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“We too can walk in newness of life”

February 19, 2023

Daily Scripture

Romans 6:1-11

1 So what are we going to say? Should we continue sinning so grace will multiply? 2 Absolutely not! All of us died to sin. How can we still live in it? 3 Or don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. 5 If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. 6 This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, 7 because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. 8 But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. 10 He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. 11 In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Verse 1 showed that some people tried to discredit the apostle Paul by saying, “Let’s keep sinning, so there can be even more grace.” He replied, “Absolutely not.” (The Greek literally meant “May it never be!”) That question was not imaginary, and not just in the first century. For instance, the infamous Russian monk Rasputin justified immoral acts by saying God’s grace needed something to forgive. But Paul said baptism, identifies us with Jesus’ death. He wrote to living people about the same idea: “You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:4). He extended the metaphor—as Jesus rose from the dead, our baptism means that now we can “walk in newness of life.” Growing that newness in our lives is the main focus of Ash Wednesday and Lent. (If you’ve never been baptized, click here to find information.)

  • Paul saw baptism as far more than a token act. “Here those ‘baptized into Christ’ (v. 3) lose their corporate solidarity with the ‘old self,’ which could also be translated ‘old humanity’ (in Adam), to find a new identity with Christ instead (see 5:15–21).” * We may still struggle, but Paul said in Christ we can see ourselves as “dead to sin,” as God does. In what ways has Jesus’ gift of grace brought you “alive for God in Christ Jesus”? To some who said, “I’ll just keep sinning so that grace can multiply,” Paul replied that only as we “die” to our old way of living have we truly accepted God’s grace. Our baptism, he said, is the acted-out symbol to show that we’re serious about that. What are your ongoing areas of struggle? In what ways has Christ’s gift of new life broken the ruling power of sin for you? What makes it better to choose a life free from sin (i.e. attitudes and actions that harm your relationship with God, others, even yourself) over a life of slavery to sin?

Jesus, to call you “Lord” is not to say, “Thanks for letting me off the hook.” It is to say, “I want you, not my broken habits or instincts, to rule my life.” Thank you for giving me the promise of a better way to live. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Sally Haynes

Sally Haynes

Sally Haynes serves as Pastor in Residence for Adult Discipleship. Most recently, she was Pastor of Central United Methodist Church and helped guide them through the discernment process of becoming Resurrection-Brookside at Historic Central. Sally and Andy have three children who, along with their spouses, live from sea to shining sea. In her free time, Sally enjoys knitting, reading mystery books, and reading online with her granddaughter.

It was my first Ash Wednesday in ministry, and I was both anxious and excited about marking people’s foreheads with a cross of ashes. I was determined to do it the “right” way, so I incinerated the previous year’s leftover palms from Palm Sunday, discovering that home-burned palms are clumpy and full of little sticks. No matter. In my earnestness, I was certain that if Jesus used real palm ashes for Ash Wednesday, then so would I. (I know, I know, but you can’t argue with the earnestness of a young pastor.)

At the appointed moment in the worship service, I stood semi-anxiously at the front of the sanctuary, holding my bowl of clumpy, stick-y ashes. The first person came forward, and my smudging was timid, leaving barely a mark. Determined to do better on the next person, I dabbed my ashing thumb extra-deep into the ashes. The resulting mark on her forehead was decisive, broadcasting to all her repentance and mortality. This ashing, I knew, was worthy of the solemnity of the day. Except that one of the many charred clumps fell off my thumb, landing squarely on the nose of the soundly-ashed woman.

I decided that I would wipe the errant clump away quickly. As I wiped, I made an awful discovery. Ashes smudge. They smear. They spread everywhere they are wiped. I had just done an outstanding job of smearing ashes all across the unsuspecting woman standing in front of me. My pastoral earnestness turned quickly into abject mortification as I looked at the smudgy nose and cheeks of this woman, knowing that she had no idea yet about what I had done to her face.

I offer this true story to you at the start of Lent as a reminder of how messy sin can be. We do things that seem little to us. It’s just a small lie that won’t hurt anyone. The store owner won’t miss this one thing. I’m not gossiping if what I’m saying is true. Everyone cheats on their taxes. These things seem too small to qualify as “sin.” And yet. Just like that tiny clump of ash, a small sin can spread so quickly, messing up so many things.

Just as that overly-ashed woman found herself scrubbing her face after the service, may we also take time to cleanse ourselves from the sin that clings to us. May the words of Hebrews 12:1 guide us into a holy Lent: “. . . let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. . .”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 255705-255707). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.