In his paraphrase of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, Ray Ortlund captures a truth about our lives in Christ that I fear too many of us forget or simply don’t understand – in Christ, we have died to sin.
“We must understand that our old self, our natural bent so congenial with sin – that old self has been crucified with Christ. That is, when we came by faith to the cross, we renounced our past and left it hanging up there on the cross, where Christ our Head bore its guilt for us.” – Romans 6:6
Commenting on this text, Ortlund speaks the truth plainly:
“O God, we your church are losing our radical edge, because we have forgotten this aspect of the gospel. Our discipleship is so flimsy, so unconvincing, because we do not understand this basic doctrine of death to sin, followed by new life, in union with our crucified, buried and risen Lord. We do not see our conversion to Christ as a death to our old life. We see it as a pleasant ornament on our old life – a little religion added in.”
So when I look in the mirror do I see a man who lives as one who has died to sin? When I look at my students do I see young men and women who have simply added a little religion or placed Jesus as an ornament upon their foreheads? Or have these students died to sin and been united with the risen Lord?
I might just be crazy, but I believe this is one of our most pressing problems – we don’t want Jesus to change our lives, we want him to bless and approve what we’re already doing or plan to do. The problem is, however, that the gospel simply doesn’t support such a desire.
He didn’t die so that a little of His goodness could be sprinkled over us, leaving us largely untouched, but somehow “better”. He died to make us new. He died to reconcile us to the Father. He died so that we could live free, no longer bound by slavery to sin.
This is so much more than a mere ornament.