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What It Means To Be A Christian: A Devotion in Romans 5 & 6

Grace and peace to you all.

There are probably 100 different ways to answer our question/topic for today. For our purposes, I have chosen the answer in this devotional manner to best emphasize all that God has done for us in making us Christians:

The Christian is:

  1. Forgiven by God,

  2. Freed from sin,

  3. Faithful toward God, and

  4. Fruitful in their life

I have chosen this answer because I believe it best encapsulates the answer to our question. We will deal with each of these in order.

The Christian is Forgiven by God

Understanding the means (Christ's death), motive (God's love toward you), measure (perfect, eternal) of God's forgiveness/grace toward you will make the difference between merely mouthing the words to Sunday's Hymns and heart-felt, joy-full praising of God in song on Sunday. Or, if you prefer, how you were made a Christian, why you were made a Christian, and what keeps you a Christian. Let us consider each sub-point to better grasp God's forgiveness toward us.

  • The means of God's forgiveness towards you:

How did God forgive us? Certainly not by our own merits, or works. Then it would not be forgiveness but justice. For God would be giving us what He owed to us if that were the case. If God did not (and does not) forgive us by our own merit then how does He forgive us?

Through His Son's merit/work. Consider Romans 5:9 where Paul's writes, "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God." To be justified means, "an act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ." (Websters, 1828). It is by the work, or atonement of Christ, His only Son; our Lord, that we are forgiven our sin and trespasses against Him. But what would motivate God to set forth a means of propitiation for sinners like us?

  • The motive of God's forgiveness towards us

Consider what Paul writes in Romans 5:8, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." What motivated God to set forth Christ as a propitiation for us is 1) His love and 2) to show us His love by the death of Christ. In brief, let us consider the three main parts of Romans 5:8, first God, then His love, finally man. God is the most perfect, holy, righteous, loving being in all of existence and His love is the purest, powerful, perfect affection ever expressed to sinful mankind who is the most imperfect, unholy, unrighteous, and hostile being of God's creation. Indeed, we were the enemy of God in every way. Thus, His motive in forgiving you was to demonstrate to you how great His love for you-His enemy-is. And that love is all the more impactful when we consider the unworthiness of the recipient of that love (us). But how do I know that God will continue to forgive me?

  • The measure of God's forgiveness towards us

Consider Romans 5:10, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." You are forgiven, or redeemed by God and the resurrection of Christ is your proof of His forgiveness toward you now and forever. And because He now lives you also live with Him. And He is "faithful and just" (1 John 1:9) to continually forgive us of our sins. In short, you are forgiven and continually forgiven by Him and are thus continually kept by Him.

Moreover, His forgiveness is perfect, your sin cannot take away from it. It is eternal, you cannot lose it. It is inexhaustible, you cannot out sin the grace of God toward you. This is the forgiveness of God for you because of all our sin, wickedness, and trespass; knowing that God saved us from our sins, and eternal Hellfire, to express His love for you is what makes our Sunday praise actual praise and not just hollow words.

And what other benefits does the forgiveness of God bring to the Christian?

The Christian is Freed from the control of sin

One of the benefits of being forgiven by God is that we are saved from the control, or enslavement, of sin. Consider Paul's words in Romans 6:20-23, "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our former slave-master brought death, our new master brings us a purpose for our lives-sanctification- and eternal life with Him. We are saved to be free from sin and toward righteousness. Our sin bore the fruit of death, decay, and destruction in our lives (as well as those around us). But righteousness bears many fruits; chiefly love.

It is also worth briefly noting that we are also freed from the condemnation of sin. First and foremost, our sin is against God and, then, it is against man. God now looks at us and sees His beloved Son in us. He sees us as washed, cleansed, and guiltless before Him. So not only are we free of the control of sin in our lives but also the condemnation of it as well. Knowing, and believing, this does not lead us to sin all the more. Far from it (Romans 6:1-5)! We have been changed, raised up to spiritual life. How then shall we continue on in sin? What then are we to do now that we have been made free from sin by the forgiveness of God? How then shall we live?

The Christian is Faithful to God

"Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!" (Romans 6:15). Paul labors the point that we are not to continue in sin but are to be "slaves of obedience" in verse 16. Or, to keep in step with our alliterative lesson, we are to be faithful to God. To be faithful is to be obedient to God in the commandments set forth in His word. Some in our day and age, sadly, associate obedience with legalism, otherwise known as Pharisaism which is a "Rigid observance of external forms of religion without genuine piety" Or to put it another way, harsh religious observance without love. But those folk forget that the same God who commands their obedience is the same one who commands them to love as well (Mark 12:31).

Moreover, Christ says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Thus, to be obedient is to be loving, and to be loving is to be obedient. Our natural response to God forgiving and freeing us from the control and condemnation of sin is to love Him and we love Him by keeping His commandments. Paul says that we are to be obedient "from the heart" (Romans 6:17). That is, from the innermost part of us; in our affections, thoughts, and actions. This means, loving Him in our hearts and expressing that love through the actions in our bodies (good works and words) and by abstaining or putting off, the sin in ourselves. In this putting off of sin we grow more and more in love toward God and man and develop more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness, and self-control in our hearts (Galatians 5:22-23). Or, more simply put, in our faithful obedience we led a fruitful life.

The Christian is Fruitful in their life

As mentioned before we are saved from sin towards sanctification-our purpose in this life-which leads to eternal life (Romans 5:22). Sanctification is growing in Christ-likeness, or (for the purposes of this study) living a fruitful life. The fruit, or works, of our lives, is a direct result of whatever comes from our heart and whatever it is set on. This is why it is of paramount importance for us to be seeking God in our daily lives; our hearts are prone to wander away from God. We must continually "renew our minds" (Romans 12:2) to be transformed or to bear fruit as Christ bore fruit. But fruit does not merely grow and remain on the tree for the rest of its life. We bear fruit so that others can enjoy it. So that others would see our love and feel the love of God. So that others would see our joy and know that it is from God. We bear fruit in our lives so that others would see in us the love, grace, and forgiveness of God and therefore draw them to repentance so they might know God's forgiveness as well. Our lives are outwardly focused on loving others and not merely outward obedience. We obey inwardly, from the heart, so that we might obey in loving others outwardly in good works and good words towards them. In short, let them see your fruit (outward love) so that outsiders might know your root (God's forgiveness, or love for you).

In sum, as a Christian, we are forgiven by God, freed from sin, and are in grateful response faithful towards Him and loving towards others so that they would come to know His forgiveness as well.

  1. Our next topic, How to Deal with Failure in Evangelism, should (Lord willing) be posted on 2/19. Followed by Eschatology on 3/5, after that, we do not currently have any topics planned (though I have a dope idea!). Help me to brainstorm about what "Phase 2" will look like for us and post some topics/questions etc that you would like to talk about.

  2. I've been posting helpful/related links along with the studies. Do y'all read them? And do you find them helpful at all?

  3. One of the biggest struggles I've had while writing these topical studies is deciding exactly what I should write because there are so many different ways to answer our topic for today. How would you have answered this topic? And what biblical texts would you have chosen?

  4. I listed some benefits to being forgiven by God. Can you think of any other benefits not listed here?

  5. I defined pharisaism as "harsh religious observance without love". How would you have defined it? And how would you go about loving/correcting a brother/sister in their pharisaism if you saw it in them?

  6. How would you have defined obedience? And, how do we be obedient without being legalist/pharisaic?

  7. Do you see any Christians in your life that don't seem to be bearing fruit? If so, how do you handle that situation?

  8. And, of course, how can we pray for you?

Related Links:

What is a Christian?

The Incalculable Wonder of Being a Christian

Hope for the Unhappy Christian

How (Not) to Stay Lukewarm

Brokenhearted Boldness

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