Alive In Christ – It Means So Much More Than Most Christians Realize
Warning the following verses might be too much grace for some audiences. Read at your own risk.
Two of the Bible’s most compelling verses come from Colossians 2:13-14 because they are so crystal clear and extremely difficult to deny where we stand with God, through faith, apart from works and apart from the law.
The truths in the following verses will cause many believers to struggle simply because it paints the true picture of what God has already done about our sin and it leaves us with absolutely no room to brag about how great we are doing to get right with God based on human performance. In other words, you will discover that “you” are not doing anything about your sin because “God” already did it all, and while we should always run from sin we can still rest in His grace no matter how often we stumble.
Colossians 2:13-14 When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our sins, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
When I teach the grace message in its fullness a lot of people totally misunderstand my message. They pounce on me and falsely accuse me of encouraging a life of sin and ungodly lifestyles. They do this because they still have not understood the grace of God and how it’s grace that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). They think Christianity is about doing more, trying harder, and being in church buildings more.
While it may be a byproduct of salvation, the truth is Christianity is not about people behaving better and doing more, but rather it’s about dead people getting life. It’s about having once been dead in Adam and now being made alive in Christ. You see the problem was not that our behavior stunk, but rather that we were dead to God and alive to sin. All through the bible we never see the solution to our separation from God as being about improving our performance or sinning less, but rather the bible tells us what we needed was life. Life in Christ.
The reality is you can try as hard as you want, but if you don’t have life in Christ then no amount of effort will ever matter. In the same way that our effort can’t make us right with God for salvation, it also doesn’t make us right with Him after salvation. Now I know there’s a bunch of hypocrites ready to jump all over me for that line, so let me be clear that I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t have good works and avoid sin – that’s crazy talk. The fact is we were made for good works and living godly lives is just part of the normal Christian life. But nonetheless, you’re works and lack of sinning have zero part in making you right with God. I know that’s not popular with many works-based teachers, but it’s the truth and we see it all through scripture.
Jesus said, “I came that you would have life”. Jesus said, “I am the life”. Jesus told Nicodemus he would not see the kingdom of God unless he was “born again” as He referred to the new Spiritual life as being the only way to God.
While we are called to live upright godly lives and live out who we ARE, we somehow got lost in all this religious talk, and somewhere along the way we started thinking our performance was suddenly what God used to measure our okayness with Him, or some others might say God looks at both His son and our works as He evaluates us. The problem is that’s not biblical.
Yes, sin is real and it’s disgusting, but I can’t help but notice we spend so much time talking about avoiding sin and not very much time talking about spiritual life. Life is the solution to sin and we get it by faith in Jesus, not by sinning less.
Looking first at Colossians 2:13 we see some important things. First, he makes clear that we were DEAD in our sins.
When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh
Sometimes we miss some very important words because they seem so insignificant. But the word “in” oftentimes referred to our heritage and genealogy. The Bible says we were born “in Adam” and as believers, we are placed “in Christ” and His Spirit is placed “in us”. Interestingly Col. 2:13 tells us while we were in Adam we were (at that time only) “Dead in our sins”. Unfortunately, many people think that after we are saved we are still dead in our sins when we stumble, but we will see now that’s not the case.
Romans 5 teaches us that we are now standing “in grace”. 1 Cor. 15:22 says were in Adam but now we are in Christ. Understand this, okayness with God is not about how little we sin. It’s about who we’re in. It’s about your spiritual location.
Before salvation, we are only described as being “in the flesh” but every verse that describes the believer always says we are “in the Spirit”.
You may walk by the flesh but your location is that you live in the Spirit. So we were in Adam and we were dead in our sins, but now we are in Christ and in the Spirit – even when we sin. In the same way, we were buried with Christ, and we were raised with Him, and now we are spiritually seated with Him at the Right hand of God. This is not symbolic. It’s real and it’s here and now.
So let me make this clear when the bible talks about living “in the flesh” it is not what we do that puts us there. It’s who we are “in” that puts us there. If you live in Christ (and He in you) then you live according to the Spirit, even when you sin. This is not to say that we don’t occasionally walk by the flesh, but our location in terms of life remains in Christ through faith alone. This is why we have conflict internally when we sin – because our new nature is perfect, holy, sanctified, righteous, and when we sin it goes against who we are. Alive in Christ!
Verse 13 continues by telling us God “made us alive together with Him”, but then we turn around and say things like “I have a wicked heart” or “I’m evil and need God to change me” and really all those types of statements really just suggest that Christ is not our righteous, but rather that our flesh is. The bible says believers are alive, we are complete, we have everything we need for a godly life, and that we lack nothing. In fact, 2 Cor 5:21 says we are “the righteousness of God”.
Then religion steps in and points its finger at your struggles with sin and turns that into your identity. Religion says you’re distant from God. Religion says you have broken fellowship. Religion looks at your sin when it needs to look at Jesus, in you. Sin has already been dealt with for the believer. Again, sin is awful, but your identity is 100% according to who you’re in, not what you do.
Colossians continues with a powerful verse that gets watered down all the time.
having forgiven us all our sins
It’s one thing to say we have forgiveness, but if you would dare say that we are forgiven of ALL sins (no matter how many and how big) you will have a huge amount of push-back. It seems that being forgiven of all sins is a license to sin and the legalist just won’t have it. The legalist draws a line in the sand and then starts adding rules to it like saying “they are only forgiven if we turn from them and stop” or “we first have to confess them and then stop”. Now, these are usually the same people that say you can’t lose salvation (which we can’t), but that leaves them with a problem because by their standard if we died with unforgiven sin then we would not enter heaven. So either God meant and He totally forgives the believers of all sin or we’re in trouble because we will all likely die with some un-repented/unconfessed sin.
And finally, let’s see the beautiful way in which these verses conclude:
having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The debt has been canceled. It’s been taken out of the way. Listen, this means even when you sin it has been dealt with. Yes, I’m talking about the biggest sins on planet earth too. No sins are excluded for believers. There’s this idea that we’re forgiven for heaven but here on earth we are still being punished, and that’s not the gospel. There’s another idea of “look at what God did for you, what are you doing for Him” as if God is looking for us to pay Him back. I’m all about serving because it’s who we are, but anyone who thinks we are somehow paying God back has missed the gospel. It is not about what we do for Him, but rather what He did for us. We serve because it’s our new nature – not because we are earning more favor or forgiveness through our works.
So what am I saying today? I’m saying as a believer every sin you have ever committed and every sin you ever will commit is off the books. Forgotten. Paid for. Washed away. Removed.
So why not sin if we have all of this forgiveness? That’s a fair question and it needs to be asked, and if we understand the answer the entire grace message starts to make more sense. You see we’re not just forgiven people. We are a changed people. God has placed His Spirit in us. God has given us a new heart with new desires. The Bible says the old you (dead in Adam) was CRUCIFIED with Christ and the new has come. You see, no amount of forgiveness is going to cause us to sin more because we have been recreated and given a new life. His life. Sure, we will still sin (at times a lot) because sin is very much alive, but you, as a Christian, are dead to sin and it will never satisfy you like it used to. You can trust grace because grace works!
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.
It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.