He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. — Romans 8:3-4 (NIV)
What Jesus did for us was powerful. By His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, He so utterly defeated sin that its power over us was broken. He condemned it. What these verses say is so amazing that some Bible translators seem afraid to write it, and some commentators seem afraid to believe it. But the Greek is clear: the requirements of the law are fulfilled in us who walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. The words specifically say “in us”. Some want to translate it “for us”, because they rightly understand the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death: He died that we might live.
The point of contention is the kind of life that we might live. Many people believe that it is impossible for us to live righteous lives, so the best we can hope for is that Jesus will take our place. I’ve heard pastors teach that when the Father looks at us He sees Jesus. I don’t think this is true. The Father is not confused. He sees us just fine. He can put up with our failings, because we are his dearly loved children. But God intended better for us than being caught in sin the rest of our days on earth. He intended for us to be able to live righteously as we live according to the Spirit.
“The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (ESV)
A week ago, I introduced this series of posts which are based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 — verses which have ministered to me greatly. The last post — which was the first in the series — focused on the phrase “Christ’s love compels us”, which affirmed in us the immeasurable value of God’s love for us, and how that love, when fully grasped, turns our world upside down and changes our hearts and steers our lives in new directions.
This is the second post in the series, and will focus on two important ideas from this passage: the exchanged life (verses 15 and 21) and newness of life in Christ (verse 16 through the beginning of 18). Verses 15 and 21, though separated by several other verses seem to fit well together. For in both a kind of exchange is revealed. Jesus died for us so that we could live for him. Jesus became sin for us, so that we could become righteousness for him.
“‘Build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the LORD.” Haggai 1:8 (NIV)
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord… So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. — Romans 7:25; 8:1-2 (NLT)
In the midst of his railing against the frustration of being unable to stop sinning, Paul cries out “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” (Romans 7:24, NLT). He immediately answers himself with gratitude to God for providing the way out through Jesus. Paul could not do this if he were still trapped in such a frustrating way of life. In his diatribe, Paul was merely expressing how frustrating it could be for the sake of those currently trapped — or perhaps showing how frustrated he was before Jesus found him and changed his life.
“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 (NIV)
God’s new way is not to avoid the “nots”, but to do the “dos”
The law has authority over a man only as long as he lives… You… 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 to God.  For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.  But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. — Romans 7:1,4-6 (NIV)
This is the first part of what I hope to be a short series primarily written in response to a discussion a good friend and I were having about whether it is possible to live without sinning. I told him that I believe that I am very sympathetic to the position of the holiness churches — which would include the Methodists and the Nazarenes — in that I believe that it is possible. Not that I am claiming to have attained the point of never sinning, but that my temptation to sin and struggle with sin has diminished while my ability to live less for myself and more for God has increased.
And yes, some days I feel as if perhaps I made it through without any conscious awareness of sin on my part. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (NIV). I think this is a good plan, to not become overly introspective, searching for darkness in ourselves, but to let our consciences speak to us.
“Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Psalms 34:9-10 (NIV)
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” — John 4:23-24 (NIV)
Jesus responded to a genuine question from the Samaritan woman about worship and religious tradition. Jesus and the woman were from different religious and cultural lineages — with different ways of doing things that created barriers between them. Jesus explained that the Jewish people did have it right — that they had been given true instructions from God on worship.
However, Jesus came to announce a new way. No longer would a formal, arms length relationship be the standard. Jesus was creating a way of intimacy — a higher way that God had always wanted. He hinted at throughout the Old Testament. He desired more than sacrifice — He desired a sincere heart. Now Jesus was declaring that the New had come, and that True worship had less to do with place or style, and had only to do with spirit (heart) and truth. It was less about what one’s lips did, and more about the sincerity of one’s heart. Indeed, one can worship without moving one’s lips or uttering a sound.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)