“You’re a Christian, act like it.” This is pretty much Paul’s thrust in the letter to the Colossians, and he, of course, is right. But I want to point out something that is often lacking in our modern evangelicalism, well, there is a lot lacking but don’t get me started. What I think is often lacking in our modern evangelicalism is the notion that faith is work. Before any of my Reformed brethren get all in a tizzy, let me make a few affirmations. Faith is a gift of God according to His good and gracious will. The works of righteousness in the life of a Christian do not merit salvation, Jesus did that. So, your faith is a gift, and the works of righteousness you do, are also a gift (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is all grace. However, the Scriptures do not hide from the fact that what God is working in, we must work out (Philippians 2:12-13).
Here is the problem: just trust in Jesus and your problems will go away. You struggle with addiction? Trust in Jesus. You struggle with anger? Trust in Jesus. You struggle with gossiping? Trust in Jesus. I could go on, but you get the point. Now, it is certainly true that we are to trust in Jesus, but what does that mean? How does trusting in Jesus deal with my sin? Too often we have a truncated Gospel. We preach and teach that Jesus came to die for the forgiveness of sins, and this is true, but only half true. The other half of Gospel truth says that Jesus Christ came to die for the forgiveness of your sins, and He was raised to new life to deal with your sins. This is the Good News, and we need both truths.
There is an underlying assumption in American churches that three magic words are, “Trust in Jesus” and if a person does that they will be fixed. But the Gospel is not magic. God is not charmed. We cannot merely say, “Trust in Jesus.” We must know and understand what this means, and what “Trust in Jesus” means is this: get to work. Faith is work, now get to it. Trust that the sacrifice of Jesus was the payment for your guilt, and trust that Jesus was raised to new life to end your sin.
According to our baptisms we belong to Christ (Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:10-12). Our baptism is a witness upon us, and our lives are to affirm that witness, to give an Amen to God’s covenant. This means that in Christ, we have died, and in Christ, we have been raised to new life. This is an objective truth. In Christ we are complete (Colossians 2:10). Because this is true, we have work to do.
This work we are called to is the work of death. We are called to kill the sin, and the roots of sin, that pervade our life. Let’s have an example: Person A is struggling with a given addiction. This person’s heart and mind are fixated upon something of this world. Now, telling a Christian that there alcoholism will simply go away if they “trust in Jesus” will not fix the problem. Paul tells us that Jesus already fixed the problem, now you need to do the work to catch-up to Him. The root problem of addiction is false worship. A person cannot simply abstain from alcohol and assume all his troubles are gone. The problem is not the alcohol, the problem is the heart. The heart is not worshiping the God who made it in Spirit and truth, but rather is worshiping a created thing. In this instance, Person A needs to learn what true repentance is and how to worship God properly. This will be load of dirty work, so put on your muck boots because we have heart to clean out.
It is true that we must trust in Jesus, but this trusting in Jesus does something. This trust in Jesus, does what Jesus does, namely, it slays sin. And this must be an active process. You have died with Christ, and have been raised in Christ. What was left in the grave was sin, so put your sin on its knees, pull the trigger, and watch it fall into the pit. Sin and death has no place in new life with Christ (Romans 8:12-13).
Recommended Resource: Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin