I Want to Live Above the World

Tom Burke

July 2019
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My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay.
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.1

In the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 6, we read a most joyful proclamation:

Romans 6:4

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

As the complete redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ willingly became our substitute, taking our sin and suffering the penalty for it in our stead. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are fully identified with him, and thus his death became literally our death, and his burial our burial. In that death and burial, our connection to sin is irrevocably severed: we are free from the stain of sin, free from the guilt of sin, and even─praise God─free from the controlling power of sin.

But our identification with him did not end in the grave. His resurrection is ours as well. We are raised with him and now have newness of life. Indeed, the very purpose of dying with him is that we might also be raised, and begin walking in a new way. Had we not first died, our inborn connection to sin would have remained intact and true newness of life would have been impossible. But the ruthless tyranny of sin over all mankind is only terminated in the grave.

Romans 6:6–7

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Being freed from sin, we can now walk in a life that is completely and thoroughly new, a life that can differ in every way from the sin-bound course of our past, and this is God’s desired outcome for each one of us.

But please note ─ Romans 6:4 stated that we “should” walk in newness of life. In the Greek text, the words “should walk” are in the subjunctive mood, indicating an action that is possible, but not assured. Thus, it is properly translated “might walk” or “may walk” in most modern translations.

Some believe and teach that at the moment of salvation the born-again one begins automatically living in an entirely new way. Such teaching has caused many a true Christian to question their salvation, for they are not experiencing the automatic transformation that they were led to expect. But Romans 6:4 does not say we “must walk” or we “will walk,” but rather that we might walk. There is a choice involved, and the choice is not God’s, but ours.

And why would any Christian not make that choice? For in this new life you and I can enjoy blessings beyond anything we ever dreamed of:

2 Corinthians 2:14  (New American Standard Bible)

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Ephesians 3:17–19

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Philippians 4:6–7 (New International Version, 1984 Edition)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:1–2

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Triumph in Christ! The love of Christ! The peace of God! These are all everyday experiences when one chooses to walk in newness of life. And please note ─ as men and women made new in Christ, we stand, only and always, in grace.

Grace does not end at the moment of salvation. Just as my own fleshly works could never have been good enough to gain me access into heaven, those same works are of no value to me now, as I’m learning to live like a citizen of heaven. Regarding and esteeming the works of the flesh is the one sure way to keep the Christian earth-bound.

Yet many Christians live out their lives dominated by regulations and standards, whether they be self-imposed or regulated by others, and consequently exile themselves from the beauty and glory of God’s grace. And, sad to say, some briefly enjoy this grace and then, through lack of vigilance or an ignorance of the Scriptures, are lured back into a works-centered life.

Living in a world that scoffs at grace, a world that applauds only its own feeble works, the Christian must continually be on guard, lest such attitudes draw us backwards into vanity.

Colossians 2:16–19 (New International Version, 1984 Edition)

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.

He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

As fleshly standards take center stage in the life of the Christian, the only true center─Christ, the head of the body─fades to insignificance. The one who gives life to the church is replaced by programs, quotas, and standards. But quotas, programs, and standards never drove a proud man to his knees. Only a recognition of the living Christ can inspire such awe, appreciation, and thankfulness.

Colossians 2:20–22 (New International Version, 1984 Edition)

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:

Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?

These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 2

Colossians 2:23 summarizes the spiritual value of these human commands and teachings:

Colossians 2:23 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Which are, indeed, having a matter of wisdom in will-worship, and humble-mindedness, and neglecting of body — not in any honour, unto a satisfying of the flesh. 3

In God’s estimation, all such human “systems” have no spiritual value. They are only good at satisfying the flesh (the old nature)—that same flesh which was left in the grave when we were risen with Christ.

The Body of Christ here on earth has nothing in the flesh, and needs nothing. We may employ programs or schedules, we may use things of the earth. But none of them bind us. None of them define us. None of them are indispensable. All we need in this world is our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

As those who are risen with Christ, how then do we live above the world? How do we remain within the boundless boundaries of grace?

Colossians 3:1–3

 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Those who have believed on Jesus Christ have been made one with him. The old man was left in the grave and a new creation has emerged. We are now fully equipped to live a new life, a heavenly life. We need simply to remember and to fix our eyes upon those heavenly things, knowing that our citizenship, our daily provision, and our glorious future rest in the heavenly realm.

[1]  Excerpt from Higher Ground, Johnson Oatman, Public Domain.

[2]  Perish with use: literally, “these are all unto corruption.” A study of the word translated “corruption” (pthora, or its verb form, ptheiro) can be very enlightening and sobering. Although the Christian has escaped the corruption that is in the world (2 Peter 1:4), doctrine can be corrupted (2 Corinthians 11:3), and thus the unity of the church here on earth can be corrupted (1 Corinthians 3:17, translated as “defile”).

[3] The reader will note that most common translations of this verse can be misleading.