How do you usually approach improving yourself? Do you do it piecemeal? Do you use motivational phrases? We know that God urges us to be like Jesus. Yet, have we considered how He speaks of getting there?
The reason I ask these question is that I was reacquainted with an interesting encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It put some light on why Jesus urges us to deal so harshly with ourselves when we sin. Jesus said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.” (Matthew 18:8) That does sound harsh, doesn’t it? I find it hard to imagine anyone not finding such a statement harsh. Yet, Matthew records Jesus saying this not once, but twice in His ministry. (see Matthew 5:30) A general rule of thumb in interpreting Scripture: if God says something more than once, then we better pay close attention because we obviously will struggle with that!
So, I was reminded of this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It sheds light on why Jesus was so serious about sin. Paul says,
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?Romans 6:1-2
I know we usually think of this passage as one of those encouraging passages on our eventually victory over sin in the resurrection. As Jesus was resurrected to glory, so we shall be resurrected to glory. However, that truth (which is wonderfully true!) is just the background for what Paul is urging us to embrace. Paul is urging us to embrace rebellion as our normal way of life. Rebellion, you ask? Yes, rebellion. Paul is urging us to rebel in a new way. He is urging us to rebel against the false king – Sin. He says,
6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.Romans 6:6-7
Paul’s declaration is that those who believe in Jesus have died to sin. We have died to king sin. Paul is using “kingdom” imagery. The dead do not have to obey the government anymore. The government that Paul is talking about in this passage is personal sin. We have died in Christ to king sin. Sin no longer has legitimate dominion over us. Do we see it that way? In our struggle to be more like Jesus, have we given thought to what power sin legitimately has in us anymore? Sin is an illegitimate master. We are free!
What is the proper response of a free person when someone wants to take over their life again? They rebel. They say no. They fight back. So Paul urges us,
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.Romans 6:12-13
“Do not let sin reign.” Such mild words, yet they are so rebellious! When sin calls, I have an imperative to truly fight back with a clear intention: the death of sin in me. Rebellion, clear and simple. As I right this, I am reminded of America’s Declaration of Independence. Those revolutionaries did not just declare their independence. They then fought a war to achieve it. Patrick Henry declaration, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” was the turning point of Virginia’s discussion regarding the American revolution. This is Paul’s urging in Romans 6. Our freedom from sin is worth rebellion. Sin must not reign anymore! It has got me thinking… am I fighting the continued attempts of sin to be king over me? Do I fight on purpose, or do I just go along with the commands of sin? I intend to renew my fight against sin. I am sure sin will also fight back, those who rebel must be ready for that. Yet, freedom is worth the fight for I want the freedom to love people faithfully; and I want to be able to approach God in the holiness of Christ. Freedom is worth a little rebellion!
Something to think about,