In Christ we enjoy the marvelous advantage of absolute security. But we must not let it stop there. The Lord has called us to even greater purpose—wholehearted submission to His will. Such intentional commitment to Him demands that our life be squarely aimed at two very important targets: first, to serve Him, and, second, to embrace spiritual growth through personal transformation. These goals provide the catalyst for bearing “much fruit.”
Jesus wants radical change for us: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Paul says in Romans 12:2. Rarely does this happen instantaneously. Rather it takes a transformation of our character, which is always a more arduous and painful solution to the problem. Yet as annoying as this approach might seem, ultimately it is far more productive when the entire scope of God’s purpose is taken into account.
Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” Bearing fruit—abundant fruit, in particular—truly glorifies God and ultimately proves that we are Christ’s disciples. And nowhere does Jesus say it better than when He talks about being the “true vine.” Here Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, a relationship that can’t help but be fruitful—provided, that is, that each of the parties is faithful to do his part.
A variety of virtues are embodied in godly fruit, but its highest and all-encompassing expression is love—love of God, love for His family and, more generally, love toward others. We all know, however, that such fruit doesn’t simply materialize overnight. It only can grow and develop over time as we steadily draw on God’s life.
Through His death on the cross, Christ cancelled out our debt—the punishment due for our sin. We’ve undergone a spiritual circumcision (Colossians 2:11). In God’s eyes our body of flesh has been removed and therefore is no longer a factor in our union with God. It has literally become a non-issue, all because He has taken us out from under the jurisdiction of law.
Freedom from the power of sin is a phenomenal gift of God. But we need to be careful. Our death to sin, brought about by freedom from law, has only one purpose: the opportunity to pursue uninhibited relationship with God—in spite of the weakness of our sinful nature. Never is this freedom to be thought of as a license to sin. This amazing privilege endows us with the capacity to make good choices, whereas formerly we did not. We have freely and gloriously been handed everything we need for intimate pursuit of Jesus.
In Romans 6:11, Paul says, “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This truth has profound meaning for our life right here and now—not merely in the life hereafter. We all lack the ability to live this brand-new life by God’s standards. So Jesus joins us to Himself, blanketing us with His righteousness as He lives His life in us. He lives; you died; you share His life.
In Christ Jesus we have died to sin and are now entirely free from its power. Sharing in Christ’s life is the cornerstone of our relationship with God. Yes, we share in His death, but it doesn’t end there. Being joined to Christ in His death allows us the unique privilege of sharing in His resurrection life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too are raised up from our old self into glorious new life in God.
Why would God place humanity into a world controlled by Satan? Without God people don’t have a chance! Demons have no trouble taking advantage of someone’s dead spirit, since people naturally lay themselves open to attack when devoid of the life of God within. Many passages in Scripture make it clear that demons are able to exert powerful influence over the heart, oppressing and sometimes even possessing people.
But what about us? Even with God’s Spirit residing within, our ongoing struggle with the flesh is greatly impacted by Satan’s agenda. We shouldn’t be surprised, though. He never misses an opportunity to present sin as pleasurable—all the while concealing the bondage and misery it always brings. The devil has found fertile ground in mankind through the frailties of human nature. It has allowed him to develop powerful tools for manipulation in his pursuit of destroying us. Let’s face it, he’s had plenty of time to figure us out.
Godliness? How could I ever be thought of as being godly? We often get godliness confused with God’s acceptance. Godliness is a mindset of pursuit—a quest which keeps us constantly engaged in living to please God. But by doing so, are we trying to earn God’s favor? Frankly, yes, that is if it’s His acceptance we’re after. This pitfall can only be avoided by recognizing that it’s impossible to please Him in our own strength.
We must instead entrust ourselves to God’s grace, building on the righteousness which He has already imparted. It’s true that we are commanded to pursue godliness, but this should never stem from trying to become acceptable to God. Rather, it’s a sincere commitment to a walk with Him—rooted, sustained, and perfected through all that He has provided. It’s something we now do because of who we now are.
Standing in our rock-solid hope of God’s amazing grace carries with it the danger of breeding complacency: “Now that I’ve got my ticket to heaven, what more do I need?” Sadly, this is how many Christians view God and His purpose for their life. It’s a self-centered mind-set, since it boils down to little more than making a better life for ourselves here on earth, with the added bonus of a fabulous heavenly life later.
Well, saved is wonderful, but our reconciliation with God encompasses a whole lot more than merely our initial regeneration. Rather, the primary reason for God doing all He has through Christ Jesus is to pave the way for godliness to become the standard of our life in Him. Salvation is merely the starting point. Through redemption, we are provided the framework of choice. And choice by faith is the very heart of our life—and growth in that life—as Christians.
In Romans 7, Paul says that freedom from law is actually the basis for our freedom from sin. He uses the example of a married woman who by Law is accountable to her husband. But when her husband dies, she is free from that responsibility. Yet although the wife is the one who has been freed from the law, she didn’t die at all; her husband did! And so it is with us. By comparison, we’re like the living wife rather than the dead husband when talking about our own death to sin.
In Christ, we are just as dead to law in regard to our sin as she is to the commandment which once governed her marriage. God has acquitted His children of wrongdoing because the punishment for sin—that is, separation from Him—is no longer enforced. This is the key to understanding the true nature of our death to sin.
“Our body of sin has been done away with,” Romans 6 tells us. “Wow! My flesh is finally dead!” Yet deep down it’s really hard to believe, because “our body of sin” being ”done away with” doesn’t actually mean what we think. Our sinful flesh didn’t go anywhere. It’s clinging close at hand. This can be very disheartening, because we find ourselves continually bombarded by a sense of guilt—made all the worse by Satan’s accusation and deceit.
Yet even though we have to drag that old baggage around in our new life in Christ, God has solved our dilemma. He truly did cause our old self to die, for our sinful flesh has now become a non-issue in His eyes. “Doing away with our body of sin” literally means that our flesh has been rendered powerless. Jesus got rid of the problem for us!
God’s law helps to curb our behavior and provide direction, but its main purpose is to expose sin. Romans 7:7 says: “I would not have come to know sin except through the law.” Law can be thought of as a gauge of sorts, because it sets the standard of God’s righteousness against our own self-centered motivations and desires. But what’s sad is that God’s law has been misinterpreted as a means by which a person might earn his own righteousness.
From the very beginning God had something far different in mind; law was to be a guidepost to His gift of life. Law was never intended to be a vehicle to bring us into right standing with God, because ultimately He wanted to freely impart His own righteousness—and thus His life—to man. Make no mistake: any attempt to earn our own righteousness merely results in pitting us head-on against God’s plan.