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能够达成使命 Mission made possible - new nation

Sermon passage: (Romans 6:1-14) Spoken on: August 16, 2015
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev Enoch Keong
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Romans

Tags: Romans, 罗马书

Listen to sermon recording with the play button or download with the download link. 您可点播或下载讲道录音。
About Rev Enoch Keong: Rev. Keong is currently serving as a pastor in the youth and young adult ministries, as well as the John zone pastor in Jubilee Church.

Title: Mission Made Possible – New Nation
Speaker : Rev Enoch Keong

An American Christian minister tells a true story about a convict who murdered a fellow prisoner on a maximum security island off the coast of Australia. When he was later asked in court as to why he murdered a fellow prisoner, he said he was sick of life on the island and saw no reason to keep on living. “I can understand that,” said the judge, “but why didn’t you just drown yourself in the ocean? Why murder?” “Well, I figure it this way,” replied the prisoner. “I’m a Catholic. If I committed suicide, I’d go straight to hell. But if I murder, I can come back here, confess to a priest, and that way God will forgive me before I’m executed.”[1] Not at all an appropriate story to start us out on this happy day when we celebrate SG50. But this true story goes to show how far off-track a distorted understanding of grace can lead to.

Paul made a statement at the close of the previous chapter, “but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more” (Rom 5:20). Paul could see immediately how people may make use of what he says and turn it into a license to do just about anything. He therefore quickly throws out this question at the start of today’s text, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” He then went on to explain what it means to be living under grace.

Let’s us first bring up to date a term in the passage before we look further at what Paul has to say about living under grace. Paul refers to his readers in verse 3 and 4 as people who are baptized. I just want to remind us that folks back in the first century undergo baptism the very day they believed in Christ and committed their lives to him. People back then don't get to attend the well-known course A and course B, or some other baptism classes taught in other churches today before receiving baptism. In other words, baptism is more of like conversion in today’s context. In short, what Paul has to say about living under grace concerns all Christians.

Grace, says Paul, is about us being, “…buried with him through baptism into death [and in our case, conversion] in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (v.4). Grace, in other words, means that when we believe in Christ and are joined to him, we share what is his. He died to sin and is free from its power, we share that. He lives a life that is able to please God, we share that. That’s what grace is about basically.

Then in verse 11, Paul urges the Romans Christians to “…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v.11). What would be one important thing to take note about this counting process? There’s a song that keeps drumming itself into my ears recently, or should I say into our ears? When I turn on the TV in the nights, it’s there. When I passed by Heeren along Orchard Road one evening, the gigantic screen outside the building was showing the MV of the song. And for me, the drumming in fact starts right from the morning. The office I use faces the Chinese Kindergarten; I don’t have to say more. And I am sure we know which song I am referring to. In the second verse of the song, we find these words,
We’ve built a brave new world where we could shine and grow
And now we only have to look towards tomorrow
Question. Did the composer Mr Dick Lee tried to stretch his imagination and put into words something that has yet to be seen? In other words, is he trying to sing into existence a new reality? No. He is describing what he perceives to be today’s Singapore. He observes and recognizes, and in recognizing he breaths in what is to him the reality and breaths out the song. Am I saying too much about the song since all we need to know is the "oh oh oh..." portion to participate in the SG50 NDP theme song?

What I mean to say is that that’s what counting in verse 11 is about. It is not trying to picture a potential new reality, but to recognize and acknowledge that a new reality has already come about. For Christ has done it, Christ has made it possible for his followers to now choose not to sin, grace is in operation, Christ has established a new nation where its citizens are no longer under the power, or domain, of sin but the power, or grace, of God. In short, it is not the counting—the mental assertion—that achieves the dying to sin and being alive to God. Rather, we count, simply because being free from the control of sin and being alive to God has become for Christians a reality.

Why are we hearing this? One reason is of course it is what the text is saying. The other reason is that being a Christian can at times be an intimidating business. I find it to be the case, for example, when I am sitting comfortably in a worship service, and then the pastor comes on after a while and says things like, “Congregation, it’s not me saying this, but it’s God who says, ‘…you are to be holy because I am holy’” (Lev 11.45). Or the pastor rattles off, “Congregation, it’s the Lord Jesus Christ who says in Matthew 5:48, ‘…be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.” If we find the challenge to be holy, and especially to be perfect to sound intimidating, we are friends. Such challenges tend to made me question myself, “am I trying hard enough?” “Am I not trying hard enough?” The pastor’s challenge soon sounds like an accusation to my conscience. But, friends, I don’t think we need to feel intimidated or overwhelmed whenever we read or hear such bible verses parroted by somebody. Why? Because it is never the counting—the mental assertion—that achieves the dying to sin, being alive to God and living lives that’s holy. Friends, the bible is not so much a book that spells out spiritual goals for your and I to achieve, but a book that seeks first and foremost to communicate the gospel. The bible is about God understanding our difficulties and limitations, about him entering into our situation and making it possible for us to live holy lives. Our part is to recognize the new reality and participate in the life of Christ. We have participated in his death by committing our lives to him as our Lord and savior, and we continue to participate in his life that is lived to God.

Does this sound too good be true? We are well aware of our hot temper that translates into verbal abuses; our selfishness that had never intended to rob anybody, but someone else often just ended up losing out because of us. And we are people carrying baggage loaded with hurts that make us the hurting kind, and there are the other ‘old kingdom’ traits that are well and alive and prancing like predators.

What the apostle Paul says indeed sounds too good to be true, but he has not finished. In verse 13, we read, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (v.13).

Are we familiar with the Christian dictum ‘already and not yet’? ‘Already and not yet’ tries to say that there are 2 realities happening at the same time with regard to Christians living holy lives. One, Christ has ALREADY founded a new nation where its citizens are no longer under the power of sin but under the power of God. This, we may say, is objective truth for Christians. Second, because we have NOT YET participated literally in Jesus’ resurrection, the power of sin is still trying to hold parties wherever we are. This is also true in our case. To which side do we offer ourselves to with all these push pull going on?

Two of my family members recently have to wear the arm sling; one is now recovering from a fractured shoulder and the other a fractured forearm. Let’s imagine that they are tennis players. As long as the arm slings are on, they are not free to swing the racket. But soon the arm slings will be removed. And at that time, they are free to return the serves. When the opponent attacks, do they play into or counter the opponent’s tricky moves? Friends, just say that you are I are holding the racket today, the opponent, the power of sin, is trying to party in our court. Do we¬¬¬¬, who live lives with ‘already and not yet’ as the reality, offer ourselves to sin as an instrument of wickedness, or do we offer ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness?

Whatever our decision may be, it will take more than a day to perfect the strokes. One other thing therefore comes to mind: One of the most comforting thing that someone can say to me, or I can say to someone, in an empathetic and gentle voice would be, “We love you as you are, just be yourself.” Isn’t it comforting to hear someone saying such kind words to us? And don’t get me wrong with what I am about to say, I am not at all trying to underestimate or downplay the goodness of such kinds words that contains life-giving potentials. But in the context of what we have been saying about being holy and righteous, coupled with the fact that it really takes time to grow in these aspects, adages such as ‘just be yourself’, or ‘just be who you are’ simply doesn’t characterize the outlook we should have as we journey in our spiritual pilgrimage. Isn’t it the case that we are not as completely and totally righteous as our Lord? And that there’s a journey of growth ahead of us? So, apart from recognizing that we are called to participate in Christ’s life, let’s at the same time make this our maxim, that we are to “become what we are becoming”[2] ; like Christ, of course. And in practical terms it means that we participate and participate and continue to participate in Christ’s life. And through it we will grow and get to the NOT YET where we will participate literally in Christ resurrection, in God’s time.

Right now, participating in Christ’s life means doing what Christ does. Christ came into our world to fulfil a mission, a mission that is still ongoing today. The bible tells us that he fulfils his mission by being prophet, priest and king to the ones he serve.

A prophet communicates the heartbeat of God and the future that God seeks to build. That’s what Christ is doing. A priest stands between God and man, he reconciles man to God. Christ does exactly this. A king rules with wisdom, and we see it in Jesus’ teachings and deeds.

Participating in Christ’s life means walking in Jesus’ footsteps. Friends, you and I are therefore called to be prophet, priest and king.

All these titles are bombastic sounding. I may be a 14 year old school girl that’s being bullied from time to time? Me? Prophet? King? But again, friends, the bible is not asking us to stretch our imagination to picture that we are so and so, but to simply recognize the new reality that Christ has inaugurated and to participate in what he is doing. Talking about being bullied, didn’t Jesus the prophet, priest and king have a huge sampling of it when he was mocked, beaten and insulted just before his crucifixion? Who knows in what ways the same prophet, priest and king would want to bring about healing in our world today? All we know is that he is risen and is building God’s kingdom in our midst. So the question for us today is, are we active participants?

[2] Schreiner, Thomas R., “Romans”: BECNT, Grand Rapid: Baker Academic, 1998. 321.