The good news of God is that in Christ there is salvation for all who trust Jesus; all who believe that he is the Son of God who has saved us. But what does God saving me from the power of sin mean for my daily life? Does it mean that I am now free to live however I want? It seems that this was quite a common supposition (it’s been mentioned a few times since Romans 3:3!) – and I can understand that. If Jesus has paid the price for all my sins – surely there’s nothing I can do that he hasn’t already paid for. We saw in Romans 5 that God’s grace can’t be outpowered by sin. So shouldn’t I get my metaphorical money’s worth?
But to think like that is to completely miss the point. Being saved is more than just a surface-level thing. To be saved means to be changed into a new person. A Christian is someone who has died to sin. In baptism, Christians symbolically join Christ in his death. Part of what we do when we get baptised is to acknowledge that our old self apart from Christ is dead with him. To be baptised speaks of becoming a new person; speaks of the new life that Christ gives us. We live anew because of his everlasting life. Our old self is dead.
Paul says that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. In dying with Jesus, we are set free from the mastery of sin. Not that baptism is magic: we are saved by trusting in Jesus. But, in a sense, when we are baptised we are spiritually linked with Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism is a symbol – but it’s also a spiritual sacrament.
In Christ we are dead to sin. But until he comes and makes us new, we need to live that truth out. We are not yet perfect as Jesus is – but we can choose to live out who we are in Christ. We are dead to sin in him – so we should consider ourselves dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ. We are freed from sin’s power – so we should not let sin control how we live. We should refuse to give in to our sinful desires. We should instead – knowing that we are God’s – give ourselves completely to God.
As those who are saved by God’s gracious gift of Jesus, we live in the freedom of God’s grace, freed from the requirements of the law. The law cannot make us any more right with God than we already are. But that doesn’t give us an excuse to keep sinning. The fact is that we become the slaves of whatever we obey. We can choose to keep obeying sin: I’m talking about a heart which is steadfastly, deliberately and persistently set to do evil. Which means that we are not a child of God.
But those who have been saved have their whole being set on pleasing God. Which means that we obey God. We follow Jesus. And that’s a choice which, I think, we need to be constantly reaffirming. Paul writes to those who are obeying the gospel and tells them to give themselves to be slaves to righteous living. Not to earn salvation; but because we have received the free gift of God that is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Father, thank you for setting me free from the power of sin. Thank you that I have died with you, Jesus, and that because you live I know that I too will live. I am alive because of you. Now, by your Spirit, Father, please help me to mortify the sin that is within me. Help me to set my heart – my whole being – on pleasing you. I know that I am dead to sin. Make that an ever more-present reality in my life. Forgive me for the times when I fail; when I give in to my sinful desires. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. And with each new moment, may my thoughts, and words and deeds be ever more like Jesus’.