It is perhaps ironic that this New Testament lesson falls on Cyber-Monday. After all, the impulse to shop runs high in a great many Americans. But shopping can quite easily move from necessity to compulsion. Before you know it, we can be consuming without much restraint. On-line shopping, especially, is just so darn easy and can trigger the brain just as much as any addiction. There is often a very thin line between justified shopping and sinful rationalization of consumption. So, how do we say “no” in the face of competing choices? Whatever besetting sin is in our lives, how do we put it aside and rid ourselves of it?
One of the practical ways of approaching this answer is to read Romans 6 not from a generic standpoint, but make it very personal. In other words, it could be quite helpful to make all of the pronouns personal and name the specific sin when sin is mentioned. For example, it would look something like this:
“What shall I say, then? Shall I go on shopping so that grace may increase? By no means! I died to shopping; how can I live in it any longer? Or don’t I know that I am baptized into Christ Jesus and, so, am baptized into his death? I am 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, I, too, may live a new life.”
You can put your own besetting sin and struggling addiction into the text: “If I have been united with him like this in his death, I will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For I know that my old self was crucified with him so that shopping/gossiping/lying/overeating/alcoholism/legalism, etc. might be done away with, that I should no longer be a slave to shopping – because I have died and have been freed from the compulsive and obsessive need to shop.”
I think you get the idea. We are to count ourselves dead to all the addictions, compulsions, and activities that we use to replace the finished work of Christ. Instead, we are to reckon ourselves alive to God in Christ. The struggle against sin comes down to each and every day making an affirmation of faith that we belong to God through Jesus – and not to some other master. Yes, the daily work of spiritually affirming our identity might seem mundane, but it is quite necessary to achieving practical victory.
Holy God, you have made it possible for us to be forgiven and free in Jesus Christ. I choose today to serve you and you alone in my quest avail myself of the provision you have given me to live above sin. Amen.