Win Today with Christopher Cook

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Are You Digging Graves and Talking to Dead People?

Now that you have been justified and declared blameless before God, grasp the fact that you…right now…have peace with God. And since you have peace with God, you can live life forward from victory, not for it. So this week, put the dirt back in the ground, hang-up your shovel, and leave the dead man alone once and for all.

In M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 hit thriller, The Sixth Sense, actor Haley Joel Osment’s character, Cole, is famous for his chilling line, “I see dead people.” If you’ve seen the film, you know it was a classic moment of spine-tingling suspense contrasted by the innocence of a child. And while I’ve never met anyone who has actually seen a dead person, I know plenty who talk to dead people on a regular basis—more specifically—a dead person. Fitting that this week is Halloween? I’ll let you be the judge, but by now, you’re probably wondering who this dead person is. Well…

It’s the old you. And it’s the old me.

For some reason, many of us insist on “digging graves” into our past for identity, direction, perspective, and life advice. And it may be as simple as looking in the mirror and seeing the wrong person so-to-speak—our old nature before Christ.

Do Good, Get Good. Do Bad, Get Bad

If you want a change of direction in life, it starts with a change of mind. And the first change of mind you and I need to adopt is that we are no longer to identify ourselves as slaves to sin and a sin nature. Hear me clearly: in Christ, we are not sinners as we once were; we’re saints (See 1 Cor. 1:2a). No longer are we playing the “do good, get good; do bad, get bad” game. Scratching your head in disbelief? I’ll make it legal. In Romans 6:6-11, the apostle Paul makes a bold statement:

“We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin [ending its power and paying the sinner’s debt] once and for all; and the life that He lives, He lives to [glorify] God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin [and your relationship to it broken], but alive to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.”

Did you catch his opening line? Our old self was nailed to the cross with Christ. Our sin nature is dead and gone, so put your shovel away. Herein lies the trouble, however. As a lot of us go through life, though we’ve been redeemed and born again into new life in Christ, we still “see” life through the lens of sin consciousness and a sin nature. And the result of doing so is nothing short of a disempowered, condemned view of life; a life in which faulty mindsets keep us self-centered and eventually hinder the development of effective Christian maturity as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you can relate to my friend, Jim.

Jim’s Story

Two weeks ago, I met a new friend. For the past 30 years, Jim had been living a pretty destructive lifestyle full of drugs, alcohol abuse, and relationship failure—truly a hopeless life. He even remarked, “There were nights in which I wasn’t sure I’d wake-up in the morning.” Today, as a relatively new follower of Christ, he was dumbfounded about how his life—at almost 60 years old—could take on meaning after all he had experienced. Moreover, he told me that he couldn’t seem to reconcile this new life with his destructive past because of his belief that God was still “keeping score.” Imagine his surprise when I told him, “Jim, the Bible says that ‘as high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins.’” Baffled, he shook his head. A week later, however, he said something that rattled me: “Chris, if what you say is true—and I believe it is—how could I not give my life to follow Jesus. I’m all in.”

Grace revealed.

I Hate Big “But’s”

I hate big “but’s” and I cannot lie. You other brothers…can’t deny. Yet, so many of us ask, “I know I’ve been forgiven but why do I still sin? Am I not still a sinner if I sin?” You and I have the ability sin even though our nature to sin has been crucified with Christ. How? In my estimation and personal experience, it comes as a result of a believed lie executed by my free will when I cease from abiding in His presence and abandon the grace of Jesus, instead trusting my own efforts for daily living. And to that, when we believe a lie, we empower the “liar” to wreak havoc upon our minds and hearts through shame and condemnation as frosting on a cake to the natural consequence of our choice.

The apostle John aids this thought as recorded in 1 John 2:1 in which he said, “My little children (believers, dear ones), I am writing you these things so that you will not sin and violate God’s law. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [who will intercede for us] with the Father: Jesus Christ the righteous [the upright, the just One, who conforms to the Father’s will in every way—purpose, thought, and action]. Notice that he said if anyone sins not when anyone sins. As blood-bought believers, we must believe that our normal disposition absent of our sin nature is to do things well, not do things poorly. Case in point, if we view people (and ourselves) as sinners by nature, we’ll easily use fear and control tactics as a means of interaction with them.

But if we view people as saints saved by grace (see Ephesians 2:8-9), we’ll engage and empower them to live according to their identity and to their highest potential, upholding and challenging them to reach their destiny. After all, our new nature is to make great choices. Simply stated, it’s more fruitful to tell people who they are in God and what He’s provided for them rather than remind them of what they lack.

In chapter three, he adds, “No one who is born of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, because God’s seed [His principle of life, the essence of His righteous character] remains [permanently] in him [who is born again—who is reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose]; and he [who is born again] cannot habitually [live a life characterized by] sin, because he is born of God and longs to please Him.”

You’re born of God, right? Let’s continue…

How Do I Make the Change?

“Making the change” —as we call it—has little to do with behavior modification and much to do with heart transformation. And it all starts with abiding. If the skeletons in your closet are keeping you company, allow me to give you five compounding strategies to overcome your reunion with your old nature.

  1. Think of a plant. Does it provide its own nutrition and life? Certainly not. The plant’s life emanates from its connection to the vine and the root system therein. So it is with our lives. When we abide in Christ, we will bear good fruit (See John 15:4-5).
  2. Present your body—your whole life—as a living sacrifice unto the Lord. Paul, in Romans 12:1-2, says it best: “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. That’s grace and…
  3. Grace empowers: “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast ortake credit in any way [for his salvation].” – Ephesians 2:8-9
  4. Keeping your mind renewed to God’s truth isn’t a one-time event. Forget the mental gymnastics and “be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude].” – Ephesians 4:23
  5. And now that we have truly been justified, “…[that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed).” – Romans 5:1.

Now that you have been justified and declared blameless before God, grasp the fact that you…right now…have peace with God. And since you have peace with God, you can live life forward from victory, not for it. So this week, put the dirt back in the ground, hang-up your shovel, and leave the dead man alone once and for all.

  • JMikael Rogers

    Great article! Scribbled in my notes from church and bible studies recently, I found the statement: “crucify the old self”, or, perhaps even more dramatically, “crucify the self.” I’m not one to stand in the crowd and be among those who chant “crucify Him!” I say this to say: this article lines up with what I’m seeing working in the body of Christ. Regarding the last part of this article, what stands out to me is “[let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Walking in Jesus’ presence, even on a day that celebrates the morbid and disgusting, is, truly, the best way to walk. Thank you for sharing!