In my last post we saw from the writing of Paul that when we come to Jesus and take on His death as our own through faith and by the grace of God, we are no longer sinners. We are no longer held accountable and condemned as sinners for we have moved from death to life through the working of the new covenant in our lives.
The very last verse of that section, Romans 6:11, tells us that we are to change the way we think for it says,
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
To “consider yourself” is to think differently about who you are and what you are now that you have entered the kingdom of God through the working of the new covenant by the death of Jesus Christ.
But it doesn’t end there with a change of mind. We need to now change our behaviours and act according to the new faith we have as Christians in Jesus Christ. This is the focus now of these next few verses in Romans 6.
Overcoming Your Passions
Everything we do and every action we take begins in the mind. It has been said that everything that exists in the physical world was created twice, first in the mind of the creator, whether man or God, and second in the act of creating it.
It is the same with acts of goodness as well as acts of sin. When we do the wrong thing or commit acts of evil in this life, they too begin with a thought. We think and then we act.
But the power of God in us and the working of the new covenant is meant to lead us to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ and we know that He does not and did not sin. One of the primary reasons why He did not succumb to sin is because He had control over the passions of the flesh.
While Jesus walked on this earth He was subject to all of the same passions and desires as the rest of us. He certainly would or could have felt envy, jealousy, lust, anger, wrath, fear, anxiety, covetousness, greed and so on because He was born in the image of man. But in spite of all of these and the myriad other passions that drive the hearts and minds of men, Jesus did not sin.
And now we have entered into His death and resurrection, which we achieved through being baptised into Jesus, we too need to learn to gain control of the human passions and desires that drive us.
To do that we must first control our thinking and our minds so that our straying thoughts do not manifest as wrongful actions. Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Now when he speaks here about destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, he is not talking about those arguments and opinions that come from other people only. He is talking about the battles that are waged in our own minds and thoughts. He is stating how we must control our own arguments and lofty or prideful opinions that rear up in our hearts and minds, driven by the passions of the flesh, for it is only our own thoughts that we are able to take captive to obey Christ.
Presentation to God
It is essential that our human passions and desires are overcome if we are to come into the presence of God. There will be no place or room for sin or sinners in His presence. And so to be presented to God we must be perfect as He is perfect.
The apostles knew this for they wrote of this need to be cleansed and to be perfected before coming into the presence of God and being presented to the Father. Note the words of both Peter and Paul in the following two verses.
13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. (2 Peter 3:13-14)
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Thus if we are to be presented to God without spot or blemish or wrinkle or any such thing, as these verses tell us, we must be cleansed of sin totally. Not just sin committed but the knowledge of sin. Sin must be so far removed from us that it is less than a distant memory, less than a memory that hovers at the edges of your perception out of sight and out of mind.
Sin must be destroyed and in the proces of destruction the things that drive sin, that is, the passions, lusts and desires of human flesh must be brought under control. We must learn to desire what is right for when our thoughts lead us to do good, good will follow. But if our thoughts and desires lead us astray through temptations of the flesh driven by human passions, then we will fall and fail.
This is why Paul wrote these words in Romans 6:12-13, which says,
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its 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.
What versus How
What Paul is describing is the “what” of this process. What we must do. What we must achieve. What we must become.
But he does not explain “how” we are to do this.
Man cannot change himself to be perfect in the sight of God. It is simply not possible because man in his natural state is filthy with sin. Man is born with the sin factor in him, lives a life where he commits sin upon sin and dies because of his sin at the time appointed by God. So “how” can a man be perfected ready for the presentation to God without spot, wrinkle or blemish as described above? And make no mistake, it has to happen to every person who comes to Jesus. We all MUST be perfected or there will be no presentation to God.
Think of it like this. Have you ever tried to wash dirty, greasy dishes in dirty, cold water where the soap suds have all been used up? Did you get the dishes sparkling clean? No, of course not. You can’t because you are trying to get the filth off while washing in a filthy place.
It’s the same with mankind. Man is filthy from sin and living in a filthy world. Man cannot cleanse himself from sin because he is washing in filthy water so to speak. He does not understand the perfection of God and cannot change his own ways because he is wallowing in the filth of this world.
So “how” do we achieve this state of cleansing so that we are sparkling clean? We need outside intervention from God. How do you clean those dirty dishes? Through outside intervention. You throw out the old cold, dirty, greasy water and replace it with fresh, clean, hot water with more soap suds and then wash the dishes so they sparkle.
Likewise we are cleansed in the waters of baptism where our sins are washed away by the cleansing blood of Jesus. And we come out of the waters in the new life as new creations in Him. Sin is washed away and so is the law so that we can no longer break the law and re-blemish ourselves. And all of this is based upon faith and is made possible through the grace of God.
This is the first step of the “how” part of this process and will be discussed in even more detail in the next few posts as we move through Romans 6 and 7.
But the behavioural changes that must come so that we are fully perfected come through further steps and extensions of this starting process. We need to receive the Holy Spirit as the disciples and Jesus did, and learn how to walk in the spirit to use the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to take every thought captive so that we can crush evil thinking before it becomes evil deeds.mwe need to learn how to focus our minds on the things of the spirit rather than the things of this earth. And we will cover those matters too as we move into Romans 8 and beyond.
The point here is that while the scriptures tell us we must be perfect (Matthew 5:48) God has given us all the tools, teachings and processes to achieve that place of perfection. He did not just tell us we had to do it and then let us try and work it out for ourselves. Through the processes of the new covenant He gave us everything we need to get there. In fact even in what He provided we find that the work of transformation is not ours, but is the working of the Holy Spirit, as we see in 2 Corinthians 3:18,
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
So in effect it is God working through the Holy Spirit who changes us ever so gradually to become in mind and deed to be like God. He changes us so that when that process of change is completed we will change our thinking and change our behaviour. And I will speak more on this in the coming posts.
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