From Death to Life

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. 

Colossians 1:21-23

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not that we are basically good people who just need a little help to become better people, and if we would follow some principles of Jesus, we would be better. Many churches are proclaiming this message, but this is not the gospel.

No, the gospel is that we were once enemies of God. Our thoughts and our behavior revealed the fact that we were alienated from God. But God, in His great love and grace, sent Jesus, the image of the invisible God, to die for us. We were dead in our sin and so Jesus came to rescue us by dying for us.

When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, He brought us with Him. We have now been transformed from death to life. The message is not that good people get a little better but–by faith in Jesus because of the grace of God–dead people come to life!

The result is not that we are a little better. The result is that Jesus now presents us to the Father as perfectly holy, without blemish and free from accusation. We are clothed with Christ, not the filthy rags of our old life. Paul said it this way to the Christians in Corinth:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (New English Translation)

We stand before the Father blameless because of what Jesus did for us. “…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”(Romans 6:11)

Living a holy life simply means we stop doing CPR on our old, dead life. Our old self has been crucified with Christ and buried with Christ. If we sense it coming out of the grave, it does so as a zombie that needs to be put down. It is not who we are anymore. Holiness is simply being who we now are in Christ. Holiness is living out our true identity as new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul says it this way to the Romans:

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 6:13-14

Created to be like God

Notice what the Ephesians were taught about their old life before Jesus and their new life in Christ:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24

Being a follower of Jesus means, in one sense, that our old self is dead and we have been made a new creation⏤all of this in the past tense. Paul tells the Romans to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”(Romans 6:11).

Yet, there is also a sense that this activity of putting off the old self is one that is continuous. We must be continually choosing to live in the reality of our new life in Christ. This process starts by stepping away from our old life and changing the way we think. Our minds are the first battleground of the new life in Christ. Our minds are Jericho.

That’s why here Paul says “to be made new in the attitude of your minds,” and to the Romans he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”(Romans 12:2). Just as we put on clothes by putting our head through first and then pulling it down around our torso, the same is true when we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27); it begins with a change in our thinking, a renewal of the mind.

What is truly amazing is how our new life is described here. Our new self, our life as a new creation in Christ, was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” In other words, we were made righteous so that we could live righteously, not so that we could continually sin and get away with it. Paul asked the Romans, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”(Romans 6:1-2).

What this means is that this new life we’ve been given in Christ has new tendencies. Whereas in our old self, we had a tendency toward sin and selfishness, in this new life we have a tendency toward holiness and righteousness. We’re no longer miserable sinners but glorious saints. Our identity has been radically changed. This new life we’ve been given was designed to be holy. When we are not holy, when we live unrighteous lives, we are living outside of its design. It was created to be righteous.

When I take my son to the batting cage, the purpose of me putting the coins in and paying for all of those balls to be pitched to him is so that he will hit them. At the batting cage there are no strikes being tallied. All the strikes have been paid for. They don’t exist anymore. But they weren’t removed so that my son could stand there and miss ball after ball. They weren’t removed so that he could earn a “walk” to first base. The whole reason strikes were removed was so that he would get to a place where he could hit every ball that comes at him.

Our sin was totally removed by Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. But our sin wasn’t removed so we could keep sinning and not care about it. Our sin was removed so that we could finally live holy. Not only were we made holy by Christ, but His grace enables us to live holy. His grace not only wipes our slate clean, but it empowers us to live righteous lives that would otherwise be impossible.