April 7, 2009

Eating my pie

Christianity has been accused as a pie-in-the sky religion that has no practical purpose. The title of this blog declares my opposition to that view. What I am reading this morning from Romans backs it up. Paul has been talking about the grace of God that forgives all sin. Then he asks and answers a rhetorical question:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:1-6)
Yes, Jesus Christ died so I could go to heaven. He died so I could be free from guilt and fear and live in peace. He also died so I could experience His love and be in His family. However, the greatest reason for His death was to transform my life, to make a saint out of a sinner. That is extremely practical.

This passage is easier to understand if the words about ‘baptism’ are replaced. This term tends to bear the connotation of the rite of water baptism, but that is not what this is about. Instead, baptism here means to be “put into Him” like a piece of paper is put into an envelope.

Someone explained it to me like this. The offspring of Abraham were “in Abraham’s loins” before they were born. He carried their genetic makeup and the sperm that would create them, so in that sense, they were ‘in him.’

In a similar way, God puts those who believe in Jesus Christ into Him so that all that happens to Jesus also happens to us. When He died on the cross, I died. When He rose from the dead, I also rose to newness of life. This became a reality when I was united to Him by grace through faith. My old nature was crucified with Him, and with Him, I have new life.

The practical part is that I no longer need to be a slave to sin. Some might say I wasn’t a bad person before I became a Christian, but they cannot measure my thoughts, words and actions the way God measures me. Everything I did (and still do apart from Jesus) was about me, to better me, to make me look good, to protect my comfort and reputation. Anything that looked good on the outside was prompted by selfish motives on the inside.

With Christ living in my heart, there are now options. I can choose whom I will serve: my old self or the risen Christ. By choosing Him, I must abandon self-serving. Some can claim to serve Jesus and retain selfish motives, but that doesn’t work because they are still serving sin. Serving Christ means totally abandoning all of that and doing everything at His bidding.

This makes faith in Christ highly practical. I know the direction I was headed before He came into my life, and I know that He changed my direction. I also know many people personally whose lives are transformed. They have stopped serving sin and become a blessing to their family, friends, and society. Moreover, they are now pleasing God.

Christianity does offer pie-in-the-sky rewards, but faith gives far more than promises for the future. When I obey Jesus Christ, I get to enjoy a big slice of that pie right here and now!

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