For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is a familiar verse, isn’t it?
You’ve probably seen this one on a t-shirt or bumper sticker more than once. Usually, the emphasis of this verse is placed on the “the wages of sin is death” part. I guess because we think that part sounds really cool.
The problem is that “the wages of sin is death” isn’t the preeminent part of this verse. There’s a really big “but” here that we cannot ignore. Let’s take a moment to talk about this big “but.”
Now, sin is no laughing matter. There is a reason why Jesus came and died a gruesome death for our sins, and it’s not because sin is funny or something to be taken lightly. The Son of God died, and he did it so that sin could have a big “but…”
The big “but” in Romans 6:23 takes place after the whole “For the wages of sin is death” part:
“but, the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That’s a really big “but!"
Does the world around us need to know that they’re sin is leading them to death? ABSOLUTELY. But don’t forget that big “but.” Jesus is the remedy.
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1 John 5:13-14 (NLT)
I write this to you who believe in the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will.
Every year, I ask God for 2 ridiculous things: that the Cubs win the World Series and that the Bengals win the Super Bowl.
I’m halfway kidding when I ask Him for these things, of course. Not only do I feel selfish asking for my favorite sports teams to succeed, but these two teams always seem have the odds stacked up against them. And from my point of view, it sure seems like God’s two favorite teams are the Cards and the Steelers. But I digress…
These two verses in 1 John 5 appear at the conclusion of the Book of 1 John, which is a letter written to assure us of our salvation in Jesus Christ. It’s in this letter where we find popular passages like:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” - 1 John 1:7 (NIV)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” - 1 John 3:16 (NIV)
Should you take the time to read the Book of 1 John (which won’t take you too long because it’s only 5 chapters in length,) you’ll find very little about the art of prayer. What you will find, however, is a whole lot about our salvation in Jesus and His command to love others.
So, the question isn’t whether or not God hears or answers the prayers of our hearts today. It’s “have you committed your life to Jesus?” “Do you live a life focused on others or on your own needs?” Be concerned with these things, and freely trust God with all of your prayers.
He loves all of your prayers, and you can trust in his sufficiency.
Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
Have you ever tried really hard to stop sinning? Impossible, right? It seems like no matter how hard you try, there’s always a trap to fall into. It can be a big as that really embarrassing sin you keep locked away for no one else to see, or as simple as taking the last donut at work when you’ve already had one and you know other people haven’t had one yet.
I don’t think I’ve ever been able to put a stop to “sinful desires” by focusing on them really hard until I stopped doing them. Looking back on it, I was able to conquer those things by focusing on my relationship with Jesus. I mean, really honing in on a lifestyle of prayer, bible study, and fellowship with other believers.
With that in mind, let’s go back and read this verse again. Only this time, let’s take some of the preceding verses into consideration.
1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
2 Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
3 If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.
4 Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else….
8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
9 So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.
10 Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.
How can we “please the Spirit” today? Not by trying our best not to sin, but by “sharing each others troubles and problems” and not “comparing ourselves to others.”
Those big, fat hidden sins aren’t going to go away overnight, but my experience tells me that they really can go away if we live a life of humility and by “doing good.”
Paul said, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."
Why do we need to be filled with joy and peace today? Why do we need an overflow of confidence and hope? It's not for our benefit, but for those around us. In the verses that lead up to Romans 15:13, Paul is talking about our witness to those around us... not getting caught up in the criticism of other Christians.
Why not? Because we are poor examples of Jesus when we do that. Today it will be very hard NOT to give our perspective on where we disagree with others. That's exactly why we need " ... God, the source of hope... through the power of the Holy Spirit."
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