Azimuth or Back-azimuth? Your Choice

Romans 6:1-11 ESV

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he 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.

This passage is important because as Christians we are not under the constraints of the Law (the Biblical Law – Passed from Moses to the Israelites). Paul is quite clear in Ephesians and Galatians that we are under Grace, and that we should not turn back to the Law. But that as he points out here, does not mean that we should continue to sin that grace may abound.

We are called to holiness. As saints—this is what early Christians were called, before being called Christians—we are called to holiness. The word saint comes from sanctified which means set apart for holy service. When Paul wrote his epistles, he addressed them “To the saints at...”–see Philippians and Colossians.

When we do sin, the Holy Spirit will convict our consciences of the sin, and when we repent, He is faithful and forgives us. But we are not allowed to sin without consequence. We are warned that, “If today you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” It is possible to harden our hearts against the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

If you struggle with sin in your life, don’t give up the fight. Don’t think that it is ok to just do it, because God will forgive. There are two reasons why God will not forgive: 1) If we do not agree that we are sinning, and repent, and 2) if we do not forgive others who wrong us.

The word repent has been described by many to be a complete turn-around. A 180 degree change. In Land Navigation – traveling by map and compass – you look at a distant point using the compass to get an angle of travel–azimuth–as it is called. The azimuth is the angle toward a destination. The opposite is called a back-azimuth–the angle from the destination to your location. So repentance is like a back-azimuth. It is going in the opposite direction.

The grace God gives is conditional only on repentance, and on our being willing to and forgiving others. Jesus warned the Scribes and Pharisees of this through the parable He told of the servant who was forgiven a large debt by his master, who refused to forgive a small debt owed to him. He ended up being thrown into prison to pay his debt after all.

To apply this to our lives today, remember, we are called to holiness. Yes we mess up at times, but never accept the sin. It is ok to admit that something is wrong. It is necessary to avoid doing what is wrong. Focus on doing what is right. Forgive others their sins against you.

by Virgil Stripes

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