As a campus minister and a pastor you see a great many things. I think the hardest thing that I have had to do over years is help people see that they are in destructive relationships. Each of us has a desire to be deeply loved and accepted. For many people they are willing to be in a destructive relationship simply to be in a relationship.
No matter how messed up, how dysfunctional, or how rotten a relationship is, being in it is sometimes the goal. Helping people get out of these kinds of relationships is almost impossible. Often, they have to discover the reality on their own. When that's the case it breaks your heart.
Each of us has a relationship like this. It is a relationship with ourselves. We wage war with it every day. Sadly, it wins many times because it brings us instant happiness. This messed up relationship is with sin. We love our sin nature. It "feels good" and it gratifies us in our flesh.
So, what do we do about it?
Paul in Romans 6, in effect says, that we look at our sinful nature and declare, "You're dead to me!" Check it out,
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 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 into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
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 was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11, ESV)
Do not miss Paul's logic here. He anticipates a question coming from what he has just written in Romans 5, "Should we sin that grace may abound?" His response, "By no means!" He's shouting here. He's stamping his foot. He's pounding the table. Why? "How can we who died to sin still live in it?"
This is so important! Please don't miss it! Paul says that this unhealthy relationship you have with sin has been broken because you have died to it. How is that possible? We are still living and breathing? It's possible because in baptism we are united with Jesus' death. In a very real way we have died. We have died to sin. A person who has been united with Christ has looked sin in the face and said, "You're dead to me!"
But, Paul doesn't end with the negative. He follows it up with the positive statement, "So you also must consider yourselves...alive to God in Christ Jesus." Our relationship with sin has been broken because we have died to sin. In that death we now have life, we have the God-life that we find in resurrection through Christ.
Our union with Jesus is not simply in death but also in resurrection. This is our new life!
When that old man, that old nature, that sin nature, comes knocking we rightfully say, "You're dead to me!"
It's a messed up and broken relationship that we have with sin. Like any messed up relationship we struggle to get out of, this relationship with sin tends to creep back into our lives. We need others to help us say, "You're dead to me!" They can often see the issue before we can.
The question is, "How will you live?"