Harold J. Brokke

God gives us an amazing directive in Romans 6: 11: “Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.” What powerful words these are, and yet what tremendous questions they raise.

Most of us believe we can and should be alive to God, but can we be dead to sin? What does that mean in Scripture? What does it mean in our lives? Fully dead? Relatively dead? Which is more important -to be alive to God, or dead to sin? Can we be one without the other?

Or does it matter?

Scripture is full of references to life and death. Jesus, the giver of life, used the terms frequently:

  • Lose your life.
  • Hate your life.
  • Deny yourself.

The Greek word for life is psuche, also translated as soul. It refers to our natural life, the source of our personality. It includes the ability to choose, think, and feel. Yet Jesus says that we must lose, hate, and deny that part of us.

Our soul-life has great potential for good or evil. A self-centered soul-life is a barrier to fellowship with God and inner freedom. A liberated soul-life is a channel through which Christ can release His life and power.

What must happen to break down the barriers and release the life of God through our personality? Perhaps we will understand better by considering two things: First, there is something dead in us which must live. Second, there is something alive in us which must die.

What do we mean by death?

This word does not mean extinction; rather, it means separation. In the Scriptures the word death is used in four ways:

  1. Physical death. This means separation of the body from the spirit. When Christians die, they are “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Though physical existence comes to an end, the spirit still lives in Christ.
  2. Spiritual death. Because of sin, the person without Christ is separated from the life of God. God warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “The day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, “He made you alive when you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” They had been spiritually dead, but through Christ they had become spiritually alive.
  3. Eternal death. Final, eternal separation from God because people refuse to repent and do not receive Christ as Lord and Savior. This is a judgment called “second death” and “the lake of fire.”
  4. Sanctifying death. The gracious separation of the believer from the power of sin and selfishness, described in Romans 6:1-7.

The words” dead to sin” are the Holy Spirit’s words. The Lord did not say we should be only” sick” of sin, or that we should have” less affinity” with sin. He did not say we should be more disciplined so that sin would have less power in our lives. He says that we should count ourselves ” dead to sin. ” He is telling us that we can make a radical break with sin through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Something dead in us must live.

Something has died in every man, starting “vith Adam. This death occurred in Adam’s spirit when he sinned. Eternal life went out of his spirit. Fear and bondage entered in. This is why Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, “He made you alive when you were dead in your trespasses and sin.” They had passed from death to life.

Every person who turns from sin and receives the shed blood of Jesus Christ as the basis of acceptance before God receives spiritual life. God declares about the repentant person, “He (or she) who has the Son has life.” In Christ we are made alive. That which was dead lives and begins a blessed life of fellowship with the Father of spirits.

Something alive in us must die.

Jesus spoke of this in many ways.

One of his greatest and most quoted statements was, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” This is not a complicated statement for us when we realize that the cross of which Jesus spoke here was an instrument of death. Jesus was saying that this self-life… this “I-want-my-own-way- disposition” that has ruled us since Adam’s fall… this must die.

Christ died on the cross as our substitute to provide forgiveness for our sins. But He also died as our representative to deliver us from sin’s power. His death is the provisional basis for our death to self.

Not only must we accept His death for our life; we must accept His death for our death. We must accept our death to sin as already accomplished in Jesus. Scripture says, “You are dead” (Col. 3:3).

Is that hard to understand or accept?

The Doctrine of Corruption

There is no doctrine so universally accepted among evangelicals as the doctrine of corruption in the life of the believer. That corruption needs to die.

We all agree that it must die, and it will die. The question is: When will it die? Will sanctifying death occur only after physical death has taken place?

No, the good news of the gospel is that our death has already taken place. “You are dead.”

Love of Christ Constrains Us!

Notice how Paul shared this truth with the Corinthian believers: “For the love of Christ constrains us, for we thus judge, if one man died for all, then were all dead. They should not live for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose from the dead.” To his disciple, Timothy, Paul wrote, “If we are dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.” To the Galatians he testified, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” In each of these cases Paul states that we have already died to sin in Christ.

The question is: How does our death with Christ work out in our daily life.

Jesus put it this way, “Except a com of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” These words explain why many Christians are still frustrated, lonely, bound, and fruitless. Though we have died with Christ, many of us are engaged in endless struggles to find acceptance and identity. We are beset with self-pity, jealousy, and resentment. We have not allowed our death with Jesus to produce the necessary effect in our lives.

Surely the words of Jesus are directed at our own uncrucified personalities when He says we should be like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. It is there that we will bring forth much fruit.

Paul says we are dead to sin. Jesus says we must die. What does it mean to be “dead in Christ?” Are we dead or alive? Our heartbeats, our lungs breathe. We walk, we talk, we sleep. How can we consider ourselves dead? We are dead to sin in Christ, but we must transform our position in Christ into a personal experience that makes a difference in our lives.

To die to sin’s power we must …

  1. Recognize what needs to die. We’re aware of the symptoms-fear, jealousy, self-pity, touchiness, irritability, pride but have we traced them to their source? It’s self-centeredness that needs to die.
  2. Decide to seek freedom. Too often we become complacent about dealing with stubborn sins in our life. We’ve tried before and failed, so we give up.
  3. Discover God’s promises. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6 : 11). That’s for all of us.
  4. Confess and repent of all known sin. Sinful acts, attitudes, and thoughts should be named before God and abandoned. We must ask God’s Spirit to search our heart and give Him time to do it.
  5. Surrender the will to Jesus. Who is going to rule our life? Christ can help us put everything under His control. Plans, ambitions, dreams, and aspirations must be under His rule rather than self rule.
  6. Believe God’s Word. He took our sinful self to the cross to set us free. Now we must go the cross and ask Him to make us free, and believe that He does.
  7. Ask for and receive by faith the fullness of the Holy Spirit. All believers have the Holy Spirit. All believers have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. We must also be filled with the Holy Spirit. If we’re to be free from self we must be filled and controlled by the Spirit of God.
  8. Walk in fellowship with Christ. Through daily prayer and meditation in God’s Word, we can draw on the life of Jesus to be our life and our victory.
  9. If we fall… We must reclaim our victory and go forward with new lessons learned, dead to sin and alive unto God through Christ our Lord.

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    Harold J. Brokke
    Bethany International
    6820 Auto Club Road Bloomington, MN 55438 USA harold.brokke@bethanyinternational.org

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