Not mastered by sin

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The problem with the law was that it never helped you to obey it. Galatians 3:21 says, “If a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”

In contrast to the law, grace does come with power. When you believed in Jesus, he placed a seed of “new life” in you. As in the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32), which starts small but grows huge in time, the life that God has placed in you will continue to grow up within you until it fills your life.

John talks about this seed in 1 John 3:9, a much misunderstood verse which is actually a huge encouragement: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he is born of God.”

This does not mean that Christians never sin – the rest of the book proves that (see 1 John 2:1). What it means is that even if you get stuck in a sin, the powerful, overcoming new life that God has placed inside you won’t let you stay there – it is like a piece of elastic that pulls you towards the things that God loves and away from sin.

Romans 6:14 is similar: “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” This is often taken as a command – “don’t let sin master you”. But that is not what it says at all. God says you are not mastered by sin – and that is just a statement of fact. Sin has no chance of mastering you any more; you are not heading in the direction of death but of life.

You may look at your life and think to yourself, “If I am not mastered by sin, then why does it feel that way?” That is the wrong question – the right thing to say is, “I’ve been lied to!” Like the black slaves after the American civil war, you are free, but if no one tells you and you believe that you are still a slave, you will continue to act like one.

But you really are free from sin. Romans 6:11 says, “Count yourselves dead to sin” – in other words, if you believe it and act on it, you will experience it. But it is still true whether you believe it or not!

For reflection:

Being “dead to sin” is not something that you do – it’s something that has already been done for you. You don’t have to try to die to self or crucify your flesh or somehow die to sin any more, because as with everything else in the Christian life, it is a gift.

We have nothing on our own, and there is no need to try and manufacture something either. All we do is receive God’s “abundant provision of grace” for us (Romans 5:17):

“What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

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