PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.
Jesus, We belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Romans 7:1–6 (NIV)
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans chapters 6 through 8 aim to lead us out of the old country of Sin and into the new country of Grace. However, Paul is not trying to help us have some kind of warm and fuzzy experience of the grace of God. Paul is trying to help us decisively shift our mindset. He is working to help us “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (see Romans 12:2)
Paul is not initially concerned with our experience or our feelings. He wants us to grasp facts—how historical facts become theological facts and only later become experiential realities. This is the purpose of the analogy he gives today about the laws of marriage.
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, [emphasis mine]
Paul is emphatic about making the connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus and our own lives. However, he is not trying to help me have an experience but to help me reckon with a fact. The emphasis is on what Jesus has done rather than on what I must do. Jesus died to sin, fulfilled the law, was raised from the dead, and thereby won the war against sin and death. He won—completely and totally. This is the fact. We must first come to grips—not with your experience or my experience—but with his experience—his body—his crucifixion—his death—his burial—his resurrection—his ascension—his return. Our new reality comes “through the body of Christ.”
Even now, let us declare the great mystery of our faith: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Because Jesus died, we died. This is why in chapter 6 Paul says “Consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God.” This is not willpower I must exercise (i.e., to be dead to sin). No, this is a fact I must come to grips with and allow its implications to renew my mind in truth. Rehearsing again . . .
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ,
We were held prisoners by the enemy of sin and the law had pronounced our just sentence. And Jesus rescued us. It’s right there in the text:
that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead,
And why did he do this? He did it because he loves the world he created, loves us, and is saving the world by his work extended and expressed through us. It’s right there in the text:
in order that we might bear fruit for God
Remember, we were prisoners, enslaved in the country of Sin and Death, bound in the chaos of disordered desires, powerless to do anything about it. In other words, we were wasting our lives. It’s right there in the text:
For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.
Now see where this leads:
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
I am sorry if this seems pedantic. I have become convinced we scarcely understand how the gospel actually works. We put so much stock in our own felt experience of the grace of God that we lose touch with the actual fact of the grace of God. It is not our feelings that save us. It is the facts and our faith therein. It is the ephemeral up-and-down nature of our feelings that tends to keep us in the land of vertigo. We go there tomorrow.
Jesus, I belong to you. This is a fact of my life. Though you did not sin, you died to sin, once and for all. This is a fact of history and theology. Because of this, I am dead to sin and alive to God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. This is a fact. Holy Spirit, renew my mind with the reality of these facts. Let faith arise and then turn that faith into real lived experience and let my feelings follow. I confess, too often, I am tossed to and fro by my feelings which leads me to fall back into sin. I am ready to get back to the facts. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.
Are you tracking with this line of thought today? Do you understand that the renewal of the mind precedes the renewal of felt feelings and experiences of faith?
It’s a new week and time for new hymns—at least new old hymns. Today we will sing a song of enormous theological facts: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” It is hymn 7 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. This is a big one so let’s sing big today.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt