Few things trouble the soul of the child of God so much as the presence of indwelling sin and the sober realization of the inability of the flesh to overcome it.
True believers often come to an end of themselves and cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Rom. 7:24)?
Christians grieve over sin and spiritual weakness and long for victory over it. Where is victory to be found?
God’s word reveals that the work of Christ is the source of pardon for sin as well as the source of power to overcome it.
Believers possess this power by virtue of their union with Christ in his death and resurrection.
In order to grow in Christ-likeness, the believer must remember that sin’s dominion was broken when Christ died in their place and rose again. This is the apostle’s chief concern in Romans 6:1-14 – a passage to which we must regularly return.
All of this seems so clear that I marvel at how quickly we forget it and how seldom it is mentioned in pulpits and Christian literature.
The deficiency is apparent in many seeker-sensitive churches where pragmatism abounds; but sadly, it also is prevalent in many traditional Protestant churches.
I often fear that those who are most skillful at diagnosing the complexity and atrocity of sin in themselves – and in pointing it out in others – are the least skillful in pointing themselves and others to the Savior.
It is far easier to fixate on the problem than to focus on the solution. It actually is quite easy to focus on sin and quite difficult to keep our eyes steadfastly fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).
Consequently, it often seems expedient to offer pragmatic – dare I say it, even biblical – advice that does not actually give the power to overcome sin (Col. 2:20-23).
In order to progress in Christian living, we must remember that sin’s dominion was broken when Christ died for us at the cross.
Paul addressed this issue in Romans 6:1-14 by reminding believers of the freedom they have from sin’s dominion by virtue of their union with Christ: “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” (Rom. 6:6).
Sin’s power was broken in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christ came not only to cancel sin’s debt, he came to break its power. Therefore, the apostle exhorted, “You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).
When we forget that sin’s power over us was broken in the death of Christ, we inevitably will fail to walk in the newness of life that we have in union with him.
If we neglect this crucial aspect of Christ’s work, we will inevitably end up living in bondage, discouragement, fear, doubt and anxiety – or else we will become self-righteous, judgmental and proud.
In union with Christ, we have our sins pardoned, and in him the reign of sin is overthrown. The same Christ who justified us, also sanctifies us; therefore, the same faith that justifies us also sanctifies us (cf. John 15:1-5). In union with the crucified and risen Christ, believers have power to put indwelling sin to death (Col. 2:20-3:17).
With the apostle, we answer the question, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” with the joyful exclamation, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”