As I said in my last post, a common Christian greeting on Easter Sunday is, “He is risen!,” to which the other person replies “He is risen indeed!” But not only can we say that about Christ, we can say that about each other. Because, as Christians, we are in union with Christ and thus we share in all of his benefits. When it comes to the resurrection, there are three great benefits of being in union with Christ:
- Justification: He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25)
- Sanctification: We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Glorification: Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of our future bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).
In this post I want to elaborate more on what it means to walk in newness of life and fight the good fight of faith.
As I said yesterday, as great as glorification and justification are, we also have sanctification as a great benefit of Christ’s resurrection. If you are in Christ, you are no longer dead in your sins and trespasses but are alive to God. The world, the devil, and the flesh are no longer your masters (Eph. 2:1-3). Your master is now Christ. You belong to him and your new inclination is to follow him now.
And that’s because you have received two great gifts from Christ: his righteousness AND His Spirit. Paul says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). This is why he prays for the Ephesians that they would know, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:19-20). What Paul is saying is that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, namely the person of the Holy Spirit, now dwells inside of every believer, including you (cf. Rom. 8:11). And the goal of our sanctification is to know this power more and more until we know it in glory. In other, words we are to become who we are in Christ. We are to die to sin more and more and live for God, being conformed to the image of Christ.
And what this all means for our ongoing walk with God and our fight against sin is that we are not only motivated by the Gospel to resist sin and obey God in thankfulness, but we are also able to do so. God hasn’t left us to ourselves to fight against sin in our own strength. If He had, we would surely lose! But the good news is that because Christ was raised we know three things:
- We fight against sin with a free conscience as those who are forgiven.
- We fight against sin in His resurrection power, by the Spirit.
- We fight against sin knowing that one day our fight will be over.
Often, when people die after fighting against cancer all their life, we say things like “they fought for 10 years against cancer, and praise God that fight is now over.” But if they are Christians we should also say, “they fought for 10, 20, maybe 50 or 80 years against sin and praise God that fight is now over!”
But in the mean time, how do we fight against sin and not give up before then? It’s knowing these three things, and submitting our subjective experience to God’s objective authoritative Word on the matter. You see, we can often feel like we are powerless against temptation and sin. But we need to resist the thought that we truly are powerless and that we just can’t help but give in to sin. Notice how Paul encourages us in our fight against sin in Romans 6:
Rom. 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
If there is one message that I want to get across to you in this post it’s this: In Christ you are forgiven of all your sins AND you are dead to the power of sin and alive to God as a new creation!
Some of you will object, “but that’s not my experience. I don’t feel dead to sin, I struggle greatly to resist it and I so often fail!” Yes, but God’s Word trumps your experience. God tells you: you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. If you believe your experience above what God’s Word tells you, then you will lose hope. But God’s Word is final on this matter. You must consider yourself dead to sin.
And is there not a desire within you now to hate sin and love God? That’s the Spirit within you (Rom. 7:7-25; Gal. 5:16-17). There is a battle going on inside of you now. The Spirit and the flesh are at enmity with each other. But God’s Spirit must win the battle because He is sovereign. And He is transforming you from one degree of glory to the next. And that’s not an overnight change. It’s a slow and steady process that we can’t just fast forward with a remote control, as much as we would like.
But what we CAN do is actively attend to the means that the Spirit ordinarily uses to change us. What means does He use? Well the Spirit often works in us in a mysterious way. But God’s Word promises us that the Spirit always works with the Word of God. And so, if you long to be more and more free from your sin and more and more like Christ you have to seek out opportunities of being in God’s Word, whether in private devotion or family worship, but especially in public worship on the Lord’s Day. Public worship is the place where the Spirit works through the preaching of God’s Word and the administration of the sacraments, which are the Word made visible (signs and seals of his promises).
And so, live out of your union with Christ. Become who you are in Christ. This is what Paul preaches over and over again to us in God’s Word. We are to fight against sin and obey God’s Word on the basis of the fact that we are in Christ through faith. We are forgiven in Christ. We are righteous in Christ. We are adopted as God’s children in Christ. We have freedom in Christ. We have strength in Christ. We have hope in Christ. And based on all the benefits we have in Christ we are to walk. He is our our ultimate identity in this world. If you are struggling with identity issues, Christ is your identity! As Paul put it so beautifully: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Once again, if there is one thing that I want to get across it’s this: In Christ you are forgiven of all your sins AND you are dead to sin and alive to God as a new creation. And so, walk in newness of life. Bask in the benefits of Christ’s resurrection and be bold in those benefits. Christ is risen! Praise God for that truth. But praise God that because Christ is risen, YOU ARE RISEN! Therefore, let us fight the good fight of faith with a free conscience, in the Spirit’s power, and until we die or Christ comes again and our fight is over. May you know the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe! Amen!