Romans 6: 1-14
(Occasionally I put sermons in this spot. This was preached at Cooks Point Methodist Church in Caldwell, TX, on May 7, 2023, part of a sermon series on Romans.)
FOCUS: The Kingdom of God has come, and will be here.
UPSIDE DOWN KINGDOM
You’ve heard it before: The kingdom of God is already and not yet. We can have trouble with hearing something like that, well…because it doesn’t make sense, sounds upside down. How can something be here already and not here yet?
That’s what we are going to talk about, and we are going to see how this upside down them resounds throughout the Bible as God’s word surprises us and shocks us out of our ideas to show us a new way of life.
And throughout the Bible, it is different from what we think it will be, or should be. The younger son gets the blessing, like Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Rueben and Joseph, Aaron and Moses, Gideon and his brothers, David and his brothers…
Women who had been barren have children, even children in their old age. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist and the virgin Mary giving birth to our Lord. And other oddities: Abraham was 75 when the Lord told him to leave his family and his land and go; Moses was 80 when the Lord told him to confront Pharaoh…
there is so much more as we read through the Bible and see the unlikely ways the Lord moves in our lives, and we can be filled with wonder — or as the great Charles Wesley hymn sings: “lost in wonder, love and praise.”
And the most unlikely of all — God came for us. No other religion or faith tradition has such a thing happening. God came for us, and transforms us in our lives, and through our lives, in our suffering and through our suffering. With Christ, we are not redeemed from our suffering, but transformed through it. We are saved from our sin by Jesus becoming sin and dying on the cross, and saved for life by His resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead he ushered in the beginning of the kingdom of God, so it is already here, but it is also not yet.
The kingdom of God will be fully realized when Christ comes again, like we see in Revelation 21 and other places in the Bible, with a new heaven and a new earth and a new life forever with God.
But in the meantime, we can see the kingdom of God making inroads in our lives, like grass growing through concrete, or water dripping on stone…eventually breaking through.
I want to give an example of what I’m talking about in telling you a little about the Kairos walk last month in the Wallace Pack prison unit in Navasota. I’m going to read you an email I received from one of the men at my table, but first we’re going to look at Psalm 146, which was read earlier.
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
When I read that Psalm last week, part of praying the Psalms through in a month, it made such an impact on me, just coming from those days spent in the prison.
I’m in contact with several of the men we’ve ministered to, and here is part of an email I received from one of them:
E: Hello Frank! What a true blessing you have been in my life, as well as C.J. , Ron, all the wonderful volunteers that shared such a truly beautiful, and wonderful experience called Kairos Walk #5 ! I’m still in awww over that weekend! It definitely left an impression on my life! I’m signing up my sister and niece for Kairos Outside! I need to see about getting in touch with Tucker, find out the closest location to Webberville, Tx. (east of Austin)? I’m waiting on the registration forms from the chaplaincy office right now! I feel such a bond with you brothers from that weekend, will you let others know I’d enjoy it very much, to keep in touch with them! It helps me stay on the right path! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping in touch! You wouldn’t believe just how much this unit has turned around since I arrived here January 6,2012! : o lol You could sense the tension so thick…. unbelievable! Like it had a permanent black cloud over us at all times! PRAISE GOD!!! He turned that all around, especially allowing such strong, special people to come in here and share the word, agape love, all in Kairos (God’s time) Please wish your wife a very Happy Birthday on behalf of us here at Pack! Thank you and God Bless!! Until next time………
The LORD set this prisoner free, but he is still in prison. Do you see it? The kingdom of God is already here, and not yet. Our brother has been set free by the LORD, but he is still in prison. He is still in prison, but free….
Already here, and not yet.
Now we move to our passage in Romans. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been here, but as you remember the apostle Paul wrote this letter to a church he hoped to visit. He did not start this church, but he hoped to visit it one day, and in the course of writing this letter he wrote one of the most important letters ever written. He starts the letter by showing us that everyone has sinned — it is the great leveler. What links me with all of you, with everyone else, with everyone else who ever lived? We are all sinners, all alike have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
And Christ died and was resurrected for our sin. Sin keeps us from God, and there is nothing we can do about it. Our good works, our rituals, our creeds — these things can be good, but they do not save us from sin. We are saved only by God’s grace, a gift we do not deserve and have not earned, but we can receive if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no sin too great for God’s grace.
But that doesn’t mean we take God for granted, that we can go on intentionally sinning, knowing that God will forgive us whatever we do. Here’s where Paul picks up in Romans 6, starting at verse 1:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his dead?
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
For sin will have no domination over you, since you are not under law, but under grace.
So do you see this? When we are believe what Jesus has done, when we believe that Jesus did this for us — for me, for you, for us! — we die to sin with our baptism. We are raised to new life with Jesus’ resurrection. Sin doesn’t have dominion, doesn’t have control over us. We will still sin, but not because we have no choice.
We are freed from the power of sin. In a few minutes, we’ll sin the powerful Charles Wesley hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, and remember this when we sing, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he set the prisoners free; his blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me.”
It’s already been done, friends. And we just step into it and believe. I remember when I was an active alcoholic the first time I realize I didn’t have the compulsion to drink — I could, but I didn’t have to. I’m still an alcoholic, but I don’t drink. The kingdom of God is already here, but not yet…
Do you see? Do you see? God is working amongst us now. Prisoners are set free. The blind can see. The poor have the good news preached to them. And the Lord Jesus is among us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.