The other day I wrote about the fact that I have struggled with sin for most of my life. Even though I was baptized at age 8 (thought I’m not sure it was a true conversion), and even though I believe I had a true conversion experience at age 18, I still lived as though I was a slave to sin. Almost on a daily basis I would sin, would feel guilty, would pray for forgiveness, and would go on living as though nothing had truly changed in my life. As a Christian, this kind of living is best described by the word slavery. Everything about it makes you feel like a slave – I felt like I had very little power to stop myself from sinning, and I felt like I had very little power to change. But regardless of how I lived and regardless of my helpless feelings, I have come to see that I was not a slave, at least not in the sense of being powerless over my condition. Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32). What truth is He talking about here? He clarifies in v. 34: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” So by continuing to sin, I was a slave to sin. But because I was a believer, I no longer had the chains of my sinful condition strapped to my arms and legs. Jesus had taken those off already at the Cross, and by continuing to sin, I was now a slave by choice.
A slave by choice? That’s almost oxymoronic, is it not? But if we come to a true understanding of the Gospel, we will quickly see that continuing to be a slave to sin, even though we are in Christ, is very oxymoronic! The problem is that we don’t have a true understanding of the Gospel. At least, we don’t have a true understanding of the WHOLE Gospel.
Today’s lesson from The Power of the Gospel is titled An Anatomy of the Old Self, and in this lesson a very important definition is given for the Gospel: “The Gospel is a proclamation of your freedom won on the Cross.”** I think we so often see the Gospel as the action of Christ granting us forgiveness of sin when we believe in Him and trust Him for salvation. And this is no doubt a very important part of the Gospel message, and it is definitely a freeing thought – to no longer be bound by the consequences of sin! But the lesson today points out that the Gospel is even more: “The message of the Gospel is that you have not only been set free from the consequences of sin. You have also been set free from the power of sin.”**
Our Old Selves
The Gospel distinguishes between the person you are before coming to Christ, and the person you are afterwards. The Old Self is described as “…being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” (Ephesians 4:22). This corruption is not a quick destruction, but a continual and ever-increasing decaying from the inside-out. Just as we are repulsed by a decaying body (be it human or animal – it stinks either way, according to my sources on CSI…), God is repulsed by the decay occuring in our bodies. He handled this problem by killing off the Old Self – “…our old self was crucified with [Christ] so that the body of sin might be done away with…” (Romans 6:6). He didn’t just crucify a few select people, either – He crucified everyone’s Old Self: “…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, emphasis added). That doesn’t mean everyone is saved and set free from the slavery to sin. The lesson puts it this way:
According to the Bible, everyone you see walking on the streets today died in Christ 2000 years ago. This is a fact established in heaven. But for this fact to become a personal reality, it must be embraced by faith. Only through personal faith does the Cross of Christ translate into salvation for each individual person. This realization that you personally were crucified in Christ is a liberating revelation. Suddenly the struggle of dealing with the issues of life gives way to a daily walk of faith and reliance on God. Your focus has changed from yourself to God, which is the essence of faith in operation.**
The Big Question
So if I have already died to sin, why do I continue to sin? That’s a very good question! And the answer is that I have yet to embrace the fact that I was personally crucified in Christ, and therefore sin no longer has a hold on me. It seems so simple, almost to the point to where we brush it off as too simple. All I have to do is believe that I’m not a slave to sin, because of Christ’s work on the Cross, and I suddenly stop sinning altogether? Well, probably not, because we, as humans, are notoriously wishy-washy when it comes to our convictions. But during those times that we are strong in our belief that this is the truth, it has a supernatural ability to free us from the power of sin.
At some point in the next few days, I hope to write a post about the practical application of today’s lesson – how “…to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Until then, I look forward to basking in the truth of today’s message, and feeling as free as I truly am.
** From Lesson 7: An Anatomy of the Old Self, from The Power of the Gospel, OBC