A few weeks ago, I attended a church small group based on a recommendation from someone at another church back in Clemson. Since I was still looking for a church at the time, I decided to check it out, hoping to find like-minded believers to fellowship with. What interested me at the time was that this group was going to read through and discuss David Platt’s book Radical. Now, I have not read this book yet, although several who know me say I should, but my sister has offered to let me read her copy, so odds are in a couple weeks I’ll have the chance to read the book for myself.
So I won’t mention the contents of the book right now. It’s difficult to talk about what one has not read.
Anyway, the first week of discussion, the group leader wanted to talk about what it meant to be totally devoted to God. Yes! That is a wonderful topic of discussion, and one that Christians need to be reminded of, whether to exhort or encourage. As in any group discussion, several ideas were tossed around, such as praying and reading the Bible, or doing what God wills, or living a life of obedience to God. Sure, these might qualify as “Sunday School answers,” but they’re accurate enough. They are all good things to do. The gist of the discussion was that we needed to be devoted to God.
Most of you know me well enough to guess what I brought up rather quickly. While we’re on the topic of being radical, of encouraging one another to be totally devoted to God, why not live every day in perfect obedience to God? Perfect obedience is a product of perfect love, which will please Him. Despite our day-to-day life in this mortal body, complete with its weaknesses, why not determine to be pleasing to God at all times, and live a life that never fails?
Apparently this is a little too radical. Talk about devotion is wonderful, but once that concept is presented… well, that’s a little too devoted. We can’t do that, because we still have a flesh and blood body that has desires, and we still have our sinful nature that we’re constantly fighting against. And sometimes we will fall, although we repent immediately afterward and are restored in our relationship with God.
It’s too hard, in other words. The deck is stacked against us. Sooner or later (sooner in the eyes of most), we’re going to mess up and sin against God. It’s just part of being imperfect humans. Praise God that He does not see our failings, because He forgives us and sees Jesus instead! We are spotless in His eyes!
It sounds wonderful except for the fact that it’s totally wrong.
I am not denying that we still have a flesh that still has desires. To deny that would be to speak absurdity. What is wrong, however, is to go ahead and decide that we will always struggle against our sinful flesh.
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When Paul says our old man is crucified with Him (that is Christ), he does not mean our bodies are done away with, along with all the desires that go with them. What he does mean is that our old way of life is gone. A lying habit, the desire to steal, to commit sexual sin, a proud heart… all of that and more is what used to define us, but defines us no longer. All these sins that used to hold us in bondage no longer have dominion over us.
We are finally free to tell temptation, “NO!” We are finally free to choose to obey. This is why Paul tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin. It is not that we are unable to sin (we always will be), but that this attitude no longer defines us. Whenever temptation comes our way, or our pasts try to haunt us, we can refuse them.
If we have this freedom, why squander it? Why go ahead and assume that every once in a while you will tell God that you would rather serve the world and your passions than Him? I thought we loved God. Are we going to – even occasionally – act as though we hate Him?
Why even entertain the thought? Let’s actually try something radical. Let’s determine to live our lives in a way that shows our love for Him, every hour of every day! Who cares if the world and the rest of the church says it’s impossible? God doesn’t tell us it’s impossible. In fact, He tells us He’ll give us everything to make it possible! Our old ways died when He made us a new creation, He has indwelt us with His Holy Spirit, and He’s already promised to provide a way of escape from temptation.
That makes it even better. We don’t have to rely on ourselves to live for Him all the time. If we did, then we probably would fail eventually, and often. But we are not asked to rely on ourselves. We are asked to rely on Him.
How about it?