The Living Dead

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11, nasb).

In sports, they call it “playing not to lose”—trying not to make mistakes, being hesitant to take risks or push the boundaries, doing just enough to win. Yet in almost every case, it’s a sure way to get beat. Even if the game ends in technical victory on the scoreboard, it’s done with a strategy that invites unwanted, unnecessary, uninspiring struggle.

And that’s what Christian living is like for many believers. Struggle. The momentum of Sunday morning worship only lasts them until sometime around Sunday night, maybe Tuesday morning. After that, anything that feels sort of like victory comes only from playing a cautious defense, battling to keep from giving up spiritual ground. No freedom of movement. Little sense of forward progress. Just holding on for dear life to avoid slipping back into old habits.

That’s because being “dead to sin” is only part of the victory Christ came to give you. Certainly you want to hold firm there—cooperating with Him in fixing your problem areas, in putting out fires of temptation, not letting sin “reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12, esv). But this is not the sum total of what the Christian life is all about. Becoming freed from self and moving forward into joy and fruitfulness are not achieved merely by zeroing in on what you shouldn’t do, but from making the commitment to “offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Romans 6:13, niv). You actively choose to actively serve Him.

Not just death. Life.

A life of serving Him.

If you were to draw a graph depicting the growth trajectory of a Christian, where the vertical axis represents maturity in Christ and the horizontal axis represents the amount of time you’ve been following Him, the anticipated pattern would be a line steadily increasing, continuously trending upward. The longer you’ve walked with Him, the more growth you’d expect to experience. But the more typical pattern shows a burst of growth at the beginning, followed by a leveling out, if not a line trending downward over the years—as if hitting a ceiling that won’t let you move beyond it.

I call that ceiling the Personal Ministry Line. It’s an invisible boundary that marks the topmost height you can reach through focusing only on your own spiritual development, through spending time alone in your Bible. You might think you’d continue to see lasting victory from this approach. But until you come to the place where your faith becomes more than just taking it in, where you’re actually giving it to others—serving God by pouring into other people, by looking for ways to live it out—you’ll stay stuck in the grind and the struggle. Overprotective of your time. Stunted in the free flow and effectiveness of your abilities. Feeling your heart grow cold and surprisingly continuing to fail, even in conquering the sins you’re working so hard to overcome.

One of the truest tests of a person who’s alive to God and not simply dead to their old desires is someone who’s serving Him, daily offering themselves to Him . . . and in the process, finding life abundant.


  • How have you experienced the struggle of bumping up against the “Personal Ministry Line”?
  • What are some opportunities of service and giving you could begin immediately exploring?

Father, thank You for dealing so thoroughly with my sinfulness. Thank You for providing me access to victory over it, for killing my sin at its source. But don’t let me be satisfied with that alone. Widen my field of vision to see all the places Your victory can take me. Help me pursue opportunities to live and serve and rise above the needless struggles in my life because of the death blow You’ve delivered to my sin. I know You’ll lead me to even greater victory as I follow You. I’m believing and thanking You today for death that leads to life, in Jesus’ name, amen.