CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Eagle Point, OR. August 8, 1985)
In the past series of sermons that I have presented to you, I have been going in one general direction and investigating different aspects of one main principle.
- We had several lessons about waiting upon the Lord, not relying on our own strengths, but allowing God to work in our lives and in our congregation in his time and in his way.
- We had several lessons about the difference in serving God according to law and according to the spirit. Not trying to be righteous on my own merit, in my own strength, in the flesh, through law, but accepting the righteousness given to me by faith in Jesus Christ, walking in the Spirit and living the truth that we know.
- Lessons on having freedom from sin realized in our lives, along with our freedom from law.
- Lessons on the renewing of our minds and having the life of Christ formed in us and realized in our daily lives, and how Jesus living in us and exalted in us is our all, and everything we need is in him.
Now, if you have taken these lessons to heart and applied them in your life, you should see first some subtle, then some dramatic changes in your life of faith, as you put these principles to work.
If I were to summarize all these lessons, the one point I've been dealing with that is common to each one, is the idea that the basis of our religion is not an outward observance, but the result of a changed inner being, the product of a fundamental alteration in the nature and character of the believer.
This is what I perceive to be the main problem in the churches of Christ generally today. We ask, "What's wrong with the church? Why aren't we growing like we used to?"
There is a danger in growing as a Christian, to forget the inner character of the life of Christ, and begin dealing only with externals. This is, like I have said before, dealing with the flesh rather than the spirit. This was one of the main charges that Jesus laid on the religious leaders of his day. He said that they were like whitewashed sepulchers that looked real good on the outside, but inside they were full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness.
Today we wear the robes of Christianity and yet inwardly we may be ravenous wolves, full of bitter envy and hatred, biting and devouring one another. We may very well trust in our position within the church and yet be alien to the true life in Jesus Christ.
We can see the effects of this. In his first epistle, John showed us that if a man hates his brother, how can he have eternal life? How can he have the love of God abiding within him? Yet I have not dealt very much with the symptoms in my lessons. I have not dealt very often with the fruits of that walk in the flesh, but I have tried to deal with some root causes of the problem in the brotherhood, of which I assumed you were all aware. I was attempting to keep it positive.
How can we be really strong Christians? How can I realize all the strength and power of Jesus Christ in my life? There is a danger of talking about the self-sacrifice of the believer in Christ, yet never experience the real crucifixion of the self from the world.
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creature.
I ) What does it mean to be "crucified unto the world"?
Well, consider what it meant for Jesus. There was a lot of pain and humiliation. He lost everything he owned, even what he was wearing. He was rejected by those he loved. In the world's eyes he was a total failure. He was so misunderstood that they killed him. But when he expired he was no longer a Jew. He was no longer under the Law. He was dead to sin but alive unto God. He was independent of all earthly claims and distinctions. On the resurrection morning he was raised a new spiritual man.
The fact of the matter is, that you have been crucified. This happened to every Christian when they were immersed into Christ. We were crucified with him.
... knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of Sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of Sin. For he who has died has been exempted from Sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto Sin once for all; but in that he lives, he lives unto God.
We were immersed into death - our old man (the man we were before we obeyed the gospel) was crucified with Jesus. When he was crucified and died on the cross, that became my crucifixion and death, and my old earthly, fleshly life ended and was buried.
What it takes for us now is to, by faith, live as a reality before the world what in fact has happened in Christ.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto Sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Reckon means, consider, account to yourself. See, in consequence of what you witness in Jesus himself, the viewpoint at which you ought to put yourself when you consider your own case.
- You don't have to see yourself anymore as what you used to be (slave to sin) but regard yourself as what you are now in Christ: dead to sin, alive unto God.
- We've been given a new identity in Christ with a fresh new spiritual life by the power of God. This is what we should regard as our true self, and appropriate it to ourselves by constantly substituting it for the old natural self that we remember.
- This isn't just simple natural morality, which says, "become what you should be", but "become what you are already" (in Christ).
- It gives us a positive fact for a foundation of our moral effort, to which we can return to and have recourse to at every instant.
Have you been baptized? Did you die with Jesus? (Yes) Were you raised with him?
- We are made holy from the inside out, and we have a gradual renewing of our personal lives.
- It's as if we (in Christ) are put into a sphere of perfect holiness and our outside lives gradually become conformed with what has already taken place inside.
This is an act of faith, where we believe that we are dead to sin and to the world and then go about living that as a reality. In verse 13 he says that we are to yield ourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead. (Think about Lazarus)
What would it be like to be dead? Suppose that it were possible for me to announce to you all that, as of this moment, your life is over. Everything that was you is now dead. You do not have anymore say in the affairs of this life.
- So what were you so anxious about this morning?
Don't worry about it anymore - you're dead. All your cares are given to God now. You are in no position to be worried anymore.
- What promotion or new job or higher pay were you striving so very hard to gain yesterday?
You do not have to strive anymore - you're dead. All your provisions and support are taken care of by God now. The right you had to a better job and a better life is given over to God now.
- What sin or enslaving habit had a grip on you and you tried your best to stop it, but every time you were tempted you caved in and sank in guilt?
The temptation is still going to be around but it will not bother you anymore, because you're dead, and now you have a different perspective. You know the truth about those human desires and animal drives - that they were only temporary and not worth losing your soul over. The right you had to meet and satisfy your desires is gone, and you have to let God meet those needs now. You have to wait for him now, in his way and in his timing.
- What person really stepped all over you and insulted you and you were so angry you couldn't see straight?
Well, those insults will not bother you anymore. When someone speaks evil of you, you have no right to retaliate, you're dead. A dead person has no rights. God will speak for you now. (Rom.12:19) "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." There are a thousand and one little slights and insults we receive everyday - you give up your right to save face or to get even. Who are they insulting anyway? A dead man. It will not bother you anymore. You are a whole other, a wholly different being than they have ever dealt with. You are far above the slights and insults, because they are attacking or striking at something that is not you anymore - your earthly life in the flesh that died. They are attacking someone with no earthly life - with no worldly pride. You have died to all of that and gone on.
II ) Christians are dead to the world
Dead to the world, crucified unto the world. When you live like this, most people will think you are odd. But there will be some of those who will recognize the absence of passions or worries in your life and it will pique their interest and they will begin wanting the same freedom that you have. (that is one of the surprising benefits)
The Christian is unworldly. As Jesus said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (Jno.17:1) Jesus was not of the world - and we all understand what he means. Jesus went around and said some pretty strange things by the world's standards - but you see, he had an excuse, he was a foreigner. He was the closest thing to an alien from another world that will will ever see.
But Jesus was not the only one. Every Christian is not of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world.
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul...
We are aliens and foreigners. The only thing new and different in this world is a Christian dead with Christ. He is not a product of this world. He is foreign. He is other than anything else that this world could produce.
To be crucified unto the world is to stop living in the world.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations?
We do not live in the world anymore. We do not have to walk according to the course of this world anymore. (Eph.2:2)
The Christian is commanded to come out of the world.
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
“I will be a father to you,
And you shall be my sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
How do we come out of the world? The Space Shuttle? But then you just take the world with you.
The only way out of the world is to die. We die to it. We place our earthly, fleshly life on the cross and we die with Jesus. And the existence we have now in the flesh is a new resurrected life that we live by faith having Christ live in us. We act as if we lived in eternity already. "As he is, so are we, but in this world" (1Jno.4:17)
We do not live in the world - but we live in the truth - we live in the spirit, where lust is not a factor - desires of the flesh and of the mind are put to death, (mortified) nailed to the cross. We overcome the world and its entanglements by dying to it - being born spiritually to a resurrected life and by faith, reckoning those facts to ourselves everyday moment by moment - placing ourselves on the cross and yielding our lives unto God, not demanding our own rights, but living unto him, in his strength, in his way, in his timing.
III ) What about obedience?
Now, how does this inner change in me affect my outward obedience when an apostle gives a command?
I will be able to do it if I am dead with Christ and he is living in me - there will be nothing to hinder me. If I am trying to do it in my own strength, in my own understanding in the flesh, I will fail. This is what Paul is talking about in:
I say then: Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The flesh hinders us - the solution is to die, crucify the flesh.
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit.
It is not a question of whether or not to be obedient to the commands of the Apostles, but how do I obey? With what mind or mode of operation or with what strength do I go about doing the commands?
If I place my emphasis on being dead with Christ to the world and live the life that is in the spirit according to the truth - reigning with Jesus Christ in life, then I will succeed in keeping the commands and you will not have to keep after me or brow beat me into obedience, because "to me to live is Christ". It will be a natural expression of my life in Christ. I say natural expression because it will be the expression of my inner character now, the nature that I have in Christ.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
But if I do not place my emphasis on being dead with Christ, and I am not aware of that whole side of my religion, then I will approach the commands out of duty, in my own strength, and my own wisdom to reason out just exactly what is required in the scriptures, and ultimately for my own glory since it is not the obedience of faith. That is walking in the flesh and doomed to failure.
To have the victory over sin and over the world, we have to live crucified - dead to the old me - dead to the former passions in my ignorance - dead to the course (the mode of operation) of this world - dead to my own strength - dead to my own wisdom.
When faced with a temptation, we can remember who we are in Christ and take our position on the cross with him and choose death to that sin.
When we choose death with Christ, a whole new world of freedom and spiritual strength will open up to us - because Christ will begin living his life in and through us. It will no longer be we who live but Christ will live in us. Christ will be our life, in whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.
~ Invitation ~