4th Sunday of Pentecost:

Servants of Righteousness

Priest Seraphim Holland

Freedom. The Epistle today mentions freedom.  Freedom is a favorite word
in our society.  So few know what freedom is.  The apostle says, ?Being
then made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.¦ [Romans
6:18]  Then he says, ?I speak after the manner of men because of the
infirmity of your flesh.¦ [Romans 6:19a]  He-s speaking of an exalted
topic that only can be understood with spiritual knowledge.  And the
only way to obtain this knowledge is by spiritual struggle; our weak
will desiring to do works of righteousness being joined to the powerful
will v to the everlasting will of God - to make us capable of doing
those things which are righteous.

So he-s speaking-now he-s going to give us a way of thinking, sort of a
mnemonic device that you should take to heart and use because it is a
very useful device.  He says, ?As ye have yielded your members servants
to uncleanness and iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your
members servants to righteousness unto holiness.¦ [Romans 6:19b]  In
other words, just as before you were enslaved to various sins; now
consider yourself a slave to righteousness.  Just as before v or even,
God forgive us, even now perhaps v you are, you have been a slave to a
particular way of thinking or doing something, think of yourself now as
being required to do works of righteousness.  Just as if you had a task
master behind you ordering you to do your work.  Now he-s speaking in
the manner of men because of our infirmity.  Actually the only way to
understand how the heart is compelled to do righteousness, is to compel
yourself, and then you will understand how sweet the Lord is; how
beautiful his doctrines are; and how there is nothing more perfect, and
more holy, and more fulfilling than to follow God-s law.  So he says,
?For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.¦
[Romans 6:20]  In other words, you didn-t do righteousness, you did sin.
 And you-you couldn-t stop yourself.  But what Jesus Christ offers us,
is the power to become holy.  Now he offers us that we would become
willingly his servants.  Now at the end of the age, those who have been
good servants, he will call friends v no longer servants.  But as for us
in the here-and-now with all of our sins and all of our forgetfulness,
and our intrang- intransigence (hard word to say, isn-t it?), we should
consider ourselves to be servants.  Servants of a benevolent master; not
having a choice whether we should do righteousness or not; but our Lord
commands it so we do it.

?What fruit did we have in those things,¦ the apostle asks, ?wherein ye
are now ashamed?¦ [Romans 6:21a]  The things that were unrighteous, they
only gave us pleasure for a season; then we were unhappy.  ?The end of
these things is death.¦ [Romans 6:21b]  He-s giving us another idea
here, something that we should call to mind often.  He-s saying, ?The
end of these things is death.¦  In order to be able to think such a
thought we must be able to look towards the future; we must be able to
see our actions v not in the moment, but after the moment, perhaps even
far after the moment, if we think of how unhappy we will be if we commit
a sin, we will commit not many sins.  Think of your unhappiness after
you have fallen into some-something that shames you.  Think of your
unhappiness about such a thing before you sin.  And then you won-t sin. 
The end of such things is death.  We know this.  We must learn to live
for the future, not to live in the here-and-now, because, after all,
aren-t we suppose to be setting our eyes upon the heavenly Jerusalem? 
Isn-t that supposed to be our goal?  Our purpose?  To become righteous
so that we can be in the presence of God?  And not only not be ashamed,
but be happy?  To be completely free.  Imagine being completely free. 
Not freedom as the world defines it: to do what one chooses; choosing
things that actually causes enslavement; but to be completely able to be
righteous; to not be touched by any sin; to not have any wavering in our
heart towards evil.  The church thinks this is very important, because
in every service we say, ?deliver us from tribulation, wrath, and
necessity;¦ that necessity which is enslavement to unrighteousness. 
People make excuses for their enslavements all the time.  ?Well, I smoke
because it a bad habit I picked up and I haven-t been able to break it.¦
 ?I-m always so tired so I oversleep.¦  ?You know with all of the impure
things all about, I just have so much trouble having pure thoughts.¦ 
Those are all excuses.  When you say such things - or even think such
things v you are saying, ?I-m a slave to unrighteousness.  My master is
the evil one.¦  How can we say such things?  We-re slaves to
righteousness.  Our master is our Lord Jesus Christ who lived a life
that he requires us to life.  And he made us capable of living such a
life.  So we must consider ourselves slaves to him.  So when it comes
time that there is a temptation for you, you have to say ?I don-t-I
can-t do that I-m a slave.  I don-t deserve to do that; I don-t have any
right to do that.  My Lord has told me to do the other thing.  I-m a
slave.  I don-t have a right; I only have a right to do righteousness.¦ 
If you think in such terms, you will be saved from many, many sins.  Let
freedom be that which is in your heart, brothers and sisters, which
allows you to always choose correctly and not to be forced to do that
which is unrighteous.  That-s the freedom that God offers.  That is not
the freedom that society offers.  Their definition of freedom is that
you can indulge in pleasures as you wish.  The pleasures have a price. 
Indeed, even good pleasures have a price.  Even the happiness that we
will have with God has its price.  Our Lord paid that price.  We have
been bought with a price.  So since we have been bought with a price, we
are no longer our own.  We are not owned by the devil, nor do we own
ourselves; our Lord is our Master.  So we must do what he tells us to
do.  And it just so happens that everything he tells us to do v every
single thing v is for our welfare so that we will become completely

All of us have things in our life that we wish we could change v don-t
you hate those things?  Don-t you just despise that you fall into
something again and again?  You don-t want to and yet you do.  Start
thinking of yourself as a slave to righteousness, not as a slave to that
thing; you have no right to commit that sin.  You have no right to
become angry at someone because your Lord said you can not do that.  You
have no right to have a lustful thought because your Lord said ?He who
looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his
heart.¦ [Matt 5:28]  -and adultery is forbidden.  You have no right. 
You do have a right to do works of righteousness.  And your Lord has
given you a blanket blessing to do righteousness in whatever you do. 
You need not ask him for permission to do righteousness.  But he will
check with you; he will require of you works of righteousness.  But he
allows you to choose in order so that you can learn what true freedom
is.  Freedom is always to make choices for righteousness, that-s what
freedom is.  Freedom is to have no regrets, no unhappiness; to be
complete, whole, lacking nothing.  What a wonderful thing freedom is. 
And what a terrible thing that this word has been hijacked in our
society to mean something it isn-t; to mean slavery and not freedom. 
You-ve been made free from sin by your baptism.  The Lord has bought you
with a price; now if we just act like we have bought with a price.  And
he says, ?-being made free from sin-¦ [Rom 6:22a]  That is being made
capable of being free from sin.  We-re capable of it; don-t let anyone
tell you different, including the evil one in your ear.  You are capable
of being free from sin because the Lord made you such.  The Lord bought
you with a price and our Lord is a good trader, he doesn-t make foolish
purchases.  You-ve been bought with a price, so you-re capable of being
free from sin.  But you must give your will to the Lord and give you-re
struggles to the Lord in order to realize this perfect freedom.  ?-being
made free from sin and become servants to God you have your fruit unto
holiness and the end, everlasting life.¦ [Rom 6:22]

So the apostle teaches us, as it were, two ways of thinking, two
mnemonic devices.  One is that when you are presented with the
possibility of sin or of righteousness, you say ?I-m a slave to
righteousness; I have no right to commit that sin.  I-ve been bought
with a price; I-ve been made free as regarding sin.  There-s nothing
compelling me to sin as long as I beg the Lord to help me.¦  And the
other is that when you are presented with a sin possibility, to do
unrighteousness, you think the end of such things is death.  ?And if I
endure but for a little while; I will have fruit unto holiness and
eternal life.¦  Every sin, every decision in your life, every fork in
the road, you should be thinking these things.  You have no right to
sin.  The Lord has told you, you don-t have a right to sin.  He-s told
you, you must do righteousness, you must follow him, you must desire to
be righteous - and he will help you.  You-re not a slave anymore, not of
unrighteousness, so don-t think of yourself as such.  And if you fall
into unrighteousness, then beg the Lord to forgive you.  Beg him to
strengthen your will.  Beg him to bring to your mind your sadness in
this moment so that in the next moment you will recall it and you won-t
fall into sin.  This can only be understood by experience.  Experience
is the great teacher of the soul.  The Lord, bit by bit, as we are
capable, gives us enlightenment.  But he only enlightens those who are
struggling, only those who are trying, only those who know their
position; and that is that they are slaves of him.  Now he is a
benevolent master, and he doesn-t require of us anything; but we had
best think that we are required.  As soon as we turn towards
righteousness even a little, he is there to help us.  Let us turn to him
all the time, so he will help us.

We-ve an example of experience in the gospel.  When I was thinking about
the epistle and the gospel today, I thought I wanted to talk about both
of them.  Well, I can-t do that exactly but I want to say something
about Cornelius, the centurion.  He was a Roman.  He was officially of a
pagan religion.  He couldn-t go into the synagogue; he couldn-t say he
was a Jew.  But he had Jewish sacred writings and he read them and he
loved the Jewish nation; and although he was an occupying soldier the
Jews loved him, because he loved them.  So when he comes into Capernaum,
Cornelius meets him and says, ?My servant lies at home sick of the
palsy-¦ paralyzed.  ?And Jesus says, ?I-ll come and I-ll heal him. [Matt
8:6-7]  But Cornelius is a man with experience; Cornelius is a man that
knows something about righteousness; he knows something about authority.
 He says, ?-I-m not worthy that you come under my roof-¦ partially
because he-s a pagan and a Jew is not to go into a pagan-s household. 
It defiles him.  ?-only speak the word and my servant shall be healed. 
For I-m a man under authority and I have soldiers under me, and I say to
this soldier -go- and he goes.  And another, -do this- and he does it.¦
[Matt 8:8-9]  And the inference is, ?I know how to do what I-m told,
too.¦  He was a righteous man, so righteous that the Lord said that he
had -¦not found so great faith, not in all of Israel.¦ [Matt 8:10b]  Now
that must have made the Pharisees quite angry don-t you think?  Pointing
to an occupying soldier - the hated enemy of the army that they hoped
that the messiah would annihilate and have their blood flow in the
streets v and say that this man is more righteous than all of you put
together.  Why was he righteous?  Why did he have such faith?  Because
he knew about obedience.  He expected those under him to be obedient
because he was obedient to those over him.

So let us know something about obedience, brothers and sisters; let us
know something about authority.  Let us realize we are under the
authority of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are slaves of righteousness, not
unrighteousness.  And let us know that if we consider ourselves to be
slaves of righteousness - and struggle to be righteous - the end of such
things is not death; it-s eternal life.  Perfect freedom.  Perfect
happiness.  And God help us.  Amen.