The past few weeks we've studied being filled by the Holy Spirit and our need for the Spirit to manifest Christ's life in us. But just as we are commanded to be filled we are commanded to be emptied. Before the life of Christ can be manifest in us, the self-life has to die. Death makes room for new life.
We'll start with these words of Jesus, and then return to them,
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."
To follow Jesus you must deny yourself, take up your cross—I.e., die to yourself. Otherwise SELF gets in the way. Something in us does not allow us to follow Him. But how do we deny ourselves, when our "self" is frightened or angry or hurt? How do we die to ourselves if the sin in us is so powerful?
Throughout God's Word, our Lord wants us to know the significance and centrality of Jesus' death in the life of the believer.
Isaiah 53:5 But He was pierced for our offenses, He was crushed for our wrongdoings; the punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on Him.
It's amazing that God died yet even more amazing that He died for us.
It's amazing that God so chooses to love us and so intimately unites Himself with us that He deems it necessary for His Son to stand in for us and to take our place for the judgment that we alone deserve.
It seems crazy that He did this. I mean we turned away from Him...
1 Peter 2:24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…
Jesus' death is not only the central act in history, a redemptive act at that, but it affects how we live in this world today.
While speaking on the Holy Spirit a few weeks ago, and mentioned that Christ lives in us and this changes our lives. But we skipped the first part of the verse, I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me [and in you! You have been crucified with Christ, Paul says, and this changes you just as it changed him]; and the life which I now live in the flesh [with this new reality that your guilty old self, the sinner that you were before you met Jesus, was crucified with Christ and it is no longer you, it's no longer the person you were who lives. Your old ID no longer matches, Satan's accusations no longer apply, the law no longer condemns; your guilt-ridden, sinful self has been found guilty and put to death with X. And with that death, you're a new creation, you have eternal life, a new relationship with the Father, a new basis for righteousness. And Christ lives in you! You died that Christ may live in you. Trusting this, Paul says, the life I now live in this body] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and [DIED for me] gave Himself up for me.
It's not only that Jesus was crucified, but YOU were crucified with Christ. So I think this might begin to make sense of when Jesus says to die to yourself…
Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore [the spiritual reality is] we have been buried with Him through baptism into death,
When you trusted Jesus, the Holy Spirit who daily offers to fill you, first baptized you—He identified you, immersed you, united you—into what? Not just into Jesus, but you "have been baptized [united] into His death" (V3)…
When you heard the good news of God's love that Christ died for sinners and you trusted Jesus to save you, the "old self", the person you were before you trusted Jesus was found guilty and crucified with Christ and is buried! Still!!
Romans 6:4 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
Jesus' death leads to new life when you believe that your old self died with Him. So you can deny yourself only when you trust that you old self died. You're a new creation. It's no longer the old you who lives; Christ lives in you.
This is "must know" truth,
Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him [Again, the point being made isn't that Jesus died, but God wants you to know that you died with Him and you were buried with Him], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.
You don't defeat sin by suppressing it; or by starting with denying small things that you may grow to deny big things.
God defeats sin by judging it, and by slaying the sinner and breaking our relationship to sin. We don't conquer our old self, we exult in Jesus' death and our union with Christ.
Romans 6:11 So you too, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
God is telling us something true that we couldn't otherwise know. That you are so enveloped in Christ before God, that He doesn't see you apart from His Son. He doesn't hold your sins against you. The shameful sinner has been judged and crucified, it's not who you are or how God sees you. Believe this truth that you have died with Christ to sin, and present yourself to the Father fully alive in Christ.
Reckon this true. And make choices based on this reality.
When Jesus says, deny yourself, take up your cross or "die to yourself," this is a liberating statement. I.e., This, He says, is how you can follow Jesus.
He's not saying, "C'mon man, try harder. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross!"
He's saying what Paul said. Christ defeated your sin on the cross. Christ liberated you through His death. By faith unite with Christ. To deny yourself, to die to yourself, is to exult in the cross. In Christ's death. In God's love. In the Spirit's new life.
Whatever you feel or experience, God deals in reality. Consider it true that you have died with Christ and you are made alive to God in Christ. You're free to live new life in Christ. You don't have to do whatever your flesh wants.
Romans 6:13 Do not go on presenting the parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead, and your body’s parts as instruments of righteousness for God.
Present yourself fully alive to the Father in Christ. You don't have to do whatever your flesh wants. Present yourself to the Holy Spirit to be filled. Present yourself to Me, alive in the Spirit, this is how you follow Me.
Jesus' death is central to living a new life, and we can live now as those who've died with Him and rose with Him even as we await our physical death and physical resurrection.
Colossians 3:1 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Jesus has done all the hard work, the heavy lifting of the cross. We are simply called to trust His death and our union with Him—to live today as if we've died with Christ, we've been raised with Him, yet here we are still, waiting for Jesus to return.
Remember in Isaiah 6 how the prophet was brought to God through a vision and the angels said "Holy Holy Holy." In Rev. the apostle John saw Christ in His glory. Another time the apostle Paul was raised up to the Third Heaven (birds, stars, God's presence) before God in glory.
How did this change them?
How different everything must have been when Paul returned? Because of what he saw in heaven, what He saw of Jesus, what He saw of the beauty and power and reality of things still come, how did that change his view of the things the world lives for, the news the world obsesses over, the pressure to conform, the sheer arrogance of man, the things people covet. I think it would be so small and pointless if not evil considering what he saw in glory.