When I was a teen and walked down the aisle to the altar, laden with guilt over rampant sin in my young life, and prayed for forgiveness, I remember being told I was a new creature – no longer a sinner.
No longer a sinner – surely that meant I would no longer sin. I wasn’t sure it was even possible to sin. Well, it was. And I did. I was convinced the whole thing “didn’t take,” that I was unacceptable – rejected by God. I had experienced considerable rejection in my life, so it wasn’t a surprise that the Almighty would respond in like manner.
I didn’t understand that while God had me made a new creature, I could still respond to the old person I carried around with me. So, I wandered for nearly two decades.
During that time, I watched a popular movie Weekend at Bernies. It was laden with immorality, and I am by no means recommending it. But within its obscenities is a biblical truth.
The storyline went something like this: two young men spent the weekend propping up an actual dead man, dragging him around with them everywhere they went, dressing him for each occasion as if he were alive. As ridiculous as it was, everyone around them believed the guy was alive. Though the movie was a comedy, such behavior would be horrific in real life.
Yet, we have our own “Bernies” in a sense. When God justifies us and breathes eternal life into us, we still have an old corpse we drag around with us. Paul often referred to him (or her) as the “old self.”
Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives (Romans 6:2b-4).
When I surrendered my life and being to Christ, I then united myself with his death, meaning my old sinful self was crucified with Him (v. 6) – dead as dead can be. Sin no longer has power over me. My body no longer controls me. I, by the Spirit of the risen Christ within me, control my body.
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace (Romans 6:10-14).
“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” Paul pressed further (v. 16).
Along the way, we will sin. John explained it this way:
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts (1 John 1:8-10).
He went on to explain that we have an advocate, pleading our case before the Father:
He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – and not only our sins but the sins of all the world (1 John 2:1b-2).
The two young men in Weekend at Bernies made themselves slaves to a dead man. Their lives for that weekend revolved around a corpse – a decaying, dead body.
Like Bernie, our bodies “are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Inwardly, we are being conformed into the image of the One who fills us.
He is risen.