walk in the word
Sin / Suffering / Satan
I was coaching my son’s basketball team. It was an intense tournament game that I really wanted to win, but the referees were not cooperating. In fact, they were acting semi-insane. A blind Civil War amputee could have called a better game than they did. I felt I had every reason to give them an earful. My desire to win, which historically has been a point of great temptation for me, was threatening to overcome my desire to be a godly man.
Every Christian knows what it is like to struggle with sin. Even the Apostle Paul said, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). But that does not mean we are free to do whatever we want! He also said, “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11).
Did you get that? Paul wants us to know that, in Christ, we are dead to sin. Not apathetic toward sin. Not distanced from sin. Not a bit cold toward sin. He says that we are dead to sin!
Now I know what you’re thinking, “If I am dead to sin, why do I feel so alive?” Dead is the last word most of us would use to describe our experience. Forgiven maybe. Cleansed. Even changed. But dead?
Since there is so much confusion over what “dead to sin” really means, let’s eliminate three false understandings first.
1. Dead to sin does not mean sinless perfection—the idea that committed, mature believers can reach a place where they stop sinning completely. Whenever I teach this passage, I ask for those who have attained sinless perfection to stand. You know what? No one ever has. And if someone ever does, I will lay on them 1 John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This cannot mean sinless perfection.
2. Dead to sin does not mean our old nature is gone. The old nature is our inclination to sin—the part that fights our desire to do right. Some believe that our inclination to sin was fully eradicated when we believed in Christ, but that contradicts Scripture. James 1:14 teaches that each of us is tempted when he is first “lured and enticed by his own desire.” The tragic fact is that even in Christ, there is still something in me that wants to do what is wrong. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” I wish it were true, but unfortunately “dead to sin” definitely does not mean that the old nature is wiped out.
3. It doesn’t mean “blah, blah, blah.” Some people water down the phrase “dead to sin” completely. “Well, it just means that we are identified with Christ and when He died, we died.” Wow, that’s so unhelpful. Every time I read a statement like that in a Christian book or commentary I scream, “Dead to what? Something clearly died when I came to Christ and I have to know what it is.” I hate it when people try to smoke-screen the fact that they don’t understand something with a lot of Christian “blah, blah, blah.”
Well, if it doesn’t mean these three things, what does it mean? Simply, yet profoundly, this:
We are dead to the power of sin.
The Apostle Paul is talking about the power of sin. The penalty of sin is what sends us to hell if we have not repented of our sin and by faith embraced Christ as Savior. Most Christians understand that they are not under the penalty of sin. What we miss so often is that the power of sin has also been eliminated. Before we are in Christ, sin is the master and we are the slave. We have no choice but to sin because we are under its power. But in Christ all that changes; in Christ we are dead to the power of sin.
Picture yourself at a fork in the road. You’re facing an alluring temptation that may have beaten you many times before, or you’re facing a brutal interaction with a painful person before whom you often fall. Do you believe that person or temptation has power over you? Do you believe that you will fail again because you always have before? Or will you begin to accept by faith the truth that because of your union with Christ’s death that the power of sin is broken in your life and you can choose victory instead of failure and defeat?
In my past when I would come to a fork in the road and have to make a decision about change, there was a part of me that would always say, “I’m gonna fail again.” Deep inside me there was something that believed very strongly, “I cannot do differently. I won’t change. I’m always going to be like this. I may change for a time, but I will always revert back to those sinful inclinations.”
If you have been hearing those same kind of things, believing that you will never change and that certain persistent sins will always have power over you, I tell you Scripture says that is a lie!
The incredible, transforming promise of Romans 6 is that the power of sin is broken in your life. Now you have a choice. Before you were in Christ, you had no choice; you were a slave to sin. In Christ, we may choose to be a slave, but we don’t have to be. We can choose to do what is pleasing to the Lord. Say it out loud by faith: “Sin does not have power over me! In Christ, I am dead to the power of sin.”
brought to you by change partners