by Bruce Mills
This past Sunday morning, I was concluding a study through Romans 6:15-23 in my Sunday School class. In Romans 6:18 Paul says of believers that "having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." He goes on in verse 19 to say, "so now present your members as slaves of righteousness."
We discussed the implications of those statements for Christians; how slaves have no choice but to serve their master, and since our new master is righteousness, there is a sense in which we are compelled, forced even, to live righteously. Our Lord has commanded us to present the members of our bodies to serve Him as slaves of righteousness, so righteous attitudes and actions are to be the pattern of our lives. As we do that, we will find that righteousness will become the continuous progression of our lives.
Because God has made us slaves of righteousness, the matter is really not up for debate. What we need to do is realize what God has done for us and then discipline the parts of our bodies—our minds, eyes, ears, tongues, hands, and feet—to act accordingly.
No one stands still morally and spiritually. So we have to be on our guard against Satan’s efforts to bring shipwreck into our lives in terms of our walk with Christ. We need to be continually seeking to grow spiritually, because a believer who is not growing in righteousness, although he cannot lose his salvation, will slip further and further back into sin.
At this point in the discussion, a man in the class asked a very important question: "What about those Christians who are true, genuine believers, but who never grow? They may be Christians for many years, but they never seem to progress, they just remain 'baby' Christians. It's like they are just sitting on the shelf. What about them? What's their problem?"
Now please understand that our discussion had nothing to do with those who claim to be Christians but whose lives are continually controlled by and given over to the pursuit of sin. They may profess to believe the truth, but their lives give evidence that they are still slaves of sin, and thus, not genuine Christians. We had previously discussed those matters, so that was not the focus of this gentleman's question. He was asking about those who are true believers, whose hearts have been regenerated and given new birth through faith in Christ alone, yet they never seem to grow very much at all. Instead they continue to be immature and weak believers.
My one word response to his question was, "laziness." After getting some rather surprised and somewhat perplexed looks from some of the members of the class, I went on to explain what I meant.
We live in a day and age in which Christians avoid the difficult work of sanctification and search for a quick fix. That is thinking just like the world. How does the unregenerate world deal with problems in their physical or emotional lives these days? If they are depressed, they escape into television shows, or go shopping, or pop a pill. If they are having trouble with a personal relationship, they go to a weekend seminar to pick up pointers, or to the local nightclub to find a new person with whom to have a relationship.
And Christians do the same thing in their spiritual lives. Some believers are always looking for some kind of special “victory” formula, such as “let go and let God,” “take it by faith,” “name it and claim it,” or some other catchy slogan. Others search for some kind of emotional experience or miracle that is going to instantly resolve their problem.
I recently heard an advertisement on a local Christian radio station for a weekend seminar titled “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage,” and the announcer was telling the married female listeners that “this is one marriage seminar that your husband won’t complain about having to attend with you.” As I listened to it, all I could think was, how stupid can people be to think that they will solve their marriage problems by going to a one day seminar where some guy makes you laugh about those problems! They are looking for a quick fix rather than undertaking the difficult work of studying the Word, applying its truths to their lives, and then disciplining themselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7) so that they change to be more like Christ.
God has already done everything necessary for our salvation and given us everything we need to live a consistent, godly, Christ-honoring Christian life. He is not withholding something from us, some special secret which, if discovered, will instantly bring maturity and consistency to our Christian walk. So, if we fail to do it, it is either because we have not been taught what God has done and therefore do not know how to conduct ourselves as Christians, or we are simply too sinful and lazy.
One of the greatest (if not, the greatest) Bible teachers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here's what he wrote in his commentary on Romans 6 in regard to these verses: “You have already received all things that pertain unto a life of godliness. You do not need another experience. You do not need some new gift. You have been given everything in Christ; you are ‘in Him’ from the beginning of your Christian life. You are just a slacker and a cad, just lazy and indolent, indeed ‘a liar,’ if you are not living this life.”
So I call on all of us to lay aside the desire for the quick fix, the instant solution, the magic sanctification pill. Rather, let us read and meditate on the Word, apply its truths to our hearts and lives, and then train and discipline ourselves with the perseverance of a Olympic athlete (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27) "to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). Such a process is time-consuming and difficult. It will take every ounce of your effort for your entire life. But the end result will yield "the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11) in your life.