Alive from the Dead
Is it possible to live the Christian life?
One troubling passage in the New Testament for believers is the one scripted by the Apostle Paul who wrote, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:11)."[emphasis mine]
Aside from yielding our members, the apostle brings forward a fundamental truth that says we are alive from the dead. While the value of this truth is good news, it wars against the reality of the Christian walk. What we discover after becoming a new man in Christ is the old life appears to be very much alive and demands no less than before. The question then becomes, "If we are new creations in Christ then why do we find ourselves, on occasion, entertaining the old life?"
A B Simson writes:
The answer is our failure to "reckon our old life dead and our inability to abide in the faith of our resurrection" is what drags us back. We believe the old life is still alive that makes it real and keeps a believer from overcoming it. This is the principle which underlies the whole Gospel system that we receive according to the reckoning of our faith (Matthew 9:29). The magic wand of faith will lay all the ghosts that can rise in the cemetery of your soul; and the spirit of doubt will bring them up from the grave to haunt believers as long as they continue to question. The only way for us to die, is by surrendering self to Christ and then reckoning it to be dead with Him. While Simson is spot-on, failure for the believer is a portentous fact, and while hard to understand, it is most often the result of having a double mind (2 Corinthians 10:5-6; James 1:8). The only power sin has in a believer's life is the power given to it by doubting what is known (Hebrews 4:11) and by neglecting what is to be known (Ephesians 6:11). Doubt and neglect are the gremlins of unbelief the enemy uses to whisper, "Hath God really said your old man is dead and you're a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?" Doubt is like a briar patch that entangles the heart of a believer in piercing thorns of unbelief, capturing the soul in anguish and defeat. So then, is it even possible to live the Christian life?
"Once we are saved by faith, however, we are called to certain actions befitting our calling as saints of God. 'But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).' Saints are not sinless, but the lives of saints do reflect the reality of the presence of Christ in our hearts, in whom we 'live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28)." While believers are not what they should be they are no longer what they use to be and herein the power of God at work in us (Philippians 2:13).
Paul describes genuine believers as a works in progress (Philippians 1:6), imperfect to be sure but with eyes on the prize they push forward to the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Some in the church look upon such believers as radical for Christ and warn about overdoing the "religious thing." They quip, "Do not become so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good." Of course, this type of distorted thinking is unbiblical. It is only when we focus on Christ, take up our cross, and walk in the way of the Shepherd that we are of any earthly value (Ephesians 2:10)!
Failure to walk perfectly before the Lord reminds me of Peter who miraculously walked on water by faith and accomplished the impossible, for a few steps anyway (Matthew 14:22-33). We know Peter sank into his watery circumstance by taking his eyes off the source of his incredible walk. The faith of the apostle morphed into doubt and doubt into failure. The wind and waves broke Peter's gaze and what was possible by faith became impossible by doubt. Doubt is an enemy of the soul, a fiery dart from the enemy no less (Ephesians 6:16). While doubt brings despair and fear and leads to moral failure, faith brings hope and courage and leads to victory (Revelation 2:7).
There is a lesson here for those alive from the dead (Colossians 2:9-12). The old life is dead and buried, having no hold on us (Romans 6:11). But, the old life can be like an unclean old friend who comes knocking at the door, a vain imagination with power to whisper about the good old days. The Bible says our old friend at the door is not real, just an old haunting memory from another time we would do well to forget.
The take-away is we may choose to entertain the old friend or, by faith, cast him away to the cemetery of our soul where he belongs (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). And if we do, then it will be possible to live the Christian life in victory.
1. Worthy Christian Library – A B Simson – The Self Life and the Christ Life – Edited
2. Got Questions – Are Christians sinners, saints, or both?
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