“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:22–23).
Recently, I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia. This is a condition where a small opening in the top of my stomach allows acid to get into my abdomen and where part of my stomach pushes up through my diaphragm muscle. It’s just as painful as it sounds. Some people with the condition require surgery, but I have found that I can control the side effects simply by eating healthy. Actually, my diet is beyond healthy—I need to cut out even good-for-you grains and carbohydrates in order to keep from aggravating my condition. The trouble is, all those foods that I must deny myself in order to control my condition are so delicious. There have been more times than I’d like to admit where I’ve indulged in something that I knew beforehand would not be good for me. In those moments, my appetite was met and my taste buds were satisfied. But, just as the food settled in my stomach, the cramps, coughing, and overwhelming sense of nausea returned. It happens almost every time I lack the self-control to say no. There are consequences for my actions. And, if I am not careful, the result could lead to greater health problems, even the possibility of death.
Sin Looks Tasty
My desire for food that I should not have reminds me of the allure of sin. There are times in life when I can see the ugliness of sin and its deceitful nature quickly. But then there are other times when I ignore the Spirit’s prompting and warnings, and I succumb to the flesh. Sin can lie to our hearts and minds, telling us that it will be satisfying.
Think about the last time you were angry with someone and gave them the cold shoulder or spit out a sharp comeback. The response felt satisfying at the time, perhaps, but the Scriptures say that a gentle answer turns away wrath (Prov. 15:1). Or, what about that time when you took a quick glance at that forbidden website only to find yourself swallowed up in its false and grotesque portrayal of intimacy. Misery and shame follow. We can, no doubt, think of a number of things that we do that we ought not to do and that produce devastating long-term results. Instant gratification quickly dissipates. Lasting enjoyment, however, comes from denying self, rejecting sin, and pursuing Jesus.
Seeing Sin Clearly
God’s Word doesn’t make light of our sin. We see in Romans 6:23 that the result or punishment for sin is death. Sin kills the body and the soul. Sin corrupts everything. When sin came into the world, it brought death and darkness, brokenness and shame. And when we deliberately sin, when we give in to the desires of our flesh, we are saying yes to death.
But God has provided a way of escape: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). We can say no to sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. We have been set free from sin and are no longer ruled by its power (Rom. 6:22). This doesn’t mean we don’t sin, and it doesn’t mean that we won’t sin. We will sin and we do sin; in fact, when we want to do good, evil is right there with us (Rom. 7:21). But when we face a clear choice, we have been given the power to say no. What freedom! That’s reason for rejoicing.
Jesus, the Sin Killer
It’s true that the wages of sin is death. And to pay for our sin required death—the death of the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus died the death that we deserve. Jesus paid the penalty that we earned. Jesus is the reason for our freedom. It is the free gift of God that leads to eternal life (6:23). This is most definitely reason for more rejoicing. Jesus paid a debt we could never pay on our own—it was far too great. We now have freedom by His grace. Let’s take that freedom and live worthy of this awesome gospel. We can’t do it on our own; thus, God gives Himself more and more even after our conversion so that we can have the power to be slaves of God and righteousness.
As we put off the sin that clings so closely, we become more and more like our Savior. This is a story of grace. We sin, but Jesus died for that sin, freeing us from the power of sin and giving us all the things necessary to be more like Him. As those who have been set free from the chains of sin, we are being sanctified—made more like Christ. We are being transformed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18). So, the next time you are tempted by sin, remember this free gift. We don’t obey because it earns us favor; this favor is already ours. It has been bought with a price. Instead, we obey because we love Jesus and are compelled by this love toward obedience.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on April 18, 2018.