Christ suffered to pay for our sins and restore us to God. As we move past Easter, remembering that pivotal moment in salvation history, we know Christ accepts us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us as we were. We must, as Paul puts it, put to death the oId, sinful self and strive to become the new, redeemed self, becoming a new person in Christ and by his Spirit.
God does not ask us to do the impossible. The dead cannot resuscitate themselves, and the dead-in-sin cannot do anything to reconcile themselves to God. He understands that we are born to a broken world, with broken spirits, so he sent his Christ to be broken so that we might be fixed. Jesus has fully paid the price for us so that we can do the impossible! We can live a life unto God, resurrected for his purpose!
Paul states that once I have received the gift of eternal life, I am a new creature in Christ--the old person I used to be has died and everything in me has become new (II Corinthians 5:17). My sinful nature and my selfish passions have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. I strive to be alive to the good works that he ordained for me, and to be dead to the works of my former sinful self.
Remembering Good Friday, I recognize that I am commanded to pick up my cross daily. Before he was even crucified, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This implies that the crucifixion of our old self is an ongoing process, and not only a one-time event. Each day we are called to live sacrificially with one another as we strive to follow the example of Jesus. We can extend ourselves for others when we have an awareness of what Christ chose to suffer for us.
Paul taught his followers to follow Christ as an example. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:11-12). The power of the cross is that, being already saved by Christ's grace, we can live into our new identity as redeemed people by choosing to live a new way by the power of the Holy Spirit. The mercy of God states that although I deserve death, I have been given the grace to live in his likeness as I was created to live!
Being dead to sin is one miracle, but being raised to the God-honoring kind of life is quite another! We can have the very attributes of God. When a believer recognizes that, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). We are empowered to display the fruit of the Spirit because of the resurrection power! “So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).
Sin is powerless over us so that the character of Jesus can become powerful in us. He became like us that we might become like him. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. What an incredible work he has begun in us!
Day by day, as we allow him to complete this work, we transform a little more toward his image, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29). May we live into our new identity as children of the Father and heirs with the Son!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema