The Return Trip

…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV).

Occasionally I am contacted by someone who is a former counselee. Usually I get these calls because a sort of a friendship has developed and she just wants to check in and say “Hi.” I like those contacts because it gives me a chance to hear how life has changed for her since we ceased our meetings.

I also get calls from ladies who, despite their great beginnings have fallen back into a sinful habit or lifestyle. They call me because they are hoping I can help them get back on the straight and narrow path. I like these contacts too.

Invariably, their downfall is the result of ceasing to live their position in Christ, no longer walking worthy of their calling (Eph 4:1) and as a result they went back to the grave for a sniff. Instead of living our position go back to living as though we still are what the Bible says we once were: Dead in trespasses and sins, Enemy of God, and without hope.

We easily forget what God has said about us. I have named a very few of the many things God says about His people. We are: washed, sanctified, justified, and alive in Christ.

Ephesians 4:22 tells us that the old man “grows corrupt” according to the deceitful lusts. Our flesh (old man, sinful nature) will be with us until the day we leave this earth. If it is fed it will continue to flourish and grow stronger and more corrupt. The flesh is not fed by goodness, it is fed by sinful thoughts and desires that lead to sinful actions. Its desires are insatiable.

An excellent illustration of corruption comes from ancient Roman justice. When a man committed murder one method of punishment was to strap the dead body of the victim to the murderer. The victim would be tied to the murderer at the wrists, chest, legs, and ankles to give maximum skin contact. The murderer would have to carry his victim everywhere he went, there was no escape. As the body of the victim began to decompose flies would gather and maggots would soon cover the body. Acid from the decomposition would begin to eat into the skin of the murderer opening him up to infection from the flies and other means. The stench from the rotting flesh would nauseate the host and he would beg for release from this torture. He would want more than anything to be able to throw off this rotting, stinking corpse and get away. Eventually the murderer would die of septic shock, blood poisoning, or another infection.

The illustration points us to the fact that the flesh of the host grew more and more corrupt as it stayed in contact with the rotting flesh of the dead man to the point that it snuffed the life out of the host. He was fit only for the grave.

When you decide to return to a former sinful way of life you are returning to the grave. You are going back to roll away the stone and peek inside and if your sin still stinks!

Do not be deceived for God is not fooled by these return trips…they reveal a heart longing for something long dead in Christ. We return to the grave because in our heart we still love that sin, we love something about it. Usually it is the way it makes us feel in the moment. However, you cannot just play with sin and expect to be unaffected! You are told to “put off”, “throw off” your former conduct. This implies stripping off, or flinging it far away for you as though it were a rotting corpse.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13 (NIV)

The longer you stay in contact with your former way of life and the sin it contained the more corrupt you will become. Too often I am told that the person was “just thinking” about that sin and before long, their thoughts had fanned the flames of desire for it. And the thoughts led to sinful actions.

Can I encourage you to stop visiting the place of the dead? What benefit is there for you to go back for another whiff of death and sin? How does that glorify God? Live in Christ! Your life is there with Him at the right hand of God the Father. Live in light and the glory of the risen Christ.