Every one of us has had the experience of trying not to do some evil thing, but in spite of everything, we still found ourselves doing it. One man says that his life has been a disappointment. “I expected to quit doing the things that hinder,” he said, “but instead I seem worse now than I was before.” Many who claim Christ as Savior are still living under the dominion and power of sin. It is easy to rise in the morning and say, “Today I’m not going to allow this tongue of mine to say one unkind thing”—but along comes some unexpected circumstance, and almost before I know it, I’ve said something for which I could bite my tongue! Perhaps you have an uncontrolled temper. Following an outburst of rage, you are ashamed, and you resolve never to give vent to your feelings again. After confessing your sin, you go on your way—only to find that the same old sin sometimes overtakes you again.
Are you one of the many human slaves who move from dawn to dusk day after day without any plan, purpose, or real goal in life? Do you ever long to rise out of the narrow rut in which you have been living, into a life of victory? Jesus Christ will deliver you; you can live victoriously in Christ. This is not a reference to “sinless perfection.” Anyone who claims to be sinlessly perfect either has a shallow view of the holiness of God, or else holds a light view of the awfulness of sin. Even the Apostle Paul had not yet experienced total victory over sin (Philippians 3:12).
The Bible says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:12). There is a difference between living in a country and reigning there. Many Christians live in the USA, but we don’t reign there. And just so, the sin-nature dwells within, but it is our responsibility not to let it rule in our lives.
Romans 6 contains vital truth on the subject of deliverance from the power of sin. The first five chapters of Romans point out that all are guilty before God, but at the moment of repentance and conversion they are declared righteous before God, and thus they begin the Christian life. But all of us know that the new believer soon faces a tremendous fact—the fact of indwelling sin. It is one thing to become a Christian; it is quite another to live a life of holiness. It is one thing to accept Christ’s death for us, another to realize His life in us.
Romans 6 describes not the kind of life we should live, but how to live that life. The explanation weaves around four words—the first is the word “know.”
Verse 3 says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death?” A form of the word know is found also in verse 6 and in verse 9.
All who have accepted Christ believe that He died for them, but few seem to realize that they died with Him. The Bible teaches that in the mind of God every believer died and arose in the death and resurrection of Christ, and if we are to know the secret of victory, we must know this great truth.
At Calvary we were identified with Jesus Christ in death. That is why Paul, in Galatians 2:20, said, “I (have been) crucified with Christ.” And in Romans 6:3-5, he shows that our baptism was a symbol of this death with Jesus to the old life of sin. When we descend into the water, and the water closes over our heads, it is like being buried in a grave; and when we emerge from the water, it is like rising from the grave. Thus our baptism is an outward symbol which illustrates our death and resurrection with Jesus. We may not feel like we died with Christ, but we must go by what the Bible says. (How do we know that Jesus died for our sins? We believe that—but how do we know it? There is only one way we can know that Christ died for us, and that’s because the Bible says so. And just so, there is only one way any person can know that he was crucified with Christ, and that’s because he believes what the Bible says.)
In Romans 6:6-10, Paul explains that our crucifixion with Jesus puts an end to the dominion of sin. What is the purpose of our crucifixion with Jesus? Verse 6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man [was] crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” The word translated “destroyed” sometimes lets a false impression, and has led to much fanaticism. It literally means “to render idle, inactive, or inoperative” or “to annul.” Romans 6:6 literally says, “Know this—that our old man was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be annulled.” The annulling of a contract means that its power and its force are broken. The contract may still exist as a document (a mere piece of paper), but it is no longer in force; just so, sin still exists in the believer’s life. It has not been eradicated, but its power has been broken and annulled. The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the annihilation of our sinful natures. We will not get rid of the sin-nature until we are safe in the arms of Jesus. While the sin-nature is still in us, we are to be dead to its power over us.
Think of the village drunkard who could seldom pass the door of the tavern, and was unable to resist the appeal of liquor during the greater part of his life. He drank himself to an early grave. Suppose that, as he lay in his casket, the men from whom he bought the poison which killed him, brought bottles and bottles of the stuff into the room, and placed it in the casket alongside his dead body. Would the liquor have any attraction for him? Certainly not; it would have no appeal to a dead man. Death ends the drunkard’s relation to liquor. “But,” you say, “If I am dead to sin, why is it that I meet up with sin so often?” And the answer is that sin did not die. It is we who are to be dead to the appeals of sin.
Romans 6:11 says, “Likewise reckon . . . yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God declares that when Jesus died on Calvary, we died with Him. Now we are to reckon this to be a fact. The Greek word for “reckon” means “to count” or “to calculate.” By faith, we are to count as true what God has already affirmed as true about us. First, we died with Christ. Second, we arose with Him. God says it is so, and now I say it is so! We are to conclude about ourselves what God has already declared about us. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin . . . through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
How shall we reckon ourselves dead unto sin? The answer is this: Count it as true, and then act accordingly. We must take into account the fact that we died to sin in all our actions, and believe that we died with Jesus simply because God says it is so! We are not to reckon the sin to be dead, or uprooted, or eradicated. The sin-nature is still there, but we are to reckon (or count) ourselves dead to the old relationship with sin.
When people are converted to Christianity from pagan religions, they are often cast out of their families. The relatives of Jewish or Hindu converts to Christianity often actually celebrate a “funeral” for the member of their family who has become a Christian. And after the “funeral” the family and relatives treat that person as though he no longer exists. The individual is still living, but his family counts him as dead. Because he became a Christian, they don’t want anything to do with him. This is exactly what we are to do, as far as sin is concerned.
Perhaps you have lost some loved one who was very precious to your heart. After the funeral you came back to a lonely darkened house. As you walked into the house, you saw the chair where the loved one always sat, and it seemed that you just had to see him sitting there. As the weeks go on, you discover hundreds of little objects that bring back memories, making you think your loved one must still be alive. You have to reckon for a long time before you realize that your loved one is actually gone. It is a bitter reckoning, and so it is when reckoning ourselves dead indeed unto sin. It costs something; it is not easy; it requires constant watchfulness—but remember that we are not called upon to defeat or conquer sin; we are asked to reckon ourselves dead to it.
Bible reading is good. Prayer is necessary. Attending services at God’s house is important. But none of these things can take the place of the act of reckoning ourselves to have died with Jesus, and thus we are dead indeed to sin. The self-life and the sin-life will always clamor for expression, but God says that we have died to the dominion of sin (when we died with Jesus), and now we are not only to KNOW that this death is a fact, but we are to RECKON it so; that is, we count it to be true in our daily conduct.
When temptations come my way, I am to be on the alert, and say, “I have died to that sin; it shall no longer dominate my will. I belong to Jesus Christ, and I’m going to live for Him.”
Verse 13 says, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God . . . and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” We are not only to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, and have nothing to do with it—but verse 13 says that we are to “yield” ourselves to God, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto Him. To yield is “to surrender” or “to be at the disposal of another.” When two men are striving together, the contest might last indefinitely, but the moment one yields, the struggle is all over. Yielding is the great act of consecration and dedication to God. It is the absolute surrender of self and selfish plans—presenting our talents, abilities, faculties, and powers—as the instruments of righteousness to God.
Once (as verse 13 states) we yielded the members of our bodies (our hands, minds, eyes, ears, and heart attitudes) as instruments of unrighteousness. Now, these same members of our bodies are to be yielded to the service of God.
Our minds should be His to think with.
Our hearts should be His to love with.
Our feet should be His to walk with.
Our hands should be His to work with.
Our eyes, ears, hands, and mouths—all are to be yielded to the Lord Jesus.
There are many professing Christian men and women who yield their members to the devil, and thus help the devil fight the Lord Jesus. It is a fearful thing that an unsaved man should yield his members to Satan, but it is far worse when a professing child of God helps the devil fight against the Lord. If the devil wants to slander a person, he would far rather use the tongue of a Christian than that of a sinner. The devil stands on one side and tempts us, saying, “Yield your members to me.” Jesus stands on the other side and pleads, “My child, yield your faculties as instruments of righteousness to God.” The choice is up to each individual.
If a person chooses to put himself in front of a large fire, it is no longer within his choice as to whether or not he will feel warm. He is going to feel warm, because the law of nature works independently of him, from the moment he places himself under its sway, and as long as he stays there. All he has to do is go near the fire, and he will be warm. When we yield ourselves to God and our members as instruments of righteousness to Him, He will produce spiritual fruit in our lives. It is open to our choice whether or not to go near the fire, but if we go, the law of nature begins to work, and we will be warm. We will get warm regardless of whether we can make ourselves warm or not. And so it is regarding things spiritual. If we yield ourselves to God, He will begin to operate in our lives independently of us, because we are under His control. The graces of the Spirit will begin to grow if we are yielded to Him, just as we will automatically get warm if we choose to go near the fire.
Romans 6:16 says that “to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” We are to KNOW a certain truth, to RECKON that truth to be true, and to YIELD ourselves to God—but now also, we are to walk daily in obedience to God. To obey is to give earnest attention to the Word of God, and to carry out its instructions. It is through obedience that we continue in God’s way of living. The acts of knowing, reckoning, and yielding may be done in a moment’s time, but it is through obedience that these blessings are stretched over a lifetime. Reckoning ourselves dead indeed unto sin must become a lifelong program, because we are constantly subject to the subtle attacks of the devil. The devil may very likely leave us for a time, letting the blessings of God flow unhindered, but we can be sure that he will strike again! See Luke 4:13. At any moment we may be tempted to sin, therefore we need continue reckoning ourselves dead to sin. The Bible does not teach that we cannot sin, but neither does it teach that we must sin. It is our nature to sin, but it is our responsibility not to sin.
The child of God who knows his identification with Jesus (in death), and reckons it so (in his daily life), will be in a position to experience the victory that Jesus longs to make real in his life. He can truly say with Paul, “But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). There is no easy road to victory. No person can ever become a mature victorious Christian by one mere emotional experience. When the temptation comes, we must reckon on the fact that we have died to sin. We need to say, “I’m dead to that sin,” and then we look up to God and say, “But Lord, I’m alive to you, I’m at your disposal, here are my members for you to use.”
Too many among us are still the way we have always been! We’re religious, but not righteous! We’re baptized, we attend services almost every Sunday, but there’s no longing in our hearts for anything deeper. God pity those who have a lukewarm attitude toward holy living. God’s great purpose in redemption is not merely to get us to believe on Christ so that we can escape Hell and go to Heaven. It is His purpose to conform us to the image of His Son. He wants us to be like Jesus.
There is a fable about a frog that was in a deep rut along a country road. He tried hard to get out, but he couldn’t make it. Even some of his friends (other little frogs) stopped to help him, but they also failed. The very next day one of these helpful friends came hopping along the same road. To his surprise, he met the frog who (the day before) had been hopelessly caught in the deep rut. “Well,” the friendly frog said, “I thought you were stuck in that rut for good.” “I was,” the first frog said, “But a big truck came along, and I had to get out.” The devil tries to make people give up the idea of becoming real Christians and living a holy life, by telling them it can’t be done anyway. But we can live holy lives if we want to. There are too many who just don’t care!
Some church members have the idea that living a holy life is an optional matter. They deliberately keep on practicing their little sins, using the excuse that no one is perfect anyhow. They feel they are Christians because they have been baptized and they joined the church and they are trying to keep the Golden Rule. But holy living is not optional; holy living is essential in order to experience Heaven after this life is completed. The Bible says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Those who want to get to God’s holy City, must set out to live a holy life here and now.