Have you ever noticed that the Church seems to be so divided in its purpose and intent? Oh I’m not talking about its choice of curriculum or its many social programs, I’m talking about at the very foundation of its existence is a question as to who is in charge of the journey. You see Jesus (Yeshua) was clear to point out that He would be the one to build His church, but all too often it has been the desire of man to help God along. Hence we see a wide variety of religious kingdoms that have the appearance of godly approval, but all too often men are the ones getting the glory.
What this man centered pattern of performance has done is created over 40,000 denominations that call themselves Christian. This monster of a number does not deserve our praise, nor does it adequately describe the wishes of but one God. Hence mans multiplicity often usurps God’s oneness. The reason that this is even a problem in the first place is because we missed a foundational aspect of the gospel which keeps us on the strait and narrow.
First lets confirm that there is one pivotal event that all believers look to which define them as Christian. That event is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Without it we have no chance of gaining salvation, relationship with God or any hope of changing our sinful heart. This valuable sequence of events begins with the crucifixion of the Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross.
When Jesus died a number of things took place. First, His blood was shed in order to redeem us back to God. This selfless act literally purchased us for God and paved the way for man to gain right standing with the Father.
Ephesians 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
As wonderful and amazing as that redemption is there are still other benefits that were provided by Christ’s encounter with death.
- We were freed from the curse once imposed upon mankind for failing to live up to God’s standards. Galatians 3:13
- The Serpent lost power over those who are now found in Christ. Colossians 2:15
- The Law of Moses was moved out of the way as our chief standard of performance. Colossians 2:14
- The fallen nature of man has been crucified. Romans 6:1-3
Now we bring these points to light in order to make a point; the Christian life finds its greatest freedom by first identifying with the death of our Savior. Paul the apostle brings it all into perspective by saying;
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
What Paul discovered for himself and for us all was Jesus’ death was also the place of our death. No, we didn’t die physically, but rather Jesus took us into His own death so that we could come to know His life. Here, take a look at these many verses that reinforce the same principle;
Romans 6:2…………….. We died to sin.
Romans 6:3…………….. You were baptized into his death?
Romans 6:6…………….. The old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with.
Romans 6:7…………….. Anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Romans 6:8…………….. Died with Christ… alive with him.
Romans 6:11…………… Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:4…………….. You also died to the law through the body of Christ.
Romans 7:6…………….. By dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law.
1Corintians 5:14……… Christ died for all; therefore, all died.
Galatians 2:19………… I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Galatians 2:20………… I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Colossians 2:20………. You died with Christ to the basic principles of this world.
Colossians 3:3………… You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God..
2Timothy 2:11…………. If we died with him, we will also live with him.
Colossians 1:22………. You were reconciled by Christ’s physical body through death.
Colossians 2:12………. You were buried with him in baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God
By supernaturally entering into death with Him we discover a tangible and powerful separation from the world, the flesh, the devil but also from every religious substitute. You see this purpose driven death not only rescued us at the time of salvation but it has properties that must be embraced if we want to continue to serve one God and Father. Identifying with Christ’s death on the Cross is how we finally settle how we become more like Him and less like ourselves. Up to this point many have thought it was up to them to bring in the kingdom, but we’ve been trying to hard. We’ve also gone so far as to depend on our own natural reason to make life and faith work. This tendency to trust in natural strength began with man in the garden.
Initially mankind found purpose by taking dominion. Having been blessed by God he was released to steward God’s creation as he saw fit. Of course, this commission was soon interrupted as the first family gave over their power and authority to the Serpent. In the process the god of this world perverted man’s attempts to ever achieve true success from that time forward.
This is why Jesus had to come; not just to return us to relationship with the Father, but to provide us a way to escape our fallen humanity. Think of it this way; at one time God was pleased with man’s natural ability to succeed, yet God is now more pleased with the success of His Son.
John 15:5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Having since ascended into heaven and having seated Himself at the right hand of the Father, Jesus now invites us to succeed in life by the council and direction of His Holy Spirit. A stewardship that once encouraged us to succeed by fleshly means is now dependant on the Spirit of God for each and every step we take. If you have trouble seeing what that actually looks like then let me ask you a question;
“What do dead people do?”
Dead people do nothing, dead people are owned by nothing, dead people are free of their fallen nature and they stop striving in their own strength. Yet dead people must also wait upon the Spirit of God if they intend to ever experience resurrection life. You see the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to quicken our mortal bodies. Jesus doesn’t leave us in the grave, but rather offers us a greater purpose based on His own power to save.
Now I realize that a personal death, burial and resurrection experience with God may be a foreign concept to many. However without passing all our works through the Cross it is likely that our “old man” has often been the one going to Church. By dismissing this very important aspect of the gospel many have been spinning their religious wheels. In fact, all too often the Cross has remained an icon of the past rather than a pillar of present stability. I use the term “stability” because the Cross lets us finally let go and let God. It declares that we are “dead” and if we have any hope of ever experiencing true purpose in the kingdom it is only found on the other side of the Cross. If that’s the case then maybe we should be willing to hand over a life time of instability. In so doing Jesus by His Holy Spirit is able to instill within us a healthy blueprint for life, love and commitment. That even includes how we have previously defined the Christian experience. Since He did the work for us and revealed to us His way of escape we can let Him finish the transformation process. Here’s a verse that shows us how to apply this aspect of the gospel to our lives.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
How do we do this? In the same manner that we asked for salvation we also get to ask God for transformation. Here’s another verse that confirms it’s about trusting Him for renewal.
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
We separate from our former way of life by trusting the Holy Spirit to do the work for us and in us. As we call upon Him to deal with any point of human frailty, He applies what Jesus did for us on the Cross to our current circumstance.
What is set before us is a way to reevaluate our current quality of life but also our perceptions of faith. Certainly we can begin by trusting the Holy Spirit to take away our sinful actions, however it doesn’t end there. You see all our actions need redeeming even the good ones. Isaiah hints at this by saying;
Isaiah 64:6a All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…
As believers who desire to live a godly life, we have at times added unnecessary rules, regulations and commitments to the mix. Many of these hindrances appeal to our natural attempts at gaining perfection, but these fall short of the glory God. This is probably the greatest reason why we need to let the Cross challenge our previous attempts at living the Christian life.
If you are willing, in the days ahead you can expect that the Holy Spirit will bring to mind some of the things that distract you from living a happy, productive and organic life in Christ. Some of these issues may include how you improperly relate to men, organizations, the world and even a faulty faith. Basically wherever we once placed too much emphasis on our own ability to make life and faith work; He will be suggesting a course correction. At that moment of introspection, plan on recognizing how Jesus separated you from that improper connection at the Cross. You can then expect that He will complete the task by raising you up anew by His resurrection power.
Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him (Jesus) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Application Jesus, on my behalf take my religious trappings into death with you so that I can know only one faith, one hope and one God.