Monday, June 2

The Christian Life, or Prison Life?

An illustration from yesterday's sermon had a prisoner on death row, hopelessly awaiting his execution date to be set. The President shows up at his cell to offer him a full pardon. What does he do?

The text was Deuteronomy 11, where God is offering Israel a path of blessing, or of cursing. Abundance or famine, freedom or bondage. History, even the Hebrew Bible, tells us of their choices. Back in the sermon, the question was about whether the prisoner accepted the pardon or mocked the offer. If he were so foolish as to mock, we decided the President would not take it kindly. But let's look a little closer at that picture, and how you and I might find ourselves playing a part. The pardon has been declared, and the prisoner sits in his cell, pardoned and free.

Many in the Church today might find ourselves sitting in just that cell. We have heard the sentence. "The wages for sin is death." Everything we see is witness to the fact that we are guilty, and that we cannot make good the debt we have accrued against ourselves. But we have also heard the offer. Full pardon, yes, and freedom- freedom from the penalty, and freedom from the power of sin!

"That can't be!" we reply. "We're all sinners- that's just the way we are, isn't it?" We have heard the offer of freedom, but we keep staring at the walls of the cell. This is where we live! Can we even imagine living anywhere else than in the realm of condemnation? We read Romans 7, just the way we've been taught to read it- assuming that the "wretched man that I am" passages are somehow "more true" than the next chapter, which says, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." and, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." In chapter 6, in the very part that says, "The wages of sin is death," the main point of that passage was using that "wage" to contrast the gift of life and freedom that Christ offers as it says, " being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Simply put, if we are still sinners, then we are still under condemnation for our sins. If we have the "gift of God" which is, "eternal life through Jesus," then we are "free from sin," and the deeds of the flesh have no more power over all who have received the Spirit of God. As we also read in Romans 8, if anyone is in Christ and, therefore, Christ in them, then the "body (the power of the physical and mental temptation to draw us into sin)" is dead, and it is no longer our lusts and desires that keep us going, but the Holy Spirit, Himself. So if we do sin, it is not because that is our nature, but we are going against our new, Blood-bought, nature and resisting the Holy Spirit Himself, to do so.

It is not that Christians sell themselves short when they call themselves "sinners." It is not humility to say that one's sinfulness is too big an obstacle for God to overcome, but it is selling God very short indeed. There is plenty of witness, throughout the Bible, that Christ came to save us from our sins. None at all, however, to allow for the impression that it is just the penalty that He died for. If we are saved, we are saved from our sins. If we are freed from the prison cell, it is no longer our home but a new home awaits us, "wherein dwelleth righteousness." Let's all leave that cell behind- There's a world of daylight awaiting!

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