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Monday, August 18, 2008

Living for God in our New Life

The apostle Paul made it clear that we are either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness. The entire sixth chapter of the book of Romans talks about the change Christians make when they chose to follow God, put off the “old man” and his sinful life in baptism, and rise to “walk in newness of life.”

Baptism represents more than just a cleansing from sins: it demonstrates that we have committed ourselves to a new way of life dedicated to God. When we put away our old life enslaved to sin, that isn’t where our new birth ends. Paul says, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

Not only do we put aside certain things, but we are to add certain characteristics as we grow in Christ. Paul, in Galatians 5:22-23, describes the fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

In addition, a servant of the Lord “must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). As we grow in Christ, we are to "add" to our faith "virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love" (2 Peter 1:5-7). If we possess these characteristics in our lives, we will be fruitful for the Lord.

When we make the decision to no longer let sin rule our lives, we do so by “obeying from the heart that form of doctrine to which we were delivered” (Romans 6:17). Obedience is necessary, and it must come from the heart. God is just as concerned about our motivation for following Him as He is about what we do. It's also important that our obedience is in accordance with the doctrine the apostles delivered by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. A sobering scene is depicted by Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" These individuals thought they were doing something good for the Lord, but their acts were not recognized by Jesus because they were not in accordance to God's will.

Although we will from time to time fail and stray from following God, the grace of God does not give us a license to continue in sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Returning to our former life of continual, willful, deliberate sin should be just as repulsive as a dog returning to eat his own vomit or “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:21-22).

As a babe in Christ, I used to worry about sins committed in ignorance. How could I be forgiven if I was unaware of my sin or forgot to ask for forgiveness?

John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Walking in the light means we are walking with Jesus and are in fellowship with other believers. The fact that Jesus’ blood cleanses us from sin while we are walking in the light tells us that sin does not automatically kick us out of God’s grace. We can sin while in fellowship with God and be forgiven.

But beware. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). God’s grace does not tell us “go ahead and sin.” But rather, God’s grace instructs us to live righteously by picking ourselves up after we fall and keep on keeping on.