The sentence of death/conclusion

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;

indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;

who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He upon whom we have set our hope” [2 Corinthians 1:8-10]

Look over the verses above closely. They resemble very closely the Scriptures quoted last time in 1 Peter chapter 2. If you noticed or remembered, those verses began with this statement, “For you have been called for this purpose.” [1 Peter 2:21] What purpose would that be? Would it be to discover my spiritual gifts, find what my life occupation might be or to find the road that will help me fulfill my own dreams in this world? God forbid, no- a thousand times no! The Christian life cannot be about us, it must be about Him.

I must decrease

The text above is clear, Christians are called by God to suffer for His name’s sake. A verse that makes this even more clear is this:

“For to you it has been granted (by whom?) for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” [Philippians 1:29, 30]

Why must we suffer

In all Christianity, God acts first as always and we must obey by walking in what He has finished upon the cross. Obviously Jesus has to suffer Himself in the payment for sin, but not only, but daily He suffered prior to that in order for Him to learn obedience. (Hebrews 5:8) We learn to obey through suffering as well, but there’s more. Our old nature was crucified with Christ- it was condemned entirely and now we must reckon that to be so (true)(Romans 6:11). But how do our sufferings cause us to learn to obey God?

  • We have the sentence of death within ourselves (through Adam’s nature still IN US physically)- What God has allowed
  • He orchestrates the events of our lives for He alone knows what we need- What God is doing
  • Our sufferings force us to trust in our Father and not in our old selves as a resource- more so if our sufferings are severe as Paul’s.  Note the similar words in the two verses (“sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves” and “but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously”)
  • Then notice the results of said trust, again in both verses (“who raises the dead and “so that we might die to sin and live righteously”)

Can you see it?

When we refuse to suffer or avoid our God’s providential dealings with us, we prove our own reliance upon ourselves and how little we do or desire to trust Him. Their is no peace, no effectiveness, no fruit in walking along those lines- therein is death.

On the other hand, if we recognize that our Father has in His great love caused us to be born again, allows us and even orchestrates our sufferings for both our good and His glory, literally forcing us to trust in Him alone, allowing us to be burdened excessively, purposefully beyond our own strength and even allowing us to despair of life itself, well then their is hope for a resurrection in the power of Jesus Christ- for it is Jesus Himself resurrected shining forth in all His glory through us!

He must increase

There is no hope in any attempts to be reliant upon our old selves. That life is crucified and must remain in the grave. We must see ourselves entirely in Jesus Christ and Him raised as the very solution to every problem, sin, and need will we ever have or face in this life. It is not so much what Jesus can do that matters, but who Jesus has become for each of us Himself.

If professing Christians are not following in His steps through suffering, they cannot be delivered practically from sin , nor can they be expressing the genuine article- Jesus Christ Himself in us, our hope and their hope of glory!

 

-the end

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The sentence of death/Part 2

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” [1 Peter 2:21-24]

Most of us have heard or know of the verse in Matthew 4:19 where Jesus says to His disciples; “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” As is quite obvious by the 12 disciples Jesus Himself chose, although they followed Him around, they really didn’t accomplish a whole lot. In fact, a list of their accomplishments while walking with Jesus included these things:

  • their fear (Matthew 6:28-30; 8:26) (Mark 10:32) (Luke 9:34; 44, 45)
  • their weak faith/no faith (Matthew 16:8; 17:20) (Luke 8:25; 12:28)
  • they complained (Mark 4:37, 38)
  • they turned away others who were coming to Jesus (Matthew 14:15-18) (Matthew 15:21-23) (Matthew 19:13, 14)
  • falling asleep in Jesus’ darkest hour (Luke 22:44-46)

Throughout Jesus’ life He was testifying to the truth and exemplifying what was possible for those who had faith in Him.  But having faith in His abilities to heal, impart wisdom, provide for their needs, comfort the afflicted and a hundred others things were dependent upon something else as well…..a willingness for them to follow in His steps. It was in this very thing that the disciples were slowest to learn.

Like all human beings, we are slowest to acknowledge that what hurts us often yields the greatest benefit to others. This is due to the fact that suffering is unpleasant, and for most of our lives as unbelievers we either ran from our sufferings or covered them with some superficial and temporal solution- and so does everybody else. Jesus told them over and over about his “soon to be delivered over” and they just couldn’t believe it, yet they did believe this…..his authenticity in pouring his life out for the benefit of others. This they could not deny for they saw this with their very own eyes day after day and year after year. They not only heard Him renounce this world’s style of authority, their pursuit of earthly treasures and obvious desire for personal recognition, they saw Jesus renounce these things Himself and in their place was to be found a servants towel. They saw as above, one who did not revile in return, who suffered unjustly and yet uttered no threats- one who continuously kept entrusting Himself to His Father above who would execute a proper justice in the end. Had Jesus only taught and not lived this example, it hardly would have been convincing to them or anyone else. He lived, and they saw, exactly what the Father required, not just for Him, but for them as well.

Little did they understand the totality of what their Lord was soon to accomplish for them. We all remember when Jesus calls Peter blessed because the Father had revealed to him that “Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This must have made Peter feel pretty good, no? Then Jesus tells them not to tell anyone this good news (Matthew 16:20) and follows this up with real bad news-to them at the time anyway:

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed…..

We know that Peter rebuked Jesus when he heard this and why? He simply didn’t understand what was necessary for Jesus to accomplish (not merely the payment for sin and accomplishing God’s perfect standard of righteousness, that’s quite a lot in itself- but more, that He would bare our sins in His body on the cross so (we can go to heaven?) no, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. In the next conversation Peter himself would learn what would be necessary for him in order for him to be able to accomplish His Father’s will as well……….what Jesus would require in order for Peter to be a vehicle through which others might find healing.

-to be finished soon

The sentence of death/Part 1

In the preceding articles on Sentenced to Death we showed how it was important for us as individuals to trust in the death of Jesus Christ to avoid the death sentence falling upon us. Without having Christ as our Substitute, we are standing in a position of judgment just waiting for that judgment to be exacted on us by God Himself. John 3:20 makes this distinction clear:

“He who believes in Him is not judged (condemned); he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”

The death sentence we avoided had to do with condemnation for sin. All Christians have avoided that death sentence when they trust in Jesus’ merits before a holy God instead of their own. Obviously, we have not avoided physical death which is also the consequence of sin, though Jesus does say to those who believe;

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” [John 11:25, 26]  and then this: “Do you believe this?”  Physical death my friends is not the end.

In other previous posts we talked about the calling of God upon our lives. That His specific calling is for a specific purpose- that we might be His ambassadors upon this earth in bringing the good news of the gospel to everyone in every place, that just as Jesus chose His 12 apostles to become the foundation stones of His Ekklesia, so would they eventually pass along the responsibilities of safeguarding doctrinal truth and  the practice of that truth to us.

It is very important to realize that our Father has a very specific manner in which He chooses to fulfill His will among both individual saints and the local ekklesias He is building. In other words, it is neither enough to know all truth (knowledge) or to even attempt to put into practice all truth (methods or structure). As much as these matter to God as their Author, mankind can only transmit spiritually to others what he or she has become in themselves. Knowing is not enough, knowing and practice is better, but knowing with proper practice is best, and this is what He is after.

Let’s consider one persistent problem among believers: They can’t seem to get along with each other. Whether it’s a simple disagreement, a doctrinal conflict or a bitter root, what is the solution to the problem? Is their a solution to each and every individual problem or is their one solution to every problem? Have you ever thought about that question? You really might want to, your answer will affect the entirety of your Christian life from beginning to end. Yes, it’s that important.

Who was sentenced to death?

In the summation of my last article we discussed how our old nature was crucified with Christ in order that it might no longer have power over us. I added that as a result of this nature being opposed to God, it needed to be condemned and therefore is off limits entirely. We are not to touch or utilize that unclean thing. We also noticed that this old nature was the source of all sin and that is why it needed to be condemned. Thinking these three things over, let us return to the question above: “Is their a (single solution) to every individual problem or is their one solution for every problem?”

I propose to you that contrary to modern practice and thought, there is only one solution to every sin that has ever plagued mankind. Furthermore, I know for a fact that for each one of these problems with sin, Jesus has no future plan to address or “help” you overcome. That’s because Jesus has already dealt with sin (past tense entirely) and the only reason we still sin is that we do not fully believe in what Jesus has accomplished, or we are hesitant to embrace the cross of Christ to the degree required of us by our Father.

What is the sentence of death? It’s what follows the death sentence for every Christian whether they recognize it as such. It is a tailor made series of sufferings that God allows and orchestrates that brings us into the fullness of our inheritance in Christ. But just like everything else our Father has brought to His individual children as a gift, these also must be embraced for them to accomplish their “strange” work.

-to be continued

Sentenced to Death/Do you not know?

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through (spiritual) baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 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, knowing that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” [Romans 6:3-7]

Do you not know these things?

One of the things many of you will discover about me and my writings is this: I am constantly talking about what Jesus has done as the basis for what He calls us to believe and act upon. The above verses are no different.

Look at what I have highlighted in purple above. Both of these phrases “have been buried” and “our old self was crucified” are references to the nature of sin that still resides in us. In order for us to live free from sin and bear fruit unto God this old nature had to be what?- SENTENCED TO DEATH! The means that it was sentenced to death was through crucifixion, (we were -our old selves, crucified with Christ, Galatians 2:20) when Jesus bore our sins on the tree. If you picture yourself dying with Jesus, being raised from the dead and seated in the heavenly places with Christ- than you see what Jesus has literally done on your own behalf spiritually-past tense. Our lives in this world are to be conformed daily to these very spiritual and real truths.

Sadly, the KJV of the Bible used the word “destroyed” as to our old nature in this verse. The Greek word here actually means “to be made inactive” not destroyed. This is an important distinction. If our sinful nature is destroyed once we become Christians, that would mean their is no longer a source from which sin can flow from. Our own experiences prove this isn’t true. Furthermore, why would Paul the apostle give this command here in Romans 6:11 if our sinful selves were literally dead: “Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” and follow it up with another command: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God”

Do you not know? The sentence of death remains for Christians- that the body of sin might be done away with- practically speaking. This is the battle Paul faced in his members and its the same battle we face everyday. It is important that we know what Jesus has done with our old selves for two very distint reasons:

  • Our old nature (selves) is the source of all sin. Nothing that stems from that nature is acceptable for use in our service to God and our fellow men. What God has condemned in Christ, we must not attempt to resurrect.
  • Due to our tendency to rely upon this nature as human beings, we must deny it and ourselves in practical situations every day if we are to become reliant upon the Holy Spirit and His resources. To the degree we die to our old selves, to that degree will resurrection life become manifest in us and through us.

Yes. Heavy stuff. Rest assured, where any man or group of men are truly exercising or expressing the power of the Holy Spirit, the cross will be central in their message and lives. There will not, and cannot be a single exception.

Sentenced to Death, Part 2

 “The soul who sins will die.” [Ezekiel 18:20]

Have you ever thought about why human beings have to die? Well now you know why- because of sin. The Bible states further that:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 6:23]

What are wages? Simply put, wages are what you earn as a result of your particular actions. As we discussed in Part 1, people who practice evil must be suffer the consequences of their actions, they must be punished, justice must be served. We all agree do we not?

As you can see from the above, God is very serious about people who choose to sin, who choose to do what is evil and He agrees that these people need to be punished. Therefore, God has spoken, all of mankind is guilty and must be sentenced to death for they have earned this death sentence through their own actions.

Now we know that individual men claim that this punishment isn’t fair, that it is far too extreme- that is, if they even acknowledge God at all. They would on one hand want those they think are evil to be punished no doubt, but then they would attempt to minimize their own sin as compared to these people. They would paint themselves as either “not as bad as those people” or “more righteous than other people.” In other words, people are all for justice provided they themselves are exempt from their own failures and mistakes.

All of the above is very similar to those in Part 1 we called the judges (humans with opinions) about what punishments should be levied to whom and to what degree. This is because man feels as if their own standard of righteousness is what should be the ultimate judge over people’s actions- even their own. That may be ok for them to share their opinions about someone recently accused of a crime but it won’t work in justifying themselves. God say’s, regardless of the type of sin, the severity of sin, the length of sin or the horrendous nature of sin the very same thing: “The soul who sins must die.”

Switching gears somewhat, we know from the Bible account that individual men have to acknowledge certain facts in order to become a Christian. They need to acknowledge before God that they are sinful, that they have broken his law and are therefore found guilty before God and that as such, they have been sentenced to death. These people have one  manner of escape from the fair and righteous judgment of their sin by God- they must flee to Jesus and His one time sacrifice for sin, they must place their trust in His death in order for it to be lifted from themselves.  In Him alone is their only safe refuge. This is sometimes called, the exchanged life.

As those who are now born from above, we are quick to forget about “having been” sentenced to death. Free in Christ, from the penalty that is, we live in kind of a dreamland where we are quick to forget some of which transpired through God’s dealings with us. For example, what was sentenced to death and does that death sentence still have a bearing upon our lives today? Why would that matter?

Most of us as Christians are aware that we were born with a nature whose natural tendency is to serve sin. Paul the apostle in light of his own struggle with this nature exclaimed;

“For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, (he knows the law is good) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin in my members.” [Romans 7:22, 23]

Paul knew the law was good in itself, but the law was waging a war against the nature of sin that still resided in His body- a Christian’s body. Paul goes on say next, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Why would he call it that? Because a nature of sin that served death resided in him! Then he rejoices that his victory over this body of death is found in Jesus Christ his Lord!

But how. That’s the million $ question. And the multi $$$ answer: Death.

In Romans 6 we find these words: “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Did you get that?….we who died to sin. Then the following, “Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

-to be finished next

Sentenced to death/Part 1

It’s fairly likely that anyone who has heard the words of the title to this post know what those words mean. If you or I were asked to give a particular context where we thought these words might be applicable, just what might we offer as an answer? I don’t imagine it would be very positive now would it? Wouldn’t our answer almost certainly include some individual who had committed some horrendously evil crime and therefore was worthy of death? A crime so evil that the only possible justice would have to include ending this persons life?

Have you ever noticed that when an evil act is discovered and brought to the light, (as in the public eye), that the judges (human beings with opinions) come out in full force to bring forth their own decrees as to what is an appropriate punishment. The whole gammit is usually represented, from those who feel some mercy is warranted to those who demand an immediate death sentence. Although there is sometimes diverse opinions as to the degree of the punishment, there is almost without exception the demand for the punishment itself against the evil that was done. Everyone wants to see evil punished and wrongdoing brought to justice.

Within the framework of mankind wanting or demanding evil to be punished, there is one more pertinent issue. That is the issue of what actually constitutes evil behavior- those evil actions and today (even words) that should be worthy of a just punishment. How do a bunch of human beings conclude what is right and wrong and therefore discern what punishments fit which crimes?

I don’t want to delve into that last question above but only to say this: crimes and their punishments vary from place to place,  country to country, government to government and even from parent to parent. What I want to emphasize is this: each punishment is levied out by those in authority, by those actually in charge of dishing out “just deserts” if you will.  Whatever and whoever the authority, those authorities lay down the laws, uphold the laws and punish the law breakers- we all know this. Although on occasion a citizen uproar or revolt may influence a punishment, for the most part the authorities do what they will without consequence. They deem that upholding the law is both their right as well as their responsibility.

Now may I ask, “Have you ever broken the law?” And if so, “Did you get caught doing so?” Most of us have broken laws, some on purpose and many of us have escaped the punishment. But do you know there’s a law you broke that you can never hide from?

Now, although we may not know the above is true, can I paint another scenario you might not be so familiar with- a crime so evil and deserving of death and yet the majority of the population just looks the other way as if it’s no big deal. An offense that not just one person has committed but the whole entire human race, and yet they continue to proclaim their own innocence.

-to be continued

Called to What?/Called to Die

In an earlier post, I alluded to how we might feel if someone had recruited us to teach and preach  an unpopular message that would get us killed. I think it’s fairly safe to say that this wouldn’t exactly be met by the masses with a warm welcome now would it? Why would anyone in their right mind ever volunteer or join up with a group of people the majority of others hated and treated with contempt? What possible reason would make an individual such as ourselves, a family member or someone we know suspend all common sense and place their trust in a man who lived 2000 years ago, who claimed to be God and promised to return for those He called His own? I’ll tell you why:

The power of a life, a crucified life.

Also in an earlier post, I explained how the power of another’s lesson or sacrifice can have a powerful impact upon those who receive it. That those experiences often leave long lasting memories we cherish and that often the people who teach us such lessons or make such sacrifices on our behalf become dear to us. In these particular instances, there isn’t necessarily anything supernatural about the act of sacrifice itself. In fact the book of Romans states;

“For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die” [Romans 5:7]  This verse is meant to show the contrast between what a man might dare to do and what God did through Jesus:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5:8]

The point is this: The natural man in his humanity makes sacrifices for many reasons. He may feel an obligation, he may have ties to a family member or friend, or maybe he or she wants praise or recognition for what they do. Every human being has reasons for everything they do and never has a man made any sacrifice for the sole reason of pleasing His creator without God’s own intervention. Man is all about himself and his natural tendency is to put himself first,  others second when and if necessary and God only in an emergency and then for selfish reasons.

On the other hand, God sent His only Son to meet a need none of us ever could. In contrast to teaching us to help ourselves, something we could never have done, God Himself met our need in the Person of Jesus Christ becoming the sacrifice for sin….while we were yet sinners….prior to us coming to know Him personally. Such is the love of Christ toward us exemplified.

For those of us who know Jesus today, did we not have to accept Jesus death as a substitute for the death that we deserved? Was it not through His death that our judgment was placed upon Another? Yes, but why? To merely free us from the penalty of sin or from sin altogether? I hope you know it to be the latter.

Our freedom came through death and the freedom of others, death too- ours.

Had our need only been natural, partial or superficial, any man’s sacrifice may have been sufficient. That said, our need was not superficial but total, and required a supernatural and perfect solution- a solution that had to originate with God Himself, and so it was.

As Christians, we cannot become the sacrifice for others sins anymore than we can become perfect. No, that is a responsibility only our Lord could undertake and has in a finished work. But in and through that work He is bringing many sons to glory, sons who have responsibilities this side of heaven, sons and daughters who now possess the very supernatural life of their Lord within them through the power of His Spirit.

Never underestimate the power of death. Death is the means to walk in the power of His Spirit.

The world and its people desperately need to see the life that we Christians claimed changed the course of history. While many try to portray that life with various signs, wonders and promises of a wonderful life this side of heaven,  consider what really changed the course of history- a crucified life. Is that what your friends, co-workers and your neighbors are seeing in you?