For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I recently attended a banquet for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. It was both an encouraging and a sobering experience. Several young adults shared their stories of drug and alcohol addiction and how Teen Challenge has helped them to overcome. In many ways, the message each of the speakers was the same. The more they indulged in their addiction, the more they became slaves to it. All of them had come to the point where they no longer had any control over their lives.
We live in a world today that convinces us that we can do whatever we desire, without fear of consequences. We can get away with this for a short time, but then the bill comes due. What is fascinating is how many people are completely surprised when they have to face the consequences of their actions. The young adult goes to a party to “enjoy himself” and then is shocked and angry when he is cited for underage drinking. The business man stops at the local bar for a couple of drinks after work, and then is surprised when he is stopped for drunk driving. A couple shares an intimate night together, and then are horrified when the girl becomes pregnant. The young person experiments with illicit drugs, and then can’t understand why they cannot quit.
The Bible tells us that when we offer ourselves to sin, we become slaves to sin. W lose control of our lives. We may think that we are in control, but we are deceived. Sin rules our every choice. At first our conscious might fight against sin’s control. But overtime our moral compass fails to register. Step by step we become enslaved to the false promises and empty feelings of sin. Sin is insatiable; it will never be satisfied. Sin always leads us to want more. What used to provide us with the thrill we seek, soon becomes dull and unsatisfying. So we are drawn to a deeper level to recapture the thrill. With each step, the cost gets higher and the opportunity to get out diminishes.
Paul addressed this issue in Romans 6:15-23.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul makes a couple of very important points about our struggle with sin. He warns us that we cannot presume upon the grace of God. God freely forgives all who repent and ask for his forgiveness. But God will not play games with sin. To consciously indulge in sin, banking on God’s grace, is a tenuous position at best.
When we invite sin into our lives, it never remains a guest. At first it is very polite and respectful. Soon it begins asking for more, which leads to demands, which leads to commands. Paul makes it clear that if we offer ourselves to sin, we become slaves to sin. The outcome of this process is not good. The wages of sin is death! Paul challenges us to honestly consider the pay-off of sin. What real benefit do we gain. Usually, for a temporary thrill, we get regret, broken relationships and a burden of guilt. The outcome of sin then leads us back to more sin to dull the pain.
There is a way out. We can be set free from the domination of sin by accepting God’s forgiveness and wholeheartedly following Jesus. This forgiveness is offered to us freely; we don’t have to earn it; we cannot. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephes. 2:8-9) It does take total surrender of our life to Christ. We cannot live with one foot in each world. Jesus made this very clear in Matthew 6:24."No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
At the end of the presentation at the Teen Challenge banquet, the speaker turned to the choir standing behind him and asked this question. How many of you would either to dead or in prison, within the next six months, if you were not in Teen Challenge. All the hands went up. There comes a time in all of our lives when we must count to cost of our decisions. As the clients at Teen Challenge has vividly discovered, the wages of sin is death. But, the gift of God is life, through Jesus Christ. He has come to set us free from our slavery to sin, and to bring us home where we belong.