A car engine is a complex machine with hundreds of moving parts, yet its complexity is fully reducible. The alloys and tolerances and energy densities that make your car go are understood down to the molecular level. It is a fully reproducible product.
We sometimes approach Christianity the same way. Creeds, solas, key verses, three-point sermons—though these can be helpful tools, they all lack something because they are intentional simplifications. Unlike a car engine, the Christian life can’t be manufactured in pieces and put together on an assembly line. Instead, it is living and active like the Savior we follow and the Holy Spirit who dwells in us as believers. We don’t find flow charts or schematics in Scripture; we find stories, guidance, and teaching. As we follow after Jesus, our understanding deepens and we are changed by God Himself.
Jesus, before He raised Lazarus from the dead, told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live” (John 11:25). Believers are united with Christ in His death and resurrection. The condemnation of us in sin died with Him. “My sin not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,” as the hymn goes—not in pieces, with some residual bits left on the floor, but all of my sin has been put to death by Jesus.
In Colossians, we are instructed to put to death the remnants that belong to that condemned life. Because that death to our old self on the cross is just as real as Christ’s death, stinking and bound in grave clothes. And the new life we find in Him is as real as His own resurrection.
In Christ, we are offered a whole life of being renewed by the Holy Spirit and made into the image of our Creator, putting on a new self that is marked by the compassion, humility, and peace of Christ. The grave clothes we once wore have been replaced with new clothes—qualities gifted and equipped by the Spirit to match this new life in Him. Above all, we are called to put on love because He first loved us (Colossians 3:14). This love that we experience in Him is what equips us to love and encourage one another as the word of Christ dwells in us completely (v.16).
We can learn about this love, this second life we’ve been given in Christ, through the different tools of our faith traditions. But it cannot be systematized or quantified to the point that we replicate it; we can’t mass produce the Christian life from a formula. We learn the depth of this love and this life through daily living out our walk as disciples of Jesus, raised to walk in new life in Him.