STOP… in the name of Love.

Do any of you have days that you aren’t proud of?

I had one of them just a few months ago.

It was a day where I was grumpy and snarky. I was gossipy and rude.

My husband and I had a fight the day before and the disagreement still had not been resolved. The anger I was feeling crept out in a thousand different ways.

We just so happened to be at my in-laws that Saturday.

And when my husband’s grandfather confronted me about my changed attitude, my quick response was – “It’s my day off from church… I’m allowed.”

UGH!

Friends… I am not a perfect person, and I will never pretend to be a perfect person.

But as soon as those words slipped out of my mouth… as soon as I said, “It’s my day off from church… I’m allowed…” I realized how very wrong those words were… and how very wrong my bent towards sin was on that day.

This morning, we begin a journey with Paul and the church of the Romans. Paul has some really challenging words to share with us over the coming weeks and months… words that might cause you to sit back and say: UGH!

But that is what we are here for. We are here to encourage one another… to hold one another accountable… and to help each other grow deeper in their relationship with God and their love of other people.

Let us pray:

Dylan shared with us just a few minutes ago some words from the apostle Paul to the church in Rome.

Paul was a Roman citizen, a man with some standing in his little corner of the world, with rights and responsibilities some could only dream of.

When he writes a letter to the church in Rome, it is kind of like writing a letter today to the church in Washington, D.C. He is writing to the very seat of power. He is writing to people who are movers and shakers. He is writing to people who have influence in the world…

But in current terms, Paul was a nobody to the Romans. He would be like the mayor of a small Iowan town writing a letter to congress. No one knows who he is… and no one important would pay him the time of day.

So Paul is also writing to their servants and slaves and the commoners without any citizenship and status who have heard about God’s love and grace and have become a part of the church also.

And so Paul doesn’t start out his letter by listing his credentials…

He begins by talking about Jesus Christ and his work. He begins by saying, I am a slave of Christ Jesus….

Up until now, Paul has not made a journey to the city of Rome and has not had the opportunity to visit the church there. So this letter represents Paul’s first words to this church. It contains everything that he thinks it is important that they know.

In these pages are great and wonderful thoughts about sin and death and salvation and how we should live together as followers of Christ.

And so for a while, we are going to spend some time in this one letter, and see what Paul might also have to say to us today…

Since we are not starting at the very beginning, I want to give you a quick summary of what is contained in the first five chapters.

Paul writes at great length that all of us are under the power of sin. Gentiles don’t have any good reason to be excused from the power of sin. Jews don’t either. There is nothing that we can do to escape its power. Not works, not the law, not ritual, not closing a blind eye… nothing.

Nothing… except faith. Except trust. Except accepting the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

His faithfulness makes us righteous. His faithfulness makes us worthy. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and by his blood we have been reconciled to God.

And so, by faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we have died to that old power of sin and now live under the power of grace.

All of that brings us to our scripture for this morning.

We are beginning our journey with this passage of scripture, because here is where it gets really practical.

If none of us can escape from the power of sin on our own… and if Christ really died to set us free… and if we accept and trust in that grace of God that Jesus Christ showed us…

Then what?

How are we supposed to live now?

Paul’s answer in these verses is simple… Stop letting sin get the better of you.

Stop offering parts of yourself to sin, to be used as weapons for wrong.

Stop setting aside pieces of your life, giving them to things that are not godly.

Paul is reminding us… if you truly accept and trust in the grace of God… there are no days off for sinning.

Remember my very bad, horrible, no good day…

Because of the argument my husband and I had, I let the anger I was feeling have control. I let it. I took all of those feelings and set them aside in a neat little box and decided that I didn’t need God’s help in dealing with them.

And because I gave that anger power and because I gave it free reign in my life, it took over. The next day I was bitter, and I had a quick wit and biting humor, and when I washed the dishes I banged pots and pans around… oh my goodness… I was a terrible person that day!

I CHOSE to let sin in. I chose to let my mind and my personality be under its power. I gave in.

Now, the thing is, in my old life… my life before Jesus Christ… that would have been normal. I didn’t have a choice. Capital “S” sin… the power of Sin was there, lurking around every corner and it had me by a tight leash.
But Christ broke those chains. Christ ended the reign of sin in my life. Christ set me free.
And through faith in Jesus Christ and the sharing of the sacraments… you too, can be and have been set free from the power of sin.
We are no longer ruled by sin…. And so now we are free to live holy lives.
The thing that always hangs us up at this point is the freedom has been defined as the power to do whatever we want.
But the truth is… we are always ruled by something. Our feelings, our government, our thoughts…
Just because sin doesn’t have control, doesn’t mean we can go about whilly nilly in this world.
And so in this passage, Paul introduces us to step two…
First, we were freed from the power of sin
So now… live under the power of grace. Live under the power of God. Turn your life over to God’s plan and purpose.

To do that requires a two part choice…. We have to STOP offering pieces of ourselves over to sin. And we have to START offering ourselves as instruments to God.

You see… the grace of God can and will make a difference in our lives… but only if we let it. Only if we don’t hold back parts of ourselves from God’s transforming power.

In this passage, Paul grabs us by the shoulders and is shaking us awake… At least I know for me it was like a slap in the face….

YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN! He reminds us. Sin has no more power over you…

YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN! So stop making excuses and trying to justify your poor choices.

YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN! So stop living your faith only on church days and start living your faith every single moment.

YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN! A new person! A fresh start! God’s holy creation!

So stop living like you did in the past and start embracing the power God gives you to be a child of God.

All around us this morning are stop signs.

They remind us that it is time to stop living like we did yesterday or last week, or whenever it was that you let Sin have power over you last.

In each of the pews, there are some smaller versions of these stop signs and I want to invite you to take one home with you.

Stick it on your bathroom mirror. Put it on the wheel in your car. Place it somewhere you will see it every single day. And let it be a reminder to you that you have the power to STOP living under the power of sin. You can STOP letting sin rule your day.

I want you to hold those stop signs in your hands for just a moment and think about one thing… one habit… one person or one situation that needs to stop being a part of your life so that you can say YES to God and start living the way God wants you.

If you have a pen… maybe write that thing on the back of your stop sign.

Let us commit together, to stop letting sin have power in our lives…. And let us together live holy and godly lives.

Amen!

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