“Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.” (John Stott)
Just as Christ died on the cross, so our sin is nailed to it with Him.
Last week we explored Romans 6 and the idea that when Christ died, He died to the power, guilt, and dominion of sin. After rising from the dead, no temptation, no worldly power, and no demonic force could touch Him. He is a part of the new sinless creation.
Through the Spirit we are united with the crucified and risen Jesus. Because we are united with Him, we can live a new life.
Reckon Yourself Dead
If this new life Christ lives in the heavenly realms and is real, and if His Spirit is truly in us, sharing that life with our spirits, then how do we experience and taste of that life? We experience it by faith.
This is not a fools-hope sort of faith, but the kind of faith spoken about in the book of Hebrews: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). In other words, faith is that disposition in our hearts that makes the things we long for seem real to us, that deep conviction that enables us to feel and act as if certain unseen things are as visible as the hand in front of our face. Having this kind of faith means that we possess a gut-level conviction: That these invisible and heavenly realities are truly real.
When it came to slaying sin, Paul had a “reckoning” faith: “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:11, NKJV). Other translations say count yourselves, or consider yourselves dead to sin. In other words, “You already believe that Christ is dead to sin, and that you are united to Him in His death. So reckon yourself also as a dead man/woman: Dead to this age which is passing away; dead to the lure of sin in your body; dead to the voices of your culture that try to shape your values; dead to the demonic rulers that hold sway over this world. If you really believe the new age has already dawned in Christ, then reckon yourself a part of that age, where sin does not even exist, where all things are set right.”
The Secret of Slaying Sin
Just as the Spirit empowered Christ to live victorious over temptation, so the Spirit empowers us. The Spirit is the One that will inspire in us the kind of “reckoning faith” needed to overcome. However, many Christians who wish to fight the power of sin in their lives lack an understanding of how the Spirit will empower them.
For some, their hearts are focused only on their own efforts to slay sin: More prayer, more fasting, more service, and more trying. These people are doomed to failure in the long haul, for the only thing they have the power to do is trade one sin for another. Sin will always be their master.
For others, their hearts are focused on the power of the Holy Spirit within them, but they aren’t sure how to rely on the Spirit. These people also turn to fasting, prayer, and personal worship. Moreover, they realize there is no power in these disciplines themselves; only the Spirit ultimately transforms us. But they treat the Spirit more like an electrical source that they must plug themselves into, or an energy drink they must ingest. Somehow, by just taking in a Spirit-charged environment of the Bible, fervent worship, and Christian fellowship, they will get the “boost” they need to obey God.
The Spirit is certainly here and will impart power and new life to us, but not, as it were, a mere boost to human willpower. When the Spirit comes in power, He comes not as a naked surge of power, but clothed with words of truth and visions of Christ’s glory (John 16:13-15). When the Spirit empowers, He does not give a boost to our self-confidence, but He comes to convict us of our depravity (John 16:8-11). The Spirit is not an impersonal substance but a real Person who comes to communicate a powerful vision of who Christ is and how deeply we need Him. Through this new inner vision of Christ, He empowers the whole person (mind, emotion, and will) to rely in faith on Christ alone for resurrection power which transforms us from the inside out.
Paul wrote, “[T]hose who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Just what are the things of the Spirit? Simply put, the Spirit is all about Christ. Period. He loves Christ. He is enthralled with Christ. He remembers and communicates perfectly the death of Christ and all its benefits. He sees Jesus’ nail pierced hands and His risen body. He sees perfectly the resurrected Christ in all His glory. He sees Him in perfect unity with the Father. He overhears their intimate conversations. He sees the wonderful, supernatural life Jesus enjoys every moment at His Father’s side. He comes to share that vision with our minds and imaginations. Moreover He inspires in us an expectation that we, someday, will experience the same glory.
And as we behold and grow in our fascination with Christ, the image of God’s glory, we shall be transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6). The more we take the focus off of ourselves (our failures, our ministries, our aspirations, our petty interests), and the more we become enthralled with the risen Christ, the more vital our union with Christ will become to us.
Tim Keller once said,
“Many people believe in propositions. They believe the historical facts about Jesus, but their real agenda is personal success. So they go to Christ when they want to and need to. Paul says that a Christian is someone who has turned all that around so that personal success is defined by knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, and everything else becomes second.”
Read Part 7