Thursday, November 13, 2014

Living Free From Sin: Knowing part 1

Knowing:
Our Death in Christ - Historical Fact

         Last time we outlined four requirements for living "The Normal Christian Life". Now by this title I don't mean that the majority of Christians live this way, at least not the majority of those who profess to be Christians. The use of "Normal" here is signifying that this is God's intent for the Christian life. Tonight, we will revisit our crucifixion in Christ. This topic cannot be stressed enough and is foundational to our first requirement, that is knowing, as we will see in future posts.

Historical Fact
         Looking at Romans 6:1-11 we clearly see that the death of Christ was both representative and inclusive. That is, we were represented to God by Christ on the Cross and we were included on that Cross with the Lord Jesus so that we too died. We cannot spiritually progress without seeing this great truth! We could not receive justification without "seeing" Christ bearing our sins on the Cross. In the same way, without "seeing" him bear us on the Cross we cannot have sanctification.
         Consider it this way: How did you receive forgiveness? You received it by realizing that Jesus, as substitute, bore your sins and shed his blood as atonement for them. When you saw your sins taken away what did you do? Did you pray, "Lord, I am wretched! Please come and die for my sins."? No! Thanks and praise! That is the response, for you realized that he had already done so. 
        What is true of forgiveness is also true of deliverance. It is done. We were crucified with Christ and so we do not need to pray, "Crucify me". We did not pray that about our sins so why should we pray it about ourselves. It has been accomplished. Now our part is to give thanks and praise as we did when we realized we had been forgiven. "Then they believed his words; they sang his praise" (Psalm 106:12). 
        Do you believe in the death of Christ? Of course! The same scripture that says He died for us says that we died with him. "Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). Pretty clear. "Our old self was crucified with him" (Rom. 6:6). "We have died with Christ" (Rom. 6:8). Is that any less clear?

Our Death in Time
        When were we crucified? What is the date of it? Is it tomorrow? Yesterday? Today? To understand it may help if we flip Paul's statement around. "Christ was crucified with (i.e. at the same time as) our old man". I might point out that this only works with respect to time; the other theological truths in this statement cannot be flipped. Christ died as the atonement for our sins and we are not included in that.   Now imagine that you and a friend traveled to New York together. You could say that your friend went with you. You could also say that you went with your friend. Either would be correct. But if one of you went 2 days prior the statement becomes false. The time of my crucifixion was the same as Christ's. These are not two separate historical events, but one. 
       Has Christ been crucified? Then so have I. If I was crucified with Christ and Christ was crucified almost 2,000 years ago, can my crucifixion be said to take place tomorrow? Can his be in the past and mine be in the present or future? When he died, I died with him. He died in my stead, but also bore me with him. If I can believe in the death of Christ; I can just as surely believe in my own death. 

The Ground
        On what ground are we able to believe this? How can we be certain? At this point it will be helpful if we ask another question, for in answering that question we can answer this one. Why do you believe that Christ died? I am not asking the reason he died, but what basis do you have for believing that he died? Is it because you feel that he has died? No! You have never felt it. It is because the Word of God tells you that he has died. When Jesus was crucified two thieves were crucified at the same time. Do you doubt that? Of course not, the scripture says so plainly. Now after believing in Christ's death and the death of the thieves what about your own?  Yours is more intimate than theirs. They were on separate crosses, but you were on the same cross as Jesus, for you were "in him". How can you know? One reason. God said so. We don't need to feel it or to feel like it. If you feel that Jesus has died, he has died; and if you do not feel he has died, he has still died. The same is true of you. If you feel that you have died, you have died; and if you do not feel that you have died, you none-the-less have died. These are divine facts. Jesus died, the thieves died, and you died. The self that you loathe is on the Cross in Christ. "For one who has died has been set free from sin" (Rom. 6:7).
        Will power and effort will never be enough for our crucifixion to be effective in us.  All we can do is accept it. Our eyes must be opened to see the finished work of Calvary. Deliverance is a gift just as forgiveness is gift. We do not work for it, but stretch forth our hands and accept it with thanks and praise. 
        God's way to deliver and man's way are different. Man seeks to suppress sin by overcoming it, while God removes the sinner. We tend to think that we must be stronger to overcome the sin in us. "The idea that, because failure to lead a holy life is due to our impotence, something more is therefore demanded of us, leads naturally to this false conception of the way of deliverance. If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory over sin we must have more power" (Nee To-sheng). This is a false conception. This is not Christianity. God's means of deliverance is not to make us stronger and stronger, but to make us weaker and weaker. Is this a peculiar way of victory? It is the divine way. "For my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). This is why Paul could follow God's statement with, "Then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). God frees us from the power of sin, not by strengthening our old man, but by crucifying him; not by helping achieve anything but by removing him from the scene. 
        "For years, maybe, you have tried fruitlessly to exercise control over yourself, and perhaps this is still your experience; but when once you see the truth, you will recognize that you are indeed powerless to do anything - but that in setting you aside altogether, God has done it all. Such a discovery brings human striving and self-effort to and end" (Nee To-sheng). We learn to rely on God's mercy and provision. 

        Our death in Christ, and our being in Christ in general, cannot be stressed enough. It is foundational to our Christian faith and is the basis for the first requirement: Knowing.This is what we are to "know" and in the next post we will be talking about what it actually means to "know", for "The normal Christian life must begin with a very definite "knowing".'  Until next time, dearly beloved, I pray that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him" (Eph. 1:17).

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