Romans 6:12-23 Self-actualisation leads to death, but actualising the Christ within leads to eternal life
Romans 6:12-23 Self-actualisation leads to death, but actualising the Christ within leads to eternal life
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we focus on realising our dreams and ideals, we end up becoming a slave to the sinful nature. But when we set our sights on fulfilling God’s plans and ideals, we become a slave to righteousness. The Law is purposed to restrain the slaves of sin to prevent them from destroying themselves. But grace is purposed to regenerate the slaves of righteousness towards eternal life. Knowing the outcome of sin is death, and the outcome of righteousness is eternal life, let us pursue righteousness without looking back. Today’s devotion teaches us: Self-actualisation leads to death, but actualising the Christ within leads to eternal life.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,…
Paul asserts that we must not let the sinful nature take control of our body. Paul is careful to call the “sinful nature” as “it” (… “so that you obey its lusts”) as not being part of us and must be treated as foreign. Using the “sinful nature”, the devil manipulates us to accomplish his purposes; to destroy lives (death). Therefore, we must be vigilant and not allow the sinful nature to dominate us. In so doing, we become fitting instruments to serve God’s purposes. The sinful nature in its core is the inclination to do things our way; it is resentment against God’s authority over us (see Romans 8:6-8). Sin is first manifested by Adam, who desires to be one’s own master; to live independently of God, and to go one’s way. Consequently, Adam was estranged from God being imprisoned by the devil.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under Law but under grace.
The Law is purposed to restrain those who are enslaved to the sinful nature. But for us who are no longer enslaved to sin, we have no need for the Law as a restraining device. For the Law is only for those who are enslaved to the devil. Instead, God has become our master, who gives the grace to sanctify us. To sanctify is to regenerate towards Christ’s characteristics which leads to abundant living.
Hence, knowing that we are freed from the prison of sin, we must never return and be imprisoned all over again (sin shall not be master over you). Having changed our status from slave to son (for you are not under Law but under grace), we must remain vigilant against sin and yet intentional towards sanctification. One who is under Law has the devil as his master.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Law but under grace?
Paul raises the question: Now that we are no longer estranged from God. And God no longer uses the Law to constrain us, shall we let down our guard towards our sinful tendencies? In other words, if our actions no longer incur immediate retribution (we are not under Law), shall we take a passive stance towards sin? Sin fundamentally is the tendency to live a life independent of God’s will and directives.
Paul warns against letting our guard down. Instead, we must be ever vigilant to translate our beliefs into actual deeds. For some have professed to love God, but their actions speak otherwise. Paul asserts, it is not what one professes to believe, but what he does that determines who his master is: when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey. Regardless of what one professes to believe, he who obeys sin (who lives independent of God) is considered a slave of the devil, whose end is death. But he who lives a life of obedience is truly a son of God.
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Paul commended the church by reminding them how they have turned from being slaves of sin to become slaves of righteousness. Now, they must be vigilant, to press on towards eternal life. For many have stopped progressing and were sliding back to living life independent of God. Eternal life in Christ Jesus is the highest form of life in the universe. Paul leads the church to compare the life they had then, which results in death and the life they are about to inherit. Because of the glory that awaits us, we must be vigilant to guard against sin to progress towards eternal life.
What is the difference between life under Law and life under grace?
The Law’s primary function is to restrain the slave of sin from carrying out his sinful tendencies. The Law keeps him from destroying himself and his family. Under the watchful eyes of the Law, a slave of sin may exhibit an appearance of righteousness. But once the Law is removed, he will again return to the mire (see 2 Peter 2:22). Thus, life under Law is peppered with punishments and retributions. In times of temptation, God reminds the slave of the consequences so that he may not sin. The sinner who lives under Law does not grow, and he remains the same year after year.
On the other hand, grace sanctifies the son of God, causing him to become more righteous. Grace works by regenerating his heart resulting in greater wisdom and authority. Unlike the slave, the son does not need the Law to restrain him. For his life choices are predominantly driven by his love for God to do His will. As soon as he gets clarity concerning what God wants him to do, he commits to it. He is also not worried about the practicality or the immediate repercussions of his decisions. For he knows that all things will work out for the highest good. That said, God will continue to discipline the son so that the son may grow even faster. Unlike the slave, the son will not dwell in the mire of sin. In times of temptation, God gives more grace so that His son may overcome. At other times, God imparts greater wisdom and authority so that the son may do greater works (see John 5:19).
While the Law appeals to the body by restraining one’s actions, grace appeals to the heart by regenerating his nature. Grace is ineffective towards the slave because his sinful nature is not yet broken by the power of Christ’s blood. And God will not impart greater wisdom and power to him for that will only result in corruption.
Put in a nutshell, life under Law is filled with stress, fear and uncertainties. But life under grace is filled with hope, peace and joy in all seasons. Through grace, he grows to become kinder, wiser and more powerful. Therefore, for those who have decided to become sons, God no longer uses the Law to restrain them (you are not under the Law). Instead, He gives them the grace to conform to the perfect image of Christ.
Self-actualisation leads to death, but actualising the Christ within leads to eternal life
The very idea of self-actualisation is in essence sin.
When a man sets out to fulfil his ideals and values, he makes himself a slave to his sinful nature. This is the kind of self-actualisation that leads to death. But when he sets his sights to actualise Christ’s ideals, he grows and experiences eternal life. Jesus said,
“He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:39.
When a man pursues his dreams and succeeds, he immediately loses everything. The Apostle James described self-actualisation as arrogance,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. – James 4:13-16
Self-actualisation, in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is the highest level of psychological development where the “actualisation” of full personal potential is achieved. What Jesus taught flies in the face of popular psychology. The very desire for self-actualisation is sin in its essence. Many spent their whole life climbing to the top of the ladder only to discover that it is propped against the wrong wall. To actualise what God has not intended is vain, and the end is disappointment and death.
There is nothing good inside man
Man is not to self-actualise because there is nothing good within him. For there is only sickness and utter deceit. God said concerning man,
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
“I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds. – Jeremiah 17:9-10
Man’s sinful nature inherently distrusts and opposes the Lordship of Christ. It is true that the majority who claimed to have self-actualised end up oppressing the poor. The moment a man considers himself a master of his destiny, he becomes the slave of sin leading to death. Adam was cursed and forced out of Eden because he decided to actualise his ideals apart from God’s. But the converse is true: the moment a man considers God as Master of his destiny, he begins to actualise the Christ within to inherit eternal life.
There are abundance and boundless potential in Christ.
If a man sets out to actualise the Christ within, his potential becomes boundless. By God’s grace, he will begin to experience the life and power of the resurrected Christ. The Apostle Paul said,
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. – Colossians 1:27 (NIV)
Indeed, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him”– 1 Corinthians 2:9. Who could imagine David, a shepherd boy, can become king of Israel. Or Peter, an uneducated fisherman, can become the rock of the church. Or Paul, a terrorist can become a major author of the New Testament bible. Or Mary Magdalene, a demoniac can become the apostle of apostles of the early church. There is no limit what one can become when he seeks to actualise the Christ within him.
To actualise the Christ within is to become a slave to righteousness.
To realise the boundless potential in Christ, one must be content with being a slave of righteousness. Christ, became the slave of righteousness when He gave Himself as one without rights or authority. In becoming the slave of righteousness, He went on to become the Lord of the universe. When we follow Christ as the slave of righteousness, we also follow in His footsteps to rule the universe. Indeed, the wages of sin (self-actualisation) is death, but the gift of actualising the Christ within is eternal life.
Submit your dreams to God and ask Him to reveal His plans for you. Set aside time for solitude so that you may hear Him.
When making a decision, do you ask God to reveal His will first before laying out the options? Or do you list down the options first, then ask God about what He thinks?
Dear Lord, I am not driven by my personal agenda, but I am moved by my love for you. I have made the decision to actualise the Christ within. Reveal to me your plans so that I may walk with you. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.