by Mike Ratliff
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (1Timothy 1:11-13 KJV)
The older I become as I journey down this narrow way the more what passes for Christianity seems more and more absurd. Why? I suppose it is that I have become very convicted that we are very guilty of taking God for granted. Instead of worshiping Him for who He is, we seem to be totally focused on His works. While we should worship Him for His works with a grateful heart, we are leaving out direct worship of our Wonderful, Awesome, and Majestic God for who He is.
Our salvation is an incredible gift by His grace. That is why it troubles me so when Christian leaders cheapen it with their man-focused, easy-believism. Easy-believism produces professing Christians who believe their salvation came as a result of something they did. I know this because I was one of them for nearly 20 years. If this is our mindset about our salvation, we believe that our walk as Christians is also totally dependent upon our will power. It is as if what the Bible teaches about regeneration is unheard of or at least completely misunderstood. Also, Jesus’ own words about the exclusivity of who are His disciples and who aren’t seems to be in code because few seem to grasp what He is saying.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26 KJV)
Easy-believism either colors over or totally ignores this passage. Jesus tells everyone that to be His disciple, he or she must deny self, take up their cross and follow Him. This speaks of dying to self. This is total submission and surrender to the Lordship of Christ. The Apostle Paul taught on this in Chapter 6 of his incredible epistle, the Book of Romans. Let us start with vv1-4.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4 KJV)
What is the Holy Spirit telling us in this passage? Genuine Christians are to forsake their sinful pasts. The Greek word for “baptized” in these verses is “baptizo.” It does mean to be immersed, but in this passage as well as in 1 Corinthians 10:2, for example, “baptizo” means “to be identified with.” Christians are immersed into Jesus Christ and into His death. Paul tell us that since this is true, if we are genuine Christians, then it is absurd for us to continue in sin. The Greek word for “sin” here is “harmartia.” It means, “to miss the mark.” Its Christian meaning, referring to sin, is to miss the true goal and scope of life. Our sin is an offense in relation to God with emphasis on the resulting guilt.
Remember a week or so ago when we had that huge conflict with those who were saying it is okay to use foul language and cursing? Their point was to try to determine what words were okay to say and what weren’t. They had no concept of what they should really be about and that is to not sin because it is an offense against our Holy God. The more I debated from the stance of our sanctification, the more they accused me of hypocrisy, ignorance, and arrogance. We are to live this life as totally dead to self and alive to God as we walk in newness of life because we are new creations.
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:5-11 KJV)
That passage is very clear isn’t it? Paul is assured that all genuine Christians have been immersed in Christ and His death. Our old nature, our sin nature, has been killed, crucified with Christ. Why did God do that? He did it so we now have the ability to not sin. Prior to our regeneration we were helpless in our sin and could do nothing that wasn’t sin. However, we are now new creations who have been gifted with a new nature and the Holy Spirit. We can now live free and not serve sin. We understand and can walk in a way where we do not miss the true goal and scope of life. We may stumble, but we can repent. Christians must not allow sin to reign in them. Victory over sin begins when we reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a process and it takes the rest of our lives to walk the narrow way following our Lord for us to mature in His grace and in the power of His joy.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”(Romans 6:12-14 KJV)
This passage describes what we do when we walk in repentance. It is a battle. It takes continual diligence to monitor what our hearts are up to. When we detect it moving away from God towards some sort of self-gratification fleshpot then we repent. We move our hearts back to God in worship and devotion and delight. We die to self when we do this. This solidifies our life in our Lord. He gives us joy, which strengthens us. (John 15) Christians are under grace while non-Christians are under the law. When we sin, we must confess and repent and move forward with our Lord. We can do that because the price has been paid for our sins. However, the lost’s sins are not atoned for and so their sins are being counted and stored up awaiting their judgment according to the law.
“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Romans 6:15-19 KJV)
Christians do not have license to sin. God forbid that we should live that way. If we live that way we are slaves to sin. Christ died to free us from the penalty of our sin so how can we live in it? None of us are perfect. However, we must learn to live Spirit-filled lives so we can learn to yield our members as servants to righteousness unto holiness. That is a very good description of our sanctification.
“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23 KJV)
To be free from righteousness is to be a slave of sin. To be free from sin is to be a slave of righteousness. Genuine Christians are saved from the penalty of their sin and cleansed of its power through the washing of regeneration. What we must learn to do is live like it.