I — Text to Read: Romans 6:1b-14
II — Theme: God shows in Matthew 27-28, and Romans 6 how, through Jesus’ burial, specifically, He offers us the key to actually seeing our lives transformed from that of a “self-regarding ethic” to that of an “other-directed ethic.”
Furthermore, if we consistently strive to understand and employ the biblical significance of Jesus’ burial in our own lives, that very transformation into the likeness of Christ we find so elusive at times absolutely will become more and more self-evident.
- Why is a “self-evident” transformation important, on an everyday level?
- Tim Keller answers the question this way:
“…centering your life on anything but God is [the root of all] sin[fullness]….
….[When our lives are centered mainly on our own self-affirmation and self-actualization] we [tend to] give ourselves only to relationships and pursuits that build us up and bolster our efforts at [that very] self-justification and self-creation (something Keller calls a ‘self-regarding ethic).”
- We will inevitably become lost in this inner-world of “self,” because “self” is the defining and guiding paradigm for every motivation; that is, everything we think, say, or do.
- This “lostness” within our self-centeredness results in what Paul will eventually go on to say later in Romans 6, is a “lack of fruit,” or “lack of benefit” regarding our spiritual growth.
- And when spiritual growth wanes, we begin to experience repeated and often-extended periods where we’re just not as certain about the tangible reality of our conversion to Christ.
- It’s because two things tend to happen under the “self-regarding ethic”—often at the same time:
- Our sin patterns increase, even though we pray that God will take them away and transform us!
- In this instance—as we just said—many of us begin to wonder if we’re even saved anymore, because we feel we have little or no control over our sinful selves (notice the heavy emphasis on the self here though)…this is a terrible way to live—constantly without a tangible assurance that God still loves us, because we willfully sin against Him, even though we honestly don’t want to! What a twisted confusion of life!
- The second way a self-regarding ethic manifests itself—and this is a manifestation that we often don’t recognize about ourselves—is that we tend to, as Keller says, “…disdain and look down on those who do not have the same…identity markers [as we do].”
- That is to say that, we look at others’ political affiliations, tastes in music, clothing, social status, race, color, age, gender, sexual persuasion…and the list goes on and on….
….and we make our decisions as to whether we want to relationally engage and invest in them, based on what we perceive to be their defining attributes—their “identity marker,” if you will.
- It’s certainly easier to invest relationally into people who share our own interests and identity markers; but what if Jesus Himself operated that way toward us?
- If He did, He would never have come to rescue us from our “identity marker” known as “Sin.”
- If He thought as we often do, He simply wouldn’t have been able to get past the part where He’s perfectly sinless and we’re completely not.
- If Christ operated with a “self-regarding” ethic, and thus only ever sought to relationally invest in those like Him, He would’ve only ever stayed within the confines of the Trinitarian relationship that exists among God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- Instead, Jesus is the absolute embodiment of what Keller calls an “other-directed ethic.” This means that, instead of investing only in those like Himself (which would’ve been perfectly justifiable in God’s economy—for we must remember at all times, that God never owes anyone salvation from their sin, thus why it is a “gift”), Christ “moves toward us and encircles us with an infinite, self-sacrificing, self-giving love..” (Keller)
- Philippians 2:5-7 gives us a glimpse into how we can emulate that same attitude Jesus has (and thus, be transformed!), when Paul tells us to: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of [sinful] men.”
- Keller then says that when we discern Jesus moving toward us and consistently, eternally surrounding us with His unfailing love, we must then conclude that we are thus “invited to put our lives on a whole new foundation. We [now have an invitation from God to] make [Jesus Christ] the new center of our lives and stop trying to be our own Savior and Lord.
We can accept both His challenge to recognize ourselves as sinners in need of His salvation, as well as accepting His renewing love as the new basis of our identity. Then we don’t need to prove ourselves to others [(that is, if Christ’s renewing love is the new basis of our identity, we shouldn’t feel the need to prove why we’re valuable, why our political views are better, why our ideas, feelings, racial backgrounds, sexual preferences, etc. must be validated)]. We won’t need to use others to bolster our fragile sense of pride and self-worth. And [with His renewing love as the new basis of our identity]… ….we will be enabled [and empowered] to move out toward others as Jesus has moved toward us.”
- So what does all of this have to do with our emphasis today on Jesus’ burial?
- Well, because it leads us to a natural question about ourselves—the lives we live everyday:
III — What Does It Mean to Live A Christian Life?
- In everything we’ve discussed so far, this is really the question we’re asking, isn’t it? (What Does It Mean to Live A Christian Life?) Well, when we ask what that has to do with Jesus’ burial, the short answer is: So that we possess one of the most important tools necessary to live honestly and fruitfully before God; which ultimately means that can die well…and we’re all going to die. Therefore, we deeply desire to get the “living before God” thing right! And by “right,” we mean, for the sake of our ongoing assurance, so that we can live in joy….
….and not in fear—not that we get “living before God” right so that He accepts us. That truth is already accomplished in the Three Core Doctrines of Christianity: Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection, and our belief and faith in those three miracles on our behalf.
- Last week, Pastor Dan walked us through Christ’s death—the first of the Three Core Doctrines of our faith.
- This week, though our emphasis is on Jesus’ burial (the second of the Three Core Doctrines), we would be remiss if we didn’t first understand that, every other doctrine in the Christian belief system is absolutely dependent upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (the third and most important Core Doctrine).
- Let’s look at how Resurrection fits here, briefly:
- Just as there is no key to living out the Christian life well, without Jesus’ burial….
….there is no door in which to turn that key and pass through without Jesus’ Resurrection.
- The Resurrection of Christ is proof that the God of the OT and the NT is the only true God.
- The Resurrection is proof that Jesus is who He claims to be—God, Himself, in the flesh, who is the Savior of all who will come to Him.
- The Resurrection is proof that Jesus’ death was accepted by God the Father as an atonement for our sins; “that those who believe on Jesus are in a justified state before God—that there is power for victory over sin for all who belong to Jesus; and that those who are united to Jesus by faith will themselves be raised from death to life in heaven.” (Boice)
- Speaking of the Resurrection, Keller says, “Sometimes people approach me and say, ‘I really struggle with [certain] aspects of Christian teaching. I like [certain beliefs], but I don’t think I can accept [other beliefs that offend my sensibilities].’ I usually respond….
….‘If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all He said; [but] if He didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what He said?
The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like His teaching but whether or not He rose from the dead.’ That is how the first hearers felt who heard reports of the Resurrection. They knew that if it was true it meant we can’t live our lives any way we want. [But] it also meant we don’t have to be afraid of anything—not Roman swords, not cancer, nothing. If Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything.”
- So, whatever Christian doctrine we’re laboring to understand, know for certain that Resurrection is at the top of the list
- Nevertheless, it does not stand alone in God’s equation of salvation: Again, just as the Resurrection of Christ is the door to salvation, the Burial of Christ is the key to that door.
A — What Paul Says About Christ’s Burial Being A Key to Living the Christian Life Well:
- Before we briefly walk through a few pieces of Romans 6, here’s a thought: Why, over the history of Christianity, have theologians made such a big deal about Jesus’ burial being they key to transformation and living the Christian life well?
- Boice says, “…the reason burial is an important step beyond death is that burial puts the deceased person out of this world permanently. A corpse is dead to life [,yes,] but in a sense it… still [exists among the living], as long as it’s [above ground]. When it is buried, when it is placed in the ground and covered with earth, it is removed from the sphere of this life permanently. It is gone. That’s why Paul, who wanted to emphasize the finality of being removed from the rule of sin and death, emphasizes it….
….He is repeating but also intensifying what he said about our death to sin earlier. “You have not only died to it,” he says. “You have been buried to it.” To go back to sin once you’ve been joined to Christ is like digging up a dead body.”
- Paul likely has the ancient Roman practice of “Carrying Dead Weight” in mind here:
- One of the worst punishments in Roman times was that the accused would have a dead body—often the body of the person they had killed, infested with maggots and decay strapped to their bare back. Then they would spend their last few weeks of life being slowly, agonizingly killed by the disease that would eat away at their own flesh. It was a grizzly death.
- Let’s listen to Paul in our text, as he undoubtedly is making the parallel between this tangible reality of “carrying dead weight” and the tangible reality of not recognizing that our old self is not only dead with Christ’s death, but buried with His burial, as well…
- **Show how, in vv. 1-4 the context of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6 centers on a basic, natural human question, and the only answer to that question: “How do I live the Christian life?”**
- So is Paul telling us that when we’re saved in Christ we’re never going to sin again? No! The whole reason he’s teaching this is because he knows that we all still sin after we’re saved in Christ, and he wants us to be able to endure it, make sense of the reality of it, and finally, to be able to overcome it by “reckoning ourselves as dead and buried to it.”
- And there’s the real difficulty for us as humans in a tangible world who can’t see the spiritual realities that exist beyond our sight.
- Paul is saying, on the one hand, the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ metaphorically belongs to His people who trust Him. “Metaphorically” in the sense that, from our perspective—not being able to see the spiritual reality tangibly—
—that’s the only way we can “reckon” His death, burial, and Resurrection as our own!
- On the other hand, Paul is confirming that, because Christ was raised from the dead, everything that is His, is ours—tangibly! It’s no mere metaphor! Just because the millionaire has never tangibly laid eyes on all of his millions at one time, doesn’t mean that the reality of him being a millionaire isn’t true. He is! The bank affirms this truth. Even so, Paul affirms that what belongs to Christ belongs to us. And even when those belongings include frightening things like “death and burial,” we are nevertheless eternally blessed beyond all comprehension! That is, if we died and were buried with Him, then we shall be raised to life with Him as well!
- In terms of transformation, and living the Christian life from the perspective of an “other-directed ethic,” Keller will close us out today….
….He says, “What does it mean then, to become part of God’s work in the world? What does it mean to live a Christian life?….from the perspective of the final restoration [God promises]. Our hearts are broken. Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection was an infinitely costly rescue operation to: restore justice to the oppressed and marginalized, physical wholeness to the diseased and dying, community to the isolated, and spiritual joy and connection to those [who, because of their sin are] alienated from God. To be a Christian today is to become part of that same operation—with the expectation of suffering and hardship, [as well as] the joyful assurance of eventual success [in our calling as Christians to move from a “self-regarding ethic, to an “other-directed ethic].”
- It is at this point that we will see, more and more, the self-evident truth that we are being transformed by God! And the joy we so very deeply long to express in our everyday lives will become so much easier to access!
- God has already made all of this possible, and He invites us into His story, His dance, His life, death, burial, and eternal Resurrection!