“A Word for this Week” Pastor Bill Mugnolo: HARP Pastoral Advisor
Week of June 26-July 2, 2017: “You Are a Slave!” … Romans 6:16.
Back on June 19th, many states and localities observed Juneteenth—the celebration of the date in 1865 when all slaves were officially set free throughout the reunited United States of America. But far from being a thing of the past, there are still two types of slavery that impacts all people who live here in America and throughout the world.
Paul, in Romans 6:16, speaks of one of them as being slavery to sin. We are all born into this (Psalm 51:5) and no one can escape it on their own. We were “chained into it” and in such enslavement we committed acts that were shameful (Romans 6:21). These deeds could have only led to death as “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But in Jesus Christ we are set free from this slavery as “the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, Our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
But we have not been freed from our slavery to sin to then just go off and do whatever we please. Now that you are in Christ, you are a slave. You become that second type of slave spoken of in Romans 6:16—a slave to obedience which leads to righteousness. We now live our lives doing the things of God as His instruments (Romans 6:13). Paul tells us, in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Still, our old sinful master keeps calling back to us. Somehow, we think that we can live a life where we keep on sinning and Christ will then forgive and heal us. But could you imagine a slave who chose to whip himself under the premise that his wounds will heal anyhow? Why would he want to have to endure such pain which could leave lasting scars? But we too often let sin “whip us around” and we even end up whipping ourselves! While Jesus does forgive and heal us time and time again, we allow sin to keep wounding and even scarring us.
But as Jesus keeps on forgiving and healing, He shows us that obeying Him, as slaves to obedience, is an obedience that comes from a new and willing heart that He puts into us (Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 6:17-18). Like the psalmist, we can obey God because we love His Law and consider it to be more precious than gold (Psalm 119:33-37, 127-128). All this we do for the sake of a master who once knew what it was like to be a slave Himself (Philippians 2:6-8). Because of His greatest act of “slavery to obedience” on the cross, we have cause for observance and celebration each and every day.