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Friday, August 8, 2008

Whose Slave are You?

One of the secrets to selling is creating a need. If people believe they have a need for something, they are more likely to buy it. When it comes to the gospel of Christ and the salvation it offers, some people are not convinced they “need” to be saved; therefore, they do not “buy” the solution.

Every person sins. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Some may ask, “So what?” In Romans 6:23, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” Sin “earns” us an eternal separation from God, which is what “death” refers to in this context. In the same breath, Paul tells us what the solution is: “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Imagine that. Man sins against God, and God offers him a gift! “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us […]For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10). God's gift is freedom from the guilt of our sin and the penalty our sins bring.

The “good news” can be summed up in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Mankind has done nothing to obligate God to save us. God offers his forgiveness based on His grace and not on anything that we have done to “earn” His gift. However, we have to accept the gift. When someone purchases a gift for us, we can refuse it. The same is true of God’s gift. The fact that God has prepared a gift for us does not mean the gift is automatically transferred into our possession. What does God expect? Many will tell you, “nothing.” Or “just believe.” But is that what the Bible teaches?

Obviously, we have to believe. We cannot accept a gift from an “imaginary” friend, and many believe God is a figment of man’s imagination. One of the most popular passages quoted is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Belief is necessary if we do not wish to “perish” and instead have everlasting life. Without belief, we are already condemned, so nothing further is necessary in order for us to be condemned (John 3:18).

Can we believe and continue living in sin? Repenting, or turning away from our sins, is necessary. In Luke 13:3, Jesus says, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will likewise perish.” Peter tells a crowd, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repentance and baptism are necessary in order to receive the forgiveness of sins.

Baptism “into Christ” is the point in which we die to sin and are raised in the newness of life as a new creation (Romans 6:4-6). The old man, who was enslaved to sin, dies with Christ and is raised by God to walk “in newness of life.” To claim we are saved prior to baptism means we are “burying” the new man. Our faith does not rest in ourselves or the “magic” of water. Rather, our faith is in “the working of God” (Colossians 2:12).

We also must be willing to confess our faith in Jesus. If we deny Christ, He will deny us before God. “Therefore, whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven,” says Jesus in Matthew 10:33. Paul also writes, “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

I’ve never understood those who confess to be Christians yet continue to live as they wish. We are either slaves of righteousness or slaves of sin (see Romans chapter 6). Even when we do not choose, we do choose. By not choosing to serve God, we choose to serve sin. Those are the only two options. And once we become a Christian, we are released from the slavery of sin. So why do some continue to practice sin? Everyone sins (1 John 1:8). But there is a difference between committing an occasional sin and being a servant of sin. Instead of using our lives to practice unrighteousness, we should use our lives to bring glory to God. Sin should no longer “rule” or have dominion over us (Romans 6:14).

Just as death no longer has dominion or rule over Christ because He conquered death when He was raised from the dead, the Christian should not allow sin to have dominion over him since he conquered sin when he died with Christ in baptism and rose a new creation.

In the next entry, we will discuss what it means to be a slave of righteousness.