The Normal Christian Life
2 Corinthians 5:17
James C. Denison
A friend recently sent me some facts about small boys. Now that both of our sons have graduated from high school, I hope not to need this information. But many of you still may.
A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2,000 sq. ft. house four inches deep.
If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20×20 room.
When you hear the toilet flush and the words “uh oh,” it’s already too late.
Certain Legos will pass through the digestive tract of a four-year-old boy.
Super Glue is forever.
Always look in the oven before you turn it on, as plastic toys do not like ovens. The fire department in Austin, Texas has a five-minute response time.
The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy. It will, however, make cats dizzy. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.
However old we are, however old our children or grandchildren may be, we’re still the children of God if Jesus is our Lord. In our series on the church, the world’s only hope, we’ve learned that the Church belongs to Christ, her founder. It is made up of saints, people who belong to God.
Now we’ll learn in more detail how to become what we already are, how to defeat the tests and temptations which come at us every day and live in the victory Jesus died to give us. What worry or fear is keeping you from the joy of Jesus this morning? What temptation or sin is preventing your peace? How do we refuse the detours so we can arrive at the destination of God’s perfect purpose for us? Where do you need the victory of God in your life this morning?
Know your identity in Jesus
Paul claims for the Corinthians and us all: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (v. 17). How is this possible? We still look the same as before we trusted in Jesus, and unfortunately many of us still act in the same ways. How can trusting in Christ make us a “new creation”?
The key is the first phrase: “If anyone is in Christ.” To be “in” Christ is to trust him as our Lord, to ask his forgiveness for our sins and invite him to make us God’s children. This is a prayer he always answers.
But how does this forgiveness make us a “new creation”? What of our sin nature? Think about the last sin you committed. Why did you commit it? Why do God’s people still disobey God’s word and will? What changes sin nature into God’s new creation?
Here’s the mystery, the fact most Christians never discover. One of the most important verses in all God’s word is Romans 6.6: “our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”
If you have asked Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord, in that decision God identified you with his Son. He put the person you were before Christ on the cross with him. If I put a piece of paper in my Bible, it is included with it. It goes wherever my Bible goes. When I typed my sermon into my laptop computer, it became part of the laptop. It goes with the laptop.
When you asked Christ into your life, Christ actually brought you into his life. He made you part of himself. The person you were before that decision “died,” and you were “born again” as one with him.
This is why Paul testifies, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2.20).
In God’s eyes, the person you were before you trusted Christ no longer exists. Your sins have been forgiven because Jesus’ blood covered them. Your sin nature has been replaced with his divine nature. And so you and I are “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” We are God’s children, with his genetics, his character, his nature as ours. This is our identity in Christ. The first step to God’s victory over the detours and defeats of life is understanding that fact.
Choose the life of Christ
But we still sin, don’t we? Lies white and black, failures small and large, sins private and public. Why? Because we don’t choose the Christ life.
Let me explain.
Earlier this week a friend called me about the 1965 Mustang convertible his grandfather had given him. It was having a problem, and since he knew that I’ve owned two old Mustangs and still love them, he wondered if I might know something that would help. We spent an hour on the phone getting nowhere. My advice didn’t get him one step closer to solving the issue. I was simply keeping him from calling a mechanic who could actually fix what was wrong.
Not long ago my laptop needed some work, but our church technician couldn’t fix it until I gave it to him. My efforts weren’t solving the problem, and they were only hindering him.
A lifeguard cannot save a drowning man so long as the drowning man tries to save himself. He’ll pull them both under. The lifeguard can only safely save a drowning man when the man has completely exhausted himself and has no strength left.
This is hard for us. We are self-sufficient people, used to fixing things ourselves. But this is one problem we cannot solve. So long as we are trying to please God in our own ability, to resist sin in our own strength, to grow in faith and serve God in ministry with our own gifts and hard work, we actually prevent his doing his work in and through us.