Part 1: Volunteering for Christ
Biblical reckoning is a command the apostle Paul gave to those who have already trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation. Before we can reckon, we must first believe. So before exploring the subject of reckoning, I want to give you an opportunity to settle the matter of your salvation.
Sin is a problem for every human being because it is a barrier that prevents relationship with God, now and in eternity. Sin separates us from the holy and pure God, and the penalty of sin is death (Isa 59:2; Ezek 18:4; Rom 6:23).
God took the initiative to rescue humanity by himself becoming a man, Jesus, whose death on the cross paid the penalty for our sin. The message of the gospel—this word literally means good news—is that God in his kindness freely offers salvation to every human being who receives Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (John 3:16).
These two short chapters introduce the gospel and the life that awaits those who volunteer to follow Christ.
In chapter 1, I wonder how one of the Old Testament saints, the author of Psalm 119, might have felt upon hearing that salvation had to come by the death of God’s only Son. His first response may well have been disgust, followed by amazement, and then delight. How do you respond? I hope you choose to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you may do so by means of the included prayer.
If you decide to commit your life to Christ, chapter 2 briefly describes the adventure that awaits you. As one of the Lord’s volunteers, you will join his spiritual fight against the enemies of God and of the human soul. This chapter also introduces the book’s theme.
Part 2: Reckoning Defined
Reckoning is a type of thinking that recognizes or takes into account what is true. Everyone considers some things true— even if they are not true—so everyone reckons. Biblical reckoning recognizes the truth of what God has done to free his people from sin and make them alive to worship him.
Reckoning is not a clever way of thinking, nor is it an option for followers of Christ. Romans 6:11 is a command by the apostle Paul to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.
Chapter 3 defines biblical reckoning as thinking of ourselves as God does. We can reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God because God considers us united with Christ in his death and resurrection. God credits righteousness to the account of everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation.
Chapter 4 explains how to align our thinking with what it means to be a saint, to be born again with a new heart, to be a child of God, and to participate in Christ’s victory over Satan.
We must distinguish reckoning what God declares to be true from reckoning false conceptions of ourselves that we pick up from other people, the culture, or Satan’s accusations. One such false conception, explored in chapter 5, is that human beings appeared on this planet as the result of Darwinian evolution.
Part 3: Reckoning Applied
Reckoning is a command that must be obeyed. The remarkable thing about this command is that it is not something to do but something to think. This thought is so powerful, however, that it inevitably leads to action. Paul’s command in Romans 6:11 links thought, faith, and the human will in a partnership to make real in our experience what God has already done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Because we are commanded to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, we must consider how to resist sin and live for God by the power of the Holy Spirit. So chapter 6 describes how reckoning operates in relation to sanctification, the nature of sin, and walking by the Spirit. We learn that we overcome the power of sin by a stronger power and the desire to sin by a stronger desire.
Did Paul speak pessimistically about his own ability to conquer sin? Current scholarship on Romans 7 gives us an answer, as chapter 7 explains.
The life of Abraham is Scripture’s clearest example of the power and operation of faith and reckoning. In chapter 8 you will see how reckoning can release the same creative power of faith in your life as it did in Abraham’s life.
As an antidote to passivity, chapter 9 offers encouragement to enforce the word of God in your life so that what you reckon to be true becomes real in your experience.
Part 4: Reckoning Illustrated: The Cody Chronicles
The next six chapters present the life experience of Cody, a young man who transitions from a troubled past to a new life of freedom in Christ by putting into practice the biblical principle of reckoning.
Cody professes faith in Christ and joins a church, but he returns to his former lifestyle. Then, with the guidance of a pastoral counselor, Cody repents, discovers his identity in Christ, breaks the stronghold of bitterness, learns to flex his will by taking ruthless action against sin, and acquires the motivation to please God.
Cody’s spiritual transformation may seem unrealistically rapid, and relative to my own many years of ups and downs, his does progress at light-speed. But there is no limit on the pace of our spiritual growth, and certainly no biblical reason why a Christian must endure years of struggle against strongholds of besetting sin.
Why can’t a new believer, with good understanding of Scripture and a desire to please God, quickly escape the domination of sin? As Cody did, so can you, by God’s amazing grace.
Part 5: Lifelong Love and Surrender
Cody, with Lonny’s tutelage, escaped the bondages of stealing, promiscuity, and bitterness by applying the principle of reckoning. Once he understood that God’s gift of righteousness by faith and his union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection set him free from the domination of sin, he set his will to yield no longer to those things that had kept him captive.
Cody also learned to reckon himself alive to God, and the Holy Spirit opened his heart to the things of God in Scripture. He laid a foundation of faith and knowledge for living in close fellowship with God the remainder of his life. We can be confident that God will complete the good work he began in Cody (Phil 1:7).
One ministry of the Spirit is to bind our heart to God so that we persevere in lifelong devotion to him. He is the “Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’,” and he confirms to us throughout life’s inevitable and unavoidable trials that we are the Father’s beloved children (Rom 8:15–16).
I explain in chapter 16 how the Holy Spirit used a passage in Hebrews to bind my heart to God. Chapter 17 is my testimony of surrender to the hand of God, and, finally, I tell in chapter 18 how God surprised me with his love.
Summary: A Model for Reckoning
Five action steps summarize the central truths of the preceding chapters into a five-part model for reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Rom 6:11). There is nothing original about these five thought processes and actions, which appear frequently in the New Testament as responsibilities of believers. The model’s value comes from taking these steps in the context of reckoning.
Conclusion: The Book That Reads Me
As author of this book I have the right to identify its main character. On the basis of all the Bible verses cited and their ability to transform both Cody and me, it’s obvious the lead role is played by the word of God.
I am in awe of the power of Scripture—illuminated and applied to mind and heart by the Holy Spirit—to transform troubled youth into confident lovers of God. Cody did not, and neither did I, envision at the beginning of our walks with Jesus Christ how great a love the Lord would have for all of his young volunteers to take us on this journey of faith and freedom.
Appendix: Scriptural Declarations of Freedom in Christ
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible verses compiled and personalized here are especially potent for training your mind and heart to believe that Jesus Christ has done everything necessary to set you free from sin and help you come alive to God. Some are proclamations and others are prayerful requests.
For best results, proclaim these scriptural truths out loud over yourself daily. Their arrangement in three groups allows for use in a three-day cycle. Declaring these words will enforce in your life the truth that sets you free (see John 8:30–36).