Do you want to be freed from the enticing and sometimes overwhelming power of sin?
I’m asking Christians, who have already received a free pardon for their activities in the flesh, and a new life in Jesus Christ – although there’s nothing wrong with others benefiting from this message, too.
If all Christians became [in a practical earthly sense] perfect at the moment of new birth, and never thereafter sinned, I would not have to ask this question, but we all know that is not the case.
Being forgiven, and being delivered from the power of sin are two different things. Rather, two sides of the same coin.
When we come to the Lord, repenting and ashamed for the life we’ve led, we ask by faith for his mercy and grace to forgive us. Romans 5:10 “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” BUT THAT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING.
Paul goes on to say: “much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Reconciled to the Father through the DEATH of Jesus, and saved from offending the Father thereafter by the LIFE of Jesus.
How many Christians reach the point of forgiveness and reconciliation and then stop?
They receive the gospel message with gladness, but nothing more. They stop short of victory over sin because they don’t know, or are never shown, how to receive it as their birthright.
It’s as if Jesus Christ died on the cross, thus removing the sins of the world, but never rose again from the dead to provide deliverance from the sin-nature. When the blood of Jesus Christ was shed, it washed away the stain of sins. Trusting in that blood-washing gives us pardon – hallelujah. But what then?
The Path Onward
A forgiven sinner has the burden of his actions lifted from his soul, but if at that point he keeps walking in the old ways he will never be more than a forgiven sinner, and will be in grave danger of repeating all his past mistakes.
The Apostle Paul in his principal letter, to the Romans, shows exactly what is the answer.
In the earlier chapters Paul shows how man sinned and therefore suffered death from Adam onwards, but when the Law appeared both sin and mankind were shown up to be what they really are.
I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’. Romans 7:7
The Law exposed the truth for all to see, that sin is a conquering power in fallen human nature, and man is weak and unable to fight back. Despite his better intentions, man always obeyed the sin principle.
For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…. for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Romans 7:15
So you see, this leaves mankind with two big problems.
Sins (things we do) offend the Father and break fellowship with him – which needs forgiveness and reconciliation; but the sin nature is a condition that predisposes us to sin, and leads to further and further betrayal of our desire to please God.
The cross provides the shed blood to wash away sins (actions resulting from a carnal nature). In that sense, it perfected the animal sacrifices whereby Israel received temporary pardon and fellowship with God. Jesus Christ was the one-time final perfect Sacrifice for sins.
This is such good news that, as I said, sometimes preachers and converts stop right there to admire the view and never press on to resurrection.
But we need more than just the shed blood. Not only the cross but the empty tomb are necessary to survive as a Christian.
The blood washes away sins, the death of Jesus imputes righteousness to sinners, BUT as well as that, the resurrection provides the power to live as God intends for his children.
How? By God’s Holy Spirit. What does the scripture say?
But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Romans 7:6
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11
The Vital Need of Resurrection
The resurrection wasn’t just a nice afterthought on the part of God.
Under the Old Testament Law, animals were sacrificed, and their blood was shed for the remission of sins, but they never came back to life. They stayed “in the underworld” for ever, so in due course further animals were brought to the altar over and over again. Sins were forgiven, but never completely overcome.
Let me put it this way: sins are like the product of a factory.
Let’s say there exists a drug cartel producing Meth-amphetamine in a secret Lab. These drugs are peddled to people on the street, who enjoy the effects, but find out they’re dangerous and evil substances that destroy those who use them.
Sins appear, like drugs, to promise bliss – but they lead only to death.
The police are active in hunting down these drugs and in removing them from the street corners and communities.
Eventually they wipe out the entire stock. The people no longer have their drugs. Thus, in this illustration, sins have been remitted, and removed in an act of mercy. But is that the end of the danger? NO!
Still hidden away is the Lab where all the equipment and ingredients sit, just waiting for the criminals to move back in and start up production again!
A Twofold Solution to Sin
The Laboratory is the sin nature that we all inherit at birth. The cross – like the police – removes the sins, but only resurrection in Jesus Christ and the continual ongoing activity of the Spirit overpowers the sin-nature, the Laboratory that produces the “drugs” that we call sins.
What we need now is for the police to find and close down that drugs Lab, and to turn it over to the Health Authority to make beneficial medicines for the people, to save them instead of destroy them.
This is what God wants to do for us.
- But HOW is to be achieved when sin has such a hold over our lives?
- HOW – despite our good intentions – do we stop sin driving us in the other direction?
- HOW can we genuinely want to do God’s will AND be able to choose the right path every time?
A surprising number of Christians haven’t a clue!!
Sin is Like a Demonic Power
Many of us have read the book of Romans, some of us a number of times. Yes we are familiar with the text. Somehow the beautiful words are comforting, but do they convey a practical, achievable truth?
What do Paul’s words mean? HOW is it possible to put into practise all he said about living victoriously and offering ourselves up to the service of God?
Deliverance is the Practical Answer
It wasn’t until I grasped something in what Paul was describing that I fully realised the power of sin and the way out. Paul was using demonic control as an illustration of the way the sin nature works. THAT then highlights the answer to its hold – deliverance!
Indeed, in his letter to the Romans Paul uses the world deliverance a number of times:
7:5-6 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
7:22-24 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
8:21 the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God
Instead of just seeing deliverance here as a general term meaning being set free, which is also intended and not overruled by any other meaning, let’s see deliverance in the more narrow sense of exorcising an evil spirit that is controlling a person against their will.
Then the path to victory becomes more clear, because the power and glory of the resurrected Lord, by his Holy Spirit, enters in to cast out the sin-demon who reigns and rules over our bodies!
Sin Gets Personal
Paul does speak of SIN (the ruling principle of human nature) almost as a demon when he speaks of it reigning over the body and mind. In Rom 5:21 he speaks of sin reigning during the days of death in which it was king, and in our hearts before we were saved.
In Romans 6:6,7 Paul tells us that the “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. For he who has died has been freed from sin”.
The ‘old man’ before salvation is enslaved by sin, just as mankind is made a slave to evil by powers and principalities. Demonic powers enslave those that they use for evil – until death.
So this “old man” went down into the tomb with Jesus. Anybody who dies – no matter how riddled with demons – is freed of them when the body ceases to work, since no demon will stay in a dead inactive body. What point would there be in that? The demons vacate that body and go looking for another victim. It’s the same with the sin-nature.
Fine…. but now all we have is a dead [cleansed] body, no good to us nor to God, and useless to God’s Kingdom. Indeed, if a person does not go on beyond this point he or she is in danger of falling away from this initial commitment and allowing sin to take control all over again.
Did Jesus not tell us the very same thing?
When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Luke 11:24-25
The answer lies in the reactivation and infilling of that dead body by the Holy Spirit.
Just as Jesus died, was buried and lay in the tomb (unable to help mankind or save the world at that point) and just as the power of the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and presented him more glorious than ever to the disciples, just like that we go down (in figure) in the baptismal tank to accept and align with the death of Jesus, and rise up again to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, the new life of God.
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:10-11
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 [united together] in the likeness of His resurrection. Romans 6:3-5
Sin is a Monster
Sin is like a monster that controls and reigns and forces obedience within a powerless human being. Nobody is safe from that beast. Coming to Jesus, receiving his death on the cross and dying in Him frees us from the reign of sin – remember: “he who has died has been freed from sin”.
What then gives LIFE – and victory – to these mortal bodies on earth?
After accepting by faith the good news of the gospel, some people experience a vacuum, where the high standards of the Christian life seem impossible and where the desire to serve God and do his will is all but non-existent.
They feel pressured, guilty, weak and incapable and if this continues they either start pretending or feel they have failed.
But becoming a fruitful and obedient servant of God doesn’t come by trying hard, or dedication, or commitment, or church services – nor anything of the flesh!
The Spirit Brings Life
The Old Man is DEAD in Christ according to the bible. It needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God!
What, according to the bible, gives life to these dead mortal bodies? “The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead … will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:13
That is, trying and striving and exerting yourself to be a good righteous Christian are works of the flesh, but receiving and surrendering to the rule and reign of the Spirit on the Throne of your life leads to his life radiating everywhere and touching every part, bringing willingness as well as strength to obey. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”. Romans 8:2
That monster, sin, set up his throne and dictated to us how we should think and act. He ruled. His evil LAW was applied and enacted in the kingdom of our lives and we had to obey.
It was no good to struggle and protest under his bullying and oppressive rule, because we were weak and nobody came to our aid. There was nobody to oust this dictator – until Jesus died.
Jesus overturned the throne of satan and the law of sin when he died.
He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4
God passed sentence on the devil, condemned him, and cast him out! No longer under his spell, we can be free to come under the reign of the Spirit instead. Because the law of the Spirit is a higher authority than the law of sin!
Notice that there is no middle path of serving SELF.
Either we are in the kingdom of satan, or the kingdom of God. Either we serve the devil, or God.
Being set free from the rule of sin, we don’t have the option to serve ourselves thereafter.
We have to do just as Jesus did, rising up from the tomb and then presenting himself to God in Heaven!
The Same Path as Jesus
Paul illustrated our own path through death to life as the very path that Jesus trod before us, as the Second Adam and Son of Man.
Jesus Christ, having died and taken the sins of the world to death with himself, was raised by the Father to new life.
Although capable of remaining on earth in that resurrected body, he did not. After a time of ministry on earth, Jesus ascended back to the heavenly realm, his home with the Father, there to “present himself to God” before the Throne.
We must do the same. We are not saved and delivered from the sin-ruler of our human lives just in order to enjoy life on earth and receive blessings for ourselves.
Like Christ, “present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God”.
Walking in the steps of Jesus and being Christlike means we not only die with him, but live with him – and where is he? In the heavenly places, at the right hand of God.
So our lives are in reality “hidden with Christ in God” [Colossians 3:3] who “raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” [Eph 2:6]
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Romans 6:8
Jesus died, rose and then offered himself in loving obedience to God. We do the same.
Jesus overthrew the devil, and then presented himself to the Father. If we died in Christ and then continued in the same old fashion as before, we’d just be presenting a valuable vacant piece of real estate back to somebody who would be delighted to occupy it again. No. “having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness”.
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:16-23
Have you become the “slave of God?” or are you still as a Christian serving self? Victory over sin only comes from having on the throne of your life the One who overcame and overthrew sin. You won’t find victory in yourself, only in Jesus Christ the Conqueror of sin!
Freedom From Sin
To return full circle to the title of this article, how can we be delivered from the power of sin?
It is clear to me from the book of Romans that Paul sees the principle of sin, the sin-nature, as a kind of despotic and threatening demonic ruler who needs to be overthrown. Adam submitted to his rule in the Garden of Eden, and we inherited that fate from him.
All mankind was in Adam on that day, so all mankind was given over to a false king, and his rule wasn’t halted until another Adam [Jesus] came to rectify that defection to evil.
Thus, to be freed from the sin ruler of the flesh, and to be counted amongst the righteous, we have to be in Jesus instead of in Adam.
All who are incorporated in Jesus, all who are his Body, enjoy the benefits of his perfection. In particular here, I’m referring to deliverance from sin.
It’s not enough to be forgiven. God’s mercy is a wonderful blessing, but it takes more than that to escape sin. Real victory requires deliverance!
Then it requires a new owner and a new management structure in our lives to rebuild them for God.
When the Allies in the Second World War finally marched through the territories occupied by the Nazis, they liberated those lands from evil. They overthrew Hitler just like Jesus overthrew the devil and sin.
Perhaps some in those lands had sympathies with Hitler, but the Allies allowed everyone to get back to normal life; you could say they “forgave” the people who had been misled and duped by evil.
But what then? There had to be new structures, new leadership, elections and oversight to ensure the Nazi ideology could not continue to flourish. War criminals were tried and executed, countries were “de-nazified” and eventually a plan of reconstruction was put into place to restore those lands.
That is a big subject and this isn’t the place to explore it, but as an illustration it serves to show that getting rid of sins doesn’t necessarily remove SIN, because like a dormant infection it will spring up again and take control.
Therefore, it’s not enough to die in Christ without also rising in him to new life (which means receiving the Spirit who gives life to the dead.)
Indeed, without the Spirit we have nothing at all. Paul makes that plain:
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. Romans 8:6-9
The book of Romans leaves no room for doubt. Victory over sin and the strength and desire to live a new life that is fruitful and pleasing to God can ONLY be won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not just death in Christ, but the NEW LIFE of the Holy Spirit ruling within is vital for victory.
Have you received the Lord, and rejoiced in his death as a sacrifice for your sins? Have you been freed from the burden of your sins and cleansed in the blood? Wonderful!!
But now God is urging you to go onwards from the foot of the cross to that garden tomb, and see the glory of the resurrection in all its power – power to resurrect you in his likeness and to redeem all your past mistakes, remaking you like a clay pot in the shape that God designs… a blessing to yourself and others, and a faithful and useful servant to God.
It CAN be done, but only by willingly receiving the Holy Spirit of LIFE to rule in your heart.