Hi everyone, Rob here. In Romans 6 Paul writes this:
If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realise we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace – a new life in a new land!…Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.
Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life – no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
I think that to understand grace we need to understand sin. We need to know what we’ve actually been rescued from. Sin is not primarily all the bad things that we’ve ever done. It’s the false allegiance that we’ve lived our lives out of. So in Genesis 1, with the help of the serpent or Satan, Adam and Eve transferred their allegiance from living for God and his domain to living for themselves. They ate the fruit so they would be like God knowing good and evil.
We are all born into this false allegiance that is then reinforced by Satan and his lies. So when we look at what we call sinful actions we are looking at actions that arise from selfishness – living for ourselves. Idolatry, greed, lust, lies, rage, whether they exist in large amounts or small, are actions that stem from bowing the knee to self, which in turn is what our enemy the serpent, has always wanted us to do. He wants us to believe that we are self-sufficient, without need or desire for a relationship with God. If we apply that definition of sin to the biblical story I think we find a pretty coherent picture.
You can also see that the problem with sin is when it works. When manipulation gets results, when gossip gets us attention, when greed leads to success, when lies get us the thing we want, that’s when sin is at its most dangerous. Violence and hatred has led to power and land for ISIS. Playing fire with lust led to 30 years of success for Madonna. And convincing ourselves of the lie that we’re not worthy of God’s love has led to millions of believers not having to get too close to God for their own comfort.
That is getting close to home, isn’t it? But we need to go there if we are to live the new life that Jesus has promised us. We need to confront the old allegiances to self wherever they lie, offer them to Jesus and let him nail them to the cross to die with him – a decisive end to that sin-miserable life.
On the cross Jesus takes away our sin; he takes away our old heart of selfishness, that deep allegiance to our own glory, and he replaces it with a heart of flesh, a new heart filled with his Spirit. The fruit of that Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. These are the qualities of Jesus that he passes onto us. In other words this new life of ours is profoundly relational. It is about what we give to relationships, not what we get from them. It’s about loving our neighbour and not using them. It’s about loving our enemies and not judging them. And of course it’s about loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind because we are now free to. Our eyes are off ourselves. As Tim Keller says, it’s not about thinking less of ourselves, it’s about thinking of ourselves less.