In the last post we talked about the promise of the Gospel: because of grace sin will no longer have power over us, and we will escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. We talked about the fact that this is not a heart-stopping, frightening requirement of the Gospel, but that it is a thrilling, happy, and central benefit of the Gospel.
But we also talked about the fact that many or most Christians have no idea how to actually obtain that benefit.
I have now answered the question, do Christians sin? Please DO NOT interpret anything that follows as meaning that Christians receive a sudden impartation of sinless perfection. Please DO NOT interpret anything that follows as meaning that Christians do not need forgiveness of sin on an ongoing basis. Please DO NOT interpret anything that follows as meaning you are required to be perfect.
Please DO interpret what follows as meaning that you can live a life marked by obedience to Jesus and the fruit of the Spirit. DO interpret it to mean that, with the help of the family of God (Heb. 3:13), you can overcome those “pet” and “besetting” sins that damage your relationship with God and others.
My Target Audience
All of what follows is written to those who know that Jesus is God’s Anointed King and have submitted to him in baptism, burying their old lives there and rising to a new life in Jesus. If that has not happened to you, then none of the following will apply. You need to first believe the Gospel that Jesus is the King, the Son of the Living God. You also need to be baptized in surrender to King Jesus.
In Romans 6:11, Paul tells us to “reckon” that we are dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus. He tells us a little earlier in the chapter that this death and resurrection happened in baptism, whether we knew it or not (“Do you not know?”—v. 3).
There are some things we need to know are true. We need to agree with God that they are true, whether we knew them before or not. We died to sin in our baptismal burial. We rose to new life in King Jesus in that burial.
We all long to be like Paul, who said, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but God’s Messiah King lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). We think Paul is special because he lived like this.
Paul didn’t think so, however. He was just doing what he told us to do. Reckon. Regard yourself, because Jesus said so, as dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus. Here’s where Paul told us that’s what he was doing:
[We have] concluded this, that one died for all, therefore everyone died. (2 Cor. 5:15)
Paul told us in Romans 6:11 to write it down that it is as true for us as it was for him. We are dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus. Here in 2 Corinthians, he is telling us that he concludes it as true for every man that is “in the King” (v. 16), it is true that they are new creations, dead with Jesus in his death, and risen—a new creation—in baptism.
To appropriate the grace of redemption, our starting point is to believe that Jesus is God’s Anointed King, proven to be so by the resurrection from the dead, be baptized in his name, receive the Holy Spirit, and then regard (reckon) it as true that we were buried and arose to a new life in Jesus in baptism.
That’s the starting point. No real time span is involved in that last paragraph. Most of you are ready to start there.
Being ready, here is what it means to go on, to walk in the Spirit, and to see and reap the benefits of grace.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
If you have not been able, in the past, to live like Paul did, not in the flesh, but letting King Jesus live through you, then all the above should transform your way of thinking about yourself.
You regard yourself as crucified with the King, who died for everyone. You judge as Paul judged, that if he died for everyone, then everyone died. You should be reckoning what Paul told you to reckon, that you are dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus.
If that is true, God has given us one main command to change everything we do … just one.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
This is written everywhere:
- Look to Jesus … Consider him … (Heb. 12:2-3)
- … that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those that are after the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those that are after the Spirit [mind] the things of the Spirit. (Rom. 8:4-5)
- For though we walk according to the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down reasonings and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the King. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
- Though our outward man is perishing, yet our inward man is being renewed daily, for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us an eternal weight of glory, while we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. (2 Cor. 4:16b-18)
- If you are risen with the King, seek those things which are above, where the King is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your thoughts on things above, not on things on the earth, for you are dead, and your life is hidden with the King in God.
You see the point. Too often we battle the flesh by dwelling on the flesh. “How will I overcome this jealousy? I will think about this situation I am jealous about, and I will try to forgive, and to stop being jealous.”
We all know this does not work. It doesn’t work for jealousy, for anger, for lust, for greed, for envy, for division, or for anything else. We have to get our mind off the things of the flesh, and we need to set our minds on Jesus.
First and foremost, escaping the corruption that is in the world through lust entails setting our minds on things above.
In fact, as we saw above, Paul equates walking in the Spirit with setting our minds on spiritual things (Rom. 8:5-6). He goes on to say that the mind set on the flesh is death and cannot please God, while the mind set on the Spirit, that is, on spiritual things, things which cannot be seen, is life and peace.
How do we grow into the image of the Lord? “We all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
We have one job, and that is turn our eyes to Jesus all the time.
In the quotes above, we touched on warfare. Paul said he had weapons that were not carnal that he used to “bring every thought into captivity to the King.”
I don’t think Paul was talking about his own thoughts. He was battling for the churches, getting their minds where they were supposed to be. You can see it in his letters, fighting against the Judaizers, who would bring the church under the Law, which is powerless to overcome the sin in the flesh. He wanted the churches walking in the Spirit, empowered by thoughts that focused on things above, not on the things of the earth.
Let no one judge you in regard to food or drink or in regard to a holy day or the new moon or the Sabbath, which are a shadow of things to come. The body [that casts the shadow] belongs to the King. Let no man beguile you from your reward … not holding fast to the head … Therefore, if you are dead with the King to the elementary things of the world, why, as though you live in the world, do you subject yourself to decrees—don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle; which are destined to perish with misuse—after the commandments and teachings of men? These things have an appearance of wisdom in worship of the will, humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no use against the indulgence of the flesh. If then, your risen with the King, seek those things which are above, where the King sits at the right hand of God. (Col. 2:16-3:1)
Paul devoted himself to helping the churches keep their minds set on the right things. As he told the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).
We, too, have to enter this as a battle. Contrary to what we are often told, this setting our mind on the things of the Spirit does not happen automatically, but takes diligent and consistent choosing.
Peter tells us that great and precious promises lead us to deliverance from the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:3-4), but knowing that, he tells us, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith moral excellence …”
While Peter doesn’t specifically say, “Set your mind on the Spirit to accomplish this,” he does tell us that the ones who are not doing this are “blind and cannot see far.” They have “forgotten that they were purged from their old sins.”
We have to be looking at things above, where Jesus is, all the time. We cannot forget that we are “dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus.” If we are going to remember, it is because we are “giving all diligence.”
In his first letter, he tells us that the devil is always out to get us, trying to sway us from that holy course upon which God has set us. Paul tells us one of the way he does that is by getting us to focus on “don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle” rather than on Jesus. Peter tells us to resist him, “steadfast in the faith.”
Where is our faith? Our faith is in the King, and if we will keep our eyes on him, the devil will not be able to triumph.
This is as important as everything else I have written. It is not an addition, at the end, a nice boost to the individual practice of walking in the Spirit.
Earlier, when I quoted the last part of Colossians 2 through Colossians 3:1, I left out a passage because it was important enough to require its own section. That passage concerns those false teachers, who do not hold fast to the head, and it is found in 2:19:
… and not holding fast to the head, from which the whole body is supplied by joints and ligaments, and knit together, grows with a growth from God.
At the ground level of the church, we need each other for exhortation. The devil goes around like a roaring lion, looking for people to devour, just as he once looked to devour Jesus, which, of course, he could not do. What he tried, though, was to get Jesus to get his eyes on himself. “You are the Son of God. You’re hungry, so prove you’re the Son of God by turning this stone to beread.” When that didn’t work, he tried to get Jesus to care about glory for himself or to prove that God would take special care of him.
Each time, Jesus turned not only back to Scripture, but to his Father. I only worship the Father. I don’t tempt the Father. The Father’s words are the only food I need.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that we need to exhort one another so that sin doesn’t deceive our hearts. Jesus was too much for the devil, but alone it is likely that we are not. We will think we are doing God a service, praying in faith, when in fact we are tempting God, or seeking in prayer to fulfill our own lusts, or pursuing our own glory by acts of miraculous power.
But Colossians 2:19 takes it even farther. Not only do we need each other’s exhortation to keep our eyes on Jesus, not deceived into serving ourselves, but we grow together.
Do you see the body parts that are mentioned in Colossians 2:19? Paul mentions joints and ligaments, and he mentions them in Ephesians 4:16, where he again tells us that we grow togther as each part does its share. But in both cases, Ephesians 4:16 and Colossians 2:19, the supply for growth comes from the joints and ligaments.
A joint is not a body part. A joint is the joining of two body parts. Ligaments are holding body parts together.
You are a body part of the body of our Lord Jesus. You are not a joint or a ligament, however. You do not hold body parts together. Something else hold body parts together. Paul tells us what that something is in the next chapter.
Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Col. 3:17)
We need each other. We have to exhort one another (Heb. 3:13). We have to consider one another, so that we provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24,25). However, if we are going to grow with a growth that is from God, then we must grow together, and the supply for that growth will be in the joints, in the perfect bond that unites: love.
By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (Jn. 13:35)
The Imperfection of This Teaching
The things I have written here can transform the way you think about Christianity, about Jesus, and about yourself. Into the 2,700 words of this blog post, I have tried to pack practical, effective teaching, all taught to me by others, and all of which I have seen work.
As a mentor has told me repeatedly, however, salvation is not a plan, but a Man.
If what I have written above is a plan or formula, it will fail you. If you put these things into practice along with others who pursue righteousness, faith, peace, and love from a pure heart, then it will not fail you. The words of God will feed you, and the members of Jesus around you will stabilize you.
I am absolutely certain that I have missed important concepts. I am certain that I have said some things poorly. I am certain that everything you need for life and godliness is not going to be supplied by 2,700 words in a blog post.
I am also certain that if you reckon as true what God has said about you, seek first the kingdom of God, letting the other things that draw your attention fall away, and if you join yourself to those who pursue love, righteousness, faith, and peace out of a pure heart, that you will find the One to whom you look, Jesus the Savior King, to be mighty to save.