Sunday, October 5, 2014

I am Dead to Sin, Freed from Sin, yet I Still Sin?

The last couple of Sundays we looked at one of the most exciting chapters of God’s Word in Romans 6 and discovered that we are indeed Dead to Sin, Freed from Sin, and Alive in Christ Jesus. We were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ the moment we believed so that we might walk in Newness of Life. How much of us became new when we received Jesus into our hearts and lives? All parts of us: mind, body and soul. Our body of sin was destroyed when it was placed on the cross in Christ so “that henceforth we should not serve sin” {Romans 6:8}.Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness” {Romans 6:18}.  

Now that is some pretty powerful truth! And to more fully understand what has happened in the legal and metaphysical transaction when we died and rose with Christ, go with me to the end of your days on earth and the moment you are standing before God. It might look something like this ~

The lights went out for a moment and a bright light draws you forward. Two amazing angels come to escort you and say in a comforting voice, “Be not afraid.” You get to the pearly gates of heaven and a short, bald, somewhat homely man is there to greet you. He introduces himself as the apostle Paul and welcomes you, telling you that he will escort you to the throne of God. You cannot believe what you are seeing. The colors are richer, the whites more white, the streets are gleaming gold. You enter a large magnificent palace and walk with some apprehension mixed with excitement towards the throne of God.

The place looks like a courtroom, which is filled with what seems to be a mix of loved ones and saints of old. They seem to generally have pensive looks on their faces but some give you a brief smile. Paul explains to you that this is where God decides who can stay in heaven and who must be cast into outer darkness. You arrive at your side of the courtroom and stand as you ask Paul, “Who will defend me?” Paul says, "Oh, I am co-counsel on your case, your lead attorney will be here soon." "Wow!" you think to yourself,  "I have a great attorney. The apostle Paul was a pretty black and white, and an in your face type of guy, who had lots of practice in defending himself and the faith. Boy, I couldn’t get anyone better than this to defend me.”

  Into the courtroom walks a good looking man with a kind and gentle face and a glowing smile. Behind him are four workers pulling four file boxes. Paul leans over and says, “That is St. John, the lover apostle, and he is bringing with him the story of all the sins in your life which will form the basis of the charges against you. He has a pretty good case against you. Remember, John was the one who told you that 'No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God' (I{John 3:9}. I do wish you had paid more attention to that verse and some of my own admonitions to you."

Before you can respond, a bright swirling set of fires enters the rooms and sits on the throne labeled GOD THE FATHER. In a low booming voice He asks, “Can I assume, John, that you have at least one sin in all those file boxes as charges against the accused? Ken Alexander, how do your plead?”

Before you can get the words out, “guilty, guilty, I am so guilty!” another beautiful man with holes in his hands walks in through the back of the courtroom and a hush comes over the proceedings. He makes his way up past you and with a glance and a smile your way, he nods and takes His seat at the right hand of God. “Sorry I’m late Dad, have I missed much?” “No Jesus, we were just about to have John start delving into his file boxes of sins for the accused. Is he one of yours?”

“You bet,” says Jesus as He comes back down and gives you a big hug. “Stand behind me Ken, and let me take credit for all your sins, for they are mine.” And one by one every sin you every committed was pulled out of the files and placed on the table, until God says, “Ok, that’s enough John, as all it takes is one sin. Just give me Ken’s story.”

With that the apostle Paul begins to read a one page brief that says, “Born in the town of Bethlehem to a mother named Mary and grew up as a carpenter’s son. He walked the hills and valleys of Judea and Samaria proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand. He suffered and was crucified by his own people, was buried and laid in a tomb, and on the third day rose again conquering all sin for all who will believe in Him. And this man, Ken Alexander, is in Christ Jesus and belongs to Him.”   

The booming voice of God then says, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I pronounce that on the basis of your faith in the person and work of my son, Jesus, that you, Ken Alexander, were absolved of all your sins in 30 A.D., many years before you ever committed them. By legal authority that a man can only  die once for sin, and because you died with Christ, you can never die again. Ken Alexander, come out from behind Jesus. Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”  

OK, hopefully you get the point. We are indeed completely freed from sin, because if we are believers, we can never out sin the generous and complete grace of God obtained for us by Jesus on the cross. Our sins are forgiven before we commit them, based on God’s infallible promises. Our heavenly Father says to us, “There is nothing you can do that can ever keep Me from loving you. I may not like some of the things you do, and I may discipline you to help mold you into who I want you to be, but nothing, absolutely nothing can keep me from loving you for eternity. You are my beloved child.”

“So shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” {Romans 6:1}.

But if all this is true, why does the believer sin? Why does God’s Word on this matter follow directly into Romans 7, and Paul’s great struggle with sin?

The issue of why Christians may sin is not so complex as one might think. We take great comfort in Paul’s words expressing his struggles with sin in Romans 7. Hey, I think that for parts of my life my favorite verse was ~

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me”{Romans 7:18-20}.  

So what keeps the Christian from walking in righteousness each and every moment of the day?  I will venture six main reasons for why we as New Life Christians may still sin ~

1.  Ignorance ~  We have not been taught who they are in Christ.
2.  Confusion ~ We do not fully understand what it means to be free from sin.
3.  Lack of faith ~ We do not believe God’s Word that they are free from sin.
4.  Forgetfulness ~  We forget that they can be free from sin.
5.  Willful Disobedience ~  We choose sin over freedom and holiness.
6.  We do not walk in the Spirit, but continue to walk in the flesh.

For most Christians, it is a combination of the above at various times.  For those who desire to stop sinning, I would suggest that you try to apply a simple cure.  Each time that you sin, trace back the sin to where you do not believe God.  If you are worried about your retirement, if you fear losing your job, if you want to straighten out your spouse all the time with snide remarks, if you have this pit in your stomach that keeps telling you that you don’t measure up to others, or God’s standards, …  go find the lies and replace them with God’s truth.  For if we follow God’s admonition, we will indeed find all of our known sins disappearing to the degree that we believe God’s promises.  We will also find our as yet unseen sins being exposed by the Spirit and healed.

The cure for sin is faith, and “faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God.” {Romans 10:17}. That is right. You cannot try to will yourself to less sin, or try to behave yourself to achieve less sin. The same cure that puts us into eternity with God, faith and believing His promises, is the same cure that rids us of all sins. All we have to do is believe God at His Word.

“Ken are you telling me I just have to believe more?” you ask. No!  You can’t believe more, all you can do is either believe or not believe. There are no works that can take place to rid ourselves of sins; although I do believe that until a sin pattern is gone, God expects us to struggle against it using every means possible.

Paul says I discipline {beat or box} my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” {I Corinthians 9:27}. So by all means, do whatever you can to stop sinning until God delivers you through faith to a greater maturity as you grow up in Christ Jesus. But the boxing of one’s flesh is not the cure for sin, it is just our commitment to fight against it in our own lives, to lessen the habits. What cures sin is allowing God’s Spirit to take His truth and replace the lies that seek to bind and enslave us.

So we must not be ignorant, but instead we must throw ourselves
 into understanding all of God’s truths.

If we are confused we must ask godly counselors for wisdom and clarity.

If we lack faith, we must pray that God will give us the ability to trust all of His Word, even the parts that are hard to believe.

If we forget, we must not be too hard on ourselves, but try to bury 
God’s Word in our hearts so we no longer forget.

If we are willfully disobedient may we ask the Lord to be gentle with 
His impending discipline that will come to correct us.

If we walk in the flesh, let us stop exulting our own minds and seeking our own worldly pleasures, but instead begin to practice the presence of Jesus each and every moment of the day, allowing His Spirit to take control.

So tell me. If Jesus lives inside of you, and you really believe this, what will you do next time you are confronted with temptation? Will you just give in and sin as if Jesus really is a far away concept and not the precious person of God you are dragging into your sin with you? Or will you say “No!” to sin and walk away, because you know you are Dead to Sin, Freed from Sin, and Alive in Christ Jesus? How do you know this? God told you so, and you believed Him. You have the power and person of the risen God of the universe living in and through you. Now let’s all start living that way. If we can only believe it!

 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, 
but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Romans 6:11