Am I really a Christian? (Part 4)

God’s not only given us immunity to sin’s power through Christ’s death, he’s also given us immunity to sin’s influence through Christ’s life, so that it’s possible for us to overcome sin. 

This is the journey God put us on when he summoned us to Christ’s throne. It’s the greatest journey we can possibly take because a world without sin would be a beautiful world. So God provides the means for overcoming sin. It’s a journey we all take with Christ. The journey begins with Christ taking our old sin-riddled body with him to the cross, where it’s killed off and buried. Having done that, Jesus gives us a new body, and it’s in that new body that we take our first step. 

It’s a beautiful body, because like Christ’s beautiful, new resurrected body, it “lives to God,” Romans 6:10. That’s something our old body could never do. It lived to sin. But this new body doesn’t live to sin. It never does. It only lives to God. That’s the power of this new body we’ve got, now that we’re plugged in directly to Christ’s new body (verse 11). 

From this point on, our new body never wants to obey sin’s evil desires (verse 12), because our new body is totally plugged into Christ’s. Why, then, do we sin? Well, the whole point of Romans 6:12 is that we don’t have to sin. When we realize what God’s purpose is and what he’s equipped us with to fulfill his purpose perfectly, hopefully at some point on our journey with Christ it dawns on us what we’ve been given. We’ve been given immunity from sin’s influence. Christ is immune to sin’s influence – so, therefore, are we.

That’s why Paul can say, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body,” because it doesn’t have to reign over us anymore, not since Christ plugged us directly into his resurrected body. What goes on in his body now goes on in ours. And it’s quite an experience for us because instead of always giving in to sin, we find ourselves wanting to give ourselves to God (verse 13) and be useful tools in his hands, not in sin’s. Yes, we still sin, but as Paul then mentions, we’re not under law we’re under grace, so we can continue on our journey enjoying the power of this new body of ours without sin ever taking over again. 

And in this we know we must be Christian. We have an amazing new desire in us that never existed before, that gives us the chance to become “instruments of righteousness” instead.         

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Am I really a Christian? (Part 3)

When Paul writes, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires,” Romans 6:12, he can say that to Christians because he knows it’s possible for us. And how does he know it’s possible? Because not only are we united with Christ in his death, we’re “also united with him in his resurrection,” verse 5

Uniting us with Christ in his resurrection does two marvellous things for us. The first one is in verse 9, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again.” This verse describes Jesus in his resurrected human state, which we are now united with. So, first of all, Jesus unites us with him in his death, which successfully kills off our old bodies of sin on the cross with his body, but he also unites us with his NEW resurrected body, too.

And what does uniting us with his new resurrected body do? It means we don’t die or cease to be Christian if we sin. We can sin again and again but continue living because the body Christ gave us when he raised us with him, cannot die. We can sin an awful sin but it’s not the end of the world. It’s embarrassing falling victim to sin so easily, especially after we’ve been Christians for years – which could get us doubting we are, or ever really were, Christians – but being united with Christ in his resurrection means we know we’re still Christians even though we’re sinning.

There’s a second thing that Jesus’ resurrection does for us too, because the new resurrected life that Jesus lives “he lives to God,” verse 10. And since we’re now united with his resurrected life, we therefore live to God, too. So, instead of being controlled by sin and its evil desires, this new body of ours wants to do the same thing Christ’s new body does. It wants to direct everything it thinks and does to God. It creates a new and very powerful desire in us to not let sin have any influence in our lives whatsoever. So, first of all, we cannot die when we sin, but secondly, we can put sin on the run while we’re alive, too!

That’s why Paul could say, “Don’t let sin reign in our bodies,” because it’s possible for us Christians to squash sin’s influence, now that we’re united with Christ’s resurrected life. And knowing we’ve got that desire, however small, we know we’re still Christian, no matter how many times we trip up along the journey…

Am I really a Christian? (Part 2)

When God the Father calls us, it’s like a summons to stand before Jesus Christ, supreme power of all powers, king of the universe and beyond, before whom all knees bow. It’s not to make us shake or quiver though, or freeze us in fright at all the things we’ve done wrong, it’s to give us an explanation and two gifts.

The explanation is that God has now got us on the journey of our lives. And to guarantee success on our journey, he has two gifts for us. Carry those two gifts with us wherever we go and we’ll get to journey’s end in a blaze of glory. And the journey is? To overcome sin. And the two gifts guaranteeing success? Christ’s death and Christ’s life.

But how do Christ’s death and life help us overcome sin? Sin’s a cunning killer. It’s a powerful force. It can slice a human into little pieces and chuck him to the sharks in just seconds. A slight temptation appealing to some natural desire, and a human being is a total pushover. Left to ourselves, we wouldn’t get off the starting line in our journey without sin tripping us up and planting our faces in the mud. But sin can trip us up all it likes, because it can never put us down for good. Why not? Because Christ’s death protects us.

What we carry with us in Christ’s death is immunity to sin ever being able to kill us. It’s like having endless lives in a video game. If you’re killed, you wait a few seconds, and up you get again. Christ’s death gives us endless lives, too. And that’s what gets a Christian started on the journey, knowing he’s got this wonderful immunity gift with him. He (or she) can stride out in confidence that Christ’s death has taken sin’s killer power away. It’s what makes us Christian and want to take the journey. It’s why we know we’re Christians too, because we realize we’ve got this unique gift giving us immunity to the power of sin. 

Christ’s death doesn’t give us immunity to the influence of sin, though, which comes as a bit of a shock. This is when Christians begin to doubt they’re Christian, because they sin so easily still, and how can that be? Well, Paul reminds us we’ve got two gifts with us, not just one, Romans 6:5. “If we have been united with Christ in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Now that we’re Christians, God’s equipped us with another unique gift…(continues in Part 3)

Am I really a Christian? (Part 1)

“So how do I know I’m a Christian?” someone asked me, and not surprisingly, because he was in a pickle. For years he’d been falling prey to a powerful, predatorial sin which had been draining his finances like a blood-sucking bat and leaving him shattered at his own weakness. 

“What’s the difference between me and everyone else out there?” he moaned. And judging by his actions he was right. To all outward appearances, he wasn’t different. He was a typical red-blooded male, mesmorized by the siren calls of the world and constantly tempted by the culture. By his actions, no one would suspect he was Christian! 

But that’s what worried him, because what if he got talking to someone and it slipped out in the conversation that he was a Christian? How embarrassing, especially if that someone asked him how he could call himself Christian doing what he was doing. It was exactly the question he’d been asking himself! What, then, was the proof that he was Christian, because at that point in his life he was beginning to doubt he ever was Christian.  

So I asked him if there was a conflict in his mind when he was sinning. Yes, there was. The last time he fell off the tracks, he felt awful. He couldn’t stop what he was doing, and he had no intention of stopping it either, but the sin didn’t feel so good anymore. Could he explain why that was, I asked him? No, he couldn’t. But Paul could, and he did, in Romans 6:10-11

In those verses, Paul compares our lives to the life Jesus now lives. And what kind of life is that? In verse 10, the life Jesus lives “he lives to God.” And then in verse 11, “In the same way” we are “alive to God,” too. So, whatever life Jesus now lives, we live. This is what Jesus rose from the dead for. When he rose to his new resurrected human life, he united us with him, so that we could live to God just like he does.

We will discover in our minds, then, something new happening. We come alive to God. It’s just a small spark to begin with, but it’s there, so that when we’re tempted to sin, God comes alive in our minds as well. We have an awareness of him competing with our desire to sin. There’s another signal interfering with sin’s signal, creating a conflict in our minds between two signals now, whereas before there was only one. It’s the beginning of how we can tell we’re Christian…(continues in Part 2)