Well, the result of all this (see previous post) is that God himself declares that we are perfect. Not like a judge who says, “Well, Jim Jones, I know you are guilty but I am going to give you another chance. I’m going to put you on probation or declare your sentence suspended,” and all that sort of thing. Or you have heard this illustration where a judge comes down off the bench and takes off his robe and takes the place of the prisoner. Preposterous if ever I heard it. God doesn’t regard us as if we are perfect, He says, “You are perfect!”
A minister’s wife, a younger woman with a busy family, said to me she was contemplating suicide. And I said to her, “Dear girl, you’re much too late. That was done long ago.” And she said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “I mean simply that you died with Christ. That old suicide prone nature of yours died with Christ. You are a new girl. You’re the daughter of a King! You should act like it and live like it.” One of the oldest ministers at one time in the Christian Reformed Church was Leonard Verduin who had been reminding us for years that the song “Rock of Ages” says “…let the water and the blood from thy wounded side which flows, be of sin the double cure, cleanse from sin and make me pure.”
That leads us to the second proposition and that is that baptism is more than washing. What does Romans 6 say and what do all our formularies say, like baptism and communion and so on? That our old nature was buried and is dead and gone. It says 150 times in the New Testament that we are in Christ and that Christ is in us. And it ransacks nature for analogies and illustrations and parables of this thing. Jesus says on the last night of his life, “I am the vine, you are the branches. A common sap flows through us, a common life.” Paul, as I said before, uses the illustration of a husband and wife. “I’m talking about a great mystery,” he says, “of how this can be true, but it is.” Peter talks about bricks in one house. And Paul speaks in I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 about our being members of just one body, Christ and we, He is the head and we are the body. And the very formulary says, “You have been baptized into God.” What a grafting.
Now that that is clear to us comes the problem, what about sin? If I’m so perfect, why do I still keep on sinning? Is Jesus party to all that? Do I sin or does satan make me do it? Well, there are lots of illustrations. Cory Ten Boom uses the illustration of the bell towers in the Netherlands where the trusted players can let the rope go and the bells will keep on ringing. But I like the illustration, more contemporary, of an automobile where the motor “dies”. We say, “He killed the motor.” But the car could coast for miles if going down a long enough hill. Or here is a medical illustration: The Bible talks about the motions of the flesh. I had to have a physical exam one time and I sat up on the table and the doctor took out a little hammer and he started to hit me, he hit me on the knee. But I got even with him. I gave him a swift kick. And he said, “Oh, you are in good condition.” Now I hadn’t meant to kick the man, that was just a reflex. So I said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that” “That’s all right,” he said. “I understand completely. That wasn’t you.” And so there are these old motions of the flesh, these old floppy discs in our computers that are programmed wrong, and every now and then the old man that I’ve said more than once is dead and buried pushes up the ground and his hoary, cadaverous head, his skeleton looks out at me and says, “This is the way you used to be.”
I used to hate like mischief the occasions when the old me would crawl out of the grave. If I had had a mountain top experience I was almost reluctant to live the next couple of days because I knew there would be this insane boy at the bottom of the mountain to face me, who was myself as a boy. But I thank God, just recently I have begun to thank God, who periodically says, “Look at these old pictures in this family album. See what you once were, what you would be today without me.” It makes me think of Peter walking on the water. The Bible says he looked down at the waves and got scared. Prior to that I think he was looking over his shoulder at his fellow fishers and saying, “How am I doing? Get a load of this! Me, walking on the water!” And Jesus let him go down, down, down. And he would have gurgled to his death except that he had to come to realization that he wasn’t walking on the water, but Christ was, in him.
So that is the answer to those places in the Bible where it says, “Put on the new man!” What it is saying is, “You are a new man. Act your age. Be what you are.” Hebrews 6 scolds us when it says “You act like children. You are not children. Don’t act like children.” I was once trying to console an elderly widow about the Christian life who was desperately lonely and she said, “It’s hard.” And I said, “My dear sister, it’s impossible.” Jesus himself in John 15 when he was talking about being the vine and we the branches, said, “Without me you can do nothing.” Nothing. “In Him we live and move and have our being,” says Paul in Ephesians. And in Philippians says Paul in chapter 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who is constantly infusing me with his power.”