[From chapter 2, “The Young Volunteers,” referencing Psalm 110:3]
Notice the language David used to describe the garments of these volunteers. They are dressed in “holy array” (literally, “holy splendors”). Just as soldiers’ uniforms identify the army to which they belong, these holy garments signal the identity of the volunteers. When they join the Lord’s army they are given something only the Lord possesses and therefore only he can give: holiness. To understand this is to understand the theme of this book.
The volunteers’ dress conveys a profound truth about the spiritual status of people who pledge their allegiance to the Lord. They no longer wear filthy garments of sin, guilt, and shame, because they have now put on the holy and righteous garments of Christ. As Paul phrased it, “You who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:27 NASB; Col 3:9–10). If you are one of his volunteers, you stripped off the old rags of guilt and wrapped yourself in Christ’s holy splendor. You now display your true identity in Christ.
Here is where all believers, even those of us who have served Christ many years, face a strange reality. We are righteous and holy by means of our identity with Christ, but our battle with sin has not ended. We live in an in-between state. Freed from guilt and declared righteous, we can still be tempted to live as we formerly did. In terms of Paul’s clothing metaphor, if we don’t feel comfortable in our new holy attire, we may want to retrieve the rags from the trash and return to our former lifestyle. Paul knew this could happen, so in other passages he turned his clothing metaphor into an exhortation.
[From chapter 3, “Thinking God’s Thoughts,” referencing Grudem’s systematic theology]
Wayne Grudem states this about believers: “Throughout Christ’s entire life on earth, from the time of his birth to the time of his ascension into heaven, God thought of us as being ‘in Christ.’ That is, whatever Christ did as our representative, God counted it as being something we did, too.”
We did nothing apart from our faith to attain this status, because it is something God assigns us, as Grudem makes clear: “believers were present in Christ only in God’s thoughts. God thought of us as going through everything that Christ went through, because he was our representative” (his emphasis).
Jesus’ obedience became our obedience, in God’s eyes. When Jesus died on the cross, we died with him. “In the same way, God thought of us as having been buried with Christ, raised with him, and taken up to heaven with him in glory” (his emphasis).
[From chapter 3, “Thinking God’s Thoughts”]
A maxim of the modern self-help movement is that people can create their own reality by controlling how they think. Here, for example, is a familiar claim found on a personal development website: “The power to change your world rests within yourself—within your mind!” Some pastors and consultants today still preach the power of positive thinking made famous by Norman Vincent Peale: “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
So is reckoning a form of positive thinking or one of many mind-control techniques for thinking our way to a better world? Not at all. Rather than create a new reality for ourselves by reimagining our circumstances, biblical reckoning acknowledges what God has done to change our lives. God made us dead to sin and alive to God through our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Try creating that reality!
[From chapter 4, “A New Identity in Christ”]
The new birth also changes our desire toward sin: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). John is not saying that we who are born again never sin. Rather, our new heart instinctively turns away from sin. Unregenerated people, in contrast, have a different spiritual father who imparts a different set of desires. Jesus told those who were opposed to his teaching, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44).
We who are born of God can still do evil things, but the inclination of our heart makes us no longer content to keep on sinning. In contrast, people who have not been born again can do many good things while remaining comfortable in their sin. Again referring to people who opposed him, Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt 15:19).
[From chapter 4, “A New Identity in Christ”]
Reckoning is a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare for two reasons.
First, sin is the devil’s playground. The devil—Paul refers to him as the “prince of the power of the air”— is an energizing power for sin in the sense that he “works in” or energizes sinners to disobey God and indulge the lusts of the flesh (Eph 2:1–3). “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). Reckoning ourselves dead to sin is therefore protection against the devil’s temptations.
Second, we reckon Christ’s victory over the devil as our victory because of our position in Christ, as the above verses state. To put on the whole armor of God, as Paul commands in Ephesians 6, is itself an act of reckoning. We have already been given truth (the belt), righteousness (the breastplate), the gospel of peace (the boots), faith (the shield), salvation (the helmet), and the word of God (the sword of the Spirit).
These pieces of armor are standard issue for every believer and they come with our position in Christ. By putting them on as an act of faith, we are reckoning these spiritual blessings ours, and this is how we make our stand and maintain our ground against the enemy’s assault. We enter the battle in the strength of the Lord and with the authority of his name.
[From chapter 5, “God’s Image Bearers”]
What does our identity as image bearers of God have to do with personal holiness? This question takes us to the stark difference between the destiny of redeemed humanity as decreed by God and the destination for humanity as envisioned by materialists.
Christians are on a journey toward a sure destination, knowing that we were created to be like God in righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). We know that we will see Jesus in his full glory and will be like him, and this hope fuels our desire to live in purity now (1 John 3:2–3).
But if human beings are merely the result of time, matter, chance, and natural law (begging the question where these things came from), then human behavior is subject to a mechanical process with no basis for hope and devoid of moral absolutes. With no accountability to a higher being, societies construct and alter moral codes on the fly, much as we see happening in the United States today.
Death according to the materialist ends in nothingness, not only for each individual after death but also for humanity in general. J.P. Moreland points out that Charles Darwin himself was aware of humanity’s hopeless future according to his theory. Realizing the sun will in time grow too cold to sustain life on the planet, Darwin wrote in his autobiography: “Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such a long-continued slow progress.”
[From chapter 9, “Now Enforce the Word of God in Your Life”]
When a marshal arrives in a lawless town, he shows his badge and goes on the offense, letting everyone know the limits of the law. He patrols the town, shotgun in hand, and rounds up lawbreakers. You wear the badge of Christ’s authority and now patrol your heart to round up everything that violates the will of God in your life.
I’m pushing the metaphor to its limits, but this is roughly what it means to enforce the word of God in your life. With courage and a no-nonsense attitude, you must confront lawlessness in thought, word, and deed with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. You must reckon yourself dead to all that does not align with God’s word and insist that you will have the victory through Christ. You are enforcing “the law of the Spirit of life” that has “set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2).
[From chapter 15, “Cody Aligns His Desire with God’s Desire,” Lonny advising Cody]
“Oh, one more thing. I almost forgot to show you this before our time is up—I want you to see how this desire to satisfy God’s desire motivated the Apostle Paul. Remember that verse in 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, I told you about last week. Paul told the Corinthian church he was jealous for them because of his desire to present them as a chaste virgin to Christ. See what he’s saying. Paul caught the vision.
“Paul knows God’s passion for his people to become that holy and pure bride, so Paul has aligned his passion with God’s. He knows the Father and the Son are preparing their bride, so Paul’s motivation in serving the church is to satisfy Christ’s passion for a holy bride. Paul is serving the bridegroom to bring him his heart’s desire—a holy church as his bride.
“Cody, I’ve caught that same passion! And that’s why I delight in coming here to meet with you. I want to present you to Christ as a holy and pure bride! I fully believe you too will catch this same vision and go on from here to train and equip others.”
Cody saw the guard and realized their time was up. “Okay, old man, you’ve given me a lot more to think about. This is solid stuff. Good answer to my question, and I can see how reckoning myself alive to God brings me right to what you’re saying about his desire and making it my desire.”