“Location, Location, Location” – Sermon for 07/09/2017

In the series “Grace is for Everyone”

Romans 6:1-4, 15-23closeRomans 6:1-4 Dead to Sin, Alive to God 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:15-23 Slaves to Righteousness 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV) closeRomans 6:1-4closeRomans 6:1-4 Dead to Sin, Alive to God 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (ESV) Dead to Sin, Alive to God 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:15-23closeRomans 6:15-23 Slaves to Righteousness 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV) Slaves to Righteousness 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

 

Some of you have already recognized that the title of today’s message is a mantra in real estate.  The phrase is often attributed to British real estate tycoon Lord Harold Samuel, who said:  “There are three things that matter in property:  location, location, location.”

The phrase means that the value of identical homes increases or decreases depending on where it is located.  A home in a good school district, with recreation and nature opportunities nearby, and a scenic view tends to sell for more than a home in a struggling school district, near industry or noisy highways.  Buyers are willing to pay more for a home located in a nice, quiet neighborhood, with easy access to schools, churches, hospitals and highways than in a declining area far from conveniences.

Location affects other aspects of our lives as well.  Sometimes people live their whole lives in the area where they were born, but other people move one or more times. Some relocations are due to work.  Even though I have spent all of my life in western Ohio, no more than a two-hour drive from my hometown, I have noticed some regional differences.  When I lived and served in southwest Ohio near Middletown, I encountered many people with southern roots, recognizable by their words or accent.  For instance, I’ve been addressed as “honey” by customer service people, and I’ve heard “y’all” or “youn’s.”  In northwestern Ohio, I can’t remember being called “honey,” but usually “sir” and sometimes heard a more nasally tone to voices.

As I’ve met some of you, you’ve shared stories of moving and living in other parts of the country, often for work.  I’ve learned from someone who lived in Texas for awhile that what we call “mulch,” they refer to as “bark.”  I’ve learned that southern hospitality requires that you politely decline an offer of dessert twice, for instance, and accept it on the third time, to demonstrate graciousness. Where I grew up, something would be offered once, and if you said “no,” you wouldn’t be asked again.

I read an interview in the July issue of the free Findlay Family paper with a British woman who moved to Findlay from London in 1999 on a temporary work assignment and has resided here ever since.  Her children have grown up in Findlay.  She talked about some of the adjustments she and her family have made to living in the U.S. Over time, they adapted to the culture and lifestyle of Findlay, but she also shared ways they have tried to keep some of their British traditions, particularly around holidays, alive.

The Apostle Paul was located in the Greek city of Corinth when he wrote the letter to the Romans in about 57 A.D.  He wrote it to introduce himself to the Christians in the imperial capital before he hoped to travel there.  In his letter, he outlined for them their human condition and need for God’s grace; he wrote, “ Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24); he shared with them the good news of the gospel, that “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8); and he unpacked some of the implications for believers – that is, the “So what?” question – “So you believe that Christ died for you, what difference does that make?”

In particular, in chapter 5, right before our text in chapter 6, Paul contrasted the state of being “in sin” with the state of being “in grace.”  Sin, which we become aware of through the law, leads to death, he said and all of us are affected by sin and death.  Because of the widespread nature of sin, God gives us an abundant free gift of grace through Jesus Christ.  In fact, he wrote in 5:20, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

So, in our text, Paul expresses shock at the thought of Christians remaining in sin in order to experience more of God’s grace.  He writes, “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” (6:1). It’s as if Paul begins to wonder if his audience might think, “If sin brings us more grace, then maybe we should just keep on sinning so that God will go on giving us grace.”

Paul gives a strong response. “By no means!” could also mean “God forbid!” or “You’ve got to be kidding!”  It makes no sense.  For Christians, the baptism marks the change.  When we were baptized, we died to sin and we were raised to freedom for righteousness.  Paul is talking about a change of location – our human condition meant we were located “in sin.”  That was our neighborhood, our residence.  But when we were baptized, we acknowledged God’s claim on us and we received God’s grace.  We’ve moved from death to life.  God’s grace awakens our soul to the reality that we were living in a bad neighborhood, and grace through faith relocates us in righteousness.  Now we live in a new location where God rules and reigns.

And location, location, location matters for the way we live from now into eternity.  Our new location means we can live differently.

We can be who we really are.  By God’s grace and through faith, our location and identity have changed.  We were once dead in sin, but now we are free to live for Christ.  We are new people; the old is gone.  The challenge is to let go of our old ways and habits and to choose new ones that flow from our identity in Christ.

That new identity means we no longer need to cooperate with sin.  Through Christ, we’ve been given new life and freedom from sin’s oppressive power.  We now live under God’s grace and desire to live in a way that is holy and pleasing to God.  When we lived in sin, we could only choose sinful ways. Now God’s grace enables us to make a conscious effort whether or not to sin.  We’re living in a new relationship and new neighborhood, but sin will still whisper to us. Grace makes us aware and empowers us to ignore it and choose righteousness in Jesus.

When we move into a new area, we have to learn new ways of living and new customs.  In our new life in Christ, we also must learn the ways of grace and grow in it.  God provides us with several ways to experience more grace.  These include Bible reading and study, participating in public worship and prayer with other Christians, engaging in private worship and prayer, and joining in mutual accountability with other believers.  Other practices include fasting, receiving Communion, and sharing our faith with others.  When we exercise these spiritual disciplines, we learn the language and ways of grace and we grow deeper in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Because we have a new location in Christ, we can live out our discipleship.  As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5closeMatthew 5 The Sermon on the Mount 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. The Beatitudes And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Salt and Light 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Christ Came to Fulfill the Law 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Anger 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Lust 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Divorce 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever spanorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of spanorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who spanorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a spanorced woman commits adultery. Oaths 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Retaliation 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Love Your Enemies 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV) closeMatthew 5closeMatthew 5 The Sermon on the Mount 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. The Beatitudes And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Salt and Light 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Christ Came to Fulfill the Law 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Anger 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Lust 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Divorce 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever spanorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of spanorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who spanorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a spanorced woman commits adultery. Oaths 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Retaliation 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Love Your Enemies 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV) The Sermon on the Mount 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. The Beatitudes And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Salt and Light 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Christ Came to Fulfill the Law 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Anger 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Lust 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Divorce 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever spanorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of spanorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who spanorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a spanorced woman commits adultery. Oaths 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Retaliation 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Love Your Enemies 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV) , “You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (5:14a, 16).  We serve others, visit the sick and those in prison, feed the hungry, and share generously with those in need.  We also seek justice, address oppression and discrimination, and search for solutions to address the needs of the poor and those who suffer.

I invite you to reflect on and pray about these questions this week – you may wish to jot these down.

  • Are there ways you are still cooperating with or residing “in sin?”
  • What practice(s) will you begin or improve so that you can grow in grace?

Once we lived in sin, but now, by grace through faith, we have a new location. That new location gives us new life and brings with it a new identity.  It calls to involve ourselves in new practices to exercise that identity and grow in grace and faith.  We are now citizens of God’s kingdom and we are called to think and behave as citizens in the kingdom of grace.

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