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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rulership 101

Okay, so you know how you read through scripture sometimes that you have read through like a million times and all of a sudden you see something new?  Well, what do you know - God isn't dead and his Word is living, alive, and life-giving!  If you experience something new on occasion - seeing some new revelation from scripture - it isn't that there is new stuff in there, it is just that you missed it the first million times because your heart wasn't ready to receive it!  There is actually a scripture which reads:  "Everything that happens has happened before; nothing is new, nothing under the sun."  (Ecclesiastes 1:9 CEV)  It was there all along - so were you - but you just weren't ready to receive it, didn't really need it that much at that moment, or other things needed to be learned before you understood this "new truth".  I often speak of grace - God's unmerited favor - something given to us, never earned, totally undeserved, and in astronomical proportions.  I am always looking for the "thread" of grace in scripture, because I know it is interwoven in each and every page of this Bible I hold so dear.  One such thread stuck out to me this morning - only I had missed it before because the word "grace" is never used in the passage.  The actions of grace are, though!  Grace is action-based, not just something ethereal or "out there".  It is evidenced in God's kindness in our lives.

Don’t let sin rule your body. After all, your body is bound to die, so don’t obey its desires or let any part of it become a slave of evil. Give yourselves to God, as people who have been raised from death to life. Make every part of your body a slave that pleases God. Don’t let sin keep ruling your lives. You are ruled by God’s kindness and not by the Law. (Romans 6:12-14 CEV)

Anything or anyone who rules something else is really in control, right?  When "rule" is used as a verb, it carries the idea of exercising some dominating power, authority, or influence over something or someone.  There are probably lots of things in our lives which do this in one form or another when we really stop to think about it.  I have a speedometer on my car. It doesn't speak to me, nor does it give me an electric shock when I am hitting speeds I shouldn't be traveling.  It DOES give me a "reading" of how fast I am traveling, though.  It has an input, coupled with the visualization of a sign along the freeway which reads "Max Speed 65 MPH" which act as "controlling" agents in my life as I drive.  I have an alarm on my phone which sounds 15 minutes prior to any meeting I am to attend, acting as an "alert system" to help control my arrival and keep me on task with my work.  I also have this little niggling voice inside which speaks up from time to time reminding me the course I am about to take may not be the best.  All of these things have some type of "controlling" influence in my life, and probably you have similar ones in yours.  We have a lot of things which attempt to "rule" our lives - but we select the ones we actually allow to do just that.

Don't let sin rule your body is pretty straight-forward.  Sin - any deliberate or willful violation of what we know or suspect to be right in our lives - is trying to rule over our lives. It has a mission in mind and it isn't our liberty!  It is our bondage.  That understood, it becomes apparent from what Paul is saying here that we actually "let" sin rule - we give way to the influences in our lives which take us down wrong paths.  We actually submit to the authority of those urges, promptings, external or internal influences, etc.  The desires we get drawn into actually are not what gives us the problem - it is the ease at which we submit our wills to their influence!  "Don't let..." makes this pretty apparent - WE possess the power to resist the influence - we just don't use it!  It is like when I ignore an alert on my phone that a meeting is about to occur, or hit the snooze button.  When that meeting time creeps up on me and I am not rushing to make it there, it is not the phone's fault, nor the meeting organizer's.  It is mine!  I let my desire to direct my attention to something else overshadow the responsibility I had to be there at that meeting.

This is the truth about desire - it often overshadows what we know to be right, realistic, and relevant in our lives.  The opposite of "letting sin" be the controlling authority in our lives is to give ourselves over to another authority - that of God himself.  It is an exchange of power. We stop responding to the desires by allowing God's power to "rule over" our lives instead. The second part of the equation is that we "make every part" of our lives align with that authority.  This means there is a little "effort" on our parts to keep ourselves under the right authority.  When we "make" our minds focus on Christ and his power in our lives, we often see his power manifest in ways we didn't realize before.  Why?  We are just paying attention to his influence more than we were at other times.  It is like when I anticipate the meeting, listen for the alert from my phone, and then gather up my meeting materials and am off in advance of the meeting.  I am prepared because I am listening to the alerts and submissive to them, as well.  We are prepared to resist sin's influence in our lives when we are listening to the right voice and responding to it in obedience.

Now, the kicker to all this:  We are ruled by God's kindness (grace).  Bam!  It isn't his heavy hand which rules in our lives (that would be the rule of the Law), but his kindness (grace). When we think of grace, do we think of it as a controlling influence in our lives?  I doubt it. In fact, we think of it as what we need when something else has controlled our lives, leading us down a path we should never have traveled in the first place!  Yet, if we take this scripture in context, we are to be ruled by GRACE.  God's kindness displayed in our lives, setting us free from the "law of sin and death".  God's goodness activating our conscience, energizing our spirit, embracing our heart, and bringing consistency to our walk.  His grace is to be the controlling influence of our lives - we walk strong not in our power, but in his grace.  His undeserved favor - making us able to live as we should.  Sin demands submission and then ropes us into bondage.  Grace awaits our submission and then embraces us in the richness of freedom and liberty.  We don't break free of sin's domination - we are brought out of it by an exchange of rule in our life.  Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound!  Just sayin!