Last week at Summit’s college Bible study, Charlie read a quote by a guy named Thomas Constable that I thought was profound. The quote is in reference to Romans 6:23, which tells us that “the wages of sin is death”:
“Wages normally maintain life, but these wages result in death. Employers usually pay them out regularly and periodically rather than in a lump sum. Death also comes to the sinner regularly and periodically during the sinner’s lifetime, not just when he or she dies.”
The reason I like this quote so much is that it challenges the normal manner of thinking about salvation and death. Both concepts are traditionally conceived of in finite senses. We think back to “when we were saved,” as opposed to thinking that we are “being saved,” or we think about “when we die,” instead of the possibility that we are in the process of dying now.
But life and death are more than finite realities. They are lifestyles that we choose. The decisions we make every single day reflect whether or not we are living according to our salvation or according to sin’s dominion in this world. When we choose to find our value in having sex with guys, then we choose death, because that is a path that leads to spiritual death. And when we choose to find confidence in drugs or alcohol, we again choose death, since that is a path that leads to death. Whenever we choose to be greedy, selfish, lustful, prideful, or hateful, we choose death. And many times, we will even experience the consequences of our choices soon after we make them. In this way, death is not something that will only come to us at the end of our lives. You can experience death every day as you kill your relationships, your joy, your future, and maybe even your soul with the decisions you make.
Conversely, salvation is not merely something you experience when you “pray the prayer.” Salvation can also be a way of life. When you choose to rest in your value in Christ, instead of basing your worth on material standards, then you choose life. And if you choose to forsake worldly goods or pleasures instead of finding contentment in earthly luxuries, you again choose life. In each of these instances, you are choosing a lifestyle that is consistent with your salvation–a life free from the trappings of this world. For this reason, we must make salvation an integral part of every day. Each decision we make should reflect the reality that we are now free from this world.
In the classic book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan, there is a wonderful allegory about a man named “Christian” who is traveling with a burden on his back, seeking salvation from God. It’s a great book with a lot of wonderful lessons about the Christian life, so I highly recommend it. However, there was one part in particular that has always stuck with me. In the midst of his journey, Christian happens upon a severe tempation, but right away he recognizes it. Upon realizing the danger, Christian does one of the most brilliant things I have ever read. He takes his fingers, sticks them in his ears, and starts running full-speed in the opposite direction, all the while shouting “Life! Life! Life!” Remarkably, it is the exact behavior of a rebellious child who plugs their ears and starts singing so as not to hear their mom or dad’s commands, but in the case of Christian, it is a good kind of rebellion. It is a rebellion against the influence of sin.
What a great response for any of us facing temptation! We should do more than passively avoiding temptation, casually choosing to avoid death–we should actively choose life. That is what it means to be saved. Why else would Paul have told us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Not because we can lose our salvation, but because there is much to learn and much to do. The commitment to follow Christ is only the beginning. Salvation is something we conform our lives to every day, so we need to reflect the reality of our salvation as a lifestyle, not merely a decision we made way back when. Similarly, the wages of sin are being doled out every day, so we should weigh our decisions with that degree of seriousness. Death is not merely waiting for us when our hearts stop beating–we could be living a life of death, bondage and destruction today. So, which lifestyle are your decisions reflecting?