Our freedom in Christ doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do everything we can to say no to sin. It would be foolish to let sin run rampant in our body while waiting for change to happen within our heart. Only when we renounce sin in our flesh and then couple it with the pursuit of healing and change in our heart do we stand a chance of genuine transformation. These principles work hand in hand with each other.
God hates sin because of its destructive power in people’s lives. A fungus on a tree doesn’t simply live its life innocently on the bark. It feeds on the tree, invading it within while draining the life right out of it. This is precisely what sin does in people. Sin’s festering presence has the invasive power to bring about death, robbing God of the lives He holds so precious, and for which He has created such wonderful purpose.
We often get hope confused with faith in our thinking. Hope is different. Hope is first born in our heart when a promise is given. Hope is defined as a desire with some expectation of fulfillment. We only hope for what we want. Anticipating something you have no desire for would be senseless! And so would expecting that which has no chance of ever happening. Hope is the great motivator; no accomplishment—or even action—in life is possible without it first being there.
Hope first comes alive through the promise of the Gospel. Then God gives us the gift of faith by which we are able to act on that hope. We receive His promise through faith. Justification and redemption are ours solely by the grace of God as we act on His promise by receiving Christ. But ultimately the fullness of God’s promise is obtained through a lifestyle of obedience—the proof that our faith is genuine.
Faith is at the very heart of God’s plan for us. By faith alone we are saved. Through it we obtain His free gift of righteousness. But faith doesn’t come naturally to us. The problem is that God doesn’t reveal Himself in a way that our physical senses can perceive Him. I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t allow us to be aware of His presence; He does. But our experience of Him comes by spiritual means—not physical.
Why would God keep Himself hidden at all? Wouldn’t it be much easier to simply appear and tell us what He wants? Well, that wouldn’t require faith, would it? Our inability to grasp God by our natural senses makes faith indispensable. The Bible says that it’s impossible to please God without it. Yet because faith is so contrary to everything instinctive to our nature, believing God the way He wants will never be all that easy. Apparently He never meant it to be!
God’s law did not originate with the Law of Moses. Law was first introduced when God said, “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” So, law was there in the Garden—just not “the Law” as it was later given. And sin was also around from the very beginning. But sin could not be charged unless law existed to identify it (Romans 3:20). The pursuit of righteousness through obedience to law is what Paul called the “elementary principles of the world” (Colossians 2:8).
Man has an inbred penchant for attempting to justify himself in this way. It’s absolutely fundamental to our thinking about God. And why shouldn’t it be? It just seems so right! But making people work for righteousness was never God’s intent for law. Even in the Old Testament, obeying God was meant to be an act of faith, not merely an attempt to accumulate enough points to somehow satisfy Him.
It’s sad that so many have been duped by Satan into believing that we must now earn our own way now that we’ve been saved. Think back to your desperately sinful condition when God reached down and pulled you out of that pit. God’s grace was overwhelming, wasn’t it! So how could you think that He might now abandon you just because you continue to struggle with sin in your life?
Good news! God has resolved the issue of your sin—past, present and future. It’s a done deal! Freedom from sin is God’s way of guarantying our hope of enduring intimacy with Him. Yet this doesn’t mean that the struggle between the appetites of the flesh and God’s desires are not going to be a battle for us (Galatians 5:17,18). This on-going conflict is precisely why the assurance of being freed from sin is so important as we go about living our new life in Christ.
“If I have truly died to sin, why do I still feel so alive to it?” This really is mysterious! Don’t think you’re alone here. It’s not an uncommon question by any stretch of the imagination. “Just what did happen to me when I became that new creature in Christ? What’s this life all about?” The answer lies in the fact that it’s not about what we do or don’t do. Rather, it’s about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done.
No, this doesn’t relieve us of all personal responsibility. Of course not! It does mean, though, that the foundation for our relationship with God has been laid by Him alone, not by anything we can do in and of ourselves. “Oh, I believe that,” you might say—but do you really? Do you really believe that your relationship with God isn’t somehow rooted in trying to be good?
It’s pretty common to think about sin merely as a response by our flesh to some outside stimulus. “I wanted it, so I did it!” But in reality, sin is a symptom of a much more serious disease within. Sin is a barometer of the heart. It’s more than just actions; it’s rooted in our attitudes, intentions and motives.
In thinking that sin stems primarily from our physical body, we’re led to treat the symptoms rather than focusing on the true source of the problem. Sin is a heart problem rooted within the soul, so we need to start there. We know that our soul cannot change until it is influenced by a healthy spirit. And nothing happens until our spirit is first empowered by the life of God. But when it is, the soul, mind and body are all pushed automatically toward God’s purpose. This is the answer to the weakness of the flesh.
We deserved death for our sins. But Jesus was willing to go to the cross in our place. We pretty much understand the significance of His sacrifice. But Romans 6:6 tells us a whole lot more: “our old self was crucified with Him so that our body of sin might be done away with, that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
When Paul says that we are freed from sin, he uses a word meaning justified or made righteous. It can literally be translated: “For he who has died is acquitted from sin.” We all know what happens when someone is acquitted in a trial—he’s found not guilty! That is exactly what God did as Jesus took penalty for sin off our shoulders and laid it upon Himself. And because of this, experiencing God’s life consists of a great deal more than merely trying to maintain sinless behavior now that we’re saved.
Romans 6:4 says that baptism symbolizes our burial with Jesus—a sharing in Christ’s death in a way that allows us also to share in His resurrection life. It’s why we can now live life in a brand new way. When we are born again, we become connected to Jesus in such a way that we are actually joined to Him. And having become united with Him, we now enjoy all the benefits accomplished on the cross—just as if we had suffered the punishment of death ourselves.
The punishment for sin is separation from God—spiritual death. But when Jesus died on that cross, He became the appeasing sacrifice for our sins. He actually stepped in and substituted Himself in our place. Jesus suffered the agony of separation from His Father so that we don’t have to. We sense the need to work for this amazing gift. But it’s beyond our capacity to earn it. Simply receive Jesus and then walk out the life He has prepared (Ephesians 2: 8 – 10).
What is sin? I’ve often heard sin defined as missing the mark, as if one were missing a target he is aiming at. Those whose lives are centered on sin not only offend God, but utterly miss the precious gift of His eternal purpose. The Bible says that sin is lawlessness. And it makes perfectly clear what the sins of the flesh are—often warning that those corrupted by a lifestyle of sin have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.
But we see in Scripture conflicting opinions about what causes sin, and thus its remedy. The Jewish leaders viewed sin as being the product of a person’s outward behavior. So they attempted to manage sin through a system of rules which grew more and more burdensome as time went by. Jesus, on the other hand, realized that sin is rooted in man’s heart. God was about to deal with the problem of sin in a whole new way.