Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Romans 6:15-23 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: Paul writes, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:21).

My stepdad smoked like a chimney. It was rare to see him without a cigarette in his mouth. He started smoking at the age of 17, just before he went to prison for the next 18 years of his life. When he was released from prison, he promised my mom that he would quit smoking, but kept doing it anyway. When asked about it, he justified his habit by insisting that there was never any proof that smoking was bad for one’s health. (Any proof one might provide failed to sway his opinion.)

Finally, there came a brief season where he stopped smoking. For five weeks he somehow mustered up the willpower to give up the disgusting habit. And then he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

He received almost free treatment for his cancer, went through radiation therapy at the University of Washington teaching hospital, and was cured. It was toward the end of his therapy that he started smoking again, saying, “See what happens when I quit smoking? I get cancer. If I would have kept on smoking instead of quitting, I never would have gotten the cancer.”

Then he blamed the doctors at the hospital who gave him his radiation treatments for ruining his ability to taste food.

My stepdad was incapable of being ashamed of partaking in a habit that threatened his very life. He couldn’t see that his choices were killing him. At one point, he even questioned why God gave him cancer. He refused to see that his own choices—not God, not doctors, not good health decisions—were leading him toward death.

Part of the key to understanding the hideousness of sin is to have our eyes opened to the hideousness of sin! And to do that, we must fix our gaze on Jesus. As we gaze at His purity and see what sin did to Him on the cross, we start to understand that sin is not to be justified or celebrated. It always leads to suffering and death—even the death of our Savior.

Recalibrate: Have you found yourself “baptizing” your sin to make it more palatable? Are there things in your life that God has been nudging you to give up? If so, have you realized that these things, as innocent as some of them may seem, are holding you back from a fuller life?

Respond: Give God permission today to reveal His agenda for your life. Give Him Lordship over everything and ask Him to bring to mind changes He’d like to see in your life.

Research: Read this blog about four lies we believe about sin.

Live Wonder

Some parents have strict rules about eating at the dinner table, specifically about what is eaten. Play a game by asking your child what they think would be the best dinner ever. You will most likely get an answer that is or is pretty close to “ice cream,” “pizza,” or “candy.” Talk to your child about different kinds of foods and how they fuel the body. There are reasons why we have “rules” about making sure we eat plenty of fruits and veggies and drink enough water. God has rules too, rules that make us healthier and happier.

Live Purpose

In my short 24 years of life, I have learned that no matter what job you have, your boss can make or break your happiness. One summer when I was in college, I worked as an intern. The first day, I realized my boss was less like a boss and more like a slave master. I had to tell him when I was going to sleep, where I was getting dinner, and basically every detail of my day. This made my life very difficult. I had no freedom and that summer will forever be etched in my heart as a wilderness experience. The main devotion today is about how each of us has to serve someone. That is the truth whether you want to admit it or not. As we discussed yesterday, each of us has a deep desire to follow something or someone. When talking about Christ in Galatians 5:1, Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has made you free.” How does it make you feel to follow Jesus knowing He is a God of Freedom?