When our oldest daughter, Katie, was two years old, her Aunt Mary passed away. Several years later, when Katie was nine, Mary’s brother, Kay, went to be with the Lord. When I found out that Uncle Kay had passed, I went into Katie’s bedroom to tell her. After I explained what happened and that Uncle Kay was now in heaven, she looked at me and said, “I bet Aunt Mary was waiting for him when he got there.”
This Memorial Sunday, we honor our family members who have passed from this life during this past year. We trust they are now living a new life in heaven if they knew Jesus as their Savior. And, just like Katie, we wonder what their new life in heaven is like for them.
While we’re encouraged about the hope we have of a new life in heaven, we don’t have to wait until we die to have new life. In Romans 5, Paul said we have peace with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. We need Jesus because Adam only had one law to follow. Don’t eat the fruit. As we know all too well, Adam disobeyed and that brought death and suffering to all of creation. Jesus’ resurrection, which came after millions of people had lived and committed countless sins, freed us from the curse of sin through God’s grace.
Paul finished Chapter 5 by adding that when God gave the Old Testament laws, sins increased because people couldn’t keep them. But, as sin increased, so did God’s grace. Evidently some people were saying Christians should keep on sinning so that God can pour out more of his grace. Paul had issues with this way of thinking. He wrote in Romans 6:1-14 – – “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 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. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
Christians aren’t supposed to keep sinning. We are no longer slaves to sin. We died to sin and to ourselves when we were baptized into Jesus Christ’s death. However, Jesus didn’t stay dead. He overcame the grave to live a new life. Since Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and is our Redeemer, we too have new life through him. We need to remember who we are and not to let sin reign in our bodies nor offer ourselves to wickedness. Since we have passed from death to life, we offer ourselves to God. When this happens, we have a new status in life.
As you think about your life as a Christian, are you living like you’re still under the curse of sin and are dead? Or are you living a new life in Jesus Christ? Even though Christians have been freed from sin, many of them don’t realize this and they live like they’re still dead.
One reason for this is because of guilt and self-condemnation. They’re so ashamed of what they’ve done in the past that they can’t move past their bad choices and mistakes. However, because of Jesus, they can move forward if they choose too.
Imagine you’re renting an apartment from a very nasty landlord. He comes into your apartment when you’re not there and goes through your things. Sometimes he comes in when you’re cooking dinner and tells you to feed him. He expects you to do your own repairs and charges you extra payments. Then he threatens you with violence if you don’t comply. You’d like to move but you’re stuck with a lease you can’t pay off.
Then some stranger pays off your old lease. He also pays for you to move to a much better place with a gentle and kind landlord. You’re free from the old burden so you move. However, your old landlord shows up demanding you feed him and come back to help repair his old building. When you say “no,” he tries to make you feel guilty for leaving him. You have the paperwork to show you’re free and aren’t obligated to do anything for him. But you still have to choose. Will you listen to him or live in freedom?
In this story, sin is the old landlord. Jesus is the person who paid your old debt and gives you a new, better place to live. You’re under no obligation to the old landlord. Will you still let him control you or not?
Another reason Christians don’t live a new life in Christ is because they choose to ignore their new status. Some people treat Jesus the way I once heard a husband treated his new bride. After they had left the wedding ceremony and were going on their honeymoon, he told her, “I want you to know that I don’t intend on giving up the other women in my life. I just married you because I didn’t what to lose you.”
How many of us would tolerate our spouses treating us this way? Yet, do we treat Jesus this way by consciously choosing to sin even though we’re supposed to be dead to it and committed to him?
Jesus was nailed to the cross to pay for our sins. If we know him as our Savior, our sins were nailed to the cross with him. After he died, Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried. Since we’ve died to our sins and problems, let’s bury them. Psalm 103: 11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” We are set free from the penalty of our sins. We don’t have to live in shame and guilt anymore. We don’t have to keep giving into them. Jesus resurrected to live new life. He gives us new life.
Through Jesus Christ, we believe in the promise of new life in heaven when we die. We don’t want to be ignorant of the fact, however, that we have new life on earth now.