Three principles for real change:
1 - Realize the breadth and scope of our cosmic unity
2 - Recognize the shape of our spiritual slavery
3 - Live daily in our new identity
Romans 6:8-14 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Cosmic Unity, Life and Death
Imagine a rich person, who became wealthy through the brilliance and diligence of effort. Now they get married. How do the riches come to the new spouse? Not through earning them, but through legal union. The first person works hard and amasses wealth, the second person just says, “I do, and lights a candle!”
What an amazing picture of grace. Jesus did good. The nobility and greatness and sacrifice and victory He won… was amazing. God looks at Jesus and His heart bursts with pride and love at the things His Son has accomplished. Because of grace, Romans 6 is saying that legally, everything Jesus Christ has done is true of you. The determining factor is not your past, but Christ’s past. He sees you in the light of the beauty and glory and goodness of Christ. We are joined with His death, and this is good news.
But we’re also joined to His life. When we believe, we’re unalterably connected to the life of Christ, past, present and future. The first century stoics had an idea called (in the greek), palingenesea. It was basically, the rebirth of the cosmos, in fire, where the world was undone and remade anew. The fire would come and cleanse and destroy and the world would be born again… in an endless cycle.
The New Testament takes the idea of palingenesea and uses it as a metaphor for the transforming nature of the gospel. Jesus says that instead of an endless cycle, God will have one palingenesea (Matthew 19) and everything in the universe will be set to right. Titus (chapter 3) compares the coming palingenesea in the last days to the redemption we experience now… and it’s an exciting thought.
The power of Christ, in His life and victory, comes to us now in the work of the Holy Spirit. The outshinings of miracles from Jesus and the early church (and in answer to prayer today) is, in a way of speaking, a preview of the palingenesea. We’re not just joined with Christ in death, but we’re joined now in the power of His life, where death, cancer, sin, poverty, sickness and everything less than perfect in God’s sight will unravel at the palingenesea.
Our goals are too small… we have a power source in the love of God that is beyond our imagining!
The Shape of Our Spiritual Slavery
The question arises from Paul’s teaching: if salvation is received, not achieved, given, not earned… why not live any way you want? Why would you need or want to change anything? One way Paul answers this question is through an exploration of slavery and the nature of the human heart.
Martin Luther said the 1st commandment is the basis for all the others. You never break any other commandment until you break that one. If you overwork, you’ve put the god of money, or achievement, or status before the God of heaven. If you can’t give up the bad relationship, you’ve made an idol of male or female affection… and that becomes a god and spiritual master over us, putting us in slavery.
If we live any way we want, even though grace covers us… we’ll be captured by work, or politics, or money, and it will cripple our lives and influence.
This is why we don’t live any way we want. That approach is comically, and fatally naive about how the human heart works. The only way to not be completely out of control, with sin reigning over us completely is to obey the first commandment and put God on the throne fully.
Live Daily Out of Our New Identity…
We don’t lack any resources as a Christian. But those resources need to be deployed. If we ever fail to change, we’re not remembering who we really are… that’s the key.
The lie of the serpent in the garden is the same lie that hinders us today. Namely, “if you fully obey God - if you do everything He tells you to do, He will abuse you. He’ll hold you back, He’ll withhold knowledge and good things from you. He’ll take away the thing you really want.” Satan is still telling us the same lie. If we really sell out to God, He’ll take away the thing we’re dreaming of. And we’re afraid. We’re afraid to relinquish control and truly let God be God in our lives.
We have to let the gospel inflame our heart. And be changed by the transforming grace of selfless love. Even though Christ had all power, He came as a servant, He died as a servant. He came gently. We can trust God because of the way that He came, because of how Jesus lived and died, we know that He is for us and not against us.
So jump in! We have to live daily in a way that sets free the power of the death and life of Christ in our character, words and actions. Dare to pray big prayers and take big steps and dream gigantic dreams… being everything God is calling us to be!