Walking in New Life
Most people like new things; a new dress or an item for the kitchen, a new tool, a new vehicle, or a new house. And then there are new experiences. We join a new church fellowship, or we start a new job. In marriage, we establish a new family unit, which often leads us to welcome a new baby, which leads to a new schedule, new expenses etcetera, etcetera.
So, we like new things. But why? I’m sure you can think of some of the reasons: convenience, dependability, compatibility, necessity, fulfilment, pride (we don’t like to admit that one). Often, we see new things as an improvement of our lives. But new things should also be a constant reminder that our physical life, with all its surroundings, is only temporary!
We also celebrate new things in the realm of the spiritual. Our conversion experience opens the door to a new life in Christ. That should be followed by baptism, a public declaration of life-change that’s already begun. It’s the recognition of our salvation experience, our obedience to the biblical command of baptism, and our acceptance into formal membership of a local church body. It’s an event that every Christian parent wants to see take place in the lives of their children.
In the Scriptures, we are invited to walk with Jesus in new life. In view of that invitation, I turn to a portion of Scripture that deals with new things. Our text is Romans 6:1-7. I’ve titled the message, “Walking in New Life.”
As we examine our text, let’s observe several STAGES necessary for walking in new life.
The First STAGE is,
The Death of the “Old” Man
Paul makes it crystal clear in this passage that water baptism is an outward identification of our death with Christ. In verse six he states that “our old man is crucified with him…” There is no possibility of walking in new life until there has first been death. It’s the death of the old man, the old nature, the sinful nature, that permits hope for the birth of the new man.
Why did God bar Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden? Because their disobedience made them subject to death (both spiritual and physical), and God didn’t want them to live forever in that hopeless state. So, the sentence of death was, in reality, an act of mercy!
Under the Old Covenant, the Day of Atonement was a symbol of this truth. Two goats were chosen as part of this ritual, then, lots were cast to determine their fate. One of them was offered as a sacrifice and the other was sent away into the wilderness (where it presumably would die or be killed) to signify the removal of the sins of the people. This signified the death or passing of the sins of the past year. Now they had a fresh start for a new year.
Fast forward to Jesus’ ministry here on earth. In John 12:24 Jesus said, “Unless a [grain] of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” And Jesus repeatedly reminded His disciples that, for this new life He spoke about to become reality, He would first need to die.
Here in our text, Paul teaches that water baptism is a visual reminder of our agreement with this principle; there can be no life without death, and further, death precedes life. When all of us who are genuinely born again, by faith, accepted the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only acceptable payment for our sin, we entered into His vicarious death. Vicarious simply means that He died in our place.
By faith we embrace the fact that, when Christ hung on the cross, our sins were nailed there with Him. Paul describes this in Colossians chapter two. “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Paul also equates baptism with Christ’s burial. Jesus’ lifeless body was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb. But His body didn’t decay. Where Jesus went and what He did during those three days and three nights has been the subject of theological debate for centuries. But the most important fact is, He died and was buried. Without death, there is no need for a resurrection!
It is through our death with Christ that the “body of sin” (verse 6) is destroyed. The body of sin is Paul’s way of referring to our physical body, which carries out our sinful desires. Now it’s interesting, and the rest of the passage as well as our experience bears this out, that this word, destroyed, does not mean annihilation. It means to render something inoperative. Death releases us from the control of sin and makes new life possible. We are no longer slaves to sin; we have a new master!
One of the questions I answered at my baptism was, “Are you truly sorry for your past sins, and are you willing to renounce Satan, the world, all the works of darkness, and your own carnal will and sinful desires?” If you’ve taken these vows before, this teaching is an opportunity to renew them before the Lord. Our identification with Christ is the dealing of a death blow to the old man, the man of the flesh.
The Next STAGE is,
The Birth of the “New” Man
This is the heart of the Gospel message. Jesus Christ can take those who are dead in sin and raise them to new life! There’s something intriguing, miraculous, about new life. Every birth is a miracle.
We often make a big deal over newborns. We have baby showers, give “baby” gifts, and we have baby dedications. When parents bring a newborn to the church service for the first time, people crowd around wanting a glimpse. And, in my experience, many of the women and young girls line up for a chance to hold the baby for a few moments. New life is precious; it’s exciting. I think all those things are good.
But I also think we don’t make a big enough deal about spiritual newborns! Have you ever been part of a celebration for someone’s spiritual birthday? This isn’t meant to exalt that person, but rather to exalt God for His faithfulness and blessing in their lives, for calling them to Himself. It is a realization that another eternal soul has been reborn, adopted into the family of God. It is a time for rejoicing, a time for giving encouragement, a time for blessing.
And how is this new life effected? Notice verse four; we, like Christ, are raised from the dead by the glory, that is the majesty and power, of the Father. This isn’t something we’re able to do for ourselves. The resurrection is an incredibly important part of our Christian experience. The cross provides atonement, forgiveness for sins. It gives us right standing with our Heavenly Father through the righteousness of Christ. But the resurrection provides the dynamic power for daily, victorious living.
It’s through our resurrection with Christ that we can stand up to our fleshly desires, to the allurements of the world, and to the temptations of the devil, and say, “I don’t live that way anymore. I don’t go to those places that simply gratify my flesh. I don’t yield the members of my body as weapons of unrighteousness. I don’t allow my senses to make my decisions anymore. I don’t serve sin anymore; I belong to Jesus Christ, and He is my Master and Lord.”
I’m afraid there are too many people in our churches who are trying to imitate a new life without ever going through the process of death. Do you know what I mean? They’re trying to live a life that is different from the world, but they live in continual defeat. They want to live a morally acceptable life, but they have never “died” with Christ. They’re still holding on to the control of their own lives.
There are people in every denomination who look acceptable on the outside but inwardly they have no life and bear no fruit because they’ve never died to self. Jesus can’t raise us to new life unless we are first willing to die! It’s only as the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, that life and fruitfulness can be produced. Only if we’ve been planted together in the likeness of His death, can we be raised in the likeness of His resurrection.
And we must remember too, that new life is fragile. It takes additional care and nurture. We don’t expect babies to provide for their own needs. When they’re first born, they’re almost completely helpless. So, we care for all their needs. Young plants are not taken from the warmth of the greenhouse and put directly out into the cold. They must be “hardened off.” They must be prepared for what they’ll face out there in a hostile environment. So, it is with newborn believers. They need care, nurture, feeding, and training for the things they’ll face in a hostile world. They’ll need time to grow and mature. That leads us to the final stage of walking in new life.
The Final STAGE is,
The Growth of the “New” Man
Paul states in verse seven that the person who has died is freed from the power of sin. That makes sense to us. There’s nothing in the world you can use to tempt a corpse! He’s free from the temptation to sin, and the commission of sin.
We know from experience that while our baptism with Christ into His death is real, and though it’s done once in the spirit, it must be worked out again and again in the mind and in the body. That’s why Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 and 2, to bring our bodies and our minds under the control of God through the Spirit. Our old nature is not dead in the sense in which we no longer need to deal with it. It’s dead in the sense that it is inoperative if we are truly “in” Christ and walk in the power of the transformed life.
Going back to our analogy of infancy, a child needs time to grow and develop into a mature adult. During this time there’s the need for much guidance, training, patience, and perseverance. All of us who have had children know that sometimes it seems training them is like two steps forward and three back! But we don’t give up, we don’t quit, because eventually, they begin to get it. That’s how it is with us and God. If God were like me, I could picture Him shaking His head at some of the things I do, wondering, “is this guy ever going to catch on?”
Even though the progress seems slow, we must remember that the purpose of resurrection is so that we can walk in newness of life. Though I first committed my life to Christ many years ago, I’m still learning what it means crucify the flesh in daily living. As Paul states later in this chapter, we must continually account ourselves as dead to sin. That is, we need to live like we believe this is indeed a fact.
I’m so thankful that I no longer need to be a slave to sin. When I face temptation, I have a choice. I have the same power residing in me, the Holy Spirit, that raised Christ from the dead. He gives me wisdom to know how to defeat the devil. I can quote these verses from our text, personalizing it with the temptation I’m facing.
I’ve found this to be a powerful tool for learning how to walk in the reality of this new life. Another thing I’ve done in times of temptation is, pray for people I know who are not saved, especially those who, if they were saved, would do great damage to Satan’s kingdom. Satan obviously doesn’t want that, and most times he’ll back off. It’s important for us to share things that have helped us learn to grow in this new life, especially with our children and new believers.
Have you experienced these necessary STAGES for walking in new life? Have you experienced the death of the old man, your old nature that was dominated by sin? Have you experienced the birth of the new man, the new nature that is controlled by God’s Holy Spirit? And are you experiencing the growth of the new man, that daily reality of living and walking in God’s presence?
It is my prayer for you, and for all of us together, that we will learn better each day how to walk in this new life to the glory of God and to the blessing of those around us.