Derek Prince - Free From The Laws
In our previous two sessions we’ve been looking at stage 8 of our pilgrimage which is God’s solution for the old man and we saw that that solution is summed up in one word: execution. But the mercy of God lies in this: that the execution took place when Jesus died on the cross. Our old man was crucified with him. And we are given the privilege through baptism of identifying ourselves with him in his death, his burial and then in everything else that follows on. God has no other program for the old man but execution. So Paul has answered the objection, Well, if we want more grace let’s go on sinning more, let’s go on living in sin. He points out that’s impossible because to be in the grace of God, you have to be dead to sin. It’s a misunderstanding of how God’s grace operates.
Now we’re going to go on to stage 9 which is the second part of chapter 6. This is very practical, how to apply God’s solution in our lives. In the previous part of the chapter Paul has given the doctrinal basis. Now he says how do we make this work in our lives? We’ll read, first of all, verses 12–14. Therefore, do you notice the "therefore"? I don’t know whether anybody is ever going to count all the therefore’s, it would be quite interesting. Of course, it depends partly on the translation you use but the NASV would be a pretty accurate one. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.
Paul gives instructions here but these instructions can only be acted on by people who’ve passed through the transition described in the previous part of the chapter. A person who has not put his faith in Jesus and accepted his substitutionary sacrifice on his behalf just is incapable of carrying out these instructions. So these instructions only work on the basis of what Paul has already said in the previous part of the chapter. Now he says you’ve got to take a firm stand against sin. I heard a sermon preached years ago by somebody who said if you ever want to get to heaven you’ve got to learn to say no. And that certainly is the truth. Paul says you’ve got to make up your mind, say no to sin from now on. You’re not going to control me, I take a stand against you, you have no more claims over me, you have no more power over me and I’m not going to submit to you.
And sin and Satan are both alike; they only listen when you really mean it. They both have a way of knowing when you’re just saying it and when you’re saying it and meaning it. You have to say it with determination. You see, applying the work of Jesus in our lives demands the exercise of our will. It’s impossible if we don’t exercise our wills aright. I believe through faith in Jesus our wills are liberated from the dominion of sin. After that, it becomes our responsibility to use them aright. And God isn’t going to do that for us.
Here’s the point where we have got to rise up and say this is my responsibility. I want to illustrate this very briefly from a personal experience of mine during the period that I was pastoring in London. For several years I had a tremendous internal struggle against depression. I cannot describe how depression would come down over me and weigh upon me and shut me in and give me this sense of hopelessness and failure. If you’ve ever been through something of the same, you can identify. I struggled against this thing in every way that I knew and made no progress. Really, I had to give up, there was nothing more I knew to do and then I was reading Isaiah 61:3 in the King James Version and it says there: In place of the spirit of heaviness the garment of praise...
As I read those words the Holy Spirit spoke to me inwardly and I read the spirit of heaviness and said, That’s your problem. It was like a flood of light came in. I realized I was not fighting against myself. It was another person, a person without a body, a spirit that was tormenting me and oppressing me. When I realized that I was dealing with a person who was not myself I would say I was 80 percent of the way to victory. I actually only needed one other Scripture in that case which was Joel 2:32: Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered. So I put that very simply together and I went to God in prayer and said, God, you’ve shown me that I’m oppressed by a spirit of heaviness. I’m coming to you now and I’m calling upon you in the name of the Lord Jesus. Deliver me from this spirit of heaviness. And he delivered me, I felt it leave me.
Then God showed me my responsibility began. He showed me that he had done for me what I could not do for myself. But now it was up to me to reprogram my own mind. I habitually thought in a negative way. I was a professional pessimist and God showed me that that was a denial of my faith in Jesus, that he’d liberated my mind from that oppressing spirit but he wasn’t going to do for me what I could do for myself. He showed me I had to retrain my mind. And I did. Over a period of years every time a negative, pessimistic thought came to me I would reject it and replace it by something positive based on Scripture. Over the course of some years my whole inner working changed completely, I was a totally different person.
Why I tell that story is because God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In this case he will deliver us from the dominion of sin. But after that it’s our responsibility to do what we can. It’s our responsibility to will aright, to take our stand against sin, to disassociate ourselves from everything sinful. And that we have to do by the exercise of our will. So Paul says, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting your members [the members of your body] to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Paul says deny sin access to your members, don’t let it control your hands, don’t let it control your feet, don’t let it control your tongue, you don’t have to. You’ve been set free. And he says, on the contrary, yield yourself to God and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. There’s a double yielding. First of all, you yield your will to God. You say, God, not my will but yours be done. If you pray The Lord’s Prayer, you have to do that for the second petition of The Lord’s Prayer is thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When we say thy will be done, where does it begin? In me, the one who’s praying. So we have to yield our will to God. Then, having yielded our will, we have to yield our members, our physical members to God as instruments of righteousness. Where the translations says instruments, the Greek says literally weapons. So that implies, I think, spiritual conflict. It’s not just an instrument, it’s not just a hoe or a plow but it’s a sword. It’s an instrument with which we fight.
For me personally, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the key experience because in that experience, as I understand it, first we yield our will to God, then we yield to God the one unruly member of our body which we cannot control, the tongue. We are actually fulfilling the instruction here, yielding our members, our physical members, to God as instruments [or weapons] of righteousness. And certainly, when the tongue has been yielded to God and taken over by the Holy Spirit, it becomes a weapon in prayer, in testimony, in preaching. See, God is so down to earth. I’ve pointed out to you that when Paul is finished the first 11 chapters of Romans, all his theology, there’s another 'therefore'. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice to God.
So it’s a question really of willing and yielding. You’ve got to do it in that order because if you don’t will, you’ll by habit yield to the wrong thing. Because you’re used to yielding to sin. Paul says don’t go on presenting your body, your members, to sin. You’ve been doing it for a long while. I’d been doing it for about 25 years when I met the Lord. But I had to stop, I had to say that’s the end of that. Now my will has been released. I can will one will with God and when I’ve yielded my will to God I don’t have to yield my members as instruments of sin to Satan. Then Paul comes out with a tremendously important statement in verse 14. For sin shall not be master over you [the old translation said sin shall not have dominion over you], for you are not under law, but under grace. The implications of that statement are very far reaching. Paul says you are not under law, but under grace. It’s one or the other; it cannot be both at the same time. If you’re under law, you’re not under grace. If you’re under grace, you’re not under law. You have to decide.
Now we’re going to spend quite a long while in this series dealing with the law, the whole of Romans 7. So I don’t want to go into it at this present time in detail, just point out it’s a choice. Don’t try and have it both ways at the same time because you can’t. And, the implication of this is very powerful. Paul says sin shall not have dominion over you because you are not under the law. What’s the implication of that? If you’re under the law, sin will have dominion over you. I know that’s a shocking statement to many people but it happens to be what the Bible says. And it says it consistently all the way through. So, we have this choice. I’m not under law, I’m not governed by a set of rules, I don’t operate on the basis of fear, I’ve become a son of God, I obey Him because I love Him. Love is my motivation for obedience. Not fear, from now on. God does not want to make slaves, the law made slaves. God makes sons and daughters. But you have to decide, very important that you exercise your will and exercise it aright, because if you let yourself be pushed around by Satan, he’ll push you around, believe me. He’s a bully, he goes for the weak. You can’t afford in this area of your life to be weak.
Now comes the next imagined objection. You’re getting used to Paul’s imagined objections by now. He said we are not under law, but under grace. So, what’s the objection? Verse 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? And what is his answer? Perish the thought! That's right. Do you see what he’s saying? The first objection at the beginning of the chapter was shall we continue in sin that grace may abound. This is different. If we’re not under the law then are we free to commit sinful acts when it suits us because we’re not under a law that says don’t do it? It’s not the same objection, it’s a different one. This is his answer, and we’ll read verses 15–22. We have to deal with this as a section. Perish the thought! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
So Paul says when you yield yourself to someone to obey him, you become slaves of the one you obey. So if by a decision of your will you decide, I’m going to commit this sinful act. Let’s say an act of immorality, I’m not under the law so I can do it. Paul says if you do that, you’re yielding to immorality, what happens? You become a slave of immorality. I’m not going to ask people to put their hands up but I think some of you know that by experience. You can’t yield to such a thing without becoming the slave of such a thing. So you have to decide whom do you want to yield to. I’d like to turn for a moment, keeping your finger in Romans 6, to Joshua 24 verse 15 Now Joshua is confronting Israel at the end of his career with a choice. Some of us don’t like choices, do we? We’d rather get along without having to decide but in the spiritual life you can’t avoid choices. He says to Israel: Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and truth [verse 15] If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve He said will you serve the true God or will you serve false gods?
Notice what the choice is, and it’s never changed. It is not choose whether you will serve, it is choose whom you will serve. Serve you will. So, the only choice you have, after you’re redeemed, is am I going to serve sin or am I going to serve righteousness? Before you were redeemed you didn’t have any choice, you couldn’t help sinning, there was no other option. This is only addressed to those who’ve experienced redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. Going back to Romans 6 now, verse 17: But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed. That’s very important. We can’t dwell on it but the word form there is the same word that’s used for putting metal in to cause it to set in a certain shape.
And it always impresses me that when people are newly converted they’re warm, they’re hot. And it’s very important to put them in the right form right at the beginning. Lots of people get wonderfully converted, they’re enthusiastic but they go to some church or group which doesn’t really present the truth of the Bible and they get set in the wrong form. Then it’s hard to change them. To me, this is a passionate concern, that people will get set in the right form. I’ve been to many evangelistic crusades and I’ve seen thousands of people go forward but I’ve always had this question in my mind what form is that hot metal going to be poured into, how will it set? And I’m sorry to say that many, many times it doesn’t come out right.
I was a counselor at Billy Graham’s first crusade at Harringay at London in l954, if you can believe that people were alive in those days! I counseled 22 people and I appreciate very much the counseling instruction that we had. We were not allowed to tell them what church to attend. We had to maintain contact with them by phone or by letter, follow them up. I did everything I could but out of those 22 people I eventually concluded that there were only two that you could say were solid converts. By a coincidence they joined my church! I really didn’t want them to, I pushed them away but they tasted something and they wouldn’t go for anything else. Now this is no criticism of Billy Graham, you understand that? I admire him and appreciate him. But the evangelist is not responsible for the form that the converts are put in. Somebody said in Britain at that time about the new converts, it’s a shame to put a live chick under a dead hen. I won’t interpret that!
Going on, verse 18: having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness So it’s choice. Something is going to control you. Which is it? Is it going to be sin or righteousness? Now you say it’ll be righteousness. Believe me, you’ll be tested. You will really be tested. The devil doesn’t give up as long as he thinks he’s got a chance of succeeding. I’ve noticed when people are tested and tempted, the devil will go on until that person’s come to the place where the temptation just doesn’t mean anything to him. He’s not even going to entertain the thought. And the devil is clever enough not to waste his time on people like that. But if there’s any doublemindedness in you, the devil will exploit that. You have to make a firm decision.
Going on, verse 19: I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness If you go into lawlessness, it increases. You become more and more lawless. Many of us can trace that in our own lives. I certainly can. ...so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification [or holiness] You’re going to go one way or the other. It is almost impossible to stand still in the spiritual life. You’re either going to go forward or you’re going to go backward. You’re either going to go further into rebellion or you’re going to progress in holiness. But standing still in the spiritual life is almost impossible. Paul goes on again. He’s very explicit and remember, he’s writing in a society where slavery was a very normal thing.
So all these people knew what it was to be a slave. If they weren’t slaves, quite probably they had slaves. So he’s using a figure which was very appropriate in those days. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Now he says think it over. Have you noticed another therefore? Verse 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. So Paul says think it over for a moment. When you were serving sin, when you were a slave to sin, what did you get? Some of us got headaches and the morning after feeling and a sense of shame, and many of us wondered whether life was really worth living, what was it all about. We lived many times in disagreement and contention and disharmony with the people closest to us. Is that right?
So Paul says think it over, just bear in mind where you used to be. Do you want to go back there? In my experience in the Christian life I had many temptations and many discouragements. But I’ll tell you one thing. I have never once entertained the thought of going back to the old life. Because, as far as I’m concerned, it just has nothing to offer. For me, that’s clear. When I shut that door, I threw away the key. I mean, I’ve often wondered where are we going, God, have you forgotten me, what’s the problem, what am I doing wrong, but one thing I’ve never felt I wanted to do was turn back. By now I’ve gone to far to know the way back, thank God! For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. So Paul says stop looking back and cultivate looking ahead.
Where are you headed for? You’re headed for a life of holiness, you’re headed for eternal life which doesn’t end with this life but goes on into eternity. That’s where you’re going. It’s difficult to walk forwards if you’re looking backwards. So Paul says just turn your back on all of the past. What a privilege to be able to do that, isn’t it? I think there are millions of people on this earth today who would gladly do it if someone would tell them how to. That’s why I have a passionate concern to get the word of God to everybody. I wonder if you realize how fortunate we are. We know what to do about guilt. We know there’s a solution to guilt. But there are, I think, billions of people on earth today who feel guilty and don’t know where to go. They never tasted God’s goodness, his grace, his mercy. They’ve never heard that there is forgiveness. I’m concerned about them, I’m not interested in the past. I only refer to the past by way of illustration, that’s the only interest I have in the past, the lessons that I’ve learned from it. Then Paul sums this up with characteristic clarity. What is the real choice?
Verse 23 The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Those are the options. If you want your wages which is the due reward for what you’ve done, remember, you’re a sinner. And God is just and if you take that option, you’ll get your wages. What are your wages? Death, that’s right. That’s the justice of God. But if you refuse that option and say, God, I don’t want what I deserve, give me what I hadn’t deserved. Give me your free gift, [Greek, charisma] grace gift that I can’t earn, [that’s eternal life] Lord, that’s what I want. I trust that every one of us here has made that decision. And if you’ve made that decision here, I just feel that it would be appropriate at this moment to tell God once again that we yield to him our will and we yield him our members. Now if you want to join me, say, "Lord, I yield my will to you now and I lift up my hands in token that I’m yielding my physical members to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen".