The apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome to try to make clear the contrast between a life governed by sin and the offer in Jesus Christ of a life lived in righteousness and grace.
Consider the life governed by sin, or as Paul puts it, enslaved to sin. Passions and desires rule a sinful life and leave one centered on oneself. Such a life leads to impurity and iniquity. Paul has preached that in Christ we are no longer bound by law but freed for grace. But apparently some have taken this to mean that freedom from the law is freedom to sin, to do what we please. No law means no rules and no limits.
But such an embracing of sin as freedom to live life by our passions, desires, and self-indulgences leads to death. Paul comes back to this theme several times in this passage. For Paul, death is more than a biological reality. Death is a life cut off from God, the source of true life and grace.
We live in a world that often celebrates self-indulgence, the freedom to live out of our passions and desires with our own gratification as the goal. Much of the advertising we see appealing to our desire for consumer comforts seems to promote our own self-fulfillment as the ultimate goal of life. But Paul warns that this is a death-dealing way of life and is ultimately governed by sin.
Lead us, O Lord, away from the path of sin that leads to death. Free us from the temptation to live out of our passions and desires and our celebration of our own pleasures as the goal of our lives. Grant us the eyes to see the path of grace offered in the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The passages this week highlight several different themes. Abraham is put to the ultimate test. There is no denying how terrifying God’s request must have been, yet Abraham ultimately is commended for his faith. We will not face this same challenge, but are there things dear to our hearts that God is asking us to give up? The psalmist is in deep despair and weary from awaiting God’s deliverance, yet even now there is confidence. Paul continues to instruct the Romans about the necessity of living a new life, no longer being slaves to the desires of the flesh. Jesus teaches that when we receive those doing his work, we receive him. When we interact with pastors, missionaries, and even nursery workers, do we treat these servants as Jesus himself?
Read Genesis 22:1-14. What has this familiar story meant to you in your faith? How do you embody or struggle against this type of obedience and trust?
Read Psalm 13. When has your lament allowed you to move from anger with God to praise? How long did that process take?
Read Romans 6:12-23. How does the definition of death as a life cut off from God rather than a biological reality change your understanding of this passage? How might incorporating this definition of death change your life?
Read Matthew 10:40-42. Who is in your wider community of witnesses? How does their example prompt you to turn to others in service?
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