As I’ve been teaching Colossians to the youth, engaging in conversations, and reading some great blog posts recently, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around what it looks like to “walk in the Spirit” or “live by faith”. It is easy to say, that as believers we’re united with Christ and therefore we have died to sin and are alive to God. Paul tells us in Colossians 3 to put to death our old nature. John McArthur calls this “committing spiritual suicide”.
My friend Ron has written some great stuff about being united with Christ and living by faith. Communicating this to the teens has been difficult. They want/need something practical that will help them understand it.
In the mornings, for my own personal study time, I’m working my way through the Psalms, with Spurgeon’s help. This morning I found myself in Psalm 37 and came across this bit of wisdom from David.
He tells us in verses 1,7, and 8 not to fret over evil and evil doers. He tells us in verses 3 and 5 to trust in the Lord, and in verse 6 he says that if we trust in the Lord,
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
This is what Paul’s talking about when he tells us to live by faith and not to struggle with our own efforts at righteousness. We are to let God do the work in us.
OK, but what does that look like?
I turned to Spurgeon (Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, Vol 1, p.171) for his take.
Sight is cross-eyed, and views things only as they seem, hence her envy; faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are, hence her peace.
So the way things seem is that we still struggle with sin. That no matter how much effort we exert, we fail to overcome it. And as long as we’re looking around outside the lens of faith, this is what we’ll see. We won’t be aware that there is another reality happening.
The way things really are is that Christ has already overcome sin for us. He has lived a life of righteousness for us, and will live a life of righteousness in us, if we walk by faith and not by sight. Sin has no power over us. We have to see the reality of our position in Christ, in relation to sin.
Here’s what this looks like.
When we look at the world through faith we see as Neo does in this scene from the Matrix. We see things the way they really are. Up till this point, he had seen the agents as a force that could not be overcome, no matter how hard he tried. But, when he “began to believe” he saw them for what they were, powerless computer programs that had no authority over him. He was able to “peacefully” defeat Agent Smith at this point, with no effort on his part. As Spurgeon said, when we walk by faith, we’ll be at peace, a peace that passes understanding Paul tells us (Philippians 4:7). Peace because we’ll be at rest, we won’t be struggling to overcome sin, we’ll know that sin has already been overcome. “Don’t think you are. Know you are!” Morpheus told Neo early in the movie. Great advice for Christians. Don’t think you are united to Christ and sin has no power over you. Know it!
To often we get caught up in the physical, which is like the matrix, it surrounds us and fools us into thinking it’s the real world. The physical fools us into working in our own effort and creating laws for ourselves, by which we hope to overcome sin. But Paul says such laws have only
an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. – Colossians 2:23
The flesh isn’t our main reality, the Spirit is! When we really believe that and starting looking around us in faith, we’ll see things the way Neo does here. We’ll see things as they really are.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory…Christ is all, and in all. – Colossians 3:3-4, 11
That’s reality for the Christian.