My in-laws are out of town. They are somewhere wearing jackets. Rude. Put on a jacket here, and die instantly. They asked my brother-in-law to water their plants, and they told him there is one little pot hidden in the garden that he likely won’t find, and not to worry about it. Considering this a challenge, he proceeded to water every plant he could find, leaving no bush unturned until he found the little hidden pot, which he then watered. He says he’s not normally a competitive person, but tell him he can’t do something, and all of a sudden it’s on. Maybe my mother-in-law knows this about him and presented it this way as a guarantee that no plant would wither away while she was off wearing a knit cap.
Willpower is amazing. Self-determination can change our lives. It’s a pretty awesome aspect of being a human. When we put our minds to something, often there is nothing stopping us. But what about when willpower is not enough? What do we do when we want to change something about ourselves, but our wanting to is not enough? How many times have we stopped looking for that elusive little flower pot in our lives when we wanted to at first, but now it seems too overwhelming, and frankly it’s just too hot?
For those of us who are in Christ, we often have this struggle. Paul talks about it Romans chapter 6. If you have time, you should read it really quick, just the first 11 verses. If not, I’ll tell you what you will not find in this passage: willpower. It’s not in there. Not hinted at, not hidden. Left out entirely. What is in there is this:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
— Romans 6:3–4
When Christ died, we died too. Not all of us, but our old man, the one who was a slave the sin, the one who had only willpower on his side. The good news of Jesus’s story is not his death though, it’s his life. He was raised to a new life that he gives to us so we can walk in it. Unfortunately, though our old man or self died, sin did not. Now, instead of having only willpower, we have freedom. Freedom to choose sin or, hopefully, not to choose sin — freedom to let Christ rule in our lives where sin used to.
The death of Christ gives us the ability also to be dead to sin. Of course, we all know — even Paul knew when he wrote this — that saying it is easier than doing it. Sin is tempting on purpose, and its goal is to entangle and destroy. One day in eternity it will have no sway over us at all. Until then, though, we have a secret weapon: new life in Christ. This new life comes with his power. Yep, you read that right. The power that raised Christ from the dead is ours, and we can use it to say no to sin. We still have to work, to fight, to look for that little plant, but we no longer have to do it on our strength. We now can do it in his. We can say no, we can get out of the darkness, we can tell the truth, we can choose what is right, even when we don’t want to, even when it is tempting to stay where we are, even when we’re too tired, because our strength is nothing, but the new life we have in Christ is everything. All the time.
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
— Romans 6:10–11