God’s double dose of first aid for the new year

Now that we’ve been saved from past sins by Christ’s death, is it up to us now to obey God? It seems like it is in Romans 6:12, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” That sounds like it’s up to us now to stop sinning.

Which is odd, because if we couldn’t stop sinning before, what suddenly makes us capable of stopping sin now? What changed? Well, in my experience, nothing changed. I’m still who I am. Sin still exerts a strong influence on me, just as it did before. It creeps up on me unawares, I obey its evil desires and, unfortunately, my body is often an “instrument of wickedness” still.

But something did change. Christ was raised from the dead. And the reason he came back from the dead was to lift us up with him, verse 8, so that we could “live to God” just like he does, verse 10. Jesus didn’t leave us on the sidewalk clutching his death as our only means of dealing with sin, he also gave us his life. As we travel through this life, then, we discover we have two first aid kits with us when sin does us damage, not just one, and both of them are with us wherever we go.

In one kit we carry the saving power of Christ’s death, and while we carry it, sin will never have mastery over us ever again. It doesn’t matter how many times we mess up, sin can never kill us. But sin isn’t dead, it’s still alive. It can’t kill us but it’s all around us every step we take. It’s like a wood full of blood-sucking insects constantly buzzing round your head. You can swat a hundred of them but a hundred more take their place. That’s sin. There’s no getting away from it, and it could drive us mad with frustration and despair – but that’s when we feel the reassuring handle of the other first aid kit, given to us when Jesus came back from the dead, because in that kit we carry the saving power of Christ’s life.

And while we carry that kit, we will always live to God. Even in our worst moments of weakness, when it looks like sin has total mastery of us and we’re the worst Christians on the planet, we’re still thinking of God, aren’t we? We can’t forget him. It might be only the tiniest spark, but we’re still “alive” to him, verse 11, and we hate what we’re doing. Well, that’s Christ’s life in us, our second first aid kit for the new year.          


Is everyone a “new creation” now?

The idea that there is an “us” and “them,” and Christians are the only ones in whom Christ is working, does not measure up with 2 Corinthians 5:14. “We are convinced,” Paul wrote, “that one died FOR ALL, and therefore all died.” ALL of us, past, present and future, died with Christ, “SO THAT,” verse 15, “ALL WHO LIVE might live no longer for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Christ took ALL of us with him to his death so that the old life of living for ourselves could be dumped in the garbage. And when he was “raised again” soon after his death, Christ raised us all with him to a NEW life and a fresh start, described by Paul as being “IN CHRIST,” verse 17.

And with that new life we can now “live for Christ” – or live, at last, for what he lived and died for. That’s why, Paul says in verse 16, “we cannot judge ANYONE by human standards,” or by what they look like on the outside, because now that we’re ALL “in Christ” we are ALL a “new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We’re ALL  reconciled to God (verse 18). Our old life of enmity toward God is in the incinerator burnt to a crisp. We can now experience a whole new life instead. And that includes everybody.

So when looking at anyone, no matter what state he or she is in, we’re no longer looking at what they appear to be, we’re looking at them as they really are. Everyone we know, and everyone we meet, is a new creation in Christ, and because “ALL WHO LIVE” are classed as new creations in Christ, God is “no longer counting their sins against them,” verse 19. Why not? Because, verse 21, “God made Christ who had no sin to be sin for us, so that IN HIM we (all) might become the righteousness of God.”

Christ lived a perfect sinless life, so that “IN HIM” we can all become the same perfect sinless human he is. This is what Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished for all of us. And there was nothing that any of us did, or didn’t do, to make it happen. God was the one who made it possible for us in Christ, so that every person alive can experience a new life with the love of Christ in them.

“For Christ’s love compels us,” Paul wrote in verse 14. Imagine that; a life no longer driven by destructive self-centredness, but rather a life compelled by love. And with Christ in us it’s possible – for everyone.

What difference does Christ make in our lives?

According to Romans 6:11 there are two things Christ does for us that make a difference: We’re “dead to sin” and, secondly, we’re “alive to God.”

But why does being “dead to sin” make a difference? Because, verses 6 and 14, it means we’re no longer being pulled around by the nose by our sinful nature. And it was Christ who did that off for us by uniting us with his death (verse 5). We were all up there on the cross with him (verse 6), so that every sin we human beings ever committed (and would ever commit) was dealt with there and then. In verse 7, “anyone who has died (with Christ) has been freed from sin.”

The second thing that Christ does for us is make us “alive to God.” And that opens up a whole new life that “leads to holiness” and “eternal life” (verse 22). It’s the same kind of life that God experiences. And Christ pulled that one off for us too, this time by uniting us with his life (verse 5). When he rose from the dead, all humanity rose with him to “live with him,” verse 8, and since “the life he lives, he lives to God,” verse 10, then we can live that same kind of life too.

And it must be a good life, because Jesus not only loves living it himself, he also loves living it in us, because when he rose from the dead we all rose with him, Romans 6:4-5, so that the human life he now lives becomes our human life as well. He now weaves his humanity into our humanity, which he can do because he’s our Creator. Not only did he create us, he also has the power to RE-create us, this time in the likeness of himself and the life HE lives as a human.

So what difference does Christ make? Well, “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” Colossians 2:9. Jesus lives as a human being right now, with God’s nature, God’s love, and God’s wisdom at full strength in him. But why that matters to us is in verse 10, because “you have been given fullness in Christ.” So what Christ is in his resurrected human state right now is what he’s raised us to become as well. This is what he raised us with him for, so that he can weave all that he is in HIS bodily form into OUR bodily form, his eventual aim being the “redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

Christ freed us from our old sin-filled bodies, to fill us with his own God-filled body – and we can experience the difference that makes right now.

Can a person be alive and dead at the same time?

Paul stated rather bluntly in Romans 8:10 that “your body is dead because of sin.” So the body we live in can be fully alive physically, but fully dead at the same time. We’re living but we’re dead. It’s like living in the body of a zombie. Like some awful living corpse in a horror movie we stagger through life in a trance-like state. We’re just walking dead people – “because of sin.” 

It’s a horrible picture of what sin has done to us, but as Paul explains in verse 13, “if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” It’s the sinful nature in us that’s the problem. While our sinful nature controls what we do in our bodies, that’s what kills us.    

But, Paul adds, “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” God has given us the ability to stop what our sinful nature is doing to us. “By the Spirit” we can come out of our zombie trance-like state, and live like the real human being God designed us to be instead.

So how do we know if we’re “living by our sinful nature” or “living by the Spirit?”

Simple. Our sinful nature has no desire to obey God (verse 7). Fortunately, Jesus dealt with that by offering his own body “as a sin offering,” which “condemned sin in sinful man,” verse 3. Jesus died to shatter the power of our sinful nature. God then “raised Christ from the dead” to “give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you,” verse 11. The same power that gave life to Christ’s dead body gives life to our dead bodies. And Paul calls that power “the Spirit of Christ,” verse 9, so it’s really Christ living his nature in us.

In verse 10 Paul puts it this way, that “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” verse 10. Our spirit lay dormant and lifeless while it was controlled by our sinful nature, but when Christ died he freed us from our sinful nature and sent the Spirit to fill us with his nature instead. So now we’re alive just like he is alive, with his nature in us – and his nature loves God and everything about him.

And there’s our evidence that we’re “living by the Spirit.” and we’ve come alive from our zombie-like state – in this life now. With Christ’s nature, or Christ’s Spirit, in us, we can and want to obey God and trust him, and live by every word of his, just like Christ did. 

Why would God allow Christians to become senile too?

Being reduced to a helpless state by senility is hardly the “abundant life” Jesus promised Christians, is it? Where’s the “inexpressible joy” from receiving the goal of our faith, too? And if you can’t experience the fruits of the Spirit anymore, what’s the purpose of being alive?

But what does “being alive” mean? Am I alive only when I’m consciously in charge of my thoughts and actions, or while my life is still under my control and my experiences are real to me?

That is not the definition of being alive in Scripture, however. We are only alive when God makes us “alive in Christ,” Ephesians 2:5, because up to that point we “were dead in our transgressions and sins,” verse 1. We died long before our bodies began to die and our minds began to deteriorate. We were already in a state of senility. Because of sin, our lives were already beyond our control.

But the good news is, Christ took that dead life of ours to the cross with him “and your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” Colossians 3:3. It doesn’t matter, therefore, what state of mind we’re in now, because “Christ is our life,” verse 4, meaning we have his life in us. So we may completely fall apart mentally and physically in this life but, verse 4, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  We may go senile now but Christ will make sure we’re in top shape when he returns.

So whether our bodies die prematurely, suddenly, or after long and lingering suffering, the end result is exactly the same – “He (Christ) will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Corinthians 1:8. Senility is not something to fear or be ashamed of, therefore, because whatever state we end up in now Christ can still make it utterly blameless.

But why would God let us become senile in the first place, where it seems like we’re of no use to him or to anyone else? If God allowed it, though, there has to be a good purpose to it. Our senility may be of great use to someone else. Having to look after someone with Alzheimer’s takes a lot of care and self-sacrifice on the part of carers, which may be just the opening Christ can use to live his life of care and self-sacrifice in them.

God also promises in Romans 8:28 that no matter what happens to us, he’ll work it into something good. So if God lets us go senile, there will be good still being done.

Why is trusting God so difficult?

It’s in us, it seems, to trust anyone but God. All the serpent had to do was say to Adam and Eve “Trust me, God’s lying,” and they believed him, no questions asked, and no proof required. God said they’d die, but the serpent said they wouldn’t. They believed the serpent. They didn’t believe God. But why? Why was it so easy trusting the serpent and so difficult trusting God?

Because, Ephesians 2:2-3, two things conspire against us as humans – our sinful nature and the devil’s influence. The devil, verse 2, is “the prince of the power of the air,” a superhuman force of evil who controls humanity by one simple device: he appeals to our senses. We’re suckers for anything that looks good, sounds good, feels good and tastes good, and with a little temptation the devil has us all “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts,” verse 3, just like Adam and Eve.

He tried to take control of Jesus by the same device, tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, so that Jesus focused on himself and not on God. But Jesus had resisted the driving force of his senses for 40 days already and trusted his life to God, and that’s what won the day for him. And he won the day for all humanity too, because he now lives his trust in God in us.

He has to live his trust in us, though, because he knows all too well – having watched us humans in action for thousands of years – that it’s not in us to trust God. We’d rather follow our own instincts, depend on our own resources, and go our own way instead, illustrated in all its unfortunate reality and grim results by the children of Israel in the Old Testament.

But God resolved that by sending Jesus Christ as a human being to live a life of trust in God for us, which he’ll now live in us, Galatians 2:20. “The life I now live,” Paul writes, “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Not by his own faith, but by Jesus’ faith, the results of which are quite startling, 1 John 5:18. “We know that no child of God keeps on sinning, because the Son of God keeps him safe and the Evil One cannot harm him.”

The devil can’t get to us like he got to Adam and Eve because Jesus keeps us safe from his devices and temptations. How? By living his faith in God in us. Result? We believe what God says, not the whispers of the devil.

It was meant to be

How many times have you heard people say, when things happen in their lives, “It was meant to be” – as if it was supposed to happen according to some fixed invisible purpose?

Supposing it’s true, though, that whatever happens to me is meant to be, and everything I do is actually following some preset plan for my life. That means, then, that when I decided to cross the road yesterday morning and a car came out of nowhere and hit me, it was meant to be. Or if I’d decided not to cross the road at that particular spot at that particular time, and crossed the road instead at another location where no car hit me, that was meant to be as well.

Or, because I drove my car to work at 8:17 am instead of my usual 8:15 am, I ended up in a traffic accident and was carted off to hospital for surgery, followed by months of recovery and a lifetime of pain. But was that “meant to be” too?

It sounds horrible, especially when every waking second we make choices, and every one of those choices sets a course of action, or thought, in motion, each with its own set of consequences. If I’d turned left after crossing the road, for instance, I might have noticed a car for sale in someone’s driveway that turned out to be a real deal, but turning right I tripped over a sleeping dog and broke my nose.

But was breaking my nose instead of getting a hot deal on a car the result of outside forces directing my life into fulfilling foregone conclusions made for me long ago? No wonder people are wracked with superstition and they carry lucky charms to assure themselves that fate is on their side.

But fate has always been on our side according to Paul in Colossians 3:3, because our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God” – meaning every human life and destiny is already safely tucked away with the powers of the universe. That’s a hard one to grasp when so many horrible things are happening to people, but Paul reminds us in verse 1, that “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts (and minds, verse 2) on things above…not on earthly things.”

Fix our minds, in other words, on what really and truly is the fixed invisible purpose for every human life, which, according to Paul is this, in verse 4: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” No matter, then, what happens to us now, this in the end has always been how “It was meant to be.”