“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?…” (Rom. 6:1-3)
We considered this morning the fact that our culture is busy preaching a false gospel. This false gospel says that if you follow your feelings everything will work out well in the end. Every story has a happy ending, these false evangelists claim. But Paul says that we must not continue in sin; we have died to sin and therefore we cannot live any longer in it. Paul immediately turns to baptism, and insists that baptism is the proof that as many as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. Paul says that following our sinful lusts and desires is a form of slavery, but that enslavement ended in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. If we have died with Christ then we have died with him and been freed from sin. Of course the Disney gospel insists that following your heart is a form of freedom. Doing what feels right, what you want, despite everything else is the way to freedom, to happiness, to liberty.
Of course the Christian gospel is quite different. The Christian gospel is an invitation to die. It is an invitation to give up your life. Disciples of Jesus are called to take up their crosses and follow Jesus, not their own heart. And this is not because our hearts do not matter. This is not because God does not like our emotions, our affections, our dreams, and desires. No, it is because God’s freedom is a better freedom than the world offers. It is the freedom of resurrection. It is the freedom of communion with our family and friends. It is the freedom of being forgiven. It is the freedom of honoring and loving our parents, the freedom of being in fellowship with our children. Ultimately, the freedom we want is the living blessing of God. All the freedom in the world is a curse if God is against us. If God is not in it, if God is not there smiling upon our endeavors, what is anything else worth? What profit is it if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
Baptism is the sign of our entrance into the death of Christ. It is the point at which God issues us our cross, and says: ‘follow me into the grave, and I promise to bring you back out again.’ It is the point at which we are called to true freedom, the freedom of resurrection, the freedom of communion, the freedom of fellowship, the freedom of forgiveness. This is ultimately the freedom of life. The ultimate slavery is death; ultimate freedom is being alive, fully alive. So Paul says, “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The logic of the gospel is that if you are alive, then live like it. Don’t act like a corpse if you’ve been brought back to life. And this is why the Scriptures are full of warnings to those who act like they prefer the grave, who prefer slavery, who love the darkness, the sadness, the worms. And some of the most terrifying warnings of Scripture are that people who act like they would rather be dead are sometimes given what they ask for. In other words, it simply is not true that if you follow your heart, everything will work out in the end. There will be those on the last day who thought they could sin that grace might abound, and Christ will say to them, ‘depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.’
But God calls us to live. He calls us out of death, out of the grave. He calls us to be alive. And this is salvation: that we begin to live resurrection life here and now, and then after our bodies die, we trust that the seed that goes into the ground will one day burst up out of the ground, a new and glorious body. Our hope is in the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come. And this is the real gospel story. It does have a happy ending, and in the end, God does promise to bless us beyond measure and to give us the desires of our hearts. But the way to life, the way to real life is through the cross and tomb of Jesus. And that’s why we are here. Trusting the promises of God includes not only our lives, but the lives of our children. Dan and Cece, as you bring Ceri, you are called to do so in faith, trusting the God of the resurrection. We are enacting now what Ceri is called to for the rest of her life: dying to sin and living to Christ. This is freedom; this is grace. And teach your daughter to understand this. Teach this to her by living it in your own lives. Teach this to her by encouraging her to give herself away, so that she might find herself, giving up life in order to be given it back again. Teach her to delight herself in the Lord, trusting and believing that he will give her the desires of her heart.