In his letter to the Romans, Paul, the Jew of Jews, schooled in the 613 commandments of the Hebrew law, like a good lawyer, hammers away at his point from many angles.
He repeats his arguments over and over.
Here is His main point right up front.
How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
Indeed, if we have died to sin – how can we go on living in it? Why would we want to?
We were prisoners to sin. Why would we return to that life?
Why would people released from prison return to doing the things that put them in prison?
The correct term for this is recidivism.
I found some statistics about recidivism – that is people who have been released from prison but end up returning to prison.
Two studies come closest to providing "national" recidivism rates for the
. One tracked 108,580 State prisoners released from prison in 11 States in 1983. The other tracked 272,111 prisoners released from prison in 15 States in 1994. United States
The prisoners tracked in these studies represent two-thirds of all the prisoners released in the
for that year. United States
67.5% of prisoners released in 1994 were rearrested within 3 years, an increase over the 62.5% found for those released in 1983
The rearrest rate for property offenders, drug offenders, and public-order offenders increased significantly from 1983 to 1994. During that time, the rearrest rate increased:
- to 74% for property offenders
- 67% for drug offenders
- to 62% for public-order offenders
Overall, reconviction rates did not change significantly from 1983 to 1994.
Among, prisoners released nearly 47% were reconvicted within 3 years
Among drug offenders, the rate of reconviction increased significantly, going from 35% in 1983 to 47% in 1994.
The 1994 recidivism study estimated that within 3 years, 52% of prisoners released during the year were back in prison either because of a new crime for which they received another prison sentence, or because of a technical violation of their parole.
One theory has to do with how people “see” themselves – their identity.
Identity develops through the application and adoption of labels.
Labeling theory argues that people develop as a result an identity forced upon them and then adopting the identity, or by self adopting an identity until that identity is accepted as their norm.
People are creatures of habit. Over time we become comfortable in whatever situation we are in.
For example, abused spouses often stay with the abusing spouse even when given an opportunity to safely leave.
Sexually abused children often grow to be sexually abusive adults.
As another example of how we become comfortable in our surroundings; several years ago a group of us went to the
Appalachian mountains on a mission trip.
This is coal country. And the mines are mostly closed.
Real unemployment is around 80%. By REAL I mean not the unemployment rates reported by the government which only tracks those who are drawing unemployment benefits.
Because once the benefits have run out, they are no longer counted – even though they are still unemployed.
At any rate, we discovered that many children who grew up in the area would leave, once they became adults, and seek employment elsewhere.
That seems understandable to me.
However, the majority of these people would quickly leave their jobs and return to the area where the odds of finding another job were nearly nonexistent.
Because it was HOME. It was what they were conditioned to accept as normal.
Paul is making his argument that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” “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. For whoever has died is freed from sin.”
This is a sudden and radical identity change that Paul is talking about.
And Paul knows something about radical identity change,
Remember Saul the Jewish zealot who hunted down the Christian believers.
This Paul, who was knocked to his knees and blinded by the light of Jesus Christ, is arguing that once we are baptized into Christ, we are dead to sin. That is, that sin no longer lives in us.
The death Christ died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Here he is exhorting us to “live the change” that has occurred in us. He recognizes how easy it is for us, who have been freed from sin, to willfully return to it.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness,
Don’t put yourself in harms way. As an example: If you have a weakness for drink, stay away from places where you find drink. If you have lust in your heart, avoid the things that trigger the lust.
Whatever your weakness is, let the Spirit heal you and then don’t pick at the scab!
Then “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
Take those areas of weakness and give them to God and He will turn them into tools for His kingdom.
Notice here that he is saying that Christ has done His part.
Now it is time for us to do our part.
Avoid the things we used to do.
And not just avoid the OLD but embrace the NEW, to become obedient to the will of God.
As he puts it, ”You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
Here he gives thanks to God “that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
Paul now asks us to consider our two paths – the old and the new – and what lay at the end of each of those paths.
“When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
That means that when we were living in sin we could do anything we wanted without regard for the law – because we were already “law breakers”
So, he asks, “So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.
Have you ever had someone say is essence that “I’ll live this life the way I want and then when I come near death, I’ll repent and be saved?”
Why would you want to continue down the path of destruction when you could be in fellowship with God?
Do people really think that the Devil throws better parties than God?
The Devil’s parties are just slow ways of destroying your body, your mind and of course your soul!
Here is the good news, “now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.”
Once my heart was heavy with a load of sin. Jesus took my burdens and gave me peace and joy within my heart and now I’m singing as the days go by. Jesus took my burdens all away.”
I don’t have to walk this road alone.
I don’t have to carry these burdens alone.
His yoke is easy because He does most of the work.
I no longer need to fear the future. Because even when hard times come, my savior is near.
Yes, the road of righteousness is hard at times.
But so is the road to destruction and there is no help on that road,
just the Devil goading you on while he laughs at you.
Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Paul makes it very clear that the our choices are to go back to our old sinful ways and be dead to God, or to live the new life, purchased for us by Jesus Christ and given as a free gift of God, and be in eternal fellowship with God.
Which identity we choose is up to us.
Life or death.
Which path will you follow?