given on Sunday, February 16, 2014:
Being a pastor and a teacher can be humbling.
Being Christian helps keep one’s perspective.
These two personal statements that developed from this week’s life experiences are difficult to accept. Starting off the week with yet another snow day from school tested one’s patience, yet the time was put to good use as I tackled yet another household task. Then Tuesday no snow day was called despite the harsh conditions, and the schedule of life returned to my norm.
Just being back in the classroom and socializing with the others down in the office seemed to put a balance back into my day that had been missing during the snow days. This may be in part because I have operated on a school calendar for over 50 years and that is my natural rhythm for life. The other part of this is my professional image. My classroom is where I feel knowledgeable and confident. Even the role of parent was filled with apprehension and lack of confidence.
Yet, the Christian lifestyle and discipline I work to maintain provides a foundation that frees me from so many of the insecurities that swell up inside my mind. This week my evening devotion from Eugene Peterson’s The Message//Remix: Solo forced me to stop and assess my current performance in life. The teacher and the pastor roles needed some fine-tuning.
In the opening of Romans 6, Paul asks a question: Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Such a strange question because we are supposed to stop sinning, aren’t we? We are not to challenge God’s grace by purposefully sinning.
The Day 256 entry ended up being a five-day reading. The first time I tried reading it, I just could not put aside the clutter in my brain to sort out the lesson. So, I reread it the next night—and the next—and even again. The final reading focused first on Peterson’s pointed questions:
- When do you easily give in to temptations?
- What comfort, relief, or pleasure does the sin give you (no matter how short-lived or shallow)?
- What pain or discomfort does it bring?
- What do you fear you would lose if you gave up the sin?
The questions seeped into the brain and simmered.
Questions like that really forces one to take a minute to look back at one’s experiences and check to see if one’s choices reflect faith or selfish sins. Answers to those questions may cause a shift in understanding sin, but put the questions into your own perspective:
- When do I easily give in to temptations?
- What pleasure do I get from giving in to the temptations?
- What discomfort do I feel?
- What would I lose if I gave up those things?
Reading that passage through those filters is quite humbling. As a pastor, I do not see objects as sinful. But—and this is the key—when I look at how getting certain objects or items control me, then I realize I am probably a slave to the those things. Granted, these items may not be sinful, but the reflective questions about that item cause discomfort.
Christians must constantly be on guard to determine whether a decision provides sinful pleasure that controls them. Paul wants Christians to realize that when some desire or choice controls their actions, they are trapped in a type of slavery.
The definition Paul attaches to sin is summed up in verses 12-13:
Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.
To truly experience freedom in faith, Christians must take control of sinful desires. These desires trap people into behaviors that go against God’s teachings and can lead to self-destruction or can destroy relationships. With God at the center of one’s life, Christians are truly free from controlling, destructive factors. There is freedom in faith to God.
The Solo’s devotion reminds Christians that Paul wrote to Romans new to Christianity and not originally Jewish so “The Law” is not familiar to them. Still Paul writes in verse 15:
“Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not? Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.
Is this not true today, too? Socially, Christians care for God’s world—the men, women, and children as well as the flora and fauna of the created world. If we free ourselves sin’s control, then we are free from the social and political laws that also can trap or enslave us. There is no law that can destroy the freedom we experience when we have faith.
There is only one law needed to truly live a free life and that is the one law God created for us—to love one another, as we want to be loved. All our decisions need to be made through that one filter. Just imagine how our world would change if all found freedom from sin’s control through Christ: no more drug addiction, no alcoholism, no abuse, no greed, no power trips. Freedom is found in faith. No law needs to be voted upon to guarantee freedom of faith if we follow God.
Paul envisioned such a world completely free if everybody believed:
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Welcome yourself into a free world. Choose Christ to lead your life. You believe in God, and you have an internal operating system known as the Holy Spirit to support you in this freedom. With God as your focus, you are free from all the sinful influences surrounding you. Accept God as the master of your life. When you become God’s slave, you find freedom in your faith.
Dear Father of all,
Today we freely gather to join in worship,
and thank you for making our lives so simple.
Help us to identify the various types of control
which enslave us and brings misery upon ourselves.
Help us to identify our personal sinful choices
and free us from those controls.
Let us find the joy and freedom
of a God-centered life.
Let us share that knowledge with others
in every facet of our social worlds.
Let us lead others to accept you as Master
so they may find freedom in faith, too. –Amen