Scholar and theologian Matthew Henry asked, “What can be a stronger motive against sin, than the love of Christ? Shall we sin against so much goodness, and such love?”
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, 6:1-4 he asked, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin, still live in it? Or, do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Jewish leaders of his day were appalled, and demanded that the apostle Paul explain himself! They wanted to know if his philosophy of being saved by God’s grace, as opposed to merely following of the Law of Moses, was tantamount to a pass to living a sinful life. They wanted to know if the Jesus he preached about encouraged followers to live any old kind of way, so that more and more grace could be extended toward them.
Paul was clear that the response to God’s grace was certainly not to live as wildly as possible. He asked, “Should we continue in sin so that grace can abound?” Paul’s emphatic answer was “God forbid!” The thought of taking advantage of God’s grace isn’t a welcomed one in the mind of one to whom great love has been demonstrated. The characteristic that marks the life of someone who professes Christ is not defiant and rebellious, but obedient and compliant. God's faithful promises to us are much more powerful and effective at annihilating sin, than our fickle promises to God. Matthew Henry wrote, “Sin may struggle in a real believer, and create him a great deal of trouble, but it shall not have dominion; it may vex him, but it shall not rule over him”
So many believe it is impossible for human beings to change; impossible to let go of words, actions, and behaviors that are not pleasing to the Lord, and that’s simply not true. The Bible says that we can do all things through Christ. Just the thought of that should give us great strength, hope and assurance.
For anyone who has experienced the love of God and his grace, it is impossible not to acknowledge what needs to change. We know what needs to go altogether, and make a conscious decision to turn from deliberately offending God. The answer to Paul’s question, “shall we who died to sin continue live in it” is “No way!
Those who are “baptized into Christ Jesus” by pledging allegiance to him, having faith in him, and accepting him as Lord of our lives are forever linked not only with him, but with His death and resurrection. Basking in wrongdoing is no longer an option. We are symbolically and spiritually “buried” with Christ and then “resurrected”-- raised with him, to “walk in newness of life”
I like this definition of the word “new”: “already existing, but seen, experienced or acquired for the first time.” No matter how old we are; no matter how old our mistakes are, in Christ we can start again! Perhaps for us, every day is a new opportunity for a do-over, but we have to remember that it is the finished work of Christ that matters most. He did the work. We don’t have to add or embellish just take advantage of the help God offers and the grace he has freely given.
We have a new lease on life when we embrace God's promises. We love God, his word, his promises, his commandments and gratefully acknowledge that we are conformed to His image. We are new creatures, and have new hearts, minds, conversation, standards, goals, views, presents and futures.
Baptism is a powerful sacrament. It is also a visible indication of a person’s desire to experience new life. By the same baptism which publicly ushers us into Christ’s death, we are also ushered into his burial. To leave a deceased body unburied is the height of humiliation. It was necessary and fitting for Jesus after "dying for our sins according to the Scriptures, to descend into hell. It was the final, humiliating part of the plan of salvation. It was the last link to the life he gave for all mankind, and so we, by virtue of being "buried with Him by our baptism into His death," also disassociate ourselves from our own, old, unredeemed, sinful state.
If our old nature, our old state, now dead and buried with Christ, was completely sinful, the new nature requires a holy life. Each time we have even the slightest inclination to return to anything that threatened separation from God; anything that we know was wrong, caused us pain, stress, grief, and shame, we make a mockery of being alive with Christ to newness of life.
Baptism teaches the necessity of dying to sin; dying to ungodly and unholy lives, and of rising to walk with God in newness of life. The “old” man, is crucified with Christ. Even in a broken, wounded state, it still struggles for attention, control and fights for life, but anything that is not pleasing to our holy God has got to go. We have grace. We have faith. We live for Christ and experience great joy as we serve him. The Bible says “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, and all things are become new”. Notice those two verbs in the same sentence—“are” and “become”. Is it possible to be something, and begin to be something at the same time? Yes! Being and becoming new creations in Christ—that’s our desire. It is ongoing, and it looks good on us!
Father, we thank you that you didn’t just abandon us; give up on us and leave us without the will to want to be and do better. We thank you for the gift and opportunity to be new creations in Christ. Thank you that all things are become new. Thank you for loving us enough to forgive, and for the capacity to be conformed to your image. Thank you for knowing all about us, and still wanting fellowship with us. Thank you for reminding us in your word that we are no longer under law, but under grace. Thank you for the assurance that we can bear temptation. Thank you for loving, saving, redeeming and having compassion toward us. Like David we ask you to “Establish our footsteps in Your word” . Help us to never, ever take your grace for granted. We thank you for your presence, guidance, wisdom and faithfulness, and your promise to never leave or forsake us as we walk in newness of life.