this promise. “For sin shall not have dominion over you.” Please take note of the fact that this promise leaves room for sin presently having dominion over a believer. There are men and women and young people in this room whose lives are completely dominated by sin. Sin does have dominion over some of you. But it need not be so. It is quite obvious that when we get to heaven sin will have no dominion over us. So the worst case scenario sees this promise being fulfilled when believers go to heaven. But this promise need not wait until that time for fulfillment. As in the case of Paul and Peter, as in the case of Timothy and Titus, and as in the case of millions of believers since their time, the opportunity to be out from under the dominion of sin is yours for the taking, Christian.

It is your determination to believe the premise that determines when this promise will be fulfilled in your experience: 

“for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” 

Though he has not referred to the Law of Moses for quite a while, Paul’s thoughts about the Law may not have been very far from the surface. Take the best case scenario for a person without Christ. That would be the Jewish person under the Law of Moses. Even that best case situation is infinitely worse than the worst-case scenario for the believer in Jesus Christ. Why? Because even in the worst case situation the believer is under grace. Because even in the worst case situation the believer has Christ for his head. Because even in the worst case situation the believer has died to sin and is alive to God. Recognizing the principle, the reckoning believer sees that it cannot be any other way than has been promised here by Paul. Sin shall not have dominion over you. The timing as to when that will be realized in your life is up to you. Thus, even for the Jewish person who may have been born under the Law, which is not the case with any Gentile who has ever lived, once a person comes to Christ it is not possible to be under the authority of the Law of Moses, in whole or in part. Why not? Because the believer in Jesus Christ, every believer in Jesus Christ, is under grace. 

Please don’t think I am trivializing the Christian life by comparing it to a game of checkers played by my daughter and me years ago. Just realize that there are some real-life parallels. The prohibitions Paul has commanded can be likened to Sarah learning how unwise it is to surrender her checkers pieces to her opponent. The commands to present ourselves and our members to God can be likened to Sarah learning how wise it is to use her pieces to her best advantage. But the promise can be likened to the fact that no matter how poorly Sarah plays the game, daddy made sure that she ultimately won.

Our life which is hidden in Christ is a life which is victorious, is a life which is powerful, is a life in which God has done so much for us, but is also a life in which certain important decisions have been left for us to make. If you reckon yourself to be dead unto sin and alive unto God, which you have been commanded to do because you are dead to sin and you are alive unto God, you will express that reckoning in three predictable ways: You will respond to the prohibitions not to turn your faculties over to the opposition. You will respond by presenting yourself and your members, instead, to God, as evidenced by the life that you live. And all this will be based on the promise made to you and me in Romans 6.14.

Extremely serious are these commands issued to us by Paul. What an opportunity we who are saved have to demonstrate that we really are saved. And this we will do when we obey the commands. For you see, those who do not know Jesus Christ are not dead to sin and alive to God. They cannot respond in this manner at all.

Believer? Do you need to present yourself to God and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God because you have been for too long neglectful to God’s will for your new life in Christ? Do so now.

My unsaved friend? Do you need to be saved? Then come to Christ now.

__________

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowe_Bergdahl 11/15/2017

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org