Beginning Prayer: Show me your way, teach me your path, guide me in your truth.
Passage for today: Romans 6:1-11
I’ve moved around a lot in my life, so one of my least favorite questions has always been, “Where are you from?” I always felt the need to give the whole story. “Well, I was born in Colorado, then I moved to Seattle in middle school, then my parents moved my senior year to Missouri, but I lived with my brother in Tulsa, OK (not the brother who lives there now, but my other brother), then I went to a school in Missouri until we had our first ministry jobs in Kentucky, then joined our best friends at a church in Illinois, and now I moved to California to plant a church, and it feels like I’m finally home.” By this time people just sort of look at me with a blank stare and glazed over eyes as if to say, “Yeah, I was just trying to make small talk.”
But my need to tell them came from a fundamental belief that where I was from was part of what defined me. People would assume things about me based on where I had lived. When I told people I was from Seattle, I was automatically cool and interesting--like I was friends with Pearl Jam or something. When I was from Missouri, I felt less cool, like I need to tell people I didn’t actually live on a working farm and milk goats--even though I did technically live on a (beautiful) farm and it would actually be super hipster of me to milk goats.
We use all sorts of things to define us, don’t we, and it kind of gets exposed when we get asked those “small talk” questions. Maybe we define ourselves by our jobs or our status. Maybe it’s that we’re a mom of three toddlers, and everyone affirms/annoys us by reminding us how, “we’ve got our hands full.” Or maybe we’ve defined ourselves by what we are studying in school, or what we’re really talented at or what kind of clothes we wear.
In verse 6 of this passage today, Paul reminds us that, because of Jesus, our core identity has changed, and it’s not simply some answer to small talk at a party. It is the central part of who we are: we are no longer slaves. The reason this is so central to our lives is because if we believe we are slaves to the stuff that keeps tripping us up, it keeps defining us, and we have no hope; what we believe determines how we behave. So, if we believe that we are free and dead to those things, they have no power over us and our hope returns.
Slaves to sin feel like they have tried it all and nothing will work.
Free people keep their hope alive by asking for help and continuing to take risks.
Slaves to sin make excuses for why they can’t get well.
Free people set intentions for counsel and accountability.
Slaves to sin have made their sin their identity.
Free people have made their freedom in Christ their identity.
Paul is giving us permission to stop hanging on to the anchor that is taking us to the bottom of the sea. It’s time to let go. We are no longer slaves. Our success does not define us anymore. Our failures do not define us anymore. We have been set free to live like free people, and if we begin to believe that about ourselves, we can actually go live like it!
God, sometimes it’s hard to connect my identity as a free, much-loved child of God to all the moving parts and pieces of my life and all the things I’m used to letting define me. Today, can you help me: when I start to go back to those habits that drag me down, help me to remember that you have set me free, and I’m not a slave to that any more? Thank you for setting me free to live free.
I love how God is big on imagery, and you can find it all throughout the Bible. He often will use something familiar and tangible to help us understand something spiritual and eternal. And that is what baptism is, and Paul talks about it in this passage. Baptism is a marking moment for us that allows us to identify with Christ’s death (confessing our sin), burial (going under water) and resurrection (coming up out of the water) and publicly celebrate that we surrender to and accept what He has done for us. We don’t get baptized when we finally have it all figured out; we get baptized because we realize we don’t. We don’t get baptized because we have no doubts; we get baptized because we believe in spite of our doubts. We don’t get baptized when we have finally saved ourselves, we get baptized because we finally realize we need a Savior.
If you are interested in learning more about baptism, CLICK HERE to fill out a form and get some more information. Mission’s next baptism is THIS SUNDAY, November 4th at 1PM at Harbor Cove Beach, so if it’s something you’re interested in doing or have been thinking about, maybe that’s your challenge to consider accepting this week!
If you have already been baptized, your challenge today is to take a few minutes to reflect back on that day, that moment, when you died to your old life and came out of the water new. Thank God for his grace and for that marking moment in your life, and celebrate your free-from-the-power-of-sin life today!
(See if you can commit to memory, or commit to remember, this verse this week.)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NLT)