“Let Go and Let God!”
June 25, 2017
Romans 6: 1-11
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Hear now the words of the Apostle Paul as written in the Letter to the Romans, chapter six, verses one thru eleven.
6 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
May God open our hearts to hear the full meaning of this ancient writing.
There was a child that had a new toy, which the child loved very much. As fate would have it, one day it broke. In tears the child took the toy to the Master Toy maker in town to have it fixed. He stood there watching the craftsman at work. Finally, after a long period of time, the child blurted out: “Why haven’t you fixed my toy? You said you could fix anything, but here you have not fixed mine!” The Master craftsman put down his tools. Walked over to the child and said: “My dear, dear child. Before I can fix your prized toy, you must first let go of it and let me handle it so that a fix can be made.” /author unknown/
Are we as adults, any different than that young child? We call upon God to fix the things of our lives that matter most to us, yet, we never let go and let God, be God in our lives. I have a friend that struggles with his relationship with another person in his life. From my vantage point, as I try diligently to listen to him, I see him trying to ‘fix’ the other person’s problems without their consent. That doesn’t work very well. So, as I have tried my best to help him with his problem, he refuses to stop doing this his way. His cries for help go unaided due to his refusal to let go and try something new!
Many of us, from time to time, are like this child or like my friend. We want something to be different, we want it fixed and we want it fixed our way, all the while being unwilling to let go of the old way. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t it is probably that you cannot see yourself clear enough to realize you have done this. Now and then, of course, we all will use the past tense in this thought, for none of us wish to be caught up in the now doing something like this; yet, now and then, I have found myself asking for assistance then refuse to consider the constructive criticism being given me! Can you imagine that! It is one thing to ask for help, it is a totally different thing to actually accept the help offered.
Remember the story about the fellow that fell off the side of a mountain, but was able to grab hold of a vine or a bush that broke his fall. Precariously hanging there, he calls out for help. Then a loud voice from heaven calls out to him, “just let go!” “Who is there!” he yells. The voice fills the heavens: “It is I my son, it is your Heavenly Father.” The man yells back saying: “And you just want me to let go? But I am hanging over a cliff, I might die!” “Yes, my son,” says God, “Let Go, I will catch you!” The man thinks for a moment then yells out: “Help! Help! Is there anyone else up there?” We ask God for help, but then we find ourselves unwilling to follow God’s advice. Now, this does sound familiar!
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, the verses read for us this morning, seem to be all about sin, not broken toys. So, you may be wondering where the connection is in this conversation. The first three verses are the key to understanding. “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” In this first verse, we are reminded that there is no necessity to keep on sinning, doing it the old way, rather than the way of God, thus testing God’s grace to keep forgiving us on and on. Paul answers this in verse two: “By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” Paul’s admonishment simply stated: if we share in God’s grace through baptism, then we ought to make every effort to change our lives and become freed from the snares and traps of sin! In verse three we are reminded as to the meaning of baptism. Yes, we moderns speak of how baptism brings us into the church community, into the fellowship, into the body of Christ universal. But, also baptism, which is required for membership into the Christian Church, reminds us that we are baptized into the death of Jesus; meaning that through his death our sins have been forgiven. This is where the element of God’s grace takes hold. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
The Apostle Paul goes on saying in verse four: “Therefore… just as Christ was raised (up), so (that) we too might walk in (the) newness of life.” Let go of sin, let God lead you in new and right paths!” Let go of your old ways and let God… be God in your life. Jackie Trottmann, an author whom speaks of “Be Still, Let it Go, and Trust;” she would also be quick to add “letting go and letting God isn’t just about letting go of struggle or challenges you face in relationships or within yourself. Letting go and letting God means letting go of problems of a physical nature too.” Jackie is known for her work in “meditation” where she encourages her students to be still, thereby relieving anxiety and stress, finding peace, clarity and freedom by drawling closer to God.” The phrase “Let go and let God,” is more than just a cliché. It’s depth of wisdom flows into many wholistic approaches to wellness and also in twelve step groups, as well as within Christian teachings and practices.
William Loader, a well know Christian theologian, from Murdoch University, of the Uniting Church in Australia speaks out on this passage. “Paul’s spirituality is focused on becoming what you can now be on the basis of this new foundation grounded in love and faith alone.” The love comes from God, the faith springs forth from those who seek the Spirit of God, with a willingness to turn their very lives and human wills over to God’s care! With freedom from our old purely human selves, we shall find new sources of energy and creativity, as we refocus our lives; beginning to seek out and pursue the will of God, in all areas of our lives. This is just the tip of the iceberg, of our reborn selves, into the Universal Church of Jesus Christ!
Will we still falter now and then? Yes, you and me, we are only human. Will we use this, as our excuse, so we can once again avoid the truth of our lives and the challenge of following God’s will? Some of us perhaps. It is an easy slope to slid down. The lure of the easier, softer way is there for us all to ponder. But, we need not go there. The choice is ours to make. Free will is something God gave to humankind. We are all free to follow our own lead or the lead of God. All of the human vices and sins are there to lure us away from the Light of God. We also have intellect, some more than others. Yet, we all have enough to create elaborate justifications for virtually any action or inaction we choose. That is what makes us human. That is why there is good and evil in the realms of humankind. The age-old question we all ask at this point has no answer. Why? Why did God give us a choice? The answer has alluded me my whole life. But, I know when I follow the will of God, turning my will over to God, it all seems to work out the way it was intended!
What do we do with this new understanding of the Apostle Paul’s writing? It is up to each one of us. We can poke holes in this analogy clasping our broken toys, our broken relationships and our broken lives tightly to our chests, thereby not letting anyone, especially God, help us let go of these awful, and burdensome human problems! No one, no one can promise anyone, the answer will be ‘all’ to our liking. No, this is not how this works. Sometimes, God’s way seems awfully lonely and isolating. I know, we are supposed to be in community! Yet, sometimes God pushes us out in front and tells us to lead! This can be downright nerve wracking! Many Christian leaders seek counsel from other respected Christians or Spiritual mentors – before acting on new bold initiatives – which they feel God is pushing them to do. This is wise, as some forms of perceived enlightenment may simply be dehydration or a bad case of the flu coming on! It is always wise to seek some type of Spiritual direction before proceeding with a brand-new venture! On the other hand, most times God’s will for us is to follow the simple teachings of Jesus, as found in the gospels. Then all you need is a good Pastor or Bible Study leader to help you uncover the truth.
Holding on to the old ways of sinfulness is a lot more comfortable, especially when we break that word down ‘to its root meaning’ to us humans. Most people, prefer to do things the way they always have. If you have always short tipped your waitress and your wife tells you to double down on that next tip – you will resist – as it doesn’t feel good! The same is true in spiritual matters. The Finance team begs its congregation to give an extra few dollars a week, or they will need to cut the pastor’s salary or let go of one of the musicians; it really hits home. You ask yourself: “Shall I give up going out to dinner once a month, or give up buying that new item for the house this month, to help out my church?”
“Come on pastor, this isn’t a sin if I don’t give more?” “Is it?”
No, being charitable and following the lead of Christ, is not a sin. But, we do need to look closely at our motives when we are deciding what is enough charity, or how much love and kindness shall we share. Our relationship with our church is similar to our relationships with others around us. We need to check our motives. Ask yourself a few simple questions. What is driving our decision? Does our choice take sides with some form of gluttony, apathy or laziness; or even greed and self-centeredness? There are other practices that make this a difficult thing to consider. Pride and ego, can become sinful if allowed to grow uncontrolled! Wanting something that isn’t ours, whether it be simply envy or lustfulness are both sinful. When we allow ourselves to get all in a rage, letting our anger turn ugly, we have clearly crossed the line into sinfulness. When we break down into these categories the things we ought not to do, we begin to realize how much in our lives still needs to be changed! The goal, for all of us, is to become more like the man Jesus, portrayed for us in the gospels. We need to become less self-focused or more focused on God’s will and the needs of others around us. Look for the opposites of these things that hold us back. If, you find you are miserly, then look to be more generous. If, everything is centered around you, try being more outwardly focused; look for how you can assist others.
If, we are ready to let go of our old ways, and let God lead us in new ways, there are a few basic steps to take. Trust the Master Craftsman! Trust God’s love for you! Trust that there is a better way! Trust that God shall do for you what you could not do for yourself! Let go and let God! Let God be the center of your life! Amen.