Devotional Word for Friday, December 18, 2020
As we have considered the work of the Lord Jesus in His life and death (particularly His death), we have come to an interesting place in the catechism. Question 43 of Heidelberg asks, “What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?” The answer states, “That by His power our old self is crucified, put to death, and buried with Him, so that the evil passions of our mortal bodies may reign in us no more, but that we may offer ourselves to Him as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Sometimes when we think about faith in Christ and the reality that we are saved from our sins, we immediately look to the future (either our death or Christ’s return) and celebrate that in the end it will all work out. Question and answer 43 reminds us that Christ’s death on the cross has implications for our daily lives now. If we do not see that, then we do not rightly understand Christ’s sacrifice.
Note that answer 43 says, “Our old self is crucified.” Galatians 2:20 talks specifically about being crucified with Christ. We also find this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Think about that. If we are in Christ, we are a new creature. Both of these verses talk about the same idea. We were a person before that is radically changed once we are united to Christ. This is important. I am going to draw two conclusions from this amazing reality.
First, we are not our sin. Let me explain. As a kid, I was a pretty good kid. I didn’t get detention. I was never suspended from school. I also knew that I was not perfect. After all, no one is perfect. As I came to faith in Christ, I thought about the notions of Jesus saving me from my sin. I thought through my sins, and I came up with instances of sin. Remember that time I was sinfully angry, or that time I spoke disrespectfully to my parents, that must be the sin in question. I viewed the sin in my life much like a pen that I could pick and most importantly put down again. That is not quite true. As I grew in my faith, I understood that the severity of my sin was far greater. I am, by my own strength, totally depraved. That does not mean that I am as bad as I possibly could be. That means that each aspect of my thought, speech, and action is tainted by sin. Sin then is not this pen but sin is me. All of me is stained with the sin of Adam to which I have added my own. Yet, because of the work of the Lord Jesus, I am a new creature. To be clear, I still sin. Until the day I die, I will still sin; yet, I am a new creature. By God’s grace, I now have the ability to say “no” to sin and “yes” to righteousness. Even if I continue to wrestle with a difficult and pernicious sin, I am not defined by it. If you are right now wrestling with a sin that is overwhelming, let someone know. If your reaction to that is to recoil fearfully thinking, “What will that person think of me?”, then you must remember that in Christ the Lord sees you as a new creature and not sin. If the Lord sees you as a new creature (a redeemed sinner), then so will God’s people.
Second, in light of my being a new creature, I expect to see fruit. Paul in Galatians 5 gives a summary list of actions that are not so good which we might call the deeds of the flesh and a list of actions which are produced by the indwelling Spirit called the fruit of the Spirit. Directly after that, he writes “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus (i.e. believe in Him) have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” That means that Christians should expect to see less and less of the deeds of the flesh in their lives and more and more of the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot simply state that we are a new creature, God has become oblivious to my sin, and it does not matter what I do. Because we are now able to say no to sin, we should see grown and bear fruit. We recognize that maturity (whether physical or spiritual) is rarely straightforward. More often than not it is one step forward, two steps back, four steps sidewise and so on. Yet, for Christians we should expect to see a growing obedience to the Lord not as the basis for our salvation but the fruit of God’s Spirit working within us whereby we offer ourselves as a living offering to the Lord. Let us pray.