What does it mean when we say, “I am a Christian?” We know we are supposed to be different, but that difference occasionally runs contrary to human reasoning. We have died yet live. We have been transformed, yet we remain the same. We are not of this world, yet here we are living and functioning with this world. What is involved – outside of merely making claims of being different – in being a Christian that truly does make us different.
- Dead Yet Living. Romans 6:1-12 records Paul addressing our death to sin and the things of this world. He compares obedience to baptism with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. In Colossians 3:1, Paul calls upon us to seek things that are above, being raised up in Christ, and he refers to putting our earthly selves to death in verse 5. Galatians 2:20 calls us crucified with Christ. Self is put away, and Christ lives in us as we continue living.
- Transformed Yet Unchanged. In Romans 12:1, in referring to us as living sacrifices, calls upon to be transformed, to be changed. II Corinthians 3:18 and Ephesians 4:23 both call on us to transform or renew ourselves. As we are raised from the grave of baptism, we undergo no physical changes, but Paul calls us transformed.
- In, Not Of the World. John 17:16 records Jesus referring to His disciples as not of the world as He is not of the world. Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our minds on things above as opposed to the things of this life. In Philippians 3:19, Paul speaks of the shame in minding earthly things.
Reconciling the Confusion
How do we make sense of these paradoxes? How can we be so changed, yet appear unchanged? The death of Romans 6 is basically a separation from sin. Where physical death is a separation of life from our bodies. When we die to sin, we remove sinful attitudes and behaviors from our lives. We are still who we are, but we’ve put away those things and that former self that keeps us from God and His mercy. We become a living sacrifice according to Romans 12:1-2. Without physically dying, we cast off all that we formerly held valuable and give ourselves entirely over to God’s will.
When it comes to our transformation, Paul calls on us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We remake our mind in the likeness of Christ. We take on a new mindset. How I may have lived, how I may have treated others, or the things I may have prioritized – these things are now part of the past. I Peter 1:14-15 calls us to fashion ourselves after God’s holiness in all things. I Peter 2:10 speaks of us obtaining mercy to undergo this change. In our death to sin, in our transformation through the reforming of our minds, we separate our priorities from this world. While in the world, we are no longer part of the world.
Saying we are Christians is more than believing in Christ, but there is much more involved in becoming a follower of Christ. Romans 6:12-14 warns us against letting sin reign over our lives. The changes in our lives as Christians involve us no longer pursuing sin and pursuing spiritual interests instead. In I Corinthians 6, the Christians at Corinth think that what they do with their bodies has no impact on the soul, but Paul demonstrates that theory as flawed. Our conduct, according to Romans 6:16, demonstrates our true identity.
If the world cannot tell a difference between who I am now and who I was, can God see the difference? When God looks down upon us, do we reflect Him, or do we still reflect the world in His eyes? Until the truth of God’s word is reflected in our lives, we demonstrate them to be no more than platitudes. We cannot merely listen to His word. We must learn from it and live it.
lesson by Tim Smelser