Romans 6:11 has intrigued me for ages, because what does it actually mean to be “alive to God”? But there was a clue all along in that verse, that I hadn’t noticed until I started writing this article.
Here’s the verse in full: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The clue was in the last three words, “in Christ Jesus.” And the clue to what that means is in the previous verse, that “the life he (Jesus) lives, he lives to God.”
So we come alive to God “in Christ Jesus,” because our being “in” him, or united to him, means we can live and experience the same life he lives and experiences. Which is why Paul could say back in verse 11, “In the same way” we can count ourselves alive to God, because Jesus is alive to God, and he raised us up with him so we can now live the same kind of life he lives. We can “live to God” just like Jesus lives to God, therefore, and be “alive to God” just like he’s alive to God.
But how does that play out in our human lives now? Well, how about the way it played out in Jesus’ human life too? It’s in his childhood, for instance, that we see how “alive to God” he was. He was only twelve years old when he was drawn to the temple, because, as he told his parents in Luke 2:49, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” It was obvious that’s where he’d be, right?
To someone “alive to God” it was. It’s not surprising, then, that the first chance Jesus gets to attend the Passover in Jerusalem with his parents, and where does he go? To the temple where his Father dwelt.
And what drew him there? According to verse 40 it was “the grace of God upon him.” So this is what the grace of God does to people; it makes them “alive to God,” irresistibly drawn to him as their Father.
Twenty years later Jesus was back in the temple too, but this time as an angry man yelling, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market?” John 2:16. He was “alive to God” all right, and again because of God being his Father, but look how it played out in his life; he was furious at how the one place on earth where people could make contact with the Father was being treated.
“How dare you do that,” he roared. Which made me wonder how that might play out in my life if I become as “alive to God” as he was. I didn’t have long to find out, though, because I was confronted that very week by a person opposed to male and female being the only genders, and I found myself saying in effect, “How dare you ignore what our Father created us to be?” I was surprised at how infuriated I was. But why shouldn’t I be when the Father of us all created us male and female to fulfill his great purpose for us as the temple in whom he wishes to dwell forever?
But isn’t that the purpose of the Holy Spirit, to make us alive to our Abba, Father? it’s “because we are sons that God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father,’” Galatians 4:6. The Holy Spirit is inspiring the same “alive to our Father” as he inspired in Jesus. We have the same “Spirit of his Son.” I have to assume, then, that the ways in which Jesus was “alive to God” will spill out in me.
It might be quite shocking, though, to blurt out to people, “How dare you treat our Father like that?” But why not, when Jesus did? Romans 6:12, the verse right after the “alive to God in Christ” verse, reminded me of that too, where Paul wrote, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” The sin in context here is being more alive to our evil desires than alive to God, like wanting to be accepted by the world and its nutty ideas about gender.
In all his years of ministry on earth Jesus was always talking about his Father, and at the end of his life he was able to say, “I have made you (Father) known to them” in John 17:26, to which he added, “and I will continue to make you known.” How? Through Christians who are as “alive to God” as he is, who love to make the Father known as he truly is too.