This is blog #4 in the “Pathways to a Joyful Walk” series that covers what a faith walk is and the different pathways you can take to having a joyful walk with the Lord every day of your life.
- In the first blog, we covered why a Christian life is called a walk in the Bible and what joyful means. We also learned that we must choose the right pathways to take for our faith walk to be a joyful one.
- In the second blog, we looked at Pathway #1 for a Joyful Walk: Know Jesus Christ. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. That relationship begins with knowing who He is and putting your faith in Him to be your Savior. This is a walk with someone you know and love.
- Then, in the last blog, we looked at Pathway #2 for a Joyful Walk: Know Who You Are. We learned that how you see yourself directs how you live out your faith walk. Knowing your identity in Christ is the foundation for how you see yourself. This is a familiar walk that you know well and can repeatedly enjoy.
In this blog, we will see that how you see yourself results in how you live out your faith walk. The choices you make determine whether your faith walk is going to be a joyful one or a miserable one. So…
Picture in your mind a walk you’ve taken that brings the word “misery” to mind. It’s one you wish you had never taken. What made it so miserable? Was it the weather, the path, or the people near you?
Do you want your faith walk to be joyful and not miserable? Let’s look at another pathway that will keep you from having that miserable walk.
You must know whom you are serving.
In the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas called The Count of Monte Cristo, a man named Dantes escapes from a cruel captivity and lands on a beach occupied by smugglers. The smuggler captain forces Dantes to fight a man named Jacabo to the death. When Dantes has the chance to kill his opponent, he spares his life and plants the knife into the sandy beach instead. Jacabo’s immediate response is, “I am your man forever”—implying today, tomorrow and the next day—not knowing what would be ahead for him. He was grateful for his freedom.
That is what Jesus did for us. He set us free! And, out of gratitude, each of us should choose to serve the very One who did it. Not knowing everything ahead of us, we can declare, “Lord Jesus, I am YOUR woman”—today, tomorrow, and the next day. But, is that really possible? And, are we willing to do that? And, what would it look like anyway?
Here’s a key truth you learned from Pathway #2: Your new identity in Christ sets you free to live a radically different kind of life with a new relationship between you and Jesus. You’re dead to the old “you” and alive to the new “you” in Jesus.
You are on the right path. And, it’s looking pretty good. Like Jacabo, there’s a new master to serve—Jesus Christ. And, a changed relationship between you and the old master, sin.
But, the old master sin is still calling your name. Listening to the old master will distract you away from your joyful walk and leave you confused or disappointed.
The second pathway to a joyful walk is to “Know Whom You Are Serving.” The first steps along this pathway involve understanding your changed relationship to sin.
You are dead to sin but alive to God.
That’s what the Bible tells us in Romans chapter 6,
“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:9-11)
Because we have died with Christ, every believer everywhere can count herself as dead to sin but alive to God. What does that mean?
Sin as the slave master
When you read the rest of Romans chapter 6, you see a repeated emphasis on two concepts: slavery and death. There’s some connection between slavery and death that Paul knew the Roman Christians would all understand.
The pain of slavery was a common experience in the Roman Empire at the time. Nearly 50% of the people were slaves—1 out of every 2 men, women, and children!
If you consider yourself as one of them, the only guaranteed way for you to be set free was to die. That old slave master would have no rights to you any longer. Of course you’d be dead, which doesn’t exactly offer many ways to enjoy that new freedom, does it? But, what if you were given new life after being set free from that old master? Now, you could enjoy it. Right? That’s what Romans 6 reveals.
The Bible calls sin a slave master. And, every human born on this planet is born into bondage to the slave master sin. I don’t care how much money or status you have. It doesn’t matter about your skin color or family history. You were born into bondage. You have a master and are a servant to something—either God and His righteousness or sin and its wickedness. There is no neutral ground.
You might think you are your own master, but you’re not. Self is really following the voice of master sin within you. Do you bristle at that thought?
The Holy Spirit as our new master
Before Christ, the old slave master sin called the shots. When you believe in Jesus, a greater power moves in—the Holy Spirit. He sets you free from the power of that old slave master to become what God intended you to be.
But, you are not set free to be your own master. That’s not what it means to be set free. The options you and I still have are either to serve sin or to serve God. You are set free to enjoy your new identity and relationship with your new master Jesus. In that way, you are dead to sin as your only master.
But, wait. You may have died to sin. But, unfortunately, you know…
Sin hasn’t died to you.
That old slave master is present in us until the day we leave this mortal body. And, he doesn’t reform or go to sleep at any time. In fact, he yells pretty loudly sometimes. And, doggone it, don’t we listen?!
The Bible confirms this in Romans chapter 6:
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master,…” (Romans 6:12-14)
Here’s verse 12 in the New Living Translation:
“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. (Romans 6:12, NLT)
When it comes to your letting sin influence you, you need to ask yourself some questions, “What do you want out of life anyway? Do you want what sin offers?” That ol’ sin master talks a good talk but can’t deliver anything worthwhile. What does he care? Once you’re gone, he’ll work on your kids and your grandkids. It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?
If you read the rest of Romans chapter 6 and all of chapter 7, the Bible teaches that there are some serious choices to make. Your identity and all those benefits God gives you are His choice. How you choose to let Him work in your life is your choice. It’s my choice.
Jesus is our master, but sin still calls our names! Yet, we don’t have to listen or carry out its orders because we are freed from sin’s power.
You are freed from sin’s power.
You and I are freed from sin’s power in two ways:
1. Sin no longer makes you guilty before God and separated from Him.
This is key. Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, God’s anger against sin was satisfied. He is no longer angry at you, dear believer, because of your sin. The barrier of sin has been taken away. Your relationship with God is restored and is no longer broken. Your sin was transferred to Jesus Christ and taken away from you so that you are now completely forgiven and no longer burdened by your sin and guilt. You are declared not guilty and even righteous in God’s sight. To God, you are perfected and no longer flawed by your sin.
All of that is part of your identity in Christ. You need to know it and live with confidence in these truths. To find out more, read my blog series “The Gospel: God’s Cure for Our Fatal Sin Disease.”
So, sin no longer makes you guilty before God and separated from Him.
The second way you’re freed from sin’s power is that…
2. A greater power has moved in—Jesus’ transforming power.
God Himself through His Spirit is living inside your spirit. Jesus is living inside me! That still blows me away! His presence inside you is why you can live a different kind of life. The rest of Romans chapter 6 is a discussion of life choices to serve God or to serve sin and the consequences of doing either.
You have a greater power in you than that old slave master sin—one who woos you to do right.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” (Titus 2:11-12)
Sin can no longer enslave you unwillingly because there’s a competing and greater power in you—God Himself. You are continually being wooed to do what is right. The Spirit’s transforming power in your heart sets you free to serve God. The Spirit reveals to you through the Word of God (the Bible) and through prayer what is sin in your life and helps your repentant heart follow through with your desire for change.
That reminds me of a news report from the 1990s when Johnny Oates was manager for the Texas Rangers baseball club. During a game, Dick Bosman, the pitching coach, visited the mound to talk to a struggling young pitcher. After that chat, the pitcher amazingly started throwing nothing but strikes. Afterwards, a reporter asked Bosman what he said that made such a change. “I told him, ‘Johnny doesn’t like what you are doing; do something different.’”
I think the Spirit convicts us that way. “Jesus doesn’t like what you are doing.” You begin to notice that something doesn’t seem right. That’s living by the Spirit.
You are free to choose daily whom you will serve.
In Christ, you have options for living you never had before. And, you are free to choose daily to serve sin or to say, “Lord Jesus, I am YOUR woman today.”
You know what that means? You must make up your mind. No woman can serve two masters. You and I know that old slave master doesn’t stop calling out our names. Jesus says we have no obligation whatsoever to listen to sin. So, let’s look at our two options:
Option #1: Actively serve my new master Jesus.
What would that look like as a life decision? You would see yourself as fused with Christ. You would see sin as awful. You would commit yourself to being Jesus’ woman every day. You would make the daily choice to submit to His transforming power in you to make you more like Christ.
Because of your faith in Christ, God does not hold your sin against you any longer, and His grace is continually forgiving you of sin. But, don’t be deceived. That does not give you permission to intentionally sin. Intentional sin does not fit with who you are as a forgiven Christian with a new life to enjoy.
Yet, old habits die hard. As long as we live in these earthly bodies, we will be tempted to sin. Sin will happen—whether intentionally or unintentionally. So, as an already forgiven Christian, you might ask, “How do I deal with sin when I recognize it in my life?”
That’s a great question. There is a biblical process to follow.
How to deal with recognized sin as a believer:
- Step One: View yourself rightly.
Your identity is not “______________” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever that sin is). You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “________________” (covets, is greedy, gossips).
- Step Two: Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your sin.
To confess biblically means to agree with God about what you and He both know to be true. Confession is not a formula, a process, or dependent on a mediator. Regarding sin in your life, it is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!” You see your sin as something awful!
Using sexual immorality as an example:
While reading 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, the Spirit convicts you that sexual immorality in any form is not pleasing to God. You are instructed by God to “flee/avoid immorality.” You recognize this sin in your life. You agree with God that your immoral sexual behavior doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.
- Step Three: Confession is incomplete without repentance.
Repentance means to change your mind about that sin, to turn away from it, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 that godly sorrow brings repentance. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it hurts You, God. Please help me to live differently.” And, that’s how our lives get transformed.
Using sexual immorality as an example:
You want to live in order to please God, and God wants you to avoid sexual immorality. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, please have your Spirit nudge me when I am not holy and honorable with my body. Help me to say no to temptation and to give up any relationship that is not honorable to you. By faith, Lord, I want you to do that in my life.” That is repentance.
Repentance isn’t repentance until you change something. You can confess “until the cows come home” (daily, habitually) and never change anything. Jesus called for people to “repent” not to “confess.”
- Step Four: Repentance leads to dependence.
Depend on the living Christ inside you for that change to take place, whatever it is. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance or outward conformity as much as He desires our obedience from the heart.
Using sexual immorality as an example:
Memorize 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 and any other scriptures that deal with staying pure and not rejecting God’s instructions. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to do otherwise. And, choose to desire a life that pleases God. It’s okay to say, “Lord Jesus, I can’t do this on my own. I trust you to do this in me and through me.” Then, watch what He does!
That is actively serving your new master Jesus.
But, what if you don’t want to listen to the Spirit. What if you’d rather hang onto your favorite sin? That is option #2.
Option #2: Be passive to your new master and say “yes” to the old master sin.
That might look like this:
- You think to yourself, “I’m saved and going to heaven when I die. So, I don’t think I have a problem with that sin.” That makes the old slave master sin perk up its ears.
- You don’t acknowledge or care about your identity in Christ. You don’t see doing that sin affects Him.
- You refuse to acknowledge your sin even though your pastor or Bible Study makes you aware of it. It’s more fun to keep doing it, which makes the old slave master sin just smile with glee.
- You don’t want to change. You aren’t interested in changing so you don’t ask the Spirit to nudge you when you’re doing that behavior. Even if He does, you ignore Him. You aren’t interested in agreeing with Him, which makes the old slave master sin just smile with more glee.
The result is you actually become in bondage to THAT sin.
Note three things about choosing this option:
- You are not free to choose when or how the consequences of that sinful behavior will hurt you or those you love. Living passively or pursuing a sinful lifestyle as a believer does not change your identity. But, it does change your usefulness to God and definitely the enjoyment of your benefits in Christ. You are not going to have a joyful walk.
- You are not free to not have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, working in you to make you like Jesus —the easy way or the hard way. And, He will!
- You are free to finally come to your senses, agree with God that you have been sinning deliberately, and allow Him to change your behavior to match up to your identity in Christ and what pleases Him. It’s never too late to say, “Lord Jesus, I am YOUR woman” again.
Being passive to your new master Christ and saying yes to the old master sin is not your best option, is it?
Actively serving Jesus as your master is your best option.
Let me add this, though: At any given time while actively serving Jesus, every believer is trusting Him with some aspects of her life while not doing so in others. Over a lifetime, the Lord reveals to us areas we need to surrender to Him. When we do so, the greater power within us—God Himself—changes us. We experience being set free from the power of sin in that area of our lives. This is undoubtedly the best lifestyle to choose because it’s saying, “Lord Jesus, I am YOUR woman every day.”
Our Graceful Living Bible Study will teach you more about the victory you can have over sin.
Dear believer in Christ, are you experiencing the freedom from slavery to sin in your life right now? If not, do you have confidence that you do not have to listen to the voice of your old slave master sin? You have a new master with greater power living inside of you, the Spirit of God Himself. He can give you freedom from any entrapping sin. Claim that freedom now.
Choose to say this with me, “Lord Jesus, I am Your woman today.” Will you say that tomorrow and the day after that?
To have a joyful walk, you need to know Christ and know who you are as a Christian. You need to know whom you are serving. Knowing that you are serving Christ rather than sin leads to a joyful walk. But, so does knowing where you are going. That’s the next blog.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with joy so that your daily walk with Him will be a joyful one. Choose to step through life satisfied by Him.