The Cross Walk-- Chapter 3

THREE – Dead to Sin

     Paul taught in Romans 6:11 that born-again believers are dead to sin and alive unto God.  However, all too well familiar to believers is this principle: Christians are dead to sin, but sin is not dead.  By virtue of being born again, God’s children, in Christ Jesus, have been made alive unto God and spiritual things.  Notwithstanding God’s people have an enemy who is bent upon their destruction. Believers live in a real world with a real enemy who, more than anything, desires to derail and defeat them by entangling and trapping them in sin.  The enemy, Satan, stands ready to do anything within his limited power to accomplish his purpose in a believer’s life.  Yes, this is true; however, God has not left His children defenseless against the evil schemes of the devil.  For each believer God provides a more than adequate defense to ensure victory in the face of the enemy’s spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:10ff).  More will be made of this later.

     But what happens when Satan is successful?  What happens when born-again people sin?  Before answers to these questions are discussed, a more elementary question needs to be answered:  what is sin?

     Scripture teaches that sin is disobedience to God and lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  Sin is willful disobedience to God and His principles (James 4:17).  We teach children that sin is anything you think, say, or do that breaks God’s laws.  Early in his letter, the New Testament writer James gave insight into this matter of sinning.  “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt any one.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:13 – 15).

     Within these inspired words are found some basic truths which must be emphasized.  First, God is not responsible for sin.  Jesus said that Satan is the father, or originator, of sin (John 8:44).  There is no sin or rebellion in God.  Again, we turn to Jesus, our ultimate role model; in Philippians 2 we note that Jesus is a perfect example of obedience.  Coupled to that, in Hebrews 12 we learn that because of the joy, which was set before Him, the Lord Jesus endured the cross.  Our Lord knew the joy of obedience.  Peter recorded that Jesus “committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22); He was without blemish wrote the author of Hebrews 9:14.  God is without blemish, deceit, disobedience, or rebellion; He is perfect; He is holy (Matthew 5:48).  God never tempts an individual to sin.

     Second, James shared with his readers the process of sin.  Each is tempted to be disobedient and rebellious when he is carried away or drawn away from spiritual things. Satan achieves this by his lures and traps purposely designed to produce sin.  Remember Satan diligently seeks to make Christians choose disobedience and go their own way.  Why?  Because he understands obedience to God brings the joy of the Lord; and the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  The foe is only satisfied when God’s people are weak and impotent.

     Third, temptation alone is not sin.  Too many Christians suffer unnecessary personal guilt and blame because of temptation.  They do not understand the enemy’s temptation is not sin.  Hebrews 4:15 tells us our Lord Jesus was tempted just as we are, yet He never sinned.  Since there is no sin in the temptation, there must not be any feelings of failure or culpability.  When the tempter comes we should follow the advice of Hebrews 4:16—“. . . Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”  James said Satan seeks to draw or lure believers away.  To counteract the tempter’s strategy we must learn the value of obedience; relying and concentrating upon God (Hebrews 12:1, 2).  This course of action ensures victory and supplies joy.

     One other phrase in James 1:14 is important:  “each one is tempted.”  The adversary uses his lures and traps on each believer—no one is exempt.  First John 1:8 states “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  There is no such thing as perfection this side of heaven.  In this life, born-again believers do not achieve a plateau of flawlessness, which is free from the attacks, and seductions of Satan.  Rather, believers are in a battle—an all-out war.  Some ignorantly teach that perfection in this life is obtainable.  Such teaching produces pride and arrogance.  Such dogma is unbiblical and flies in the face of John’s first epistle.  Yes, victory is very possible and even God’s design for His people.  However, the only way to know victory is by drawing near to the Savior with a humble spirit of dependency.  Since Satan is no more than a second rate power, he is no match for our Lord Jesus (1 John 4:4).

     Now we turn our attention again to some important issues and questions.  What happens to the born-again believer when the enemy of the soul successfully tempts the saint to willfully disobey?  Are we still God’s children?  Has our standing with God changed?  The truth taught by the top circle in Figure Two communicates that we are His forever.  That can never be shaken or changed even when we are disobedient and rebellious; even when we fall to Satan’s traps, tricks, and deceit.  Heaven is ours because we are in Christ.

     So what are the consequences of choosing sin?  That is the subject of the bottom circle—Figure Three.

If there is joy in obedience there is sorrow in disobedience. Sin, in the life of a believer, brings confusion, weakness, discontent, unsureness, and a raft of other sensations, which are outside God’s design for His children’s lives.

     In John 10:10, Jesus promised each of His children an abundant life.  “’The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I come that they might have it abundantly.’”  The New International Version translates Jesus’ words as having life “to the full.”  The Savior’s comparison between Himself and His adversary is stunning.  In just a few words He dramatically painted a verbal picture of the situation.

     God’s design for the abundant, or full, life includes strength and empowerment, stability, light, wisdom, effectiveness, an intimacy with God, spiritual richness, direction and purpose, liberty, His protection, safety, and provision.  This is life as God the Creator intended for His dearly loved ones.  Here is yet another example of God’s grace.  He supplies His own with everything needed to know spiritual victory (James 1:4; Colossians 2:10).  Born-again people are graciously given their position in Christ, which readies them for heaven.  In this life, Christ, abiding in the believer, equips each to be holy, Christ- like, and victorious.  Scripture states, “Do not be deceived” with Satan’s approach to this life (Galatians 6:7).  Yes, there is no doubt the adversary’s ways offer a measure of pleasure; even a tantalizing, nearly irresistible happiness which is here one moment and forever gone the next.   Leaving in its wake is destruction, confusion, darkness, disappointment, and an estranged relationship with God.

     Satan is at work to delude and draw Christians away from God.  Simultaneously, the faithful God is also at work in the lives of His own, seeking to bring them to maturity through a daily walk which is pleasing and honoring to the Lord.  The bottom circle in Figure Three represents the Christian’s day-by-day walk with the Lord, the practical result of having Jesus Christ in one’s life.  Some may refer to this as the nitty-gritty of life.  Christ in one’s life makes a difference in one’s values, choices, and direction.  He desires to see His abundant life plan at work in the life of each of His children.  Satan struggles against this strategy using temptation and sin.  According to passages in the latter half of Ephesians 6, he attacks relentlessly.

     By allowing himself to be habitually victimized by Satan, that is willfully sinning, the easier it becomes for a Christian to disobey and continue in this lifestyle pattern.  Sinning becomes addictive.  Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34 NKJV).  In Romans 6 Paul taught because of our position in Christ, Satan is therefore no longer in control, he is no longer the master.  However, we again become slaves to sin if we go on presenting ourselves to him as instruments of unrighteousness.  Paul’s instruction is “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12).  Jesus Christ has freed us not only from the penalty of sin, but also from its power.  We are no longer Satan’s slaves because we are God’s eternal possession.  Hallelujah, in heaven we will even be free from the presence of sin!  Meanwhile when a believer falls for the devil’s intimidation and traps (1 Peter 5) be confident God is faithfully at work calling His children back to the place of blessing and fullness.  “Come home child because I stand ready to forgive as you confess your sin, your disobedience.”  Confession is the way back to the Father (1 John 1:9).  We teach children that confession is like “telling on yourself.”

     This beautifully illustrated in Luke 15 by the Lord’s parable about the prodigal son.  Jesus told the story of a son who had asked for, and received, his portion of his father’s estate.  He left home and went to another country where he squandered all his fortune and in turn had to live on the edge of poverty.  One day coming to his senses he reasoned that if he would go home, perhaps he could work for his father, earning room and board.  To his joy, when he returned, he found his loving and gracious father waiting to forgive him if he would only confess his wrongdoing.  He learned his dear father had all along been patiently waiting, earnestly watching for his son’s return.  The dad of the parable hosted a large celebration because “this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and he has been found” (Luke 15:24).  The father had every reason to celebrate—his son’s life in the foreign land was nothing more than existence, and now it was just as though he had come back to life.  When a believer chooses to live in sin and disobedience, there is no joy, there is no life; there is only sorrow and mere existence.  That sort of life is so very much like life before knowing Christ as Savior.  Choosing rebellious disobedience is living in the realm and under the influence of Satan.  It is akin to living in a foreign land.  You are not home, and you do not fit in.  Again, it is noted, there was great cause for celebration at the son’s return.

     It is important to recognize the son’s repentant spirit—“Father, I have sinned . . . “ (15:21).  Forgiveness was preceded by confession.  The father’s love was continually a factor.  The young man’s position in the family was never in doubt; however, there were consequences of the son’s behavior.  As a result of his actions, the relationship between the father and son became distant.  There was estrangement rather than intimacy, failure rather than prosperity, danger instead of safety, loss in place of gain, slavery and bondage rather than liberty.  The young man forfeited all rights of sonship because of sinful disobedience.  This is exactly what takes place in the life of a believer who sins.  The way back to restoration and forgiveness is confession.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

     The Greek word for “confess” is “homologeó” and means to say the same, to agree with God about sin.  Therefore, as a believer comes before his righteous Father saying the same thing about his rebellious and disobedient act—calling sin, sin—the promise is sure.  God will forgive, cleanse, and restore the joy found in the obedient life.

     Indeed, the born-again believer lives in a real world, with a real enemy; praise be to God, the Christian also has a real God and Savior who loves him and understands fully.  Because He perfectly understands our struggles and challenges, He is able to help each believer say “no” to sin (“. . . instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires . . .” Titus 2:12).  This is possible because of several reasons.

     First, believers are indwelt by the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14).  Scripture is clear about this truth.  The very instant a person comes by faith to Jesus Christ for salvation, he is born again.  At that very instant, the Holy Spirit takes permanent residence within.  This defines the term indwelt by the Spirit of God.  Most who have been involved with a real estate transaction would be familiar with the term earnest money.  It is a mutually agreed upon amount of money the potential buyer gives to the seller in order to demonstrate good faith in his offer to buy.  Usually a neutral third party holds the earnest money until the deal is finalized.  It is a promise from the buyer indicating his intention to follow through with the purchase.

     Paul told the Ephesian Christians that at new birth, God gives believers a promise, an earnest, demonstrating His genuine intention.  That promise is the Holy Spirit—believers are “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13 [italics added]}.  Yet again, we discover the doctrine of a believer’s secure position in Christ—the top circle of our illustration.

     Some are convinced the Holy Spirit is not given to a believer at new birth but sometime later, at a different spiritual experience.  This erroneous teaching only leads to confusion and disappointment.  Writing to Christians, Paul taught that the Holy Spirit dwells within each born-again one and, if not, you are not God’s (Romans 8:9).  To the Corinthian Christians Paul wrote, “God has actually given us His Spirit . . .” (1 Corinthians 2:12 TLB).  To the Romans Paul reinforced this truth when he wrote, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you” (Romans 8:11).  The word used in these verses and translated “dwells” means to inhabit.  This truth is also taught in 2 Timothy 1:14.  First Corinthians 12:13 instructs that by one Spirit each were baptized into one body.  Both Acts 1:5 and 11:16 inform that each believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit.

     Understand this—the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian, however, not every Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Knowing the biblical definitions for “dwell” and “fill” fosters clarity.  Already stated, each of God’s children is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and, in addition, He desires to fill or control each child of God.  The Holy Spirit is not content to merely inhabit born-again believers, He deeply aspires to control each life—decisions, values, and passions, being minutely involved in the direction one takes.

     In Ephesians the Apostle Paul used a special word to describe this control—“pléroo” which means to make full or complete.  “. . . .That you may be filled up to all the fullness of God"” (Ephesians 3:19b).  “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).  This is a biblical mandate, which leaves no room for options, it is a command.  When a born-again believer chooses not to be under the Spirit’s control, he has chosen a shallow and empty existence, which knows nothing of God’s joy.

     Believers who opt for control of their own life are confused and discontent.  When we choose not to be filled by the Holy Spirit we are under the enemy’s control.  As recorded in Acts 5:3, Peter used the same word which Paul used in Ephesians 3:19.  Paul employed it to describe the Holy Spirit’s control.  In Acts, however, Peter had a different application in mind.  Peter was addressing a married couple Ananias and Sapphira, members of the early Jerusalem church.  It appears they were trying to impress their fellow churchmen and the apostles.  Acts 4:36 and 37 explain how godly Barnabas had sold a tract of land and given the proceeds to the apostles for use in the Lord’s work.  Evidently Ananias and his wife decided they would do the same thing—mind you, this was completely voluntary, and it was not required.  The land was sold, and they brought only part of the money to the apostles; feigning to bring it all.  Their motivation for the gift was not to glorify the Lord and benefit His work, but rather, be prominent and respected among their fellow believers.

     Peter publicly challenged the givers—“’Ananias why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit . . .?’” (Acts 5:3).  Satan had “filled” this believer’s heart; the foe was in control—it is the same word Paul used in Ephesians to describe the intent of the Holy Spirit.  When Christians refuse the Holy Spirit’s control, they open themselves up to Satan.  The enemy will barge in to take control.  Paul warned believers in Romans 6:12 and 13 not to allow the enemy’s control over our bodies, but rather, dedicate our members as an instrument, or tool, of righteousness for Christ’s sake.  It is our choice:  will we be God’s tool or Satan’s tool?

     The Holy Spirit owns us and wants to fill us with His divine victory, wisdom, satisfaction, and joy.  That will only occur as we live obediently.  The Holy Spirit’s presence and influence is one of the important keys for knowing victory in Christ.  The Spirit knows how to aid and help us say “no” to the enemy’s clever temptations.

     God does not leave His children without a defense against the tyranny of our powerful enemy.  Standing alone, we are incapable of saying “no” to the devil; therefore, in Ephesians 6 we are informed of the spiritual equipment we have to fight and win a spiritual battle.  In addition, Romans 5 – 8, tells its readers the truth about the battle.  The enemy wants to keep believers ignorant of this truth in order he might keep believers impotent.  When we learn and believe the truth, we have all the resources we need to fight and win these spiritual encounters.

     Strength to say “no” comes only through the empowerment of Jesus Christ living in and through us.  In chapter four, we will learn more about the six pieces of Ephesian equipment, and from Romans we will find the truth about our enemy.  This is important information to know, so we might understand more of God’s strategy for success, victory, and obedient joy.

Copyright J 2010 by J. Michael Fox