Exhausted from moving, I mindlessly unpacked box after box, trying to return my life to some semblance of normalcy. There, among the dishes and linens, I discovered 7 well-worn Barbie Dolls that had somehow managed to survive my rambunctious childhood. I was transported back to those two years of my young life when Barbies occupied a significant amount of my little-girl attention. I loved to dress them up, fix their hair and line them up next to my 3-story Barbie house. Sometimes I played house with them, other times I drove them around in the pink limo… until I got bored. Then I changed their clothes again and redid their hair. Most days, it took no more than a couple of hours before I abandoned the Barbies to go play make-believe with my siblings. The Barbies were far nicer to me, but I chose to play in the woods with my brothers and sisters. Why? Because my siblings were real. As pretty as my dolls were, I consistently chose playmates who played back. When given the choice between plastic and alive, I chose alive.
Years later, sitting among moving boxes, I find myself struggling with the same choice in my walk with the Lord. As a believer, I know what it means to be alive in Christ: full of purpose, overflowing with joy, walking in victory, in intimate contact with my Savior at every moment of the day. Alive in Christ always results in kingdom-focused eyes, listening ears and an obedient heart. There’s no experience like it. There are no words than can adequately describe it. Itís the greatest, sweetest and most humbling thing I’ve ever known – abundant life in Christ.
Yet, more often than I care to admit, I find myself choosing my flesh over my Savior. Whether it’s indulging in my favorite sinful habit or forsaking spiritual disciplines for lazy me-time, when I choose sin, I become a plastic shell of who I was when in unhindered fellowship with my Lord. Oh, the sin is still fleetingly enjoyable, but I donít feel alive – I feel fake, shallow, disconnected… plastic.
~ Plastic vs. Alive ~
Plastic is caring more about my clothes, weight or mood than I do about obeying my Savior. Plastic is caring more about what makes me feel good than what honors my holy God. Plastic is caring more about my priorities than investing in what the Bible clearly outlines as important for the Kingdom. What I call plastic, the Apostle Paul calls slavery. “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey. Either sin, resulting in death or of obedience resulting in righteousness.” (Romans 6:15-16)
In Romans 6, Paul confronts believers about returning to their old habits of sin rather than using God’s gift of grace to choose life. He makes a shocking claim that we’re always slaves to someone, always obeying someone. Either we obey the whims of our flesh, enslaving ourselves to sin. Or we obey the Spirit through the power of Christ, enslaving ourselves to God. There’s no middle ground. “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:9-13)
Jesus died that we might have abundant life in Him. Abundant means unchained by sin. Abundant means set free from guilt and shame. Abundant means purposeful. Abundant means confident in our Saviorís love. Abundant means surrendered and obedient to Godís ways, plans and standard of holiness. Abundant means doing things Godís way in Godís power. Abundant means truly alive.
~ Settling for Plastic ~
When we listen to God with surrendered heart, He speaks. When we draw near in humility, He is there. When we confess our sins, He forgives us. Yet we settle with living a plastic life in a plastic world, devoting our lives to outdoing the other cookie-cutter plastic Barbies around us. We, who have tasted of abundant life, resign ourselves to infrequent brushes with truly vibrant existence in Christ. When given the option of abundant life, why do we choose less?
C.S. Lewis theorizes that, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory, pg. 26)
We’re satisfied with plastic because it’s easier. We’re okay with a less-than-abundant-life because it’s familiar. We’re fine with a shallow existence because it’s comfortable. A.W. Tozer says, “Most Christians are satisfied living as common Christians, without an insatiable hunger for the deeper things of God.” The reason that plastic is familiar, comfortable and easier is because its what we knew when we were slaves to sin. But we’ve been freed! Why would we ever go back?
Jesus took our place on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins so that the law would be fulfilled and we could be forgiven. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are no longer condemned – we are free. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)
So, don’t waste your freedom – paid for by the precious blood of Christ – on plastic things that will pass away. We were freed from sin for God. We are saved from sin to righteousness. We were pardoned from sin that we might have intimate fellowship with a holy God – anything less is merely a plastic imitation.
~ Plastic is Sin ~
A shocking majority of those claiming the name “Christian” are living plastic lives. Why is that? Probably because we don’t view a plastic life as sin. After all, we aren’t actively sinning, right? We aren’t lying, stealing or murdering anybody. But not choosing abundant life, not doing things Godís way, not living in the power of the Holy Spirit – that is sin. It’s rejecting God. Choosing a Barbie doll plastic existence over glorious abundant life is sin. Plastic is sin.
In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul tells them that they have been freed from sin – so don’t go back! Don’t return to slavery to sin. They have been saved, set free, delivered from sin – now pursue sanctification. Having been given abundant life, don’t go back to being plastic. Don’t go back! “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey. Either sin, resulting in death or of obedience resulting in righteousness.” (Romans 6:15-16)
Every day, every hour, every minute we are faced with the choice: sin or God, death or life. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:14-16) Don’t go back! Choose God, choose holiness, choose obedience, choose life! Turning from sin is hard, but the reward is God himself. As Tozer says, “The pain of sacrificing our old selves is nothing compared to the joy of Christ living in us in our transformed lives.”
If you’ve ever tasted of the Lord, then you know what it is to be alive. You remember that amazing closeness with the Lord, where you cared more about Him and His desires than your own plans or the dayís fleeting temptations. We were saved from sin to experience that kind of vibrant intimacy with our Savior every moment of every day. The only thing standing in our way is our willingness to settle for plastic. “For the death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:9-10)
Each day, when faced with the choice between plastic or alive, choose life. Don’t go back!