ROMANS 6:10-12: “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Have you ever wrestled with sin? Is there an area of weakness in your life that seems to get the best of you? Have you grown weary in the battle and thought – “Well, at least I am forgiven!” What can we learn from the sixth chapter of the book of Romans?
Every new Christian begins their walk of faith with joy and expectation. The wonder of being forgiven, the newness of life, the joy of the Holy Spirit, seems to carry us on a cloud for a while. It is like a newly married couple that is celebrating the wonder of their new love. Then something happens. Reality creeps in through the back door.
This reality is the realization that we are still broken. We know that we have been forgiven and yet we still find ourselves battling with our old nature. When the newness wears off, we are faced with the same temptations we battled before we surrendered our life to Jesus Christ. We know that we are called to walk like Jesus. We try with all of our heart, mind, and strength. And, when we find ourselves falling again into sin, we grow discouraged and wonder if we will ever change.
What is the difference between a baby and a toddler? A baby has complete dependence upon their mother. In this dependence they find safety and security. Yet, when they begin to walk, they start to wander into areas that could cause them harm. They slowly begin to explore their new independence and they do not know how to manage or navigate it. The result can be a skinned knee, a stubbed toe, or a bump on the head. This is also true for Christians. We need to learn how to walk and grow in our new found faith.
The greatest temptation for a believer is to start believing that they have something to do with their spiritual victory. When they do this – a fall is just around the corner. Martin Luther, the father of the reformation, struggled with how to purify his life and be accepted by God. It is recounted of his life,
“Martin pursued the monastic life with great vigor, especially in the ascetic practices. He would often go without sleep, endure cold without a blanket, and whip himself. He later wrote:
‘It’s true. I was a good monk and kept my order so strictly that if ever a monk could get to heaven through monastic discipline, I should have entered in. All my companions in the monastery who knew me would bear me out in this. For if I had gone on much longer, I would have martyred myself to death, what with vigils, prayers, readings, and other works.’
In an effort to find peace of mind while a monk, Luther used to confess his sins daily (up to five hours a day). Yet, despite all his efforts, he could not find peace for his conscience. After having done everything according to the precepts of his order, he remained a tormented man. He doubted whether he had per- formed his works correctly, whether he had repented enough, or whether he had omitted something from his confession.” (Profiles in Faith, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis Institute)
Martin Luther struggled in this area until he read the words of Romans 1:17 – “…the just shall live by faith.” Yet, Martin Luther had faith in Jesus Christ. What he lacked was faith in the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross was a completed work. Nothing had to be added to it. We were not saved by any merit or effort on our part. And, we cannot overcome sin and become more like Jesus through our merits or effort. If we are saved by faith, we are to live by faith.
It is faith alone – in Christ alone.
And so Paul writes – “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” Let’s take a moment to consider this statement. Jesus died for our sins once. He was buried once. He rose from the dead once. He lives eternally. Jesus does not have to die again every time we sin. His completed work is sufficient for the sins of the entire world, past, present, and future. The Catholic concept of the Mass is a bit misleading. Jesus is not sacrificed over and over again. He died for sin once and for all! His is a completed work.
Then Paul writes something that is revolutionary. It is hard to understand. Yet, it is as true as what he wrote about Jesus.
“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. “
Likewise, in the same way, we are to consider ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. What does this mean? When we were united with Jesus through faith we were united in the power and provision of His death. This was a completed work on the cross and in our lives. We do not need to add to it – we simply need to begin living in it.
Therefore, Paul continue to develop his thought and writes –
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.”
We no longer owe a debt to sin. The debt has been paid in full through Jesus Christ our Lord. We cannot overcome sin through our piety, our Bible reading, our prayers, or our service to the Lord. The power of sin over our life was broken on the cross of Jesus Christ. It is only as we begin to live in the provision and power of the cross that we begin to walk in the newness of life to which we are called.
The word “reckon,” in the Greek language, is an accounting term. It means to check one’s ledger. It is like the ledger in our checkbook that tells us what our balance is each day. If we were going to buy something we would first check our ledger to see if we had enough money. Our spiritual ledger needs to always read – self = 0, Jesus =100! Each day we need to remind ourselves that our victory over sin is in Christ alone. The power of sin broken through His cross. And, our ability to walk in newness of life, is only through the Holy Spirit!
Our salvation, and our sanctification, are both a completed work through Jesus Christ!
Let me share one last example of this. When I was young I was a body surfer. Every week I would go and body surf at Newport Beach. At first I struggled to surf the waves. I would swim as fast as I could, but the wave would simply pass over me. Then, I learned the secret. Surfing the wave was not accomplished through my swimming ability or my speed. It was learning how to position myself in the wave so that the power of the wave would lift me and carry me into the shore. When I learned this, body surfing became a joy and as natural as swimming. The joy and power did not come from me – it came from the wave alone!
We need to learn how to position our lives in the completed work of the cross of Jesus Christ. We need to see our death to sin completed in His completed sacrifice. We need to begin to walk in His victory through the power of the Holy Spirit. When sin comes knocking at our door we need to greet it with a sign – “The old man is dead!” We need to surf the wave of God’s grace. It is only by grace through faith that we will walk in victory over sin, self, and the power of the enemy!
Lord, thank you for Your completed work! Thank you for the cross! Thank you that I have been united with Jesus in His death to sin and in His resurrection unto life. Grant me the grace to live by faith in His completed work. When I forget this truth, when I find myself struggling or falling, let me run to the cross to find grace, mercy, cleansing, forgiveness, and newness of life once again.
May I live through the Cross of Jesus Christ!
In Jesus Name!