Preached at Kraemer Chapel – Concordia Theological Seminary – Ft. Wayne, IN
4 May 2012
Old Adam always gets it wrong. He can’t help himself. He’s a fool, an idiot, a loser. He suffers from a god delusion. He thinks he’s a god who knows good and evil. And when it comes to the law and the gospel, forget about it. He never gets it right. When he hears the Law, he tries to justify himself with his own legalisms and loopholes and pious works which aren’t nearly as good as he imagines they are. And when he hears the Gospel, the good news of God’s grace in Jesus for sinners, he turns it into a license to sin!
Old Adam hears, “Where sin abounds, there grace does much more abound.” And he says, “Hey, let’s sin even more!” He hears, “You are not under Law but under grace,” and he says, “Hey, I’m free to sin!” Old Adam’s a brawling, arrogant, drunken, gluttonous, philandering, egocentric, self-idolizing self-justifying party animal who thinks he’s a god. If they ever make a movie about him, they’d probably cast Will Farrell or Charlie Sheen for the part.
Have you ever met him, that old frat boy Adam? I have. I meet him every time I glance in the mirror, and he leers back and winks and says, “Let’s party, dude!” You’ve met him too. I know you have. And you’ve probably noticed that you can’t seem to et rid of him. No matter what you do, party boy always shows up. He needs to die.
He can’t be fixed, and he certainly doesn’t respond to education much less nagging from mother. He hasn’t cracked a book since he bit into the knowledge of good and evil. He’s beyond renovation, rehab, or repair. You may be able to dress him up for Sundays and patch up his manners for polite company, but deep down Old Adam is the frat boy he always was, whose sole aim in life is to serve the law of Sin.
The problem is that Old Adam hasn’t gotten the baptismal memo. The Divine Coroner declared him legally dead. His baptismal death certificate has been signed, sealed and delivered. He’s been crucified in the body of Jesus, the second Adam. He’s been buried with Jesus through Baptism, drowned in a deluge of forgiveness. He’s legally dead, but he lives in denial.
Baptism precipitates a crisis. The crisis is that there are now two versions of you – one in Adam, the other in Christ, an old you and a new you. One is legally dead to Sin; the other is alive to God in Christ. But the problem with all things forensic is that it takes time for the Word of God to have it’s way. And God, for whom a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day, isn’t in any screaming hurry.
This call for faith and patent endurance. You have to endure old frat boy Adam all the days of your life. You’re stuck with him until you die and he dies. What’s worse is you have to work with him, actually through him. Everything you do, literally everything, is done in, with, under and through your old self who is looking for any excuse to sin. Simul justus et peccator. A Christ-like saint in a frat boy suit.
The apostle Paul calls the old self a “body of death.” He must be threatened, coerced, punished, bribed, curbed, mirrored, instructed to cooperate, and it kills him. Holiness just doesn’t suit him. He’d rather slave for Lord Sin. But as Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters. You will love the one and despise the other; and you will serve one and hate the other.” Jesus was talking about God and Money. St. Paul is talking about Lord Sin and Lord Christ. Only one gets to be Lord, and it’s not Sin. You are dead to Lord Sin. You are alive to God in Christ. You are freed from slavery to Sin. You are now servants of Christ, slaves to righteousness, which is the only way to be truly free.
Old Adam doesn’t get that. He doesn’t want to get it. He wants nothing to do with it. He thinks freedom means “Let’s sin and let grace abound.” He needs to shut up and die. One little word can fell him. Well, two actually. Me genoito! It always sounds better in Greek, doesn’t it? Not just a pietistic, moralistic, nannie slap on the wrist. Me genoito! This is an emphatic “absolutely not” “may it never be” “Hell, No!” You’re baptized. You’re dead to those twin losers Sin and Death. You’re alive to God in Christ Jesus in whom your old self was crucified, died, and was buried. And don’t let that old frat boy tell you otherwise.
Shall we sin that grace may abound? Of course not! Me genoito!
Shall we sin because we are not under Law but under grace? Me genoito!
Oh, how Old Adam hates that word “no”! You can see that the face of even the smallest, cutest, most angelic and “innocent” child when it hears that word “no” and gives you a look that says, “I can’t believe what I just heard! How dare you say ‘no’ to me You’re talking to a god!” You can see the palpable progression from denial to bargaining to anger to depression. Grief. Loss. Death. You can see it in your own face when you’re denied something you want more than anything. I deserve it. I’m entitled to it. I’ve worked hard for it. I’ve earned it. This job, this grade, this call, this position, this income, this life. What do you mean “no”?
Lord Sin pays out his wages. “The wages of Sin is Death.” Lord Christ gives out His gifts. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” Old Adam gets what he deserves, a baptismal Me genoito! that kills him, mortifies him, shuts his mouth, demands his obedience, and literally “me genoitos” him to death. That’s why the “old you” hates the Law and why the “new you” delights in it.
You are baptized. That makes you dead to Sin and alive to God. Crucified with Christ, buried with Him, raised with Him, glorified with Him, destined for resurrection to eternal life with God in Christ. You now have the mind and will of Christ at work in you. You have been freed from the dominion of Lord Sin and have become slaves of God, servants of righteousness, destined for holiness and life.
For freedom Christ has set you free; do not submit to the yoke of slavery. Sin is slavery. Put Old Adam in his baptismal place. Drown that loser. Don’t just say “no.” Say Me genoito! I am baptized into Christ.
In the name of Jesus, Amen