Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ya Reckon?

Bobby crouched behind a thicket of bushes in the southeast Texas woods, waiting for his target to appear. He heard the crunching of leaves and twigs to his south and waited to see if it was an animal or his enemy approaching. Armadillos make a great racket in the woods, but not nearly as much as an eight-year-old boy.

This was the sound of an eight-year-old boy. Bobby lifted his rifle -- a wooden stick to an adult observer -- but a sniper's rifle to a boy's imagination. Within seconds, a skinny, blonde-haired eight-year-old boy wearing only cut-off jeans came into Bobby's line of fire.

As Bobby squeezed the invisible trigger, he yelled, "Pow, pow, pow, pow!" (Imaginary rifles require vocal sound effects).

Bobby's enemy ducked behind a tree, apparently unharmed.

"I shot you! You're dead!" shouted Bobby.

"Nu- uh! You missed! I dodged your bullets before they could get here!" I shouted back. (Yes, I was the noisy eight-year-old playing army in the woods between Bobby's house and mine. And yes, I've had an overactive imagination all my life...but I really was fast, so he DID miss).

The argument continued. He claimed victory. I claimed stealth. He said I was dead. I said I was alive. The war within the war was never settled.

So it is with the soul and flesh of the believer. The soul tells the flesh to die. Sometimes the flesh dies, but dies slowly; like a black-hatted cowboy in an old western movie who's just been shot. Sometimes the defeated flesh should just go ahead and die, but won't; like a white-hatted cowboy in the same movie who's been shot four times center mass and calls it a flesh wound. But most of the time, the flesh dies like J. R. Ewing: Dead for a season, but makes a comeback.

The Bible tells the believer to die to his old sinful nature. A new nature is in town. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).

"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. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:9-10, NKJV).

Good stuff. What does it mean? Perhaps an imaginative translation will help: "So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life" (Romans 8:9-10, The Message).

Earlier, Paul wrote, "Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:11, NKJV).

If ever a truth were a challenge, this is it. How do I "reckon" myself to be dead? The principle is solid. The fact is, from heaven's perspective, what Jesus did on the cross buried sin's power to destroy us. But we need to transition from principle to practice. How?

First of all, it may surprise you to know that this kind of thinking is psychologically sound. What we think usually translates into conduct. The thought gives birth to the act. But it isn't mechanical. It can't be ritual. There's no going through the motions or chanting a magical set of words. You have to truly desire to be free from sin and alive to the desires and wishes of God for your life.

Being dead to sin and alive to Christ must become the constant conviction of your heart and mind. Everything you think, do, and say must sift through the filter of this truth. You are no longer what you used to be.

"Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God" (Romans 6:11, The Message).

Let's go literal for a minute. As a pastor, I've stood beside the casket of many a brother and sister in Christ. I've seen the families of the deceased lean over caskets and whisper words of affection and faith. Nothing ever said, no amount of dripping tears ever shed, have altered the reaction of the deceased. It isn't that the deceased is deaf, blind, or uncaring. He's dead. Conscious elsewhere? Absolutely. The soul lives on. Conscious of earthly noise? Nada. A twenty-one gun salute in a cemetery disturbs none of its occupants.

Oh, that we could respond to temptation's noise the same way!

Paul's words in Romans 6 are strengthened by Paul's words in Colossians 3: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For YOU DIED and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (3:1-3).

A Christian is camouflaged in Christ. Time means nothing in heaven. So when God sees the Christian, He sees the result of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. From heaven's view, I died when Christ died. His victorious resurrection was mine, too.

I Reckon So,
Perry Crisp

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