Sin must not be your master

Matthew 6.12-23

Good News Translation (GNT)

12 Sin must no longer rule in your mortal bodies,
   so that you obey the desires of your natural self.
13 Nor must you surrender any part of yourselves to sin to be used for wicked purposes.
   Instead, give yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life,
   and surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.
14 Sin must not be your master;
   for you do not live under law but under God's grace.

Slaves of Righteousness

15 What, then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law
   but under God's grace? By no means!
16 Surely you know that when you surrender yourselves
   as slaves to obey someone, you are in fact the slaves of the master you obey
    - either of sin, which results in death, or of obedience,
   which results in being put right with God.
17 But thanks be to God!
   For though at one time you were slaves to sin,
   you have obeyed with all your heart the truths found in the teaching you received.
18 You were set free from sin and became the slaves of righteousness.
19 (I use everyday language because of the weakness of your natural selves.)
   At one time you surrendered yourselves entirely
   as slaves to impurity and wickedness for wicked purposes.
   In the same way you must now surrender yourselves
   entirely as slaves of righteousness for holy purposes.
20 When you were the slaves of sin,
   you were free from righteousness.
21 What did you gain from doing the things that you are now ashamed of?
   The result of those things is death!
22 But now you have been set free from sin and are the slaves of God.
   Your gain is a life fully dedicated to him, and the result is eternal life.
23 For sin pays its wage - death;
   but God's free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.

Taken from 'word-on-the-web' supplied by Scripture Union

Western societies understand human beings as autonomous individuals,
whose freedom is threatened by other people and by external authorities.
The Christian worldview, says that we only truly flourish within
relationships and with proper accountability.

No wonder we find Paul's language of slavery difficult!
Slave of sin (v 20) or slave of God (v 22) doesn't seem like a great choice!
Paul, recognising the limits of this vocabulary (v 19),
is maintaining his distinction between two very different sorts of service
and two very different kinds of master.
Serving sin was not a matter of choice,
but in Christ we have been set free (v 18) to have a choice.

We may freely choose to serve God.
It is a free choice because it must come 'from your heart' (v 17).
We have been captivated not only by Christ but by his way of life:
'the truths found in the teaching you received' (v 17).

We want to live according to that teaching
and we can only do so in union with Christ and yielded to God.
The old life looked like freedom and turned out to be slavery.
The new one looked like slavery and turned out to be freedom.

When we choose to surrender our capacities to God each day,
a transforming process (sanctification, v 22) is set under way.
We not only make fruitful contributions to the work of God's kingdom now,
but, little by little, we change to be more like the one who inaugurated that kingdom.
The two slaveries lead to very different destinations.
They are literally a matter of life or death (v 23).
Once we have grasped the nature of God's gift of life,
our daily choices enable us to become more alive,
more truly ourselves, each day.

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