Since eternal life is free and can never be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord?

In John 10:28-29, we discovered that believers in Jesus are secure forever because eternal life is a gift which can never be lost. But someone may say, “Since eternal life is free through believing in Jesus and cannot be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord? What is to keep me from living like the devil since I know I will go to heaven after believing in Jesus? There are several incentives for living a godly life after believing in Jesus for the gift of eternal life. We will look at four of them:

1. GRATITUDE: When a sinner believes in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of eternal life, the most natural response is a heart full of thanksgiving.  The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19). When you are convinced God loves you no matter what and that His arms of grace are always open for you no matter how badly you fail or fall, you will want to do what He tells you to do out of gratitude and because you know He wants the best for you (2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20).

For example, let’s say you are drowning in the ocean, and a man on the seashore hears your cries for help and swims out to save you from certain death. After he brings you safely back to shore, you ask him, “How can I ever thank you for saving me?” He replies, “You would have done the same thing for me,” and then he drives off on his motorcycle. Two weeks later you are driving your car down the highway and you notice the same man standing beside the road next to his motorcycle which has two flat tires. The man is frantically waving his hands to get you to stop, but you just wave at him and keep going. That, my friends, is no way to thank the man who saved you from drowning. Likewise, when we fail to live for the Lord, we are still saved, but that is no way to thank our Savior who saved us from an eternity burning in the lake of fire.

2. GOD’S DISCIPLINE: Just as an earthly father disciplines his wayward children, so God will discipline His disobedient child (Hebrews 12:5-11). It is possible for a believer to be more miserable living outside of God’s will than it would have been to remain a non-Christian. If a believer continues in sin long enough, God may even take his or her physical life (cf. I Corinthians 11:29-32). Knowing the price of sin in a Christian’s life ought to be a strong motivation for godly living. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

3. YOUR NEW IDENTITY: When a person believes or trusts in Christ for the gift of eternal life, God’s grace gives him a new identity or capacity to overcome sin and live for the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; I John 3:1-9). Romans 6:14-18 says, 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

When we become Christians, we are under a new authority. We are now under God’s grace, not the law. When we realize and submit to Christ’s rule over us, regardless of our feelings, our sinful flesh progressively loses its domination over us, and the grace of God is activated in our lives. We then obey because of our relationship with Jesus. Some immature Christians might think that living under grace means they can go on sinning. But Paul refutes this thinking. If you are living under grace, you will actually keep the law. And if you don’t keep the law, it only proves you’re not operating under the grace of God. Christians obey the standard, but the motivation isn’t the standard. The motivation is God’s grace. The more believers experience the grace of Jesus, the more he or she wants to live in way that is consistent with his or her new identity in Christ.

At this juncture, I believe it is important to talk about sanctification. Sanctification is being “set apart” or made holy to God. The Bible alludes to pre-conversion sanctification whereby the Lord sets apart the unbeliever for salvation and/or service (Jeremiah 1:5; Acts 9:15; Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 7:14; Galatians 1:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:2).

For the Christian, sanctification is realized in three ways. All believers are positionally sanctified when they first believe by virtue of being in Christ (I Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:10, 14).  That is, they are completely and permanently set apart from their sin and shame, and placed into the body of Christ. God totally accepts the believer at the moment of faith in Jesus regardless of how much or little they manifest His holiness.

Christians are personally or progressively sanctified as they allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lives, and begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 14:25-33; John 8:31-32; 15:1-8; 17:17; Romans 6:12-23; 8:1-17; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 5:13-14; I Peter 1:15- 16; 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18).  Therefore, obedience to the Word of God, while not necessary for obtaining everlasting life, is the essential responsibility of each Christian to grow in the Christian life (Romans 6:12-23; Hebrews 5:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:14–3:4). However, the Bible does not teach that this obedience will be manifested in all believers. If a believer does not yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his experience, failure will result, evidenced by sinful acts or even prolonged disobedience (1 Corinthians 3:1-15; 10:1-13; Galatians 5:16-21).

Christians will be ultimately sanctified when they become completely conformed to the image of Christ in His presence (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; I John 3:2-3; Jude 24- 25).  There will be no more sin in their words, thoughts, actions, or motives.

For example, the apostle Paul in writing to the church at Corinth, says, “To those who are sanctified (hagiazō) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (hagios).” (I Corinthians 1:2). Paul calls them “saints” which means, “set-apart ones” (I Corinthians 1:2). He was not referring to their behavior because they were acting very immature and disobedient (I Corinthians 1:11-6:20; 11:17-32; et al.). He was obviously talking about their identity or their position in Christ, which was sourced in their spiritual birth. Paul calls them “saints”(positional sanctification) in chapter 1 and then challenges them to act like the saints they really are (progressive sanctification) in the remaining chapters of the book.

When the Corinthians were committing sexual immorality with prostitutes he questions their knowledge about their new identity in Christ, not their salvation (I Corinthians 6:13-20). Paul describes believers’ future resurrection bodies which will be “raised in incorruption” and “put on incorruption” (ultimate sanctification) to encourage Christians to remain faithful to the Lord in the present (I Corinthians 15:42, 53). Because Christians will receive future resurrection bodies that no longer yield to sin, they are to abound in the work of the Lord now knowing He will reward them for their faithfulness in the future (I Corinthians 15:58; cf. 3:8-15; 9:24-27).

4. ETERNAL REWARDS AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST: The last book of the Bible (Revelation) provides an outline of future events (see picture) beginning with the current church age to the eternal state…

1. We are living in the Church Age which began at Pentecost (Acts2) and will end with the rapture or removal of the Church from the earth which could take place at any moment (John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4-5). Knowing that Christ could come for us at any moment motivates Christians to live faithfully for Him so they are prepared to face Him as their Judge.

2. Soon after the Church is taken in the Rapture, seven years of Tribulation begin on the earth.  This period begins when the Beast of Revelation makes a covenant with the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:26-27). This will be an awful time of death, disease, hunger, famine, earthquakes as never seen, warfare, entire seas turned to blood, darkness, scorching of the sun and multiple other judgments (Revelation 6-19). It will end when Jesus returns to earth with His Church and Christ will destroy His enemies (Revelation 17:12-14; Revelation 19:11-21). At that time, the Antichrist and False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20) and the Devil will be bound for a 1000 years (Revelation 20:2-3).

3.  Then Jesus will reign as King over the entire earth for a thousand years from the city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14; Revelation 20:4-6). This period is called the Millennium which means “one thousand.”

4. At the end of the Millennium God will destroy the entire creation (2 Peter 3:10). Every person who did not believe or trust in Christ alone for the gift of salvation will stand before God as He sits on the Great White Throne to judge each unbeliever according to their works to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Satan will receive his final judgment in the Lake of Fire at this time.

5.  Then a New Heaven (Universe) and New Earth are created which are perfect and beautiful (Revelation 21-22). This will be the eternal home of believers in Jesus.

Knowing the future should motivate Christians to live for what is eternal and not what is temporary. Why? Because there is another Judgment. During the Tribulation, in heaven, Christians will give an account for all their work for Christ. While Christians will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny since they already have eternal life (John 5:24), they will face another kind of judgment to determine what if any rewards they will receive in Christ’s eternal Kingdom. In Revelation 4:4, 10-11, “the twenty-four elders” represent faithful (overcoming) believers in heaven who possess “crowns” (rewards) received at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will rule with Christ in His coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10b, 2:26-27; 3:5a, 3:11, 21).  This Judgment is to motivate Christians to be faithful disciples who obey the Word of God. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants to reward all Christians for their faithfulness to Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”(2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Paul was motivated to live a life that pleased the Lord knowing that he would appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat in the future to determine what if any rewards he would receive (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; Revelation 22:12). Every Christian must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to answer to Jesus for the “good” and “bad” things he has done since becoming a Christian. The word “bad” (kakon) means “worthless, wicked, and evil.”

Is this scary for you to think about? Certainly! Even the apostle Paul was afraid to face the Judgment Seat of Christ. He writes, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Why would Paul fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? He was afraid of the possibility that his life will be revealed as one wasted and spent in selfishness rather than in devotion and obedience to Christ. Selfish living and wasted opportunities will bring more regrets when Jesus evaluates a believer’s life than most of us care to think about. Knowing this should be sufficient  motivation for God’s people to aim to please the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

Knowing that we can earn eternal rewards should motivate believers to live for Christ now. Christians can earn heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21) by giving a cup of cold water to God’s servant (Matthew 10:42), doing a charitable deed in private (Matthew 6:3- 4), praying in private (Matthew 6:6), and fasting in private (Matthew 6:17-18).

Christians who remain faithful in their service to Christ to the end of their lives will be given rewards that include wearing special white garments (Revelation 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7), eating hidden manna (Revelation 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Revelation 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).

Christians can also earn a crown of rejoicing for making disciples (I Thessalonians 2:19), a crown of righteousness for loving the appearing of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8), a crown of life for enduring trials and temptations until death (James 1:12), a crown of glory for faithfully shepherding others as a servant leader (I Peter 5:4), and an imperishable crown for living a disciplined life (I Corinthians 9:25).

By focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ, Christians will develop a desire to please God rather than men. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat.

Knowing we have eternal life which can never be lost does not give Christians a license to sin or live like the devil. God did not save us to live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose from the dead on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:15). We have looked at several motivations to live for Jesus untill we go to be with Him in heaven.

I will close with some thoughts from Dave Breese in Living for Eternity said, The child of God is a creature of eternal destiny. For him no day is without consequence, and no fleeting moment can be called incidental or unimportant. The hours he spends and the decisions he makes have implications that carry on into eternity. What he does today will matter a thousand years from today.” (Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997], pg. 145).

In Christ I am God’s masterpiece

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” Ephesians 2:10a

Before we come to Christ in faith, we are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephes. 2:1). That is, we do not have God’s life (eternal life) in us and therefore we do not know God on a personal level. Our lives were defined by trespasses and sins. But look how that has changed.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” (Ephes. 2:10a). I used to be in trespasses and sins – that is what defined me and drove my life. But now I am “in Christ Jesus.” I used to be dead, but now I am God’s “workmanship.”

The word “workmanship” comes from the Greek word poíēma which is where we get our English word “poem” from. A poem is a collection of words that are specially chosen and put together so that they make a powerful statement that lasts. God is saying that you are His heavenly poem – you have been specially chosen by God to make a powerful statement about His grace that endures forever.

Another word that describes this is the term “masterpiece” – like a painting that has been specially created or like a potterer carefully creating something out of clay that is unique and has his personality and stamp put on it. You are God’s Masterpiece –  something He has poured Himself into to change your life. You used to be defined by sin and shame, but now you are defined by being in Christ. And God sees in you holiness … beauty… and goodness. Everything He sees in Jesus Christ He now sees in you.

You may see yourself as this person who has failed or who lacks certain abilities. Perhaps the voices from your past have told you that you were a mistake…that you can’t do anything right. But God is now telling you that you are His masterpiece… a beautiful work of heavenly art that He is putting on display for all to see and admire just how great His grace is toward you. Take time today to look in the mirror and say to yourself, “In Christ, I am God’s masterpiece, not a mistake.” The more you see yourself as God sees you, the more you will reflect this truth in your daily living.

For example, if someone unfairly criticizes you, step back and ignore the lie that says, “You are a big mistake,” and replace it with the truth that says, “You are God’s masterpiece!” The more you see yourself through God’s eyes, the more you will live the way God made you to live.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, much of my life I have seen myself as a big mistake; as someone who cannot do anything right. I am asking you to heal these deep wounds in my life so I can begin to see myself as You see me. I am Your masterpiece, not a mistake. I am Your heavenly poem that You want to put on display for others to see just how great Your grace is toward me. Please apply this truth to my heart so I can see myself as You do and begin to live as Your wonderful masterpiece! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Coming clean with God

“So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’” Genesis 32:27

I learned something significant this morning during my devotions. When Jacob was wrestling with the Angel of the Lord (Hosea 12:4) before going to meet his brother Esau, the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Let Me go, for the day breaks” (Genesis 32:26a). But Jacob said to Him, “I will not let You go unless You bless me” (Genesis 32:26b). The Lord then said to him, “What is your name” (Genesis 32:27a)? Why did God ask Jacob this?

Earlier Jacob had sought his brother Esau’s blessing from his earthly father, Isaac. When he entered his father’s presence, Isaac asked him, “Who are you, my son” (Genesis 27:18b)? Jacob deceived his father and said, “I am Esau your firstborn” (Genesis 27:19a).

Now Jacob is wrestling with God and God dislocates his hip (Genesis 32:25). And when God asks him for his name, he comes clean with his heavenly Father and says his name is “Jacob” (Genesis 32:27b). Up to this time, Jacob had been a manipulator. At birth he grasped his twin brother Esau’s heel and was given the name “Jacob” which means “heel-holder” (Genesis 25:26). Later Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him Esau’s blessing, and Jacob’s name came to mean “supplanter”“one who takes the place of another by trickery.” His name took on the meaning of a “cheater, deceiver, schemer.” So when he told God his name, Jacob was being honest with God about his character flaws. He is saying to God, “I am a cheater and a schemer.” It’s like Jacob is saying, “Lord, I don’t want to pretend any more. I want to present my true self to You. Here I am. Take me.”

Aren’t all of us like Jacob? Because of the hurt and shame in our lives, we deceive ourselves and others to protect ourselves or to get our way. So God has to dismantle these layers of self- protection. Like He did with Jacob, He may have to dislocate our hip to bring us to the end of ourselves. Or He may bring about a different type of crisis. It may be the loss of a job, our spouse, our children, or even our own health. Whatever it takes to bring us to the end of ourselves. God does not do this because He is cruel. He does this because He loves us and He wants to liberate us from the layers and layers of shame and self-deception.

When Jacob came clean with God, the Lord changed his name to “Israel” which means “God’s fighter” (Genesis 32:28). After all, Jacob fought with God and men, and prevailed not by trickery, but by persistent faith. God knew Jacob’s potential; He saw beneath his self-sufficient, crafty exterior. God said, “That’s not the real you, Jacob. You are actually an Israel. You are My fighter.” God saw the fighter in Jacob, and the former cheater began to become the man whom the entire nation of Israel was named after.

The good news is when you believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, God gives you a new identity. Beneath all those things you know about yourself that you don’t like, God sees an Israel. He sees “His fighter.” He sees what you can become. He sees potential because He gave you God the Holy Spirit to empower you to live a victorious Christian life. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11 [NLT] God the Holy Spirit in you gives you the desire and power to do what is right, “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 [LB] You are now God’s fighter, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 [NKJV]. You now have the potential through Him who loved you to live above your circumstances instead of underneath them.

Prayer: Father God, forgive me for pretending to be someone I am not, for hiding behind layers and layers of lies and manipulation. You know everything about me and still love and accept me. Because of Your amazing love for me, I come to You as I am. Help me to see myself through Your eyes now. I am Your fighter or conqueror through Jesus who loved me. Thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit to empower me to live for You above my circumstances instead of underneath them. In Jesus’ name. Amen

What new things take place when we become Christians?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

When we believe in Christ for His gift of salvation, we become “a new creation.” The Bible says, “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (5:17). What new things can we expect to take place in our lives when we get saved? The apostle Paul shares several new things that are given to new believers in Jesus:

– A NEW MOTIVATION. “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (5:15). Instead of living for themselves after Jesus gives them eternal life, new believers are to “live… for Him who died for them and rose again.” One way to do this is to live a “thank you” life for Christ. We can thank Him for the incredible sacrifice He made for our sins by living a Christ-centered life.

– A NEW MINDSET.Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” (5:16a). Instead of looking at outward appearances (ex. ethnicity), achievements, and the affluence of lost people, we are to see them as Jesus sees them – as someone He loves and wants to save.

– A NEW MINISTRY. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation… and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (5:18-19). The moment we believe in Christ, He gives us the responsibility to preach the gospel of Christ to lost people so they may be reconciled to God the moment they believe in Jesus. Every Christian is given this ministry of reconciliation. It is not just for pastors and evangelists.

– A NEW IDENTITY. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ” (5:20). An ambassador is a representative. In Manila of the Philippines, we have an American ambassador at the US embassy who represents the USA and the citizens of the USA in the Philippines. But as Christians, we represent Someone Who is more important and powerful than any political ambassador represents. We represent the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ! Therefore, there is no need to be afraid or ashamed to share His gospel which pleads with lost people to be reconciled to God through faith alone in Christ alone.

Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9

In view of Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ (2:7), the apostle Peter uses different figures to describe the church consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers (2:9). These descriptions provide a powerful description of how God views each of His children. Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is essential for Christian growth and victory because we behave in the way we perceive ourselves to be (cf. Proverbs 23:7).

So often when someone asks us, “Who are you?” we respond by saying, “I am a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a Hawkeye fan, a friend of…, a wife of…, a son of…, a guy who owns that fancy house or boat….” We define ourselves by what we do, possess, or by our associations with others. The problem with this is that all these people or things can change or be lost. But God wants us as Christians to see ourselves through His eyes which never changes. He has defined who we are in Christ in the Bible.

When you believed in Christ, you became a new person (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). You are now part of a royal family – God’s family – the church (cf. John 1:12). Learning what that means takes time. You have been seeing yourself through one set of eyes for so long, that it is hard for you to believe you are a child of the King. But God now says to you, “You are MY CHILD through Jesus and that makes you royalty.” God now says, “I not only want to be in a relationship with you, but I also want to change the way you see yourself; because if I can change the way you see yourself, you will live a radically transformed life.”

You are not the same person you were before you became a Christian. You may ask, “If I am not the same person I used to be, why do I still practice the same old ways and habits?” Because Satan has deceived you into believing you are the same person you were before you came to Christ. And we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. The Bible says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

Your behavior does not determine who you are. At the very core of your being you are God’s child and God wants you to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are. The more we see ourselves as God sees us, the more we will live in the way He created us to be and live. Let’s look at God’s view of us in I Peter 2:9:

“You are a chosen generation.” God has “chosen” you , not overlooked or ignored you. To be chosen means that others want to be with us, to know us and spend time with us. As a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been chosen by God to have a special relationship with Him. Before this world was even made, God chose you to have a special relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesian 1:4). So many children grow up in homes where their parents tell them, “We never wanted you. You were an accident… a big surprise.” Child of God, your heavenly  Father has always wanted to be in a relationship with you. He chose you for a purpose. He wants you to “proclaim the praises of Him” (2:9). Look in a mirror and say to yourself, “I am chosen by God.” Are you seeing yourself as God sees you? The more you believe what God says about you, the more you will feel it and live it.

– You are “a royal priesthood.” You are “royal” – a person of high status and importance. You are extremely significant because you are a member of the royal priesthood of God. In the Old Testament, there was a separate class of priests who represented the people of Israel before God, but in the New Testament, all believers are priests before God who worship, intercede, and minister (I Peter 2:5; cf. Revelation 1:6). Say to yourself, “I am a royal priest before God.”

– You are part of “a holy nation.” Originally God wanted the nation of Israel to live distinctly “holy” lives before other nations to attract them to Himself (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 42:6). But Israel failed to be a Light to the nations because she preferred to be like those nations (cf. I Samuel 8:5), so now God wants His church to be His “holy nation” to go to all the world to preach His gospel to everyone (cf. Mark 16:15) as His ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to “proclaim” His praises because He called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). Say to yourself, “I am a holy ambassador for Christ.”

– You are “His own special people.” In Christ, we are “special” to the Lord. You are not a nobody. You are a somebody because God has declared you to be special to Him. You are greater than what is usual or common. You may not realize this, but God the Father loves you as much as He loves His own Son! Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). Long ago Jesus prayed for you to know that the heavenly Father loves you just as much as He loves His only perfect Son! Say to yourself, “I am special to God.” Listen to the voice of truth so you can begin to see yourself through God’s eyes.

God wants us to know that we are chosen, royal, holy, and special to Him. Each of these descriptions convey our infinite value and significance to God as His children. So if a believer in Jesus comes to me and says,  “I am an alcoholic … sex addict…drug addict…workaholic…manic depressive …gambling addict…homosexual, etc,” I would respond by saying, “No, you are a child of God who is struggling with alcohol…sexual addiction….drug addiction… workaholism …manic depression… gambling or homosexuality. But your behavior does not determine who you are. At the very core of your being you are God’s child and God wants you to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are. We learn to do this through discipleship relationships.”

Overcoming sin through a relationship, not rules

“I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:25

In Romans 7 the apostle Paul talks about his struggle to grow spiritually when he placed himself under the Mosaic Law. After saying that we are now under grace and not the law (6:14-15), he begins by saying that “the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives” (7:1). Paul illustrates this truth by referring to “the law” which binds a wife to her husband until he “dies” (7:2a). But when he dies she is “released from the law of her husband” and is free to remarry (7:2b-3). Since believers died with Christ (cf. 6:2-10) they “have become dead to the law” so that they are no longer under any obligation to keep the Mosaic Law because they are now under grace which avails them to the power “of the Spirit” that enables believers to obey God (Rom. 7:4-6).

Paul’s own experience warns believers not to look to the Law to grow spiritually (Rom. 7:7-25). The result will be defeat. Paul describes his early Christian experience whereby he looked to the Law which only reveals sin without correcting the problem (Rom. 7:7-12). Verse 9 particularly shows that Paul was “alive” in fellowship with God “without the Law” (6:8, 11, 13), but as soon as he tried to include the Law in his Christian life, he “died”experientially when his sinful nature aroused sin to a greater degree which broke his fellowship with God. 

Paul shows that the Law is not to blame for our broken fellowship with God, but “sin” was to blame (7:13). The Law was like the bait that brought sin to the surface. Paul strengthenshis argument about the goodness of the Law by saying the Law “is spiritual,” but he is “carnal, sold under sin” because of his fallen nature which he still possessed (7:14). Sin is still appealing tothe believer especially if he places himself under the Law to grow in his Christian life. 

In Romans 7:15-25 Paul uses the present tense to describe his present struggle as a result of trying to use the Law to grow spiritually. This struggle is between the new “inward man” or born-again-self (Romans 7:22; cf. Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; I John 3:9) and the “old” disposition or sinful flesh. For example, Paul writes, “For what I [the new] will to do, that I [the old] do not practice; but what I [the new] hate, that I [the old] do”(7:15b). Within every believer there are two competing dispositions – the flesh against the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17) – which fight to gain control over the Christian. 

It is possible that Paul struggled for years to live the Christian life by trying to fulfill the Law inhis own strength. He explains that even a desire to do what the Law says results in evil that he had no intention of doing (Rom. 7:18-19). He summarizes, “Now if I [old disposition] do what I [new disposition] will not to do, it is no longer I [the person’s desire] who do it, but sin [sin principle dominant in the old nature] that dwells in me” (7:20).

Paul discovered from his experience of trying to grow spiritually under the Law that there is aspecific “law” deeply rooted in his being that exposed his sinful nature and the reason why he could not keep the Law’s commands (7:21). Paul explained his desire for God’s Law even if he cannot carry it out, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). The “inward man” is something within believers that can be “renewed” daily and “strengthened” by the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16). Paul equates the “inward man” to “the law of the mind” (7:23a). Paul identifies another law which is “the law of sin” which had defeated or brought “into captivity” Paul’s inward man because at that time when Paul was under the Law his fallen nature was stronger (7:23b).

Having experienced this fruitless battle of trying to grow spiritually under the Law (7:14-23), Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am!” (7:24a). He acknowledges that an inner desire to do good and obey the Law could not overcome his sinful flesh or disposition. He wants to know who can deliver him from this “body of death” or sin’s power that dwells in his physical body (7:24b; cf. 6:6). Paul concludes by introducing the discovery he made during this struggle early in his Christian life about how to experience victory over sin. He thanks “God” who “through Jesus Christ our Lord” supplied the means to “deliver” him (and all believers) from this struggle between his inward man (“with the mind I myself [new disposition] serve the law of God”) and “the flesh” (old disposition) (7:25). The solution is revealed in Romans 8 – walking in the Spirit.  

In summary, the key to gaining victory over sin in our Christian lives is to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ, not rules. Rules tell us what is wrong, but they do not provide the power to grow. Only a relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ can transform our lives. We must look to our Savior, not our sin, if we are going to become more like Him.

How do I overcome the power of sin in my Christian life?

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lust.” Romans 6:12

For a believer in Jesus Christ to overcome the power of sin in his Christian life, he must… 

1. “Know” that he is “united” with Christ in “His death” and “resurrection” (6:2-10).

2.  “Reckon” or count it to be true (6:11). 

3. Yield or “present” himself to Christ as “alive from the dead” for God’s possession and use (6:12-13). The issue in overcoming the power of sin in his life is surrender. He can either surrender to sin’s control or Christ’s control in his life. That is what it means to present himself. Notice that a believer now has a choice not to “let sin reign” or control him so that he “should obey it in its lust” (6:12). God does not promise to keep him from having lust or fleshly desires. But He does make provision for him so he does not have to let his fleshly desires be “the boss”in his life. He does not have to do what his fleshly desires are telling him to do. The believer is to present himself to God because “sin shall not have dominion over” him since he is “not under law [which arouses sin] but under grace [which gives him a new identity to overcome sin] (6:14). 

4. “Obey” Christ as his Lord (6:15-23). One reason Christians may not be seeing more victory over sin in their lives is because they have positioned Jesus as their Savior, but not as their Lord. This is why Paul writes, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness” (6:16). If we obey what sin tells us to do, we will experience “death” and “more lawlessness” in our Christian lives (6:16, 19). But if we obey what the Lord Jesus tells us to do we will experience “righteousness,” “holiness,” and “everlasting life” (6:16, 19, 22). 

Tony Evans illustrates what Paul is saying in Romans 6 when he refers to performing a wedding ceremony. Near the beginning of the ceremony, Tony asks, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” Usually it is the father who says, “I do.” When that happens, the father can sit down because Tony is done with him because the bridegroom steps up to take the place of the bride’s father. He and the bride now stand before the minister, they go through the service, and then Tony closes by saying to the couple, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Then the audience stands and receives the new Mr. and Mrs. ______________. 

The young lady has been changed because she is now under a new authority when her father presented her to be married to the bridegroom. She has entered into a new relationship. The first man is overruled by a newer man because the woman has transferred identities. 

Romans 6 tells us that we have transferred identities the moment we believed in Christ for salvation. So when the old man called the flesh starts to tell us what to do, we can respond, “I have a New Husband now. I have a new name. I am not going to listen to you.” We must yield ourselves to Christ every day. We can begin each day by saying, “Lord Jesus, I am married to You now. I am under Your authority, so please tell me what You want me to do and help me to do it.”   

What happens when you believe in Jesus for everlasting life?

Every month thousands of Filipinos are coming to faith in Christ. What happens the moment you believe in Jesus for everlasting life?

1. God became your Father in Heaven and you became His child forever (John 1:12).

2. You were saved forever from Hell (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

3. Jesus gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29).

4. You are guaranteed never to be judged for your sins in the future (John 5:24).

5. Rivers of living water (the Holy Spirit) now flow out of your heart to be a blessing to others (John 7:38-39).

6. Jesus and God the Father now hold you in their hands and no one is strong enough to snatch you out of their hands (John 10:28-29).

7. You now have never ending life and are guaranteed a future resurrection when you will receive a glorified body that is free from sin and death (John 11:25-26; I Corinthians 15:35-57). 

8. God forgave all of your sins – past, present, and future sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14).

9. You were declared totally righteous before a holy God (Romans 3:22-26; 4:5).

10. You now have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

11. You are now under grace, not the Old Testament Law, so that you can trust Christ to give you victory over sin (Romans 6:14).

12. You are Christ’s bride, not His hostage (Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2). 

13. Jesus now lives inside of you through His Holy Spirit and He promises never to leave you (Romans 8:11; Hebrews 13:5).

14. Your physical body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit and is to be used to glorify God (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

15. God gave you one or more spiritual gifts to be used to serve Him and others in His body, the Church (Romans 12:4-8; I Corinthians 12:1-14:40; Ephesians 4:11-13; I Peter 4:7-11).

16. You were placed in the Body of Christ, the Church, by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13).

17. You have a new motivation to live for Christ now, not for yourself (2 Corinthians 5:15).

18. You have a new mindset now to see others as Christ see them – as people whom Jesus loves and wants to save (2 Corinthians 5:16; cf. I Timothy 2:3-5).

19. You have a new ministry now to preach the gospel of Christ to the lost so they can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

20. You are now an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

21. You were crucified with Christ so that He can live His life through you (Galatians 2:20).

22. You are now a “saint” (set apart from your sin and shame to serve God) at the core of your being, not a sinner (Ephesians 1:1; cf. Romans 1:7; 8:27; I Corinthians 1:2; 14:33; Ephesians 1:15; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3, 6:18; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 3:13).

23. You are totally accepted by God in Christ (Ephesians 1:6).

24. You were “redeemed” or “purchased” off the slave market of sin so that now you do not have to sin (Ephesians 1:7).

25. You were “sealed” by the Holy Spirit who will safely and securely deliver you to heaven when you die or when Jesus removes the church from the earth (Ephesians 1:13-14).

26. You are now the “inheritance” of God the Father (Ephesians 1:18).

27. You are seated next to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenly places above all enemies of God, including the devil (Ephesians 1:20-21; 2:5-6).

28. You are now God’s masterpiece, not a mistake (Ephesians 2:10). 

29. You now have direct access to God’s throne of grace (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:15-16).

30. You are now a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). 

31. You have been delivered from the power of darkness to one day reside in the future kingdom of God’s Son on earth (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 20:4-6).

32. You have been reconciled to God through Christ (Colossians 1:20).

33. You are now complete in Christ, lacking nothing before God (Colossians 2:9-10).

34. You have been made perfect forever in the sight of a holy God according to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the Cross, not your own performance (Hebrews 10:14).