How are We Able?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 9:07 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 6 (ESV).

Dead to Sin (vv. 1-4)

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

When we genuinely believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, to be lived to his righteousness. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). This is the essence of the gospel message. He did not die just to forgive us of our sins, and to release us from punishment in hell, and to promise us heaven when we die. He died to radically transform our lives away from walking in sin to walking according to the Holy Spirit, in holiness, in obedience to our Lord and to his Word.

So, if we have truly died with Christ to sin, how can we live in it any longer? How can we turn our backs on the one who gave his life up for us? It is much like a dog returning to his vomit. So, I think the obvious answer is that someone who has truly died to sin can’t live a sinful lifestyle any longer. This doesn’t mean we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but true faith in Jesus Christ should mean that we forsake our former lives of living for sin and self, and that we now desire to live for our Lord, to please him in all that we do.

John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin) that we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). And, Paul said that if we walk according to our flesh, we will die (in our sin), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25).

Alive to God (vv. 5-11)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Jesus’ main purpose in dying for our sins was so that we could be freed from slavery to sin, not just so we could escape hell. So many people today are teaching a twisted version of the gospel which focuses solely on forgiveness of sin and the hope of heaven, but ignores the crucified life in Christ, holiness, purity, and walking in Christ’s righteousness. So many, many people call themselves Christians, and are claiming the promise of heaven when they die, but they live not much different from those who make no claims to faith in Jesus Christ at all. And, the sad reality is that many of them don’t care. They don’t think they have to walk in obedience to Christ and to his Word, and so they don’t. They think, because Jesus died to forgive us our sins that it means God doesn’t care about sin anymore, but he does – big time!

The whole point of our salvation is that we are no longer under the control of sin and Satan, but we are now slaves of God and of his righteousness. So, we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, following Jesus’ example to us. Our salvation is not an excuse for continuing in sin. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin. No! His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Yet, so many who claim to be Christians use God’s grace as a cover-up for willful and continued sin against God. What a slap in the face to Jesus who died to save them from sin! Oh, how wrong!

Who is Our Master? (vv. 12-23)

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If we continue to live sinful lifestyles after we claim to have been saved from our sin, by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, then we are liars. And, we are lying to ourselves, for if we live sinful lifestyles, we are still enslaved to sin, not set free from sin. And, what this means is that Satan is still our slave master, not God. Jesus set us free from the dominion Satan had over our lives, if we genuinely have trusted in him to be our Savior and Lord. If we are still slaves of sin, then that leads to death, not to heaven. If we are slaves to obedience to Christ, then that is what leads to righteousness.

We are to no longer present our bodies as slaves to impurity, lust, adultery, dishonesty, and greed, etc. Now, we are to present them to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable service of worship of him; no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed in the renewing of our minds (Ro. 12:1-2).

So many people quote verse 23 of Romans 6, and they apply it to everyone who has said that they are saved, or who has said that they have believed in Jesus, or that they prayed a prayer to receive Christ. In other words, if they believe they have received God’s free gift of salvation, and thus they believe they are forgiven their sins, then they assume they have eternal life guaranteed them, no matter what.

But, we have to read verse 23 in the context of the whole chapter (and chapter 8, too). If we are still living sinful lifestyles, without regard for the commands of Christ, which we are to obey, and without regard for our Lord, and for what he went through to deliver us out of slavery to sin, then our end is not eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of hell. Yet, if we are slaves of God, the fruit we get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

In other words, Jesus’ sheep listen to him, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him, and they are the ones who can’t be snatched out of his hands (See: Jn. 10:27-30). So, we must listen to him and obey him, and no longer live to gratify the sinful desires of our flesh, for our eternity depends on it.

Just a Closer Walk with Thee / Unknown

I am weak, but Thou art strong,
Jesus, keep me from all wrong,
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more,
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom, dear Lord, to Thy shore.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

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