Joaquín Guzmán ( Nickname “El Chapo”, which means shorty) is a Mexican drug lord and been in the news lately. Forbes magazine called him the “biggest drug lord of all time. El Chapo was arrested in 2014, but he escaped from prison again in 2015 by exiting through a tunnel dug to below his cell. He was then recaptured by Mexican marines in 2016 after granting interviews to people like Sean Penn – because he wanted a movie made of his life. El Chapo escaped his prison cell, but due to his own foolishness and pride, ended up back in bondage.
The same may happen to us as Christians. We are freed from sin’s penalty, power and prison; and as free people we are told not to return to sin’s bondage.
Sinning so that grace may abound
Remember Paul’s words in Romans 6:1
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
Some people in Rome were thinking: If God’s grace is seen by God forgiving many sins – should I not sin more, then God will be seen to be more gracious in forgiving more sin. In fact, Christians have always battled with this question, “If God has freely forgiven me for all my sin – does that not give me a license to sin, knowing that my sins are forgiven”. We might not think in such blatant terms, but have you never caught yourself making light of your moral failures on the grounds that God will excuse and forgive you? Does God’s grace promote reckless sinning?
Quite the contrary:
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
God’s grace to us in Christ does not promote sin, but rather frees us from sin’s dominion.
How is this possible?
Dead to sin
In v2 the Apostle Paul says that we as believers have died to sin.
How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:2-4)
Here’s what happened: We deserve to die for our sins. And in fact we did die, though not in our own person, but in the person of Jesus Christ our substitute, who died in our place, and with whom we have been united by faith in the baptism of the Spirit.
Paul says that because of what Christ has done for us, we have died to sin and therefore sin is now an enemy to us not a friend. For the believer to continue to lead a life characterised by sin is the spiritual equivalent of digging up a corpse for fellowship.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (Romans 6:12)
But still sinning
Of course we still sin, otherwise Paul’s admonition in v12 not to allow sin to rule over us again, makes no sense. But sin is our enemy, not our friend. Even though we are set free from the power of sin, v12 shows that sin can still enslave us if we allow it.
The correct response to sin is acknowledgement, confession and repentance.
V11 has the secret to holy living. It says that we must constantly consider ourselves or regards ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. The secret to holiness is to remind ourselves of the gospel. Keep remembering that Jesus died for sin and therefore you died to sin. Not only did you die to sin, but you were also spiritually raised with Christ so that you too can live in newness of life.
You have died to sin. Sin is not your friend. You are a Christian now. When you wake up in the morning, remind yourself. When you are tempted to view porn in the evening, remind yourself. When rage threatens to master you, remind yourself.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a famous Welsh preacher in London in the 1900’s. He used this helpful illustration:
Picture two typical fields in the English countryside, enclosed by high rock walls. Every person begins life in one of those fields – a field ruled by Satan and sin.
We have no chance in climbing the walls and escaping the field on our own. But God, in his grace, reached down and takes us out of the Satan-dominated field and puts us down in the field next door, ruled by Christ. A decisive change in our position has taken place – we are in a whole new relationship to sin.
However, we can still hear Satan’s voice across the wall from that old field where we used to live. Out of habit, we still sometimes obey Satan’s voice, even though we don’t have to. But the more we say no to the temptation and the more we fight sin, the further and further we move away from the dividing wall so that Satan’s voice grows fainter and fainter.
Christ has set you free from the penalty and power of sin; don’t return like El Chapo to sin’s bondage again.
PS I’ve tried a larger font in this post. Good idea or bad idea?
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