Saved and changed

‘What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ (Rom 6:1-2).

What would you be willing to do if you knew there would be no consequences? If you knew you’d never get caught and no one would ever know?

That’s the question Paul rhetorically asks in this verse. It isn’t asked because no one would ever know, but because the hypothetical questioner thinks sin is no longer important. God no longer cares about our sin, so we can do what we like.

That sounds appealing! The logic goes: ‘Because Jesus has paid the price for all my sin, it doesn’t matter whether I keep sinning. I’m saved by grace, not by works. I don’t earn my heaven to heaven, so there is no reason to do good, or to stop doing evil.’

And yet, Paul still thinks what we do is important. He still expects the people of God to reject sin. Why?

Because if Jesus has saved us, he has also changed us. As the passage continues, it says that we have been united to Christ. Once we were once enslaved by our sin. We loved our sin. We enjoyed the pleasure, the self-satisfaction, the self-focus of sin. But no longer.

Now, the saved are united to Jesus. Our sinful self died on the cross with Christ, and we now live a new life. A life that loves righteousness, goodness and truth. A life which abhors the evil which sent our Saviour to the cross.

If we still love our sin, if we never think about our sin, if we belittle our sin, there is something wrong. Instead, let us ‘walk in newness of life’ (v4), striving for holiness.

Why Easter?

Easter is one of those wonderful times of the year for us to get back to the basics, and to once again ask the question “why?”

“Why did Jesus have to die?” “Why would Christians celebrate this event?” “Why would we decorate our churches with crosses, or wear crosses around our necks?”

Consider Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Think about what Paul says there – He’s already rammed home the point that all people are sinful. We can’t minimise or balance out our sin by good deeds – we’re guilty of crimes against the God who gives us life and breath and everything else.

So Paul says what our punishment is. “The wages of sin is death.” And we’ve earned our wages. We’ve done the crime, now we do the time.

But that’s not the end of the story! This is where Easter comes in, because the one person who didn’t earn those horrible wages is the one who received them! Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn’t, died the death we should have, and gives us a free gift which we didn’t deserve and couldn’t earn. A gift we receive when we repent and believe: Eternal life.

This is the gospel, the good news. This is why we celebrate Easter. Christ died to save sinners, to give them eternal life. And he proved it by being raised to life again himself. The one who gives life freely is alive now.

Why celebrate Easter? Because the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Join us this Easter as we consider the work of Jesus on the cross and rejoice that God raised him from the dead.

The disease of Self

We all have a disease. In every part of the globe, in every class of society, the disease of selfishness has infiltrated and wreaked havoc. We can’t escape the day without desiring something for ourselves.

Looking at some newspaper headlines before the start of the year, selfishness was a common theme. One energy company admits to duping customers with cheap rates on sign up only to raise them without warning a few months later. A Hollywood star speaks of being objectified when she was a teenager. A shoplifting syndicate which has been disrupted by police.

But this selfishness isn’t only in the world ‘out there.’ It is in the church, threatening to tear it apart. Consider James 4:1-2‘What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.’

These are words to Christians! And they are a warning we must heed if we want to honour Christ. If we want to be friends with the world, desiring what they desire, we make ourselves enemies of God (Jas 4:4). How can we represent Christ to a fallen world if we are focussed on ourselves – our own reputation, our own preferences?

Jesus calls us to be united together in love. The gospel is to transform us that we no longer listen to selfish desires, but eagerly desire the good for others. Rather than taking, we give. Instead of harbouring grudges, we forgive. We seek to imitate the one who had the glories of heaven but left it for us; who was reviled on the cross but prayed for their forgiveness.

Let’s put selfishness to death, and love one another in 2019.

The only answer

Anyone who’s spent more than a second really thinking about life in this world knows there is something wrong. Live long enough and everyone’s experience is full of pain and heartbreak.

After recognising this pain, our question becomes, ‘how can it be fixed?’ We look to education and we wonder, if it were better would all the ills within society and me be eradicated?

One of our society’s greatest problems is that we don’t stop long enough to really consider what the cause of our problem is. This means that the ‘solutions’ will never be appropriate.

We must turn to the Bible to understand what the cause of our pain and heartbreak is, because it is there that God speaks and reveals what we would prefer hidden. And in the Bible, we find that the cause of our problems is sin; our own and others’.

And because we are the problem, we can’t be the solution. Anything we do will only continue to exacerbate the problem. More education only results in smarter sinners. Technology relieves some pain but is used to inflict other kinds of pain. We need someone else to deal with the cause (our sin) so the symptoms (our suffering) can be alleviated.

And that’s what God did. The whole of the Old Testament was promising and leading up to the solution, until finally we see Jesus on the cross. Taking our sin upon himself he cries, ‘It is finished,’ (John 19:30).

It could be said the cross was stage 1 of the inoculation; stage 2 is Christ’s return, when not only is sin forgiven but is completely removed along with its ill-effects. For those desperate for a world free of suffering we have an important message; ‘come to Jesus.’ He is the only solution to our problem.

What dwells within you? 

It’s been a dramatic few weeks, both here and abroad. In Florida we’ve seen yet another school shooting – the second worst public school shooting in US history. At this stage it’s difficult to know what motivated the attacker. Was it mental illness? Vengeance for his expulsion? Something else? What were the thoughts that were running through his mind?

Closer to home, Barnaby Joyce has been exposed as an adulterer, and now a father from that adultery. What motivated him to do this?

While there are no doubt complexities to these questions, it’s unmistakable that the answer, (at least partially in the shooter’s case), is sin. Sinful thoughts and desires. Selfishness. Arrogance. A lack of love and compassion. A desire to live for self and mould the world around them how they desired it to be.

But we can’t look down on these men. Aren’t those same thoughts and motivations in us? We get angry at others, and lash out. We selfishly expect others to serve us and our wants, and are too often thoughtless when it comes to serving in return. The sin within us is the same, even if only expressed differently. How can we battle against what is inside us?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… (Col 3:16)

We must replace the words of our former sinful nature with the words of Christ. Instead of listening to those words of selfishness, we must fill our hearts with the word of Christ, who speaks of service. Instead of vengeance, slander and gossip; instead of thinking the worst of each other, we fill our hearts with grace, love, truth and generosity.

Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly? Over the next few weeks we’ll explore what that might look like.