The Sin Dog

One of the amazing things that happened to you and me when we embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ was the beginning of a new relationship with sin.  In short, sin no longer has dominion over us.  Sin is no longer our master.  We are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6).  (For a 7-page pdf commentary by Jay on Romans chapters 5-8 explaining the biblical basis for this concept click here.)

As for this post, let me summarize our new relationship with sin with this illustration.  Prior to our conversion, sin was the Great Dane in our life that bowls us over and flattens us every time we come home.  We hear him on the other side of the door and sure enough everytime we open it, he pounces.  Soon we are pinned under his paws.  The unbeliever has no power to resist.  Why is this so?  Because our very nature is to sin.  Both the sin nature we inherited from our father, Adam, and the sinful acts we commit enslave us.  Who will set us free from the Great Dane of sin?

Thanks be to God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to win our freedom.  Christ’s death on the cross delivered us not only from the penalty of sin, but from its power as well.  His death secured not just a future “not guilty”, but a present day “not enslaved.”  After our conversion, God takes up residence in our lives through the indwelling Holy Spirit and the sin nature that controlled us is relegated to small potatoes.  Our sin is now the Chihuahua that we can kick to the sidelines when it nips at our heels.  (I apologize to all you dog lovers, but this picture helps me visualize the struggle with sin and what changed at our conversion.)

The sin nature has not been eradicated, just robbed of its power.  The Chihuahua can still have a nasty bite.  The Chihuahua can still be a pesky character.  In fact, to take the illustration even further based on Chihauhuas I’ve known, it may even think it is still in charge.  But this is not the case.  And while the nature of sin has not changed (it is still a dog), its power has been greatly diminished.

Are you experiencing this freedom from the power of sin or is there a disconnect between the promises of God and your own experience with sin?  Are you living the victorious life God advertises under the New Covenant?  If not, is God’s advertisement false, or do we not understand the advertisement correctly, or is there something missing in our experience?

I am a stickler for truth in advertising.  Misleading advertising drives me crazy.  I have to know, “What kind of life is God advertising for those who have embraced His gospel message?  Taking the New Testament as a whole, from Matthew to Revelation, it appears to me the advertisement is a life set free from the dominion and power of sin.  Let’s not “water down” the advertisement due to our lack of experience.  Rather than looking for a way to diminish the promise of the new birth, let us by faith embrace the promises and ask God to lift our experience to who He says we are.  Will you join me?

A Curious Life

When Rhonda and I teach on the topic of marriage, we often say, “Make your marriage a curiosity.”  What we mean by this is that when you practice marriage as God intended, your love for each other will manifest itself in ways that make your marriage appear pretty unique.  The desire for love, acceptance, and forgiveness is universal and when we practice these to the fullest in our marriage, we demonstrate to a watching world what new life in Christ looks like.

In our own journey, God took two fiercely independent souls who each view the world through different colored glasses (and thick ones at that) and forged a love that is deep and abiding.  When that love is on display, it is truly revolutionary. But the revolution for us has not been painless as the path to love at the deepest level has been long and arduous.  (As an aside, you can read our short story, “The Artist and the Minstrel” describing our marriage journey in the Kindle store at amazon.com or download a free pdf version by clicking here.)

The curiosity of a growing marriage is a small picture of the curiosity of the supernatural Christian life.  Any topic that begins with a discussion of God Himself living inside His followers is by its very nature a mystery, a curiosity.  May I invite you to investigate the mystery, celebrate the mystery, and, most importantly, live into the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).  Only then will the world see the supernatural side of our life in Christ.

Dwight Edwards has summed it up well in his book, Revolution Within,  “God’s highest agenda for our lives is not that they be simply good, moral, and responsible, but that they be spiritually intriguing, even mystifying.  A Christlike life is one that puzzles, attracts, disrupts, entices, enrages, comforts, rebukes, and most of all, radically loves those around it.”

A New Freedom

When the world thinks of the word “Christian”, is the word “new” the first thing that pops into their mind?  Is there something new going on here; something fresh, something better, something I would like to get in on?  Unfortunately, the response is often just the opposite.  Christianity is associated with old, narrow, conservative…words that carry a negative connotation in today’s marketplace of ideas.  We like to say that being misunderstood is just the cost of following Jesus, but could it be we who have misunderstood our own message?

The world will never paint Christianity in a positive light as it operates under the influence of the Evil One (II Cor 4:4).  However, all too often we conclude that there is some nefarious plot on the part of the media, academia, the entertainment industry, or our “enemies” to make us look foolish.  There is a plot, but it is orchestrated by the Enemy himself and our so called “enemies” in the press and elsewhere are not enemies at all but prisoners of the Enemy as we once were.  Our concern is not to silence them, but to set them free.

As for us, is it possible that we have contributed to Satan’s arsenal by our own narrow thinking?  Is the Christian life we advertise a new covenant experience or a law-keeping, old covenant approach to spirituality?  The ideas of putting on the new self, walking in the Spirit, loving as God loves are all, quite frankly, somewhat nebulous concepts.  We prefer a systematic , list-keeping religion.  We prefer something we can measure.  I can measure lists.  I can measure knowledge.  I can’t measure love.  I can’t measure the movement of the Spirit.  The old covenant approach reduces our Christianity to law and takes the supernatural out of our spirituality and, in so doing, removes the exhilaration, the mystery, the breakneck excitement out of the Christian life.  Let’s talk more about living into the mystery next time.

Something New

A short, but compelling, word found throughout the New Testament is the word “new”.  It is right there in the title and appropriately so.  After all, the essence of the New Testament message is a description of and invitation to join a new covenant, a new arrangement, a new agreement between God and us.

In the gospels, Jesus ushered in a new covenant, and with it a new kingdom.  In the parable of the wine and wineskins, Jesus referred to His ministry as “new wine” (Mk 2:22), indicating that it is not just an add-on to the old covenant, but something new and as we will see, nothing short of revolutionary.  From the outset, the crowds who followed Jesus were “amazed, saying, ‘what in the world is this?  A new teaching with authority!’ ” (Mk 1:27).  And finally, when we enter into this new arrangement with God, we become a “new creation” (II Cor 5:17).  We are raised to a “new life”  (Rom 6:4).  We are literally “indwelt by a new Spirit” (Rom 8:11).

In Ephesians chapter 4, the apostle Paul encourages us to clothe ourselves in this new covenant by “walking in a manner worthy” of our new arrangement with God.  “Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:24).  Do you know that you have a moral resemblance to God Himself by virtue of your new self being created in righteousness and holiness?  Does the phrase “moral resemblance to God” sound prideful and too elevating of ourselves?

For the next several weeks, we will explore this topic here at jaylehman.com with an eye toward the incredible spiritual capacities God has given new covenant believers, our “new” relationship with sin, how love trumps knowledge in our dealings with each other, and many other topics related to “putting on the new self.”  We invite you to join the discussion.