To put it in a simple metaphor, before we came to Christ, the Bible teaches that all of our life was a life of driving in reverse. The doctrine of depravity doesn’t teach that every time we drive the car of our life we go as fast as we can or hit as much as we can.
Depravity means that we have never driven forward into a territory where we could understand God or please Him. In fact, we were incapable in and of ourselves to even move in His direction.
In our old life of reverse, we ran over people and into things. We wounded loved ones and strangers, and we even hurt ourselves. The damage varied, but the truth remained the same: Every day was a backward trip from where God would have liked us to go.
But then something dramatic happened. For reasons only explained by God and His grace, we responded to the truth of the gospel. By faith we invited Jesus to enter into our lives. As He started permeating our lives, several important events took place. He provided a series of experiences we’d never had before and reminded us of the forgiveness He gives. He paid the debt for the damages we had caused, and He made it possible to disengage the gear of habitually driving in reverse. For the first time in our lives, He enabled the transmission of our lives to shift into drive and start the car forward.
However, if we’re honest, it is an ongoing struggle and a maturing ability to reckon with this truth of our identification with Christ. In a moment of temptation, stress, or reaction, we will by default want to shift into reverse again. After all, we’ve reacted that way before, and in the carnal moments of the Christian life, it’s easy to forget.
In Romans 6:1 Paul addresses the real temptation we have which is to continue living in reverse knowing Christ paid for all the damages we inflicted. He contradicts this rationalization by writing—to paraphrase verse 2—“How should we, who are dead to reverse, continue driving in that old direction?”
When we invited Jesus into our lives, we identified by faith with all that He did to take care of our life of reverse. In verses 3–5, Paul assures us that because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, not only is there a new ability to drive on a whole new road, but one day in the future, we’ll also get a brand new “car”! Through His death and resurrection, Jesus not only promises believers freedom from sin and death but guarantees us new bodies furnished for all eternity.
After coming to Christ, we can now see through the windshield into a clearer view of the life God intends for us to live. Through the study of His Word, we can understand what God’s will is and why His direction is better. In Christ we have the ability and strength to trust in His leadership, rest in His power, and go forward.
The principle that underlies the entire process is the principle of identifying with Jesus in death—death to sin and a life dedicated to God (Rom 6:7). We can consider ourselves dead to reverse and alive to forward. We can live in freedom knowing our identity is in Christ. And we now have His encouraging motivation and the new profound power He provides.