My dear friend Naomi Njoroge, from Kenya, wrote this on her 50th birthday:
More than half of these 50 years were spent on a slippery road, on a hell-bound race which came naturally to me, just like the rest of mankind. For we are all by nature destined as fuel for hellfire (Eph. 2).
But God being rich in mercy halted this race. He yanked me from this slippery road and put my feet upon a rock. Yes, He did!
And if this is all the Father did, that would have been good—undeserved and glorious. But our Father does things very well. He not only stripped me of my hellish nature, which the Bible calls flesh, and in so doing made me unfit for hell. He also clothed me with his righteousness, making me fit for heaven. Yes, He did!
I am now on a heaven bound race. Yes, I am! And I know heaven will receive me, and hell will not—and it cannot. And this is not of my own doing. The blood of Jesus pleads for me.
If I see my 51st, I know my righteousness will not exceed that of the thief on the cross, but my labors may. That is my prayer.
What a way to spend a birthday! Contemplating being halted on the highway to hell and transferred to the road to heaven.
Naomi knows she was a slave to sin, but the free gift of grace—the blood of Jesus—set her free.
I too have experienced this freedom. Sin was my master. I obeyed its passions. My sin gave birth to more sin. I was callous to it—didn’t recognize it for the evil it was. I had a debased mind and was filled with unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, and malice. My sin lead to more sin and lawlessness. But God lifted me from the slimy pit and put my feet firmly on the Rock. I remember the stink of death but its smell clings to me no more.
What joy to have been set free by grace! No longer a slave to sin—no longer crushed by the law but under grace. This is heart-swelling, toe-tingling, tear-evoking “dance in the kitchen” joy!
But Paul asks: Are we to use this freedom in order to sin still more? If I am not bound by the law, shall I break it? Does grace give me a license to sin?
The people of Israel were dramatically rescued by God. The blood of a spotless lamb painted over their doorposts saved them from destruction. The former slaves of Egypt were set free! But after a time of traveling through the desert, the people longed for the cucumbers back in Egypt. They forgot their harsh taskmasters because they were tired of the provisions of the Lord.
What am I tempted to go back to? What do I think would make life more comfortable? What do I want more than God? Food, alcohol, reputation, accomplishment, ease, different circumstances or different relationships? We are slaves of what we love—what we long for. Slavery to sin leads to death, but obedience to God leads to righteousness and life.
Thanks be to God that he has given me a new heart that wants to obey. I fall short daily, but I am committed to gospel truth that has set me free from slavery to sin. I love the Lord Jesus. His shed blood pleads my righteousness before God. My Savior “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). There is purpose in redemption. We are a people set apart for God himself. No more will I present my members to impurity and lawlessness. I don’t want to sin. I am committed to the standard of teaching—sound doctrine—reading and applying the Scriptures to get God’s word down deep in my heart. This teaching is not just a new philosophy we believe. It’s a new heart disposition on which we base our lives. I will present my heart, mind, soul and strength to righteousness so that I may be sanctified, made more like Christ, ready for the final day.
Notice again here in verses 15-19 the indicative first, and the imperative based on the indicative. You were set free from sin and have become obedient from the heart, “so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.”
As Christians, we no longer obey the law like a contract we dare not break. We’ve been set free. Grace now has dominion in our lives. The love of Christ rules our hearts. This law of love is actually more demanding than the Mosaic law but with it comes a new nature. The Spirit is at work within our hearts to cause us to want to obey.
Sister, don’t go back to Egypt. There is nothing back there but multiplying sin, pain and death. You’re on a heaven bound race—free, obedient from the heart. Yes, you are! March in the opposite direction. You have been redeemed for your God. Use your mind, heart, soul and strength for righteousness and live for his glory. Yes, you can! You are fit for heaven and heaven will receive you. Yes, it will!
- Bible study questions for Romans 6:15-19 are here. Lord willing, next Monday the last set of questions on Romans 6 will be posted followed by another devotional on Wednesday.