by Mike Ratliff
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14 NASB)
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.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 NASB)
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.
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4 NASB)
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.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11 NASB)
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.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14 NASB)
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.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (Romans 6:15-19 NASB)
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.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23 NASB)
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.
Soli Deo Gloria!