O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Two Yous
The Two Yous
Based on Romans 6:1-11
Preached on January 13, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, you who have been given a new self, who have been grafted into Christ on the cross, whose sins have been put to death, there once was a young boy, a nice boy, one who loved the Lord and listened to his parents. He had been baptized and lovingly raised in the Word of God and had always been happy to do the right thing. But one day he found himself in a situation he didn't like. There he was confronted with a temptation he knew he should not pursue. His parents had taught him to flee such situations, but for some reason his feet weren't moving. Time seemed to slow to a standstill, and everything around him became intensely present. This should be an easy decision. He knew he shouldn't do it. He knew there would be consequences he wouldn't like. He shouldn't even be considering it. Yet there he was. Drawn. Pulled toward what he shouldn't want. What was happening to him? Where was all of this coming from?
What this young boy was encountering is something St. Paul opens up about in our epistle reading this morning. The old self, or Old Adam - what the Bible also calls the flesh. This old self, or old man, is the nature that mankind is born with. It is the nature we have inherited from our parents, from Adam and Eve. This sinful nature that lives in our flesh has no regard for God and His Law, it cares nothing for what is good and right, but purposefully opposes God and pulls us away from Him. The reason it wants to do evil, is because it is evil. It is godless and desires the things that are godless. The old self is not conflicted about right and wrong.
But that is not the full story, is it? The young boy was conflicted. He wanted to do the right thing, but for reasons he didn't understand, he wanted to do the wrong thing as well. There was a fight going on within him. Like there were two different people inside him, trying to gain the upper hand. Someone was resisting his old self. Calling him away from the temptation and evil. Pulling him back from the enticing destruction. But who was this other person? Who was this other self that fought his old Adam?
The whole mystery is revealed in the Greek word "sumpsutoi." Who ever thought there could be comfort in such a word? Yet this is the word that St. Paul uses to explain our struggle. "Sumpsutoi." It means grown together, or united, or grafted. Paul tells us that in Holy Baptism God has grafted us, grafted our old sinful self, into a new man. That there in the waters, your old self has been sumpsutoi into Christ. Two grafted into one. Like two plants grafted together in water, Baptism "sumpsutoi"s you into Jesus.
And your old self doesn't like this very much, for it is not just grafted anywhere, Paul says, but grafted into his death. Grafted into Christ as He hung on the cross. Grafted there with a purpose. Grafted into Him at the right time. For something needs to happen to that old self of yours, that evil self that opposes God. And it happened on the cross. Your old self was crucified. It was drowned in the waters, buried in death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too might walk in newness of life. That you too might have a new self, a new man who is Christ in you. Yes, he opposes your old self that tries to lead you to death, for in Baptism you have been sumpsutoi to Him, and He and His Holy Spirit now live within you. There is going to be a struggle for you, because the two yous inside you are trying to put each other to death. (big pause)
Have you ever viewed Christ's crucifixion as an attack against your sin, as a way of putting you to death? You had to die. Not only did you deserve it, it had to happen for you to be saved. But how could God do this? How could God put you to death in a way that would not keep you from Him forever? He sent His Son. Born in the flesh. Who entered the waters there at the Jordan, and grafted Himself to all sinners in Holy Baptism. Connected to you in the waters Jesus carried you up onto the cross and put you to death in His body. Grafted to Him, you were nailed there. You cried out there. Your old, evil self took its last breath there - in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has overcome your old self. Your new man has put your old man to death by dying with him.
Where once your old self completely controlled you, now you have been set free. Now you can fight. Yes, you remain in the flesh - your sinful old self still clings to your flesh - but you have been given a new self as well - You have been born again, born anew of the Holy Spirit, who opposes your flesh, who puts your old self to death in daily repentance. Whenever you feel the cold hand of your old self trying to pull you down into the grave, fight him, hold him under the water of your baptism, yell at him, "I am baptized" and so emerge from the waters to walk in newness of life.
As St. Paul triumphs, "For if we have been grafted to Him in a death like his, we shall certainly be grafted to Him in a resurrection like his." When Christ rose from the dead you were still grafted to Him. You and He are sumpsutoi even now. You will live forever because Christ is alive. When that glorious day comes that He decides to call you home, your fight will finally end. The two yous will be pulled together into the grave, but only one will emerge. Your old self will lose its hold on you as Christ pulls you through the grave. The earth will swallow your old self, and your flesh will rise anew, securely grafted to Christ in His glorious, resurrected body.
But until that day, you will struggle. You will be conflicted. You will face temptation, and you will fall to it. For the time your old self has is short, and it will do everything it can to ruin things for you. Have you experienced what I proclaim to you? Have you been conflicted like the young boy? You know you shouldn't be involved in those things, yet for some reason you are drawn into them. You know you shouldn't gossip, but your ears itch for it. You know you shouldn't be jealous, but your heart feels so much more worthy than them. You know you shouldn't desire money, but you are obsessed. You know you should love everyone, but you really don't like that person. You know your mind should be pure, but the images you see are so provocative. You know it shouldn't bother you, but you get angry. What is happening to you? Where is all of this coming from?
St. Paul himself commiserates with you. He writes, "I do not understand my own actions. I do not do the good I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate." "When I want to do good, evil lies close at hand." The old self will not give up without a fight, so we better bring it.
And where does St. Paul direct us in our struggle? Back to our baptism. To the sumpsutoi - the eternal graft Christ has made with us. He writes, "Consider yourself dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus." Meditate on this. Make this sumpsutoi your most treasured possession. It is your refuge from the struggle. Your mighty fortress amidst the fight. In Baptism, your old self is dead, your new self is Christ. In Baptism, your heavenly Father says to you, "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased." In Baptism, you have died and risen from the dead already. See yourself this way - All the Time! - And walk in newness of life. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr