Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dead Reckoning

It's a simple enough question ... and one that virtually every Christian has asked himself or herself at some time.  Too often,  it's a question that comes up again and again, and it deals with one of the greatest frustrations of the Christian life: how do I get victory over sin?

I'm not talking about being saved from sin: that was made possible by the victory that Jesus won on Calvary. I'm talking about the daily, mundane, nuts and bolts issue of resisting and avoiding a particular sin, or sins, to which you might be prone.  We all know that "will power" isn't the answer, except in isolated instances; but that's usually not a lasting solution. For the man or woman who has received Christ according to John 1:12, there are several very good answers: we're not without hope, and God has shown us how to deal with various temptations.  One way was described in our earlier post, Bloodbath.  We need to allow God to purge our conscience from dead works by the blood of Christ, as explained in the earlier post.

But there's another method, and we might call it "dead reckoning." Actually, that's a navigational term: it refers to a method of calculating a ship or plane's current position by a previous position, the speed of the vessel, etc.  It's rarely used any more, but, along with celestial navigation, is one of the oldest methods of plotting a course.  But that's not what it means for a Christian: which is good, because it can be complicated!


This means of resisting or avoiding sin is found in Paul's epistle to the Romans: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:1-13).

Now, if you've never received Jesus Christ as your Saviour, if you've never been born again, that passage of scripture means nothing to you.  It's nonsense; it's just empty words. For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned  (1 Corinthians 2:14).  For you, the issue is not how to get victory over sin; the issue is "What are you going to do with Jesus Christ?"  Are you going to receive Him, or are you going to reject Him as you've been doing? Until you've actually been saved, you might as well quit reading this post; you may be very intelligent, but you won't understand it.

Every Christian has two natures.  His "old nature" is the one he was born with: the one who is well-behaved at times, and misbehaves at other times; the one who may have a "kind heart" but a sharp and hurtful tongue; the one who often wants to do the right thing, but instead chooses to do the wrong thing.  This is a man or woman in their "natural" state, before they are redeemed and transformed by Jesus Christ.  When a man or woman is saved, they get a new nature: they become, literally, a new person. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). That's why receiving Christ is called being "born again"  (John 3:3-8).  

But the "old nature" doesn't go away.  It stays with the Christian until the day he or she dies.  In the Bible, this old nature is also called "the flesh" - - - and it's with us until our body is dead.

(I should acknowledge that some Christians, notably Pentecostals and some "truly Reformed" theologians, dispute the idea of two natures.  But we won't worry about them.  When the Bible is clear, "theology" can go straight to Hell.) 


When we're saved, however, our  new nature, in the Image of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is supposed to be in control.  But it doesn't always work out that way, does it?  We find ourselves stumbling into sin, or walking into it with our eyes wide open: and the sin can be anything from envy or self-righteousness to gluttony to actual crimes.  People think of "sin" as murder or adultery, and those things certainly qualify, but it's not that simple.  (We often have a nasty tendency to think of "sin" as "what the other guy does.")  If your old nature had a tendency toward sexual matters, then sexual things will always be there to tempt you.  If you were a lush (pardon me, a "social drinker"), liquor might always tempt you. The desire to please the flesh, to indulge the old nature, is the same, whether you're tempted by a lottery ticket, a crack pipe, or just an "extra" chocolate éclair.
gluttonous

But this constant battle between the old and new nature, which is described so vividly by Paul in the 7th chapter of Romans, isn't really necessary. Because not only did Christ defeat the Enemy to save our souls at Calvary, He also provided a way for us to escape temptation.  And we might as well call it "dead reckoning."

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (Rom. 6:3)  Paul is referring here, not to our water baptism, if we've had one, but to our baptism, our immersion, in Christ Himself at the time of our conversion.  (Water baptism is simply a symbol of that, and has nothing to do with becoming a Christian.)  This is the "one baptism" of Ephesians 4:5.  And it means that in a spiritual sense, our old nature, our "old man," was nailed to the Cross with Jesus, and died with Him.

Think about that for a minute.  Think what that means.

The old nature - - - the part of me that sins, or is tempted to sin - - - was crucified with Jesus.  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Our crucifixion with Christ wasn't just a one-time thing: our old nature was slain with Jesus, but, to have daily victory, we must recognize and realize and appropriate that fact. (That's why Paul said, I die daily, 1 Corinthians 15:31.)  We need to remember that our old nature is dead.  We have to "reckon ourselves dead."

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).

We need to see this very clearly.  We are new creatures in Christ, made in His Image, with all the power of the Holy Spirit living inside our bodies. But we're still carrying around the corpse of the "old nature."  As long as we're alive in this world, that corpse will be riding on our backs.  But we need to remember that it's dead.

Because it doesn't act dead!  It yells in our ear and jabs us in the ribs all the time.  My flesh says, "I'm tense.  I've got a lot on my mind.  I need a drink.  How about some dark Bacardi?  Or maybe just a few beers.  I need it!"  But the "new man," the new creature in Christ, replies, "Shut up! You're dead!  You don't need anything!"  A woman's husband acts like a fool, and her flesh says, "Why, who does he think he is?  I have every right to smack him across his stupid face!"  And her new nature says, or should say, "You have no rights.  Hush up.  You're dead!"  A sexual temptation presents itself, and our flesh sounds off, whining like a child: "I need it!  I really need it!"  And the new nature replies, "You need nothing of the kind. You're dead.  Be quiet."

old

Someday, our bodies will die, and this "old man" will finally shut up. He'll be dead and buried; we won't be carrying him or her around any more. And he'll join the other dead folks in the cemetery.  And when you look at the little cemetery  pictured above, or think of a bigger, more lush, "scenic" cemetery, you can be assured of one thing: nobody in those graves is having any problems with temptation.  None of them are looking for their next hit of dope, or their next drink; none of them are having sexual thoughts about each other. The only time there's temptation or sin in a graveyard is when living people are present!

Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:9-11).

Consider the implications of those three verses!  Paul associates Jesus' Resurrection from the dead - - - the very centerpiece of the Christian faith - - - with our ability to resist and avoid sin.  Just as death has no more control over Christ, sin has no more control over us - - - unless we allow it.

"Dead reckoning" involves more, however, than being dead to sin.  Yes, it's good to know that we don't have to hate or gossip or kill or steal; but, really, that's not saying much.  You could say that much about a rock.  The real secret of victory is not in what we're dead to (sin), but what we're alive to: the Lord Jesus Christ, His Person, personality, and power.  He's present with us too, just like the corpse of the dead man; but He's alive, and powerful, and eternally loving, leading us through this world with strength and purpose.  We need to recognize that we're dead to sin - - - but that we're alive to Jesus Christ.  Alive to His word, and His Spirit, and His people.  When we realize that, and get excited about that, life will be all that it can be - - - and all that God intends it to be.

Sad to say, many Christians, on a practical level, act as though they're dead to Jesus Christ, and only excited about their passions and fancies.  They spend their lives serving themselves, i.e., their old selves.  As one preacher said, they're spending their lives running errands for a corpse.

But that doesn't have to be true of you and me.  If we "reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to Christ," we'll experience a continuing victory over our temptations that will  last until we see Jesus face to face!

What a Christ!

Ecstatic girl
 

2 comments:

  1. It sounds so simple, but it's not easy. The things you've explained aren't complicated, but to practice them sometimes seems so elusive.

    Another excellent post, thank you!

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  2. Well done, as Laura pointed out "elusive" is our daily struggle. As you pointed out "theology" can go straight to Hell."

    Keeping our eyes on Jesus and what He has done for us is a minute by minute daily struggle, and to Glorify Him we must constantly be 'In Him' and that is where life continually gets in the way.

    Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).

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