WHAT IS THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE AND HOW CAN I LIVE IT?
by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Who of us here has not resolved that we will be happy. We will be happy, we will not worry, we will not be anxious, we will not let something grip us and tie knots in our stomachs. We will be happy, we will be lighthearted, but before an hour or two hours has passed, we are worn down and depressed with worry and anxiety. The truth is that all of us know so well the presence of another self that seems to be within us, that all literature outlines in detail. There probably is not one great writer that has not referred to that in some form even though it is not as vivid as Robert Lewis Stevenson's (Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde). The great problem with each one of us human beings is not guilt. The great problem is, the problem expressed in this book [the Bible]: "the good that I would, I cannot do, and the evil I hate is the very thing I do."
You remember Paul expresses it that way if you look at it in Romans 7:15; "I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."
What is the solution? Well you've tried the same things as I did. You've tried the books on how to improve your temperament and how to renew your emotions and how to improve your behavior with other people. You've surely been through that circle. I've been through it. I've tried them and tried them and tried them. They work for a little while and then I realize that is was like trying to stop an avalanche with one little shovel. It was like trying to hold back the whole Atlantic Ocean with just a little picket fence. I was dealing with something that was so powerful inside me that it wasn't just a case of knowing how to do little tricks to try to control it. This thing was mighty and powerful within me and would not stay under control.
I don't know if, like some of our colleagues, you've tried the drugs or you've tried the shock treatments--but they're as temporary as everything else is. Actually you have to admit that Stevenson was seeing the heart of the thing when he found the solution he did. I mean Jekyll realized, "I can't tell one from the other any longer, I can't tell Hyde from Jekyll, I can't tell Jekyll from Hyde. The only way is to kill them both, that's the only way I'll be free. It's the only way I'll get release."
Christendom, of course, has lied to us. The greater part of Christendom tell us, "oh, that's Romans 7. That's the normal Christian life. That's the fight of the faith, struggling to keep down the evil and keep the good coming out." It utterly ignores the fact that the world doesn't think that Christians have been successful in doing that. The world is always bewildered by the hypocrisy of Christians and by their failure to keep the bad down and show only the good. Christendom has kept on saying, "that's Romans 7 and that's the normal Christian life." This is an absolute lie.
Romans 7 doesn't describe the Christian life at all. I don't know if you realize that. Romans 7 is really like a great parenthesis. It is an explanation in brackets that Paul is giving of the way things used to be when he was a Jew under the law. It's encased within the deliverance that God has provided for us from this old miserable Mr. Hyde within us.
You can see that if you look at Romans 7. A lot of people say, "Roman 7, that's Paul describing himself exactly." Roman 7:15, "I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate. If I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it but sin which dwells within me. I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin, which dwells in my members." And many of us cry as he does, "Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?"
Of course, we are taught, almost from when we first attend Sunday school that that's the normal Christian life. It isn't a Christian life at all. Paul is explaining inside that parenthesis the way things used to be when he was a Jew who had no power, who was under the law. What he describes as the normal Christian life is in Romans 6, if you'd like to look at it in Romans 6:1. It's strange -- he explains God's answer, which is very close to the answer that Stevenson had. Stevenson's answer was suicide. It was death. In Roman 6:1, Paul says, for those of us who have decided to try to live like God and have found that we cannot do what we want to do and what we know is right, he says, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Are we to keep on sinning so that God can give us more and more grace of forgiveness? By no means. How can we who died to sin still live in it? 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 unto death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." So Paul says when Jesus died part of us died with Him.
In Romans 6:5 it says, "For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His." We know that our old self, our Mr. Hyde, the part of us that gets angry, that is filled with lust and filled with hate, and filled with irritability and impatience, we know that our old self was crucified with Him, with Jesus, so that the sinful body, this body used by sin might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. That is the normal Christian life. That is the life that lines up with the rest of the Bible that says "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." That's the normal Christian life.
Romans 6:7, "For He who has died is freed from sin." It's amazing isn't it, that Stevenson presented the same truth: that the only thing that will deliver us from Hyde is death, and that death has taken place through God's grace in Jesus. Loved ones, God did a miracle in you in Jesus Christ. In fact, your old self, your Mr. Hyde, was put into Jesus and was crucified with Him by your Creator and has already been destroyed. If you ask why aren't you experiencing it today, you aren't experiencing it today because you won't believe that it has happened. It's like looking at stars in the sky. You remember I have shared that with you before. Looking at certain stars in the sky you say, "Look at that star." You don't realize that's only the light from that star that's still on its way to you taking millions of light years to get here, but the star died millions of years ago. You see the light coming toward you and you think the star is still alive.
Satan has allowed by God's permission certain things like impatience, irritability, lust, and the desire for your own rights and your own way to continue to manifest themselves in you. You look at those lights and you think the old self is still alive but it's a mirage. The old self was crucified with Christ and the moment you believe that, that moment the reality of it begins to come to you and you cease to have those things rising up within you, the anger, irritability and hatred. The moment you believe what God has done to you in Jesus, that moment you begin to find deliverance from that old self taking place in you through the Holy Spirit. But as long as you believe that you're alive and that you have rights, and you have a right to do what you want to do, then that old self will govern your life and you'll get irritable with anybody that gets in your way. The normal Christian life is a life that experiences the death of that old Mr. Hyde in Christ and that begins to live above sin.