The End Of Your Sin Is Jesus, Not Your Moral Improvement!

Text: Romans 6:1-11

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

How we live this life as Christians – and especially as Lutherans – is quite different from everyone around us. 

For example, examine the type of books that people are reading.  I am not talking about cooking books, fiction novels, or even reference books, but I am talking about the kind of books that teach us how to live this life.  Think through some of the titles of these popular books.  Titles such as:

“The Power of Your Mind”

          “Thinking Big”

“You Can Get Rich”

“I’m OK-You're Ok”         

“There is Nothing Wrong With You”

“Think Better, Live Better: A Victorious Life Begins in Your Mind”

Now, what all of these books have in common is that they believe that we humans can fix ourselves.  They assume that something is broken but also assume that we are fixable.  Indeed, the assumption is that we humans can go from bad to good with a little bit of effort.

But we Lutherans don’t buy this kind of thinking.  Sure, we understand that a little blood, sweat, and tears can make things better for a time on the surface (outwardly speaking) but we also realize that blood, sweat, and tears do not get at the root of the problem.  In other words, we know that beneath the surface (inwardly speaking) all of humanity has a much bigger problem.  That bigger problem is the sinful nature.  And we know that if we do not deal with the root of the problem that nothing is really accomplished on the surface. 

Consider this for a moment.  It has been said before that if you try to educate a person, you will get a smarter sinner. If you try to get a person to be confident, you will get a self-assured sinner. If you try to get a person to think big, you will get a big-headed sinner. If you try to get a person to tap into power, you will get a power-hungry sinner. If you try to get a person to be rich, you will get a greedy sinner.[1]

The point being, we Lutherans live this life understanding that we can fix things outwardly for a time but we cannot renew, repair, or improve the sinful nature that we all possess within.  We understand that beneath the surface – in the basement – that all of humanity has this root problem of sin. 

And this sin? 

Well, this sinful nature within cannot be changed for it is too addicted to darkness. Your sinful nature is too twisted, corrupt, and perverse to be fixed with optimistic slogans, so-called easy-to-implement principles, and positive attitudes. 

So, what shall you and I do then? 

Well, you see, that is the wrong question. 

You and I cannot do anything about this root problem of sin.  As already stated, outwardly we can improve things to a point but keep in mind that improving things on the surface is like putting a Band-Aid on cancer.  Band-Aids do not cure cancer, and our own will-power and determination cannot be the end of the sinful nature within.  And that is why that you and I need something to be done to us – that is why we need to be baptized into Jesus’ death through baptism. 

Consider our Epistle reading from Romans:

…all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death . . . We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. 

Frankly stated, the end of sin is not to fix it with our own will-power but to remember that you and I are baptized into Christ.  The key is to know that our sin finds its end in Jesus.  The end of sin is not moral improvement but death in Christ. 

Let’s examine this practically speaking. 

Consider a person who struggles with pornography and gossip.  On the surface level, the person could decide to unsubscribe from naughty television channels and put internet filters on the computer to limit the amount of porn.  And with the gossip?  The person could work really hard to monitor their speech and curb their tongue while with others.  And guess what?  They might be successful on that surface level for a time. 

But what about underneath the surface?  What about that sinful nature within?  

Well, that is where it gets tricky.  The person could say to themselves,

“I will only think pure thoughts and not twisted sexual thoughts about my neighbor.  And I will only think good words, not slanderous words in my mind about my neighbor.  I can fix my words and deeds outwardly, and I will fix my thoughts inwardly. ” 

And with good intentions, the person may be successful for a time outwardly and even inwardly, but in reality, all that they have done is put a muzzle on the sinful nature.  He or she has not done a single thing against the sinful nature except to curb it for a moment.  And furthermore, who is the person depending on?   They are depending on themselves.  The end of sin is their will-power – their determination to stop sinning! 

Lord have mercy on this kind of thinking! 

Dear friends, the Apostle Paul in our reading from Romans does not announce that we should try to improve our sinful nature through moral progress.  He does not say that we should try to follow a checklist or listen to encouraging uplifting music to tame the sinful nature.  And he doesn’t even announce that we have to get busy and die!  No!  He announces the startling fact that we have died in Christ!

You see, if we try to battle the sinful nature by trying to fix it ourselves, we are spinning our wheels, for the end of the sinful nature is not ‘do-more-try-harder,’ but it is Christ!  Christ is the end! 

So, back to the person who struggles with pornography and gossip.  Should they unsubscribe from naughty television channels, put internet filters on the computer, work hard to monitor their speech, and curb their tongue?  Absolutely!  And they also need to repent!  Yes, repent! 

You see, repentance is nothing more than remembering that we do not belong to sin, death, and the devil, but we belong to Jesus.  Repentance is beating our chest and remembering that we are baptized.  Repentance sounds like this:

“Lord, I have sinned with pornography, gossip, [or whatever else it might be]. I do not belong to this sin, but I belong to you, for all my sinful thoughts, words, and deeds have died with you in baptism.  This sin has its end with you, dear Jesus, not me. Forgive me!”  

Dear Baptized Saints, you must remember that when you were baptized, you were crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be brought to nothing.  You are not a slave to sin but belong to Jesus through baptism. 

Now, keep in mind, even though you died with Jesus in baptism, it doesn’t mean that you will never sin again.  You will surely sin.  But when you do sin, do not roll around in the muck of sin or jump to despair or fix your eyes on yourself as a solution to sin but instead get up, make the sign of the cross remembering that the Lord of the universe has placed His name upon you and plunged you into the baptismal waters.  And then beat your chest, confess your sins with boldness, and confidentially hear the absolution that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.  And get this, you then do not look back at you sin but go forward in the joy of forgiveness, life, and salvation loving God and your neighbor, for that sin does not belong to you but it has its end in Jesus!      

And when sin ensnares you again?  Well, it is the same thing.  You repent and hear the forgiveness of Jesus again and again and again. 

You see, we must keep in mind that repenting is nothing other than attacking the sinful nature.  Indeed, repentance does not reform the sinful nature but is an acknowledgment that sin is dead to you.  Repentance is saying,

“I give up! I need the One whose blood, sweat, and tears conquered sin, death and the devil for me.”

And that is exactly who you have, dear Baptized Saints!  You have the blood, sweat, and tears of Jesus’ forgiveness on Mt. Calvary - given to you when you were buried and raised in baptism.

Dear Baptized Saints,  you are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  You belong to Jesus; sin has no dominion over you. Christ is your life and He is the end of your sin. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Don Matzat, Christ Esteem: Where the Search for Self-Esteem Ends (Harvest House Publishing, 1990), 32.

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