... you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.... (Romans 6:16-17; partial)
I have become obedient, from the heart, to the calling before me- the righteous standard of a perfect and holy God. Or have I? I was listening to In His Image by Jen Wilkin last night, and she gave a metaphor that crushed my toes. She said, "When we are faithful to God in smaller temptations, we build strength to face the bigger ones. No one indulges an explosive fit of anger, who has not first indulged a thousand smaller aggressions. If we habitually flee from the temptation to commit minor sins of anger and selfishness, we are less likely to fall for temptation in greater sins of anger and selfishness."
Essentially, she likens our propensity to go all in with our sins to weightlifting. We are incapable of lifting those huge sins if we haven't been training with the smaller ones all along.
This immediately convicted me in the areas of anger and profanity in my own life. I'm quick to tell others, "I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.” And for a long time, I’ve honestly been OK with that. I weighed this particular sin as not really a "big" sin because it's not like there's a list of words in Scripture to not say, right? Who even defines a curse word? But the real truth is that scripture is very clear not only about our speech being chaste, upright, and encouraging (Ephesians 4:29), but also about attempting to make one sin "less than" another (as in, my cursing wasn't a big deal because it wasn't as bad as __________).
But let’s not mince words here: EVERY sin is abhorrent to our perfect and Holy God.
What Paul is discussing above in Romans is our willingness to be a slave to sin, and once we "become obedient from the heart" to the standard of God, we become slaves to righteousness.
What is slavery? To be a slave is to be the legal property of another, forced to obey them. We are not forced into relationship with God, but once we choose that relationship, we are then compelled by the Spirit of God that lives inside of us TO OBEY, otherwise we are in violation of our covenant with him.
Now what righteousness is this that we are enslaved to? Righteousness is the justification that we have received by Christ and the right moral conduct as a result of this justification. Righteousness is both something we have received and are also called to.
Peter says in 1 Peter 1:15-16, 'But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy."'
Let’s make this process as perfectly clear as possible:
1. Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, I have been made righteous.
2. Because I am set apart, holy, and righteous before God, the spirit of God lives inside me.
3. Through my salvation, my heart is now committed to the righteous standard of God.
4. Therefore I am to be a prisoner and slave to righteousness ALONE.
The mistakes I've often made in my own walk of faith are from a misunderstanding of grace. Yes, there is grace for all situations and circumstances. I am eternally saved by grace alone. The justice that I deserve was shouldered by my Savior--for every sin of my past, present, and future. But that's not the end of the story.
An abuse of grace is when we become fixed in our sin, overlook the conviction God has sent us through His Spirit, and persist in it, knowing that the sin we are dwelling in offends God, is unrighteous, and can't be a part of the holy standard that we've been called to- no matter how little or seemingly inconsequential it is.
If it matters enough to the God of Creation to tell us not to do it (or to do it), then it must matter enough to us to obey.
Why would we choose to continue under the bondage of sin when we have the freedom of righteousness already bought and paid for?
We are just as responsible TO GOD for our faithfulness and righteousness as he is to be faithful and righteous. Said another way: We are to be as faithful TO righteousness as he is TO BE righteous. We may be incapable of being perfect and sinless in every way, but that does not reduce our responsibility to SEEK it out and press into it, despite our circumstances as fallen people.
Am I as faithful to righteousness as I CAN be? I'm not. Have I been faithfully obedient to righteousness from the heart? Hard no. I frequently make excuses and rest in my sin. God deserves my full faithfulness to the righteousness that he paid an exorbitant price to give me.
Sanctification must press us onward, toward holiness. A sanctified, submitted heart looks for all the ways of God and passionately persists in them. It abhors sin, in all ways. It doesn't look for an excuse, to rank sin as "acceptable or not". It doesn't shirk it's responsibility to be wholly faithful- in ALL things- to a faithful God.
Now, as believers, with hearts committed to reflecting the overwhelming holiness of our God, we are OWNED BY RIGHTEOUSNESS. Not just because we are already made righteous but because we are called TO BE righteous-- with every word, every breath, every thought, every action. Let's conform our hearts fully and faithfully to his Word.
Need some encouragement in seeking righteousness? Here’s a practical tool!
Would you also like a little help in purifying your speech and pursuing the righteousness that we are called to? Nothing accomplishes that more perfectly than memorizing God’s Word! Enter your email below to receive a beautiful set of botanical scriptures and memorization cards!