Can I Really Live A Virtuous Life
By: Dr. Steven C. Riser
Text: Romans 6:1-7, 11-13
Romans 6:18—You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Introduction: The Problem and Potential of Addiction
Like it or not, we all know something about addiction these days. When we hear the word addiction, we immediately think about drugs and the near hopeless war that seems unable to keep them off the street. Addiction is a reality that hits close to home. Each of us knows at least one person who is addicted or who has been recovering. We may have even personally struggled with it. Perhaps you heard the testimony of a recovering alcoholic who became addicted to chocolate? She simply traded one addiction for another.
We are learning a lot about addiction these days, about the way it establishes itself in a person’s life. We all know, too, that addictions are extremely difficult to escape. If we don’t take initiative to break away from our destructive addictions they are likely to lead to jail, insanity, early death or suicide—it’s as simple as that.
Fortunately, some addictions or habits are good ones.
Physically we know we need to establish habits relating to proper rest, exercise and eating.
Spiritually we know we need to establish habits relating to Bible study, prayer and witnessing.
Explanation: The Greatest Help Any of Us Can Get
Let’s focus now on the greatest help any of us can get when it comes to making our behavior more wholesome and good. I know of an addiction to something that is totally good—Virtue!
The addiction to goodness itself. This seems so far out that many people would not be inclined to take me seriously. But before you write this idea off as utter nonsense, let’s see what God’s Word has to say about the matter.
The Bible doesn’t use the word addiction; instead it uses the word slavery. Often when we speak about a person being addicted, we mean that person is “enslaved” to something. The Apostle Paul in our text today says, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).
The idea of being slaves to righteousness is actually equivalent to the idea of being addicted to virtue, wouldn’t you agree? So let’s consider these words from the Bible in terms of addiction.
There were some people in the early church that came up with a mischievous idea: they said, “Let’s go on sinning so that God’s grace may increase.” This unbiblical idea persists today. There are many professing Christians who say they believe, but who are not very interested in changing their lifestyles. While they may not engage in what we would consider gross sin, they cut corners in business and shade the truth and think that a little sin once in a while is not a problem. The more we sin the more we have to be thankful of God’s grace.
In connection with this idea Paul jumps out of his chair and declares: “You couldn’t be more wrong!” Let’s read what he says in Romans 6:1-7, 11-13:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin….
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
I. The implications of our new relationship with Jesus Christ
What is this passage actually teaching? Because of our new relationship with Christ, we are no longer obligated to carry out our sinful motives, desires and goals. We are now able to operate on the basis of God’s purposes for us. Why? Because the power of God’s Spirit gives us a potential that we never had before. And because of this new power we have a new alternative.
For those of us who belong to Christ it is ridiculous to think that we can do as we please.
What does it mean to do as you please? Over the centuries, some things just don’t change: for example, departure from biblical moral standards, misusing and abusing the gift of sex, abusing spouses and children, pursuing material things, disregarding the poor and the needy engaging in unethical business practices and becoming involved in destruction addictions.
We live in a virtual mine field of apparent pleasures that attract us even as they threaten to blow us to smithereens. And many seem to think that they can play games with some of these pleasures while insisting they are Christians. One of the primary points of Romans 6 is that it’s foolish to say you believe in Christ and at the same time insist that you may continue in sin.
II. The good news is that there is a way out.
The good news of the Bible is that there is a way out of the self-inflicted torture we live in. The Christian faith should be very attractive to people who need to know the way out of bondage.
What is the way out? Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Before Jesus was crucified, although He was not a sinner, He was affected by sin—your sin and mine. On the cross He conquered sin and death and His resurrection is proof of His victory.
Jesus can transform us from one addicted to destructive habits to one addicted to virtue!
Jesus can transform us to one who wants nothing more than to please God and live righteously! And friends, it doesn’t get any better than that! What the Bible is saying here should be extremely interesting to those who are living as slaves of something besides righteousness. How many people do you know that are in bondage to their own passions? Human beings who should know better seem helpless because they are in bondage to appetites and emotions that can destroy them and their loved ones.
Romans 6 tells us that if we are looking for protection from such episodes in our own lives or if we are already involved in a type of slavery that is destroying us, here is a way out! Here is a way to bring repair and renewal. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—turn your life over to Him and make Him the center of your life. Share your whole life with Him and relate everything to Him.
Jesus is worthy of all this. After all, he is the Son of the living God, who came into this world to pay for the sins of his people. He is the Love of God in the flesh, and when we believe in Him, we are saved from our sins.
III. If we don’t know Christ, we are helpless in the face of sin
Romans 6 also emphasizes how helpless we are in the face of sin if we don’t know Christ. Temptations can come into our lives like tidal waves and wipe us out. Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12). The good news is that those who belong to Christ can become addicted to virtue—unable to resist being good and doing good. Because we have a new person as our master, a new potential and a new power to actualize that potential, we can actively resist evil. We can no longer enjoy it because we have a better alternative.
As the Bible says, it is possible to be a slave of goodness. You do not want to sin anymore. You eagerly search out the good and you do it. You want nothing more than to live a virtuous life.
We should keep in mind that the Bible here is speaking against people who actively seek out sin so that God would have to use more grace to save them. And the Bible never says that Christians on this earth will be sinless. I am among those Christians who believe it is impossible for us in this life to be done with sin entirely. In fact, it is appropriate and necessary for a Christian to ask God to forgive his or her sins regularly, because we sin as long as we are in this world. There is a difference, you see, between actively seeking out sin and being a sinner against your will. Sin is a very pervasive reality.
Conclusion: The Basic Fact Remains! In Christ We Can
The basic fact remains—those who truly believe in Christ become slaves of righteousness.
They want nothing more than to glorify God by doing the will of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
They live carefully so that they will not fall into a trap where they can be conquered by evil.
They live this way because they are united to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christ sends His Spirit into their lives and they became new creatures—fully alive! Through faith they have died with Christ and have been raised again with Him to life. Only Christ can change us so deeply and so powerfully. If you have put your faith in Christ but your love for Him has grown cold, I urge you to run back to Him as fast as you can. Yes, even you can become addicted to virtue; faith in Christ can make all the difference in the world. Believe in Jesus and discover the slavery that leads to liberation. Addicted to virtue—what a blessed addiction it is! (John 8:32- 34)