1. IT’S A NEW WALK                   Reflections on Romans 6:1-11


Early Christians called what we call ‘Christianity’ simply ‘the Way.’ It was a different kind of human living. We make that Way by walking it. What do I mean? Many have fine dreams, great aspirations and exciting visions, but it’s only those that learn to walk in their dreams, visions and within their temperaments, that see significant fruit. Paul talked about the Christian life as a walk. Three times in his letter to Christians in Rome he referred to that walk. We’re going to look at those phrases. This week we start with walking ‘in newness of life.’  Nice phrase, but is it any different from the easy, tempting, pleasing words of politicians trying to get power? What does it mean in practice, in our daily lives?

 1.We’re in new territory v.1-3

The phrase occurs in a passage about baptism; about dying into Christ’s death, being buried and rising with Christ. To grasp this phrase – to ‘walk in newness of life’ – we need to understand how Paul is arguing. He’s trying to tell us our status has changed. Now here’s something very important. The Christian message is not primarily, ‘You must change.’ It’s ‘The world has changed.’ It (and Paul) says this in many different ways. Your status has changed. Your location’s changed. The landscape is different. You’re in new territory. All because of Jesus’ story. The Christian life is first of all an invitation to reconfigure, reimagine, rethink how you see yourself, your world, your life, where you are and what it’s all about. This is what he says in verses 1-4 in his talk of baptism. ‘You were there, but now you’re here.’ So he’s not arguing in these verses, we were once doing sinful things and now you’re not. He’s saying something much more radical: our position has changed. It’s a bit like crossing Channel: once you’re over here, you change the way you live. Well you’d better! If you don’t change the side you drive on, you’ll come to grief! Paul is saying, we’ve changed countries and we are living under a different government. Once we lived in Sin country. He’s not talking about specific sins – lying, getting angry, losing control, being greedy etc. Rather he’s saying we live in an environment surrounded by broken and fragmented human beings. And you’re one of them! And this environment has a huge impact on us. Take something as trivial as the news – by no means the thing that shapes us most. How do you feel after hearing or seeing the regular diet of stories that are served up for us to eat – the stories of conflict and violence, of sexual predators or manipulative leaders, of corruption and greed? It almost overwhelms us with despair at times. In short the tone and atmosphere of where you live seeps into us. Go and live for a short while in a tense or mardy family. It frazzles your spirit. And you probably start to slide into its gunk so you lose your bearings and gradually become someone different that you don’t like but you seem to have no power to be different. But Paul says, ‘You once lived in Sin, but through your bonding with Jesus, you died with him when he was crucified through human sin. You’ve now crossed the spiritual equivalent of the Channel. You’re now in completely new territory. You’ve changed government. So live differently.

2. So experience the new vistas v.4

There’s been a TV series, Secret Britain in which Countryfile presenters visit unfamiliar places or familiar places from unfamiliar approaches! This Christian walk sees us enter a completely unfamiliar environment. Paul is saying, ‘In your baptism you enter a landscape you haven’t seen before.’ Or as he writes: ‘as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.’ So what does this mean? Let’s go back to our tense fractious family. In that environment we get sucked into wrong feelings, wrong ideas, wrong behaviour. Far from feeding us, it drains us. We familiar with the phrase: ‘You got out of bed on the wrong side of the bed this morning.’ Many of us do this daily! It becomes our habitual way of life. No wonder we become confused and despondent, feeling we’re drowning and losing ourselves. We are! Now notice Paul’s unusual phrase. Why does he say it’s ‘glory of the Father’ raises Jesus? Not ‘power’ – which would make more sense. Not even, ‘raised by the Spirit of God.’ The Psalmist sings of the glory of God calling to us in the creation. In the resurrection the sheer magnificence and beauty of God overwhelms deadness and decay. They won’t have last word because God is life, and when life touches death, death yields to life. So when you’re in God’s territory, under God’s government, there will be beauty, truth, life and energy. In other words we have to get out of the bed on the glory side…regularly. This means at a very practical level, we have to choose to focus on those places where glory of God’s grace brushes our cheek. And unless we train our spirit to capture those moments, we can miss them. Such captures are a life-line, when we’re struggling with demanding, even desperate situations where, for instance, even our very life is under threat. This is what the habit of worship through praise is about. It’s a life-long training in the celebration of the glory of God brushing our cheek. So where and when was it, you felt the glory of God dawn on you? It could be in a significant outcome of ministry or work. But it’s more often in tiny everyday things – when walking the dog, or looking into a tulip, an intimate conversation where you feel heard and listened to, the beauty of a child reaching to its mother, the taste of delicious food, the beauty of some soaring melody – everyday moments we all experience, and that we can carry into our prayer and worship, to savour the God of glory we meet there. Let such moments nourish us into newness of life.

3. Now reckon it so! v.11

Finally, I must focus on a revealing phrase of Paul: ‘So reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God…’ To ‘reckon’ is a word to do with accounting, finances or calculation. It’s no use making up a sum. It requires calculation on the basis of reality. As we calculate we become conscious. Paul encourages us to deliberately bring to mind and set down what is true about our position in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. We then live as if it were true…or better, because it is true! This is what walking in newness of life means. We count it as reality, and we let this joy permeate our deepest self, our slightest gesture. What do you need to do in your daily life to bring to mind the glory of the Father in the raising Jesus from the dead?


For reflection

  1. Christianity was first called simply ‘The Way’ (e.g. Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9 & 23; 24:22). Briefly share in twos what this suggests to you about how the early Christians understood their faith?
  2. Share stories about how an environment has affected you for good or ill. Or describe an environment that ‘gets to you’ or one that stimulates you.
  3. Romans 6:1-4 etc. makes such a big deal about baptism? Is it a big deal? Why?
  4. How does the image of crossing the Channel help you grasp what Paul says here about how the spiritual environment we live in, affects how we live and behave? Does it make sense or not? Help one another think around this idea – it’s very important in understanding how the Christian faith is so different in its approach.
  5. Chat about the changes between the time before you had faith, from now, and how you look at the world/life/reality.
  6. Why do we often home in on the negatives in ourselves, others and the situations we’re in? What’s the effect of negative outlook?
  7. Why do we often fail to notice God ‘brushing our cheek’ with his glory in our daily lives?
  8. How can we increase our consciousness of God’s blessings in our lives?
  9. How is praise linked with walking in newness of life?
  10. How do we ‘reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to God’? 6:11