The notion that a Christian has made not one millimetre of progress in the flesh despite years of being converted, is one which is potentially troubling. ‘Surely I’m a better person now than I was all those years ago?’ one might reasonably ask. ‘Surely sin has less power over me, less attraction, presents less danger than it did before I was converted?’, are thoughts which might reasonably be posited by the reflective, ruminating mind.
However, the answer is that there has been ZERO progress, and that one is as dead and unworthy and vulnerable now as one was then, for the body is dead because of sin (Rom 8:10). Dead is dead and never can be made alive, never be improved, never earn a thing in God’s sight. And if Christ be in you (v. 10) then this is so. We are effectively put to death at conversion, and stay dead the whole way along.
Nevertheless, when we pick up a Bible with sorrow or shame or expectation or hope, it is the Spirit leading us to do so. When we have a desire for Christian fellowship, to attend church, to listen to a sermon, to do an act of kindness, to stop short of committing a sin in thought or word, to reach out with the Gospel message to another soul, to collapse in confessional prayer to our Father, to change a plan because it seems not to be God’s will, to dwell at length upon a particular portion of Scripture that comes to us, it is because the Spirit is life (v. 10) within us.
Meanwhile, even as we are being led heavenward by the Spirit, our hearts, our flesh, our personalities, our old natures, all self-created words, thoughts and deeds remain dead because of sin. A paradox in the world’s mind is to the Christian mind the path of daily progress and betterment in the SPIRIT, believing that one can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Phil 4:13).