“You’re free to drive away”

So how can we be “dead to sin,” Romans 6:11, and “freed from sin,” verse 7, but then be told in verse 12 to “not let sin reign” in us or “obey its evil desires?” If sin no longer has mastery over us, why the worry about falling victim to it again? But if we can still fall victim, is Paul now saying it’s up to us to resist it? Is this the part we now play, then?

No, Paul is saying it’s now possible for us to not obey sin’s evil desires “because you are not under law, but under grace,” verse 14. This is why sin no longer has mastery over us, because we’re under the rule of grace now. When we’re under law, that’s when sin has power over us, because the law simply reveals how much we sin. That’s why the law was created in the first place: “Through the law we become conscious of sin” (3:20). From Adam to Moses there was no law defining sin (5:14), and “sin is not taken into account when there is no law (5:13).” but with the law, sin suddenly becomes obvious (5:20).

It’s like putting iron filings on a piece of paper over a magnet – suddenly, the invisible magnetic field appears. And the law serves the same purpose. The sins we can’t see become obvious when defined. We then see how much sin has mastery over us – and how easily we fall victim to it, too. It’s like driving for years, picking up all kinds of bad driving habits, and one day the police pull you over. For the life of you you can’t think why. “Yes, Officer,” you say, ever so humbly, “what may I do for you?” Well, he’s seen it all before so he ignores your drooling charm and lists off the eight flagrant violations of the law he’s seen you perform after following you for the last mile or two. 

What can you say? The law not only defines your sins, it also reveals how easily bad habits creep up on you, without you even realizing. Eight violations? You couldn’t even think of one! But then he says to you, “Not to worry, you’re not under law, you’re under grace, and as such your eight violations have been rendered powerless. You’re free to drive away.”

But free to do what? To live what our access to grace has opened up to us, the chance at last to live in a world where sin doesn’t creep up on us unawares, because Christ is now saving us by his life. 

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Justified already, and more to come

After God’s got us into eternity through Christ’s death, he can now grow us up because he’s got us exactly where he wants us, right there beside him. That’s where all humanity now rests, Ephesians 2:6 – “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.”   

What made that possible was Jesus being resurrected from the dead. When he rose to the heavenly realms, the gates were thrown open so that humans could step through those gates too. Because of him we entered the eternal Kingdom of God, our very own Narnia. What gets us there as far as “our part” is Romans 4:24. We simply “believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,” understanding why God raised him – “for our justification,” verse 25.

On believing that – which really wasn’t our part either, because God gives us the belief too (Ephesians 2:8) – God raises us into heavenly realms. Why? For our justification. But weren’t we already “justified by his blood?” Yes, but there’s obviously more justification coming. There’s the initial justification that got us up to and through the gates of the heavenly realms, but now that we’re in the heavenly realms, there’s more justification to come, because this is what God raised Jesus back to life for.    

This other justification is the salvation that Jesus now brings us by his resurrected life, where Jesus now grows us up into his own likeness. And he does it by the same method he used on Israel in the wilderness. He took them on a journey. It involved all kinds of tests and challenges along the way, each of which was designed to strengthen their trust in him, and in trusting him they would grow. It’s the same for us. We’re on a journey through this physical life of ours, full of challenges and tough times, the purpose of which is to strengthen our trust in Jesus, and in trusting him we will grow. We’ll grow to become more like him, and grow in perseverance, character and hope (5:4).    

Somehow, through whatever life experiences we go through, Jesus is able to use them to get us to exactly the point he wants us, just like Alsan brought four very different children through often very different tests and challenges in Narnia to the same point he wanted them, too. Eventually they were ready to be crowned kings and queens. So will we be one day, and by the same method. This is the growing up part of our justification, which Jesus can successfully do for us, now that we’re right there beside him.    

Why leave us in this world to suffer?

Living in Christ’s world, under grace, is no bed of roses. It’s wonderful that we’re in it, because once we’re in it Jesus isn’t going to lose us, but just like the children in Narnia we face an ugly world every day and we still find ourselves with some pretty awful thoughts and motives. So why doesn’t God get us out of this world, free us from the influence of evil, and let us live our new nature to the full, without interruption from the wiles and schemes of the Devil?

Paul answers that in Romans 5:3. He talks about rejoicing in our sufferings because there’s a purpose to them, just like there was a purpose to the challenges the children faced in Narnia. When they first entered Narnia through the wardrobe and set out together to explore this new and fascinating land, they were typical children. The younger boy was soon tempted by the witch to suit her evil purposes. The two older children weren’t exactly forgiving toward him, either. They were short-tempered, impatient with each other, and really very selfish at the beginning. But all they had to go on was their own childish strength and responses, so they soon lost heart if things went wrong, and they easily got angry and scared. 

As they spent more time in Narnia, however, they grew. But it wasn’t because of anything they were consciously doing to make themselves grow. They weren’t on a program of self-improvement or character development. They were simply responding to each difficult situation as it arose, in the process of which they grew. They became more forgiving, more patient with each other, more courageous and more positive, not because of anything they were doing, but because Aslan, the great lion, had planned it this way, that the journey he had them on would produce the growth.

Our own Aslan, Jesus, planned it this way for us, too. That’s why we can rejoice in our sufferings, verses 3-4, “because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character; and character, hope.” The journey produces these things for us just as it did for the children in Narnia. Every suffering and trial has a purpose. In some way we’ll grow from it. And that hope will never be disappointed (verse 5) because “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Aslan did the same for the children, too. He infused his nature into them, so they’d never lose hope on the journey. Yes, the journey gets rough, but we discover in time that we’re not the selfish, fearful children we used to be. We’re growing up.