Posts Tagged ‘Dead to Sin’

Watch out for Robbers!

Watch out for Robbers!

Complete in Christ

© C. O. Bishop 9/14/18 Cornell Estates 9/16/18

Colossians 2:8-17

Introduction:

We have been studying through the Epistle to the Colossians, and have read of Paul’s concern for the churches to whom he was writing, and, by extension, his concerns for us, as believers. One of the things that he warns against is those who would rob us of our liberty in Christ: those who will try to convince us that God has not given us the whole truth, and that there is something else we need, in order to be in good standing with God.

Guard against Robbers

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Notice the three-fold attack of the Enemy here, in verse eight:

  1. Through philosophy and vain deceit (Who is the deceiver? The “Liar and Father of lies”.)
  2. After the traditions of men (Human reasoning…appealing to my old nature, the “flesh”)
  3. After the rudiments of the world (elementary concepts, not embracing spiritual realities)

We are warned that, collectively, these three are not “after Christ.” Remember who our three enemies are? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil! And here they are again!

The fact is, we tend to like “philosophy;” in fact, the word “philosophy” means “love of wisdom”. But the problem is that there are many sources of such “wisdom,” and not all are from God. One of the three things that attracted Eve to eat the Fruit, was the fact that it was “to be desired to make one wise.” But that “wisdom” was not from God: it was a deadly trap!

James 3:13-18 points out the three other sources of “wisdom,” all of which are in opposition to God. He shows the “works” that are associated with such “Earthly, Sensual, or Devilish” “wisdom”, and then contrasts it with the “fruit” of Godly Wisdom.

13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

(There are those three enemies again: The world, the flesh, and the Devil!)

16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

The wisdom we need must come from the only good source: In Proverbs 2:1-7, God says that His Word is the only reliable source. Do we have a teacher we especially like to hear? That is good; but we still need to read the scriptures on our own, as well, and measure his words against God’s Word. As did the Berean believers, we need to “Search the scriptures daily to see if these things are so.” (Acts 17:11)

Things that sound good, are not necessarily good teaching. Compare scripture with scripture. All scripture has to agree with all other scripture. If we are taught something that seems to contradict the rest of the Word of God, we need to stop and read carefully: something is definitely wrong.

Don’t underestimate Christ

Verse 9 is an important truth regarding the Deity of Christ. This is a crystal-clear statement that “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily.” We have a very human desire to “reduce” God to a humanly understandable level. That is not a good thing to do: He is not a human, except as He has chosen to appear, in the person of Christ. He is the immortal, immutable, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator, and the God of all time and eternity! Why should I expect him to be something I can casually read about, consider for a moment, and grasp completely? There are so many comparatively small things within His creation, which we can study all our lives and still not understand: why would we expect the Creator to be simpler than His creation? Entomologists may give their whole lives to understanding a particular type of insect: Isn’t it obvious that the Creator of all things, including that insect, is more complex and harder to grasp than the insect, let alone the rest of creation, from silkworms to supernovas?

I can’t even grasp all the things that humans create: I use computers and cell-phones on a daily basis, but, when experts try to explain to me how they work, I only understand them in general terms. Regarding the specifics of why something doesn’t work, I have no idea what’s wrong.

Jesus encompasses all of who God is: He is God; and the entirety of the fullness of the Godhead was and is present in Him, in His human body. And, He says that we are complete in Christ!

You are complete in Christ!

10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

This is an important truth, all in itself: You are complete in Christ! He is the head of all things, above all authority and angelic beings, whether holy or fallen, and He says we are complete, in Him!

So, what should I do when someone comes along to tell me, “No! You are not complete! You are missing this one little thing about which God didn’t bother to tell you!” What then? Doesn’t that comment sound remarkably similar to the Serpent’s temptation of Eve, in the Garden? “You shall not surely die! (Hisssss) God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil!” (Hisssss)  (Genesis 3:4, 5)

Learn to recognize Robbers

Beware the voice of the Serpent in all such appeals! At minimum, this sort of suggestion calls into question the character of God! Any teaching that diminishes the deity of Christ, or questions the holiness or wisdom of God Himself, is ultimately from the pit. This is not meant as some sort of “knee-jerk, reactionary name-calling.” We simply need to be realistic about God’s Word: there is an Enemy, and this is one of the ways we perceive his hand. We see his character in the teachings of his workers: they seek to make us doubt God’s written Word, and to not trust Him.

We also must look to see God’s character in the teachings of His servants. God’s faithful servants teach us to understand and trust in the written Word of God, which draws us closer to the Living Word, Jesus! They confirm that God’s Word is complete, and holy, and that His character is Holy and Righteous, and Good, and that He is entirely trustworthy. The Holy Spirit never teaches contrary to the Word of God, nor does He cause us to doubt the character of God.

I have had people tell me that “there were things left out of the Bible, you know;” and that I, as a Bible-believing Christian, am living in ignorance, because I “don’t know the whole story.” Now: who is most likely to bring me such an idea; trying to convince me that “God is not giving me the straight story?” Is this a true “servant of light,” or is it, more likely, a minion of Satan appearing as an angel of light? (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.)

We need to learn our wisdom from God, by becoming so familiar with His Word that every false doctrine “sticks out” as having “something amiss.” In every such case, so far, I have been able, through God’s Word, to satisfy myself that the person bringing the message was not a servant of God; their message was utterly contrary to God’s Word, and contrary to Grace, as well. We are complete in Him. We simply need to feed on His Word, and become strong.

What is the result of our Position in Christ?

Verses 11-15 tell us some precious truths that are entirely due to our position in Christ:

11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

The “circumcision,” here, as well as the “baptism,” have nothing to do with our physical body. Jesus, by His death at the Cross, has “put off” the flesh, once for all. We are no longer slaves to our old sin nature. It is still present, but it has been “put off” at the Cross, and we can trust in that truth, on a daily basis. This is entirely a “positional” truth: it is true because we are in Christ.

The baptism in question, here, is also not the physical baptism with water, but the Holy Spirit baptism addressed over in 1st Corinthians 12:13. Every believer has been “baptized” into Christ, whether they know it or not. Because of that baptism by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ, we have been identified with Him in His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His ascension, with the result being that, from God’s perspective, we are already seated with Christ in Heaven.

Water baptism only reflects this “real” baptism. It is an outward symbol of a spiritual reality, just as circumcision was supposed to have been for the Jews. Again, these are true because we are in Christ. There is nothing for us to do, to obtain these things: they are already true of us, in Christ.

The next verse is in the same category: it is true for all believers, because they are in Christ.

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Notice that this is all past-tense: I was “dead in sin:” I have been “quickened” (made alive—resurrected) with Christ. My sins already have been completely forgiven: all our trespasses have been forgiven; past, present and future. Remember: when Jesus died for you, all your sins were in the future! He died for all your “future sins,” because all of them were in the future when He died. You have never “surprised God” by your sins. He knew them all, from eternity past. He chose to include them in His sacrifice at the Cross.

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

The Law, which spoke against me, in my condemned state as a lost sinner, has been blotted out: erased, as it were, where it once condemned me. The condemnation of the Law was nailed to the Cross along with our sins. Is the Law still God’s Word? Absolutely! But it no longer condemns me: because I died with Christ, the Law has been fulfilled, as it applies to me. It condemned me to die, and I died: “End of story!” So, all of its judgment against me has been nullified, in death.

15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

The word “spoiled” here, means “looted,” or “robbed.” In what way did Jesus “loot” or “rob” the demonic hosts at the cross? He took back the souls of all believers from the one who had long enslaved them! He purchased us, actually, with His blood, and through His death. But the key, here, is that Jesus triumphed over Satan at the Cross. This was the fulfillment of the “Seed of the Woman” prophecy in Genesis 3:15. This is where the “Serpent’s head” was “crushed.” What was expected to be a victory for Satan, and an ignominious death for the Son of God, turned out to be the Absolute Triumph of God, in Christ, and the crushing defeat of the Evil One.

How should we respond to this truth?

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The result, then, of the final “setting aside of the Law, for righteousness,” is that we are also free from the trappings of the religious law adhered to by the Jews. (See Romans 10:4—“For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”) There are still people today who want to place themselves back under these Laws, though God tells them to not do so, right here in this passage.

What is worse, is that, they usually want to place others under that condemnation, as well. They are not satisfied to be a slave themselves: they want you to be one, too. The cults all fall into this category, as they all (either explicitly or, by implication) deny the efficacy of the blood of Jesus, saying that we must work to earn salvation, or work to maintain a right standing before God.

They go out of their way to convince us, because they themselves have been convinced that, in order for them to be saved, or to receive reward, they have to draw others into the same bondage. The cults are not doing it out of concern for your soul, but for their own. A Christian may share his or her belief, too, but he or she has no obligation to do so, and, as a rule, nothing to gain by it. They seek to free others from bondage, not enslave them. They are not concerned, as a rule, with what church you attend, but, whether you receive the free gift of God: eternal life in Christ. They may also invite you to their church, of course; but, if they are faithful servants of God, the real issue is the salvation and freedom of your soul.

Is there anything “wrong” with keeping the feasts, or observing the Sabbath? No, there isn’t! If you enjoy the celebrations, that is fine, but we are under no obligation to such things. We are not to be placed under further bondage: instead, the Holy Spirit sets us free from the bondage of sin, and does not place us in bondage to the Law. He truly sets us free to live for God.

Finally, Paul points out that all the things of the Law (the feast-days, the dietary laws, etc.) were, collectively, at best, only a picture of the coming reality of righteousness in Christ. Jesus is the Reality! He asks that we not allow ourselves to be robbed of our freedom in Christ by others, who, themselves, have rejected it.

This is, unfortunately, an extremely common trait among humans: we don’t want others to enjoy something that we, ourselves, don’t have. So we judge one another, and try to make each other feel less content with God’s supply. Paul warns us to not allow this to happen to us, and (by application), we are not to do it to others, either! You are complete, in Christ. Rejoice in that truth, and don’t allow anyone to steal your joy, by causing you to doubt it.

Lord Jesus, please allow us to meditate upon the truth that we are complete in You, and help us to grasp the importance of clinging to that truth. Help us to learn contentment without falling into complacency. We do want to grow, but we do not want to be tormented by vain ambitions. Glorify yourself in us, in Jesus name.


The War between the Two Natures

The War Within

© C. O. Bishop 12/8/15 THCF 12/13/15

Romans Chapter Seven

Introduction:

We have been working our way through the book of Romans for some time now. Last week we began the segment encapsulated in Romans chapters 6, 7 and 8. Here in Romans 6 through 8, there is a three-chapter introduction to the reality of Life in Christ: We “crossed the threshold” into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, in the end of chapter three. The facts of “imputed righteousness”, and the difference between Grace and Works were explained to us in chapter four; and our new, perfect position in Christ (along with the doctrine of “federal headship”) was explained to us in chapter five. But now there are three fundamental facts presented in chapters six through eight:

  1. We no longer have to sin. (chapter 6) We are no longer slaves to our old sin nature. This is a hard concept to grasp, because it seems to contradict our experience, but it is a fact, and we need to place our faith in God’s facts, rather than our own experience, when the two seem to be at odds.

 

  1. We now have two natures, and we cannot simply “do what comes naturally” (chapter 7). We are free from our old lock-step of sin, but we have to constantly, consistently choose to allow God to live through us, if we want to see our lives conformed to Christ. Otherwise, we will revert to sin.

    I have been told recently that the “old sin nature is not in the Bible.” True! Neither is the “new nature”, in so many words…the two are called the “old man” and the “new man” in Ephesians 4:22-24, and, even more frequently, they are referred to as “the flesh” and “the spirit”. The “flesh” is not in reference to the physical body, when we are talking about our bent to sinning. The physical body has nothing with which to covet, and, interestingly enough, that is the particular commandment referenced here in chapter seven. The fact that a particular term used in our society to describe a scriptural concept is not in the scripture as that exact word means nothing.

    The word “rapture” is not in scripture, either, but the concept is clearly taught and explained. The words that are translated “Heaven” in both Greek and Hebrew do not mean what we think of when we use the English word. The Greek words translated “forever, eternal, and eternity” do not translate to those exact words, either, but they are the Greek words used to express those concepts, and they are used equally to express the eternality of God, the eternality of the human spirit, and our eternal destiny in Christ.

    Don’t quibble over jargon; but rather, earnestly endeavor to extract the actual intent and meaning of scripture, which we can then apply to our lives.

  2. There is now no condemnation for us in Christ (chapter 8). God is eternally our savior, our father and our defender. We can never be lost again, nor, under any circumstances can we be separated from the Love of God in Christ. We can, however live as though that Love were not present, and endure the reality of chapter seven over and over again.

Paul Struggled with Sin, too!

It is comforting, in a way, to see that Paul struggled with the same things we do. He was not some “super-saint” who never had bad times. But, I am doubly thankful that Paul detailed, in writing, his struggle to live the Christian life, so that know the nature of the real problem.

He begins with an object lesson from real life. Bear in mind, he was also speaking from the cultural background of the Middle East and Mediterranean world, of the first century, not modern day Europe or USA. Modern feminism did not exist, nor was there any legislation expounding or requiring the equal treatment of the genders.  He was stating the facts as they existed in that culture, and as they still exist today, in that part of the world. Again, the meaning is clear, though we may feel uncomfortable with the cultural context from which it arises. Rather than quibbling over the cultural differences, let us try to see the point of the object lesson given. Slavery was a grim reality, then, as it is even more, today, in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as other parts of the world. We don’t like that, but it doesn’t change the facts.

The fact we must face in our own lives is that we are slaves, whether we believe it or not. We have been given a choice as to which master to serve, but becoming an autonomous, self-ruling spirit was never one of the options, though we have been taught from infancy that it is. The whole concept of spiritual autonomy came from a known source: Isaiah 14:12-14 tells us that Lucifer chose that as his goal, and, as a result, became Satan. He did not become truly autonomous, by the way, he only exiled himself permanently from fellowship with God, and doomed himself to an eternity in the lake of fire. (We don’t like that idea either, but it is a fact.)

The War Within

Chapter seven details what happens when a genuine child of God…truly born again, and possessing a new nature which is completely righteous and holy…tries to live for God in his own strength. This is part of Paul’s personal testimony, and is very helpful and encouraging to me.

Verses 1-3
1Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

Paul begins by pointing out how completely God has separated us from the authority of the Law of Moses, and the principle of law in general. He states that a woman is no longer responsible to obey a dead husband—she has been freed from his authority, whether it was benevolent or harsh. He is simply dead and entirely separated from her. She is free to submit herself to a new husband if she so desires, or press on alone if that seems better. But her old husband is dead, beyond all argument, and has no further control over her life, except as she allows it. Please bear in mind that the reality of that time in history was that there was very little available in terms of employment for women. Just a fact: sad, but true. Marriage to a good, kind, loving husband was pretty much the best option available.

Verses 4-6
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

As a logical extension of the idea of the woman being freed from her dead husband, Paul says that we are also freed from the Law, and may now serve Christ. She (it is implied) evidently had a rough time with her old husband, and now is free to go to someone better. (Remember Abigail and Nabal, culminating in Abigail and David—or, better yet, Ruth (who was married to one of Elimelech’s and Naomi’s sons) and Boaz, the great-great grandpa of King David.) These are historical people, and historical realities, being used to teach us about spiritual realities today.
Verses 7-16
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Very interesting choice of laws to use for a case in point: it is one that has no physical parallel. It is strictly mental/emotional/spiritual in nature. The physical body does not covet. So the “flesh” referred to in this passage is not the physical body, but the old sin nature.
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

My guess is that Paul was referring to the time before he understood the true intent of the Law. There was certainly never a time in Paul’s life when he was not a sinner, but there was a time when he thought he was not a sinner. Jesus showed him the truth of his spiritual condition.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin
, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

Paul shares his own experiences here…Remember that, when he was an unsaved Jew, he saw himself as blameless. He really thought he had no sins to deal with. But when Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus, he awakened to a new realization of the demands of the Law. So, still trying to serve God, but now with a new understanding of what the Law really said, and, as a born-again individual, he began trying to live the Christian life in his own strength.

The results were disastrous, in that he failed constantly. He had two natures, and he was identified with both of them in his own mind. He said, “I do the things I do not want to do, etc.”  All through the repeating cycle of striving to do good and failing, he referred to both his sin nature and his new nature as “I”.

Paul speaks to this issue in other places as well: he called the people living that way “carnal”—fleshly! They were living under the dictates of their old sin natures. They apparently did not understand that there has been a spiritual “unplugging”, and that their old nature was no longer in authority at any level.

Separated from the Old Man

  1. 17-23

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me
(that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I
that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man
:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Paul finally concludes in verses 17-23 that the old man is “no longer I”. This is a vitally important concept: God no longer recognizes that individual as me…why should I continue to do so? And yet, Paul does not offer that as an excuse for sin…he simply recognizes that his old nature is the “old Saul of Tarsus”—not the new Creation in Christ. Nowhere in the Bible are we excused for sin on the basis of it “not really being us who did it”. The disconnect, here, is in realizing that, far from sin being a failure in God’s new creation, it is simply a “case in point” for God’s indictment of the old man.

I need to realize that my old sin nature has been disconnected; “unplugged”, in a sense—it is not gone, but it has lost its authority and its identity. It is no longer “I”. I still have a will and a choice, and I can still subject myself to sin if I choose to do so…but even then, God is not judging my new nature…he has already judged the old nature, and nailed it to the Cross with Jesus.

So, when I obey, by way of the Holy Spirit living in me, it is “Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 Don’t be confused—the “new man” is just that—a new creation! Neither the Lord Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be said to be a “created” being. But I am! And my new nature was created the moment I trusted Christ as my savior.) And when I sin, it is my old Sin Nature (also called the “Flesh”) who also lives in me. I am continually faced with a choice: to whom will I submit my will? To sin, so that I continue in my old life? Or, to Christ, so that my new life shines as a light in a dark world? The choice is always mine, and it is not always much fun.

If I choose sin, I am wasting the opportunity to honor God with my life, and, in the process, to gain reward. If I choose obedience to Jesus Christ, then there will come a day when a reward will be forthcoming. Either way, I am secure in Christ…my position in Him is never in jeopardy. But my relationship with Him suffers when I continually choose to sin.

Conclusion:

Paul cries out his grief at the reality of the spiritual vortex in which he is trapped, and poses a final rhetorical question:

 24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

And the answer is?

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Paul accepts the reality of his two natures and knows that his old nature will never change. He is thankful that he now has two natures, though the old one is still a grief to him. He rejoices that he now has a legitimate choice and that he can serve God.

He explains to us in some detail how to accomplish that, in Romans 6, as well as in Galatians 5:16 and Colossians 2:6, 7. It is to be by faith, step by step, day by day. That is why we call it “walking” in the Spirit. There is no such thing as “coasting” in the Spirit, or “surfing” in the Spirit, or “gliding” in the Spirit. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and deliberately taking another step, by faith. The more practice you get, the easier it will become, as the discipline of walking becomes habitual.

But, like it or not, that is the only way it can be done. There are no magic formulas, no magic spells—only a consistent walk by faith. Jesus said to take up our cross daily, and follow him. Recognize the fact that you are dead with him, and buried with Him. That is where the cross comes in. Then realize the truth that you have also been raised with Him, and that you now have the authority to live as He lives, if you will choose to do so by faith.

Lord Jesus, Help us to walk, day by day, step by step, until we develop the spiritual balance and strength to joyfully run in your service.


Who Will You Serve?

Who Will You Serve, Now?

© C. O. Bishop 11/28/2015 THCF 11/29/2015

Romans 6:9-23

Introduction:

When I was in Bible School, the outline for this chapter was simple: “Know, Reckon, and Yield”. It seemed a revelation, to me, but it was years before I could see any way to make it work at all, because I still felt myself enslaved to sin. I found my experience to be far closer to that of Paul in Romans chapter seven than I was to the reality of chapter eight.

Romans chapter six does indeed tell us that we do not have to sin. Paul is emphatic about it: he says that “…sin shall not reign in your mortal bodies.” That is pretty strong language. In legal terms, the word “shall” denotes something that is mandatory. So how can I see this become a reality in my life?

In those long-ago classes, the outline form of “Know, Reckon and Yield” was correct, but did not point out that the “reckon” portion of it meant a working faith in the reality of the “know” portion. I has cockily quoted the “Know, Reckon, and Yield” to a pastor friend when I was just a year out of school, and he quietly asked, “But how is it to be done?” I couldn’t answer, and didn’t even really understand the question. I had dropped anchor on “knowledge” so completely that I was missing the “reckoning” part, entirely. His answer? “By faith!”

I had been trying to “yield myself” to God without really believing that I was free from the authority of sin in my life. It was years before I realized this fact, and began to put my faith in it.

Who do you work for? How did it happen that He became your master? Does that mean that your old master no longer exists, or simply that it no longer has authority?

Separated From the Old Master

Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Paul says that I am to know (Greek, eido: to know a fact…this is not some sort of ‘experiential knowledge’…it is simply the truth.) that Jesus, having died, and having been resurrected from the dead, cannot die again. Death has no more authority over his body. And, we are to know that we died with Him.

When Jesus died, His spirit and soul were separated from his body, and He spent three days and three nights in Paradise—the “good half” of Sheol, fulfilling his prophecies. When he was resurrected, his body was changed to what is called a “glorified” body. It can eat, but does not suffer hunger. It can walk, but does not have to walk—it could simply be where He willed it to be—into a locked room, for example…and back out. He was completely free of the normal shackles of the earthly life. He was free to live out the reality that He alone is God-in-the-flesh: Immanuel!

So Paul says that because we know that (as a fact), we are to reckon it to be so: not as my “Texas roots” would use the phrase, “well, I reckon it’s so…” (meaning they think it’s so), but rather, “account it to be true!” He says that we are to account ourselves to be also free to live for God, by the same authority; because we are in Christ!

My Old Boss

Almost 30 years ago, I briefly worked for a foreman who once worked in the same railcar manufacturing plant where I worked for 30 years. (He retired years ago.) He despised me, and let me know it, but I did my best to please him and do exactly as he ordered. I was only on loan to his department, so it was with considerable relief that I welcomed the move back to my own department.

Skipping forward about ten years; I had moved around quite a bit in the interim, but was now in an area near his department again, where we did specialty repairs. One day he brought a side-frame for a railcar truck-assembly to us, needing repair welding performed.

Railcar truck-assembly side-frames are made of cast steel, and, as there are several different possibilities as to the particular grade of steel in question, there are different weld procedures that must be used. Failure to adhere to these procedures not only voids the warranty, but risks catastrophic failure. We cannot afford such a risk, so we follow such standards faithfully. I was aware of these restrictions, so, when this older foreman brought the side-frame to us, I assured him that I would begin work on it the moment I received the weld-repair procedure from the manufacturer. He angrily demanded that I skip that, and begin work immediately.

It was actually a pleasant experience in a way: I was not at all put out by his insistence: I knew my limitations, and more to the point, I knew his limitations! I no longer worked for him! It simply did not matter what he thought of me, or how angry he became! So I cheerfully reiterated that I would begin the moment I got the information I needed (which would only take 30 minutes or so to get), but that I could not and would not begin without knowing for sure how to proceed.

He angrily stomped out of our office, loudly saying that I would have to answer to his supervisors. I was not at all worried, because I knew they would submit to the authority of the Railroad Welding Code, and the manufacturer’s recommendations, just as surely as I did.

Why was I so cheerful in the face of his anger and threats? Because I was completely resting in the fact that I no longer worked for him, and was in no way accountable to him. I was completely free to do what I knew to be right and good, and safe, rather than having to do what he wanted done, which was none of the above.

So how do we apply this to the Christian life? We are to completely rest in the fact that we are in Christ, and that because He is dead to sin, we also are dead to sin. Sin has no more authority in our lives.

We Have a New Master

Just as I was at complete peace in disobeying my old Boss, we should feel completely free to ignore the haranguing of our old nature, demanding satisfaction for the old sinful desires. We don’t work for it anymore. It has no further authority in our lives.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

13 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.

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

 

If I had obeyed the demands of my old boss, out of habit or out of fear, I would have been in trouble with my new supervisor. I would have had no defense for my actions, because what the old boss was demanding was completely wrong, and he certainly would not have backed me, admitting that he had ordered me to do wrong. But even if he had done so, I would have been wrong, because he had no authority, and I knew he had no authority. I had no excuse for failure.

In all honesty, I still have no excuse for failure. I cannot say, “Well, my old sin nature came along and made me do this…” That is not true! If I sin, I have to choose to follow my old sinful ways. The old nature has no “power” to force me into service. I have to choose to obey, even if it is an unconscious choice (and usually it is not).

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

16 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?

17 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.

 

Ironically, your new nature has no power to force you to obey righteousness, either. You still have to choose. A lot of people have gotten the idea that the new nature is the indwelling Spirit of God. That is not true, because God says (Ephesians 4:24) that the new nature is a created entity, and the Holy Spirit is God—the Creator. So, my old nature is the one I received at conception, and which I will lose when I die or am raptured. It is connected with my mortal body, so it will cease to exist when this body dies or is changed to an immortal body.

I received my new nature when I was re-born as a child of God. The new nature is righteous, and has righteous desires, but has no power to force obedience. God wants a righteous choice, and has given me the wherewithal to make it. Before I possessed this new nature, I could not choose righteousness, because my every choice was dominated by my sin. It was the only nature I had. I was completely under its control. When I believed the Gospel, and was born again, I received a new nature, and I now have a real choice. I have been transferred to a new department.

18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

19 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.

 

When I was moved to that new department, at work, I had a new supervisor who was committed to doing things right. I had had that commitment for years, but was employed by those who did not: I had one foreman, in fact, who, when I protested that a particular weld-joint constituted an “illegal weld” (meaning “prohibited by the code”), he just laughed, and said, “It’s only illegal if you get caught, Chet!”

 

But now I was under a boss that would support doing things correctly. So I was not to worry about what the old bosses thought, but just go ahead and choose the right way. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? That is because I had already been committed to doing right, and was grieved to be working for those who were not.

 

But what if it had been different? What if I had been in complete agreement with doing whatever one could “get away with”, and had never had any inclination to do right? Would having a new boss change everything I thought overnight? Would my new position under him be easy to grasp? I really doubt it, because when the rules have changed, over the years, it has sometimes been difficult for me to let go of the old ways, and embrace the new. But that is what Paul is telling me to do, right here.

 

I am to consciously respond to my new Master, choosing to obey Him. The whole truth of Romans 6 is wrapped around this idea. It is a relational truth: my position in Him is secure, but my daily walk with Him—my relationship with Him—is definitely affected by how I live. I am to respond to HIM, not to my old desires, just as I was to respond to my new boss, not my old, at work. Incidentally, all the bosses I have had at work who made for really negative experiences, no longer work there. They have been replaced, mostly by someone better. Do I miss them? Not one bit! I certainly do not want them back!

 

Why Would You Want the Old Ways?

 

20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

 

In the old days at work, for instance, welders were not required to wear respirators. We were “free” from the restriction of a respirator, but we were slowly being poisoned by the fumes we inhaled as a result of the lack thereof. How profitable was that? The result could have been a fatal lung disease, or a crippling disability…and in many cases, it was.

 

We did not like the new “rules” which required the respirators, but we gradually became convinced that they were a good idea…and now we look back and shake our heads over our foolish risk-taking in the old days. There was nothing good about it. Our “freedom” from the respirators resulted in disability or death for many workers. The same was true for many other safety precautions we once scorned, but which are now required.

 

Now we enjoy freedom from the inhaled pollutants, and the debilitating results thereof, and we choose gladly to “serve good sense” and reap relative health. I don’t miss the “bad old days” one bit!

 

At one time, seat-belts in automobiles were optional, and most people ignored them, because they didn’t like the “restrictive” nature of even the lap belts, let alone shoulder straps (though the Advocates of seat-belts reminded those reluctant ones that “wheelchairs are even more restrictive!”)

 

When the seat-belts and shoulder straps became a requirement, the death-toll in auto accidents was sharply reduced. We had been “free” from the restraining lap-belts and shoulder straps, but we are now free from the likelihood of being ejected from the car and killed, in an auto accident.

 

22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

 

So, Paul argues, you were free from righteousness, and the results were uniformly bad. Now you are free from the clutches of your old sin nature. You have everlasting life as a result of that choice. Now you are to choose to respond to the personal, moment by moment call of Jesus Christ to live for Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to produce real fruit in your life.

 

The deaths from being thrown out of cars, and from breathing dangerous fumes were not caused by the danger, but by our proximity to the danger. We have been separated from that proximity to a certain degree, by safety belts and respirators, so the deaths are less common.

 

We have been separated, positionally from the penalty of sin. How does one distance oneself from the danger of sin? 1st Timothy 6:11 gives us s pretty good start on the answer to that question. He says, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things (temptations, that is) and follow after Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Patience, Meekness.” He says to distance yourself from the temptations, and get closer to the things of Christ.

 

  1. Vernon McGee shared how a little child fell out of bed one night, and when her mother came into the room to comfort her and get her safely in bed again, the mother asked “How did you fall out of bed?” The child responded, “I think I just stayed too close to where I got in!” That is pretty perceptive, actually, and highly applicable to the Christian life. The further we move away from our old ways, the harder it will be to fall back into them.

 

Paul closes this passage with a reminder that while the old ways continually earned the results—the “wages”—they deserved, which was separation from God, the eternal life we now have is not to be earned at all. It is a gift. He says,

 

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

My position in Christ is the result of pure Grace… the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. But if you want to experience that life on a daily basis, you will have to respond to Him as your Lord, as well. He is our new boss, and He is the one to whom we need to answer, not our old sin nature. Meditate on this passage and ask God to make it clear to you. I freely admit that I have not “arrived”, in this matter, and that it is a struggle for me as well.

 

Lord Jesus, Help us to understand your Word, and to listen to the pleading of the Holy Spirit, so that we can daily respond to you in faith and obey your will in our daily lives.