No, this is not some Muslim threat to the body of Christ. Instead it’s a call to get back to the basics of what truly defines us as belonging to God. If you ever intend to live the life of Christ and come to understand His power, presence and purpose then you must first come to God as a dead man. Let me explain:
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 that 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 on the Cross.
- The Curse – We were freed from the curse once imposed upon mankind for failing to live up to God’s standards.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
- The Serpent – The Serpent has had power over Adam’s race, but he has lost power over those who are now found in Christ.
Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
- The Law – The Law of Moses was moved out of the way as our chief standard of performance.
Colossians 2:14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
- The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – The Tree which is synonymous with how fallen man thinks and acts has been moved out of the way. No longer do we have to gauge the meaning of life based on our own standards of good and evil.
Colossians 2:20-21 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21”Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
- Sin nature – The fallen nature of man is always set towards rebellion, but every act of disobedience has been crucified.
Romans 6:1-3 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Romans 6:6-7 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
- Sin behavior – Behavior that is unfitting for God’s people is the result of men moving and acting upon their old nature; this is the Adamic nature. Acts that lead to sinful behavior have been removed at the Cross.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Romans 7:5-6 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
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. The Cross is significant because it was not only able to redeem mankind back to God, but it makes a way for humanity to be released from the ravages of a fallen world. 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.
Please notice that some of the above verses are speaking not just of Christ’s death, but also our own. 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 a number of other verses that reinforce the same understanding;
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 and the devil. You see this purpose driven death not only rescued us at the time of salvation but it has properties that are timeless. Basically this one event serves all of mankind whether a person came to know Christ in the 1500’s, the 1900’s or just yesterday. And just as significant; when we identify with Christ’s death on an on-going basis, this active aspect of the gospel is able to bring transformation to our lives in many ways. Why is this necessary?
When we accepted salvation Jesus came into our lives and made everything new. However having once been cleansed, sanctified and set apart for God, doesn’t mean we always make right choices. If in fact we find ourselves returning to a worldly way of thinking or get owned by behavior that remains destructive then we need away for Jesus to renew our steps. A recognition of our death with Christ is the way of escape we’ve been looking for.
Identifying with Christ death on the Cross is also able to finally settle how we become more like Him. Up to this point many have thought it was up to them to live a sinless life, but we’ve been trying to hard. We’ve also gone so far as to depend on our own natural ability to make most of life and even faith happen. This tendency to trust in natural strength and reason 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 at ever achieving true success in life. 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 now God is 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 dependent 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 and make us productive people.
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 as well as 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 man’s attempts at gaining perfection, but these fall short of glorifying 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 and productive 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.
On a personal note, I began this journey of discovery some time ago and I haven’t been disappointed. New life has been breathed into my faith as I realize that I must be willing to trust the work of the Cross. This one revelation has allowed me to throw off physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual constraints and changed many of my personal habits. That also includes how I have embraced Christianity. In fact it has allowed my dead religion to finally be moved out of the way in order to experience a living and active relationship with the King of Glory.