The apostle Paul brings the resurrection of Jesus into our everyday lives. When the Holy Spirit reanimated the dead body of Jesus (Rom. 8:11), we were raised to walk in a new kind of life— now. The apostle Paul says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). We’ve become a new kind of being that has never existed before; we’re in Christ, and Christ is in us.
This extremely good news means I don’t have to live from my = own resources, my own willpower, my own human effort, my own trying. If I lay down “my life”—what I think I want, what I think I need—I get a flow of resurrection-life.
Paul explains in Romans 7 how we died to living from our own effort and willpower. He uses marriage as a symbol of our union with Christ and says we died to our old husband—the law, the principle that since God has a standard of righteousness, we’re to keep it by trying hard, and that this trying will make us holy. We were married to this spirit of independence and willpower.
If you’ve ever tried too hard to be good at something, you’ll recognize that there is something about the underlying fear of not being sufficient for the job that makes you try harder. The trying “puts you off your game.” It doesn’t allow for easy, natural movement, smooth conversation, or truly funny jokes. You become stifled because you’re self-conscious and too focused on doing everything “right.”
“God begins the good work, and God completes the good work.”
A Christian “trying to be like Jesus” has the same problem. Paul says the law, “Do not covet,” produced in him all manner of coveting by awakening a sin-consciousness (Rom. 7:7–12). It got him focused on sin and he tried to quell it by his own willpower and effort. Self-effort produces sin because we become focused on sin-avoidance. A branch trying to produce fruit by its own ability cuts itself off from the source and withers. This is how Paul can say that the law was given to make offenses increase (Rom. 5:20) and that the power of sin comes from the law (1 Cor. 15:56). The law stimulates the tendency to self-dependence and pride, and we disconnect from abiding in Christ. The result is sin (1 John 3:6).
The law wasn’t given to make us holy; it was given to expose independence, self-effort, and pride. It was given to increase offenses and ultimately to drive us to the true source of goodness.
If you’re in the jungle with a man-eating tiger roaming around, all your thoughts focus on avoiding it. When you’re spending all your time and thought avoiding a tiger, there’s no time to think of anything but your own problem. As a musician I’m not going to play my best if my focus is on avoiding mistakes. I’ll be too safe and careful in my performance, and it’s likely, because of fear and misplaced focus, that I’ll make more mistakes. I’m playing from fear rather than being powered by the love of making music. To play well, I have to cast off fear, step into trust, and play from a sense of sufficiency. To truly fulfill any of God’s law toward my neighbors, I must rise higher than sin-avoidance and fastidious rule-keeping; I must live from love. If I love them, I won’t steal or covet or lie.
But here’s the problem: there’s only one continually flowing source of love—God (1 John 4:8). Love isn’t generated by me trying to love. I need something higher than my human love and strength—I need to live from the eternal love of God.
Paul prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him… that you may know… what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Eph. 1:17–19).
In the new covenant we are filled with this resurrection power. The old way is flipped upside down, and holiness now doesn’t depend on my self-fueled human effort. The Ten Commandments become ten promises. I’ll have no other gods before me because Christ in me protects me. I’ll love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength because Christ in me is the very love of God. I’ll love my neighbor as myself because the Holy Spirit in me is a never-ending river of God’s love. The commandments become diagnostic; if I’m turning food or drink or sex or entertainment or anything else into a little god to get relief every time I feel stress and anxiety, if I’m envious and coveting, if I’m telling “white lies” to stay out of trouble or not take responsibility, then I’m not depending on, trusting in, or living from the Holy Spirit in me. God’s life in me is blocked by my unbelief.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). God begins the good work, and God completes the good work. Our part is to abide and depend.
Our new life begins to awaken when we practice laying down “my life”—“my rights” and “what I deserve”—and recognize Him as real, present, and within us. We are in Him, and in every circumstance and for every situation, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). This is abiding dependence, and when we take up the cross and lay down our lives in trust, living in His life—His forgiving, loving, reconciling life—the result is resurrection.
by Ron Block
Our humanity is meant to be powered by the Breath of God. You want to grow more deeply in your faith—to know in your bones the love the...
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