Don’t Hang on to Your Shell

by Elaine Maust
Romans 6: 1-11
June 22, 2008

I imagine a conversation between us and God. And it goes something like this…

We are thinking about something that happened in the past. A mistake we made. Some horrible thing we did to someone else. One of those things that, yeah, it’s in the past, but we just can’t seem to shake it. And God interrupts, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m trying to remember that. Hmm… no, can’t seem to remember…” (Micah 7:18-19)

Sometimes we have a harder time forgetting our sin than God does. Join with me by turning to Romans 6 and let’s take a look at these verses about sin and grace.

If more sin = more grace, should we sin more? No! (Romans 6:1)

Romans 6 begins with an interesting question. “So, what shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” What kind of question is that?

That question comes from Romans 5:20, “…where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” Paul (who wrote this letter to the Romans) explains that if sin comes in pickup loads, then grace comes by the dump trucks! There is, there will always be more of God’s grace than any amount of sin we commit. Somebody say, “Thank God!”

And so, none of us would come to this conclusion, would we? So then somebody reasoned, “Well, if there is always more grace than sin, then more sin means more grace.” True enough. “So, (this line of reasoning goes), let’s sin a whole lot so we can experience a whole lot more of God’s grace.” That’s Romans 6:1.

It sounds like ridiculous logic, but we’ve probably all been guilty of the “if some is good, more is better,” mentality. Haven’t we?

Our beloved neighbor Mr. Boykin loved to garden. He grew enough vegetables on the hills of his little farm to feed all of Lost Gap. I would go up to his house and come home with grocery bags of tomatoes or corn or eggplant. Well, he figured if a little fertilizer produced those giant tomatoes and eggplants of his, imagine what a lot of fertilizer would do! So he poured on the nitrogen. Only problem? Nothing grew the next year. He had his soil tested and found out what was wrong. Fertilizer poisoning!

Paul’s answer to the question, “should we sin more so there will be more grace?” is “By no means!” (v2)

How can we live in sin any longer? (Romans 6:2-4a)

How can we keep on sinning?

Jesus died and was buried. (v3) Then he rose again. When we were baptized we joined in the great mystery of his dying and resurrection. Many of you were or will be immersed. Put under the water when you are baptized. This is a sign of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We go down into the water as sinners and come out in the resurrection. So different in fact that it could be said we have died, were buried, and now we are living a new life. (v4)

So how can we live in sin any longer? We died to it. (v2)

That’s where the chicken and the egg come in. The chicken is the same chicken inside the egg and outside, right? And yet, completely different. When it hatches, it doesn’t need the shell any more. How could it go on living in the shell? It can’t live that way any more. Imagine that little chick Duane showed the children during the children’s story, with that shell tied on its back. Clumsy. Ridiculous. It would only slow it down.

And how about us? What is the sin we still hang onto doing to us? If you could turn loose of one sin what would it be? Let go of that shell that holds you in. Jesus died for us and we died with Him. We don’t need to live inside that sin any more.

Walk in the new life (Romans 6:4b)

The front of the bulletin says, “walk in newness of life.” That’s Romans 6:4 (KJV). The photo on the front of the bulletin reminds me of the swamp trail at Pine Lake Camp. Have you walked on that? Imagine going out there, taking a walk along the board walk, and over there slogging through the swamp is someone trying to take a walk. What? Why would anyone want to sink up to their hips in swamp juice when they could walk on that elevated trail? “Come over here,” you call to them. “There’s a new way to get through this.”

And it doesn’t make sense either to go on sinning when we have this better way to live. Now we walk in the new life.

What a lovely way to think about this life with God… walking. Walking requires effort. Sometimes, this walking, well, it is hard work. And it implies progress. We are walking with God in this new life. We are still making mistakes, but we are making progress. As my friend Carrie says, “I’m not where I’m going to be, but I’m not where I was.”

So if you are still splashing through the swamp, come on up and get on the path. You don’t have to keep doing that. You can walk in the new life!

United with him (Romans 6:5-7)

(v5) When my brothers were about 10 and 12, there was a terrible accident. My brothers were cleaning out the barn and built a bonfire to burn the trash. Without realizing it, they threw aerosol cans into the fire. Well, it’s a long story, but our family learned more than we wanted to know about burn treatments and skin grafts that summer.

Here’s why I’m telling you this. I got excited when I realized the Greek word used here for “united” means “grafted.” Doctors took skin from my little brother’s thighs and grafted it onto his back. They hoped it would connect or unite with the healthy skin still on his back. Today Eric is a grown up. And he has a very scarred back. But the skin united. Grew together and made new skin.

We were sinners. Every last one of us in here. And now, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have the hope of surviving our sin and recovering by being united, can you believe it, grafted onto Jesus. So that Jesus and us, we grow together.

Perhaps we think of ourselves as the “bad one.” Maybe our families remember us as the “angry one.” Maybe our friends call us the “selfish one.” But God thinks new thoughts about us. We need to start living up to our new reputations. As we think new thoughts about ourselves and act in new ways, other will come around to seeing us as God does.

We were sinner. Oh yeah. But now, now we are not slaves to sin any longer. (v6) Just like the chickens that broke out of their shell. Just like Jesus who broke out of the grave, we are not trapped by sin any longer.

Live with him (Romans 6:8-11)

(v8) Jesus died and rose again. He didn’t go back to live in the tomb. And we need to live a new life with him now! Our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God. Let’s live like that!

In a sermon a few weeks ago Jeff told about the time Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Remember what Jesus told the astonished crowd as Lazarus came walking out of the tomb, “Take off the graveclothes and let him go!”

Jeff challenged us to look at ourselves and see if we are still wearing grave clothes and to get rid of them. What sins do we need to throw off our backs and walk away from? And Jeff also invited us to help other folks to get loose too. We need to start thinking of folks in new ways too.

Do you think it took awhile for Lazarus’ friends to start thinking of him as alive? Did a conversation with two of them go something like this… “Did you hear, Lazarus is alive.” “No man, he’s dead. I know this.” “No, I’m telling you. He stopped by for a cup of coffee this morning. He is alive.”

God’s part is the forgiving part. The resurrection part. The grace. And God is very good at that part! Ps. 103:10-12.

What is wrong with us? Despite God’s forgetfulness we keep remembering. We say, “Oh God. I’ve been such a bad person.” And God says, “what are you talking about? I can’t remember.”

God has invited you into a new life. Live it!

God’s part has been done. Jesus came. Wherever there is a lot of sin, there is even more grace. More than enough! We are forgiven.

What’s our part?

Don’t hang onto your Shell

Walk in a new way – Every day make the effort to make some progress toward God. Live the new life.

Die to the old way – We must quit giving our sin mouth to mouth resuscitation. We don’t want to live like that any more. The old way has died.

Let it go – We don’t dig up old sin and haunt ourselves with it. God knows everything and God forgave us. If God can let it go, so should we.

During the healing service you are invited to come forward to ask for prayer for those that need God’s touch. And to ask for healing of any kind. But this morning, I also invite you to come forward to say, I am ready to live this new life. I’m ready, maybe one more time, to leave the shell of my old life behind.

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