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What Are You Marked By: Sin or Righteousness?

We live in a generation of justifying our sin.  We live in a generation where churches across the world teach that as soon as you have prayed for Jesus to enter your heart, you are saved and because you are saved, your repeated sins will be overlooked.  We live in a generation where the Bible is said to be outdated and is being replaced by many churches with their "adapted" versions of the gospel, just to feel comfortable or even worse, to make money.  We live in a generation where churches have stopped preaching about sin and wrath because it is uncomfortable, falsely leading those to believe that God's wrath is no longer in play.

We no longer have a right relationship with our sin.  We have turned to such a "me-generation" in so many ways and we are forgetting our true purpose, our true mission:  Living for God.  Living for Righteousness.  Living for Obedience. 

Two weeks ago at church, we began studying Romans 6 where we have been taking a close look at the radical change in the believer's relationship to sin.  We have been discovering what it means to be a true Christian, one who has undergone a radical change in person and as Romans 6 puts it, is Dead to Sin and Alive in Christ. 

In order to do this, we must look at what our lives look like before we ask for and receive salvation. 

Every Human Apart from Christ is a Slave to Sin. 
Whether one's life is marked by good deeds or grotesque immorality, every life without Christ is a life enslaved to sin.  Without Christ, the temptation to sin is unlimited and the boundaries to which those will sin is eliminated. 

A life of sin is obviously marked by those who practice the immorality that Paul highlights in Romans 1:  every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. These people are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

That wasn't what struck me, though.  A parallel passage to Romans 6 is Romans 3:9-20.  Our pastor summarized this passage as follows:

Following the life of an unbeliever, destruction is found everywhere.  Our words reveal decay in our hearts; our words kill and destroy {vs 13}; toxic speech creates toxic relationships {vs 14}; we have a predisposition to anger {14}; and peace we do not know {17}.  Mostly, verse 18, "there is no fear of God before their eyes." 

Yall.  This. Was. Me. 
I humbly admit this to you.  

I have never lived in direct disobedience and defiance to God. Prior to my salvation, I would not have considered myself a person marked by total and obvious sin.  But it was there, lurking and hiding and nagging and disrupting.  There was no real, sustaining peace.  There was no fear of God.  

As I heard that this morning, I was not alarmed because of shame and disappointment, I was alarmed because I called myself a Christian during these years.  Maybe I have a wrong perception of myself, but I do not think during these years I would be labeled so clearly as a sinner or even a bad person. These were easily hidden sins.  But how I really know that I wasn't living for God is because there was never a true peace that led me into a life of righteousness.  I did not fear God.  I only made decisions based on my comfort. 

And this is why I chose to share this.  Not because I wanted everyone who chose to read this to know my ugly, but because I want those who read this that may have a life marked by failed relationships and destruction to really evaluate their relationship with Christ.  Do you really have a relationship with Him or do you think you do?

No amount of biblical knowledge, years in the church, service you've done, or bible studies you've completed equate to true freedom in Christ if you are still living in a pattern of sin.  And if there is no peace in you, if there is a history of destruction, if attending church doesn't matter to you, how can you be sure you are living for Christ?

Look at your life: Are you marked by a pattern of sin?  Or are you marked by a pattern of righteousness?  If you don't know, a good place to start is evaluating your past and current relationships. 

But here is the Good News.  {because with God, there is always good news}

There is change at salvation.  We are regenerated by God.  The change is the faith and repentance our heart produces which shows obedience to Christ, our new Master.  Faith produces obedience after salvation {Romans 1}.  
The gospel begins to shape us, form us.  Sin is still in our lives, but our lives are no longer marked by a pattern of sin.  We are now dead to the controlling power of sin.  There are glimmers of sin present, but the enemy has been defeated and will continue to be defeated through prayer, the full armor of God, and our high regard and desire for righteousness. 

Enslaved to Righteousness
But here is the deal:  He didn't release us to be completely free, He released us to be free from sin.  Just as sin held us captive, now righteousness does.  Achieving this righteousness is our hope against sin! 

And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.  Ezekiel 36:27 

God in His grace broke our shackles to sin and fulfilled His promise to give us what we need!

Listen Up!  True Christians will not continue to live as slaves to sin.  Keyword: slave.  A slave cannot have two masters and if we are a slave to righteousness, we cannot be one to sin.  

Believers and unbelievers alike, I humbly encourage you to evaluate yourself:  What are you marked by?  What patterns do your relationships reflect?  Do you have a pattern of sin or a pattern of righteousness?

You see, there is just so much hope within salvation.  

"We may not be all that we want to be, but by God's grace, we are not what we used to be." 
Pastor Tom Pennington

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