“We preach Christ crucified”
1 Corinthians 1:23

From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of Righteousness

“Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”  Romans 6:17-18

   In this verse, Paul thanked God that the believers who wholeheartedly obeyed his form of teaching (or doctrine) were transformed from slaves of sin into slaves of righteousness.  This result is so remarkable that we must ask, “What was Paul’s teaching that miraculously changed the lives of those who believed and acted on it?”  According to the Bible, Paul taught the purpose and power of Christ’s crucifixion (1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 3:1).  This teaching, which Paul called the gospel of “Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23),” is the foundational doctrine that Paul, as an apostle and master builder, laid brick by brick (precept by precept) so Christ’s church might be established and built up by this truth (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

   Let us take a closer look at this truth of the cross.  Before we were saved, we were slaves of sin.   Our sinful nature was like a “sin factory” within us that continuously produced sinful attitudes and actions.  How did God miraculously free us from this “wretched man” who was enslaved to sin?      In order to redeem us from sin, God had to free us not only from the penalty of sin, He had to free us from the power of sin.  Therefore, to make us a new creation in Christ, God had to first deal with the old creation (our sinful Adam nature).  By Christ’s death on the cross, God not only dealt with the fruit of the old creation (our sinful actions), He also destroyed its root (our sinful nature/the sin factory).  “For we know that our old man of sin was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) would be destroyed, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).”  By the divine operation of the cross, God not only crucified our sinful nature with Christ; He removed it and replaced it with Christ’s nature when we received His risen Son as Lord into our hearts (Colossians 1:27; 2:11-12).  This is the doctrine of the cross that Paul laid down as the only true foundation for the church. This fundamental Christian doctrine is summarized as: Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might live in us.  This is the truth that Paul practiced and preached: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).”

   Mere mental assent to this doctrine (of our co-crucifixion with Christ) is not enough for us to experience the reality and power of Christ living in us.  We must wholeheartedly obey (believe and act on) this foundational truth in order to experience freedom from the power of sin.  Of course, this is only possible if God has given us divine revelation to know this doctrinal truth in our heart (and not just our mind).  For example, just as we needed God’s divine revelation to know that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) so that we might believe and act on this truth with a conviction that resulted in our salvation, we also need God’s divine revelation to know that we died with Christ (Romans 6:8) so that we might believe and act on this truth with an inward conviction that results in our sanctification.  God knew that there was no way we could possibly overcome sin if we still had a sinful nature after we were saved.  This is why He removed our sinful nature through Christ’s death on the cross and exchanged it with His Son’s nature.  However, if we have never heard this truth or if we do not believe and act on this truth, then God cannot set us free from the power of sin so that we can be slaves of righteousness (John 8:32-36). The Bible says, “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith (Hebrews 4:2).”

   Becoming a slave of righteousness does not mean that we are perfectly sinless (see 1 John 1:8).  However, it does mean that we practice righteousness instead of practicing sin.  Jesus said that whoever practices sin is still a slave of sin (John 8:34).  And John taught, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.  No one who practices sin has seen Him or known Him.  Dear children, the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil… by this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God (1 John 3:6-10).”  What does it mean to practice righteousness?  It means we develop a habit of living by faith in the truth of the cross.  Jesus said, “My brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice (Luke 8:21).”  Although we no longer have a sinful nature after we are born of the Spirit, our mind still needs to be renewed and converted by the truth of God’s word.  It all starts with our believing what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross.  Our sinful nature, which was central to who we were and at the core of our rebellion toward God, was removed when we received Christ.  If we believe and act on this truth, we will be able to walk in ever-increasing freedom from entangling sins.  Our belief in this divine truth empowers us to carry our own cross and lose our unconverted soul-life for Christ’s sake (Mark 9:34-35).  Each day, we can by faith “put to death” our old soulish way of thinking and acting and put on Christ’s way of thinking and acting (Ephesians 4:22-24).   This daily practice of renewing our mind and losing our soul-life for Christ’s sake results in our sanctification and transformation. Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is (Romans 12:2).”

   In the natural, we practice something new until we learn it by heart.  In the same way, if we practice righteousness (our new way of life) by believing and acting on this truth that we no longer have a sinful nature, the reality of the cross of Christ will be indelibly imprinted in our hearts.  We will then wholeheartedly serve God as slaves of righteousness and the outcome is eternal life.

“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit resulting in sanctification, and the outcome is eternal life.”   Romans 6:22

The Veil is Gone!

“When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice,  He gave up His spirit.  At that moment, the veil of  the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Matthew 27:50-51

   Before Christ’s death on the cross, the way into the “holy of holies” in the temple of God was blocked by a thick veil or curtain.  What was the purpose of this veil and what is its symbolic connection with Christ’s death?   To begin, we need to go back to the original design of the tabernacle of God in the wilderness (see Exodus Chapters 25-27).  God commanded Moses to build the tabernacle “according to the pattern” that He had shown him (Exodus 25:9; Hebrews 8:5).  When the temple in Jerusalem was later constructed, it followed this similar design.  By God’s command, a thick veil separated and closed off the inner room – “the holy of holies” – from the rest of the temple (Exodus 26:31-33). Within the holy of holies resided the Ark of the Covenant where God’s presence dwelt (Exodus 25:22; 1 Kings 8:9-13).  Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the Law of God (the Ten Commandments inscribed on two stone tablets).  Only the high priest could enter inside the veil and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement.  On that day, the high priest would go into the inner room (the holy of holies) to sprinkle the blood of a unblemished, sacrificial animal on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant to atone for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:1-34).

   Why did God give detailed instructions to Moses concerning the construction of the tabernacle?  God’s eternal purpose and desire has always been to dwell among His people and commune with them.  The tabernacle’s design was meant to show how a sinful people could approach a holy God.  It also foreshadowed how Christ would open the way for us to truly know God (Hebrews 8:1-13).   The Bible says, “These things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality is found in Christ (Colossians 2:17).”  With this in mind, what did the veil signify?  The veil signified that the way to God was closed off to people because they were sinners (Hebrews 9:8-10).  Therefore, the veil was a barrier that blocked sinful man from seeing God and having fellowship with Him.  Only the high priest was allowed to enter through the veil and only by offering the blood of an unblemished animal, which was a type of the sinless Lamb of God to come – Jesus Christ.  As Peter wrote, “You were redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18-19).”

   When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn open from top to bottom.  The Bible says this event signified the start of the new covenant and the opening of a new and living way to know God (Hebrews 9:15; 10:20).  Why is this?  The torn veil represented Christ’s body that was put to death on the cross to bring us to God.  The Bible says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).”  But if forgiveness of sins was the only benefit of Christ’s death on the cross, our reconciliation to God would not be made complete.  For not only did our sins separate us from God, our sinful nature also separated us from entering into spiritual union with God.  How could we dwell in God’s presence and how could He possibly dwell in us if we still had a sinful nature?  Only the removal of our sinful nature could enable God’s Holy Spirit to permanently dwell in us.  

   Therefore, not only did God forgive our sins through Christ’s crucifixion, God used His Son’s death to remove our sinful nature.  For when Christ died on the cross, He not only took our sins upon Himself, He also took our sinful nature upon Himself so that we would be born again with His righteous nature.  The Bible says, “He become sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).” Consequently, when Christ died, our sinful nature died with Him.  “For we know that our old man was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be destroyed, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin! (Romans 6:6-7).” Thus God made us holy through His Son’s death: holy not just because our sins are forgiven, but holy because we no longer have a sinful nature.  We are now a new creation in Christ – “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17).”

   Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).” Why is this?  Because until you are born again, your sinful nature is like a veil or curtain upon your heart that blinds you from seeing and knowing God.  As Paul wrote, “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3).”  However, the Bible says that whenever a man turns to Christ and is born again, this veil (his sinful nature) is removed so that he can then see and know God      (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Paul taught, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the sinful nature, by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11).”  Therefore, the torn veil signifies the removal of our sinful nature that occurs when we are born again in Christ.  Thus Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, has delivered us from the curse of sin (by forgiving our sins and removing our sinful nature) so that we could be reconciled to a holy God.

   This is why the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most momentous event in human history.  With the advent of the new covenant, the temple in Jerusalem ceased to be the place where God’s people worshipped Him (but could never enter into His presence).  Because of the blood of Jesus, we can now worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).  God can dwell in us by His Spirit and we can be His holy temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).  Because of the blood of Jesus, there no longer is any veil or barrier that can separate us from God’s love and intimate friendship.

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He opened for us through the veil, that is, His body… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”  Hebrews 10:19-22

The Blessing and the Curse

“I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing, if you obey the commands of the Lord your God… and the curse, if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 11:26-28

   Many Christians think that God is only a God of blessing.  However, this is only true if you walk in obedience to His commands.  The Bible says the blessing of God is upon those who love and obey Him.  However, it is equally true that the curse of God is upon those who do not love and obey Him.  Does this sound too severe to you?  Yet the Bible says, “Behold the goodness and severity of God: severity to those who fell, but goodness to you, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise, you will also be cut off (Romans 11:22).”  It is apparent the way many Christians continue to unrepentantly practice sin that they think only God’s blessing now exists for them.  This tragic misconception is based on a profound misunderstanding of God’s nature and His ways.  As Jude wrote, “Now I desire to remind you… that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe (Jude 5).”  John the Baptist warned, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36).”  And Paul declared, “God’s wrath comes upon those who are disobedient… if anyone does not love the Lord – a curse be on him! (Ephesians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 16:22).”

   Jesus Himself said that, in the Day of Judgment, He would reject all those who pretended to profess faith in Him but who willfully and unrepentantly practiced sin.  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23).’ The Bible warns, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving a knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he has been sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26-31).”  These are not sinners who have never been saved; these are Christians who will lose their salvation because they keep willfully practicing sin.  Jesus warned those Christians who practiced sin and “soiled their garments,” that unless they repented, He will erase their names from the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5).

   This is bad news for those who disobey the Lord and practice sin.  However, the good news for all those who believe is this:  God’s sanctified or holy life – “without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14) – is entirely possible to live because of Christ’s completed work on the cross.  According to the gospel, Christ not only died to free us from the penalty of sin, He also died to free us from the power of sin.  When we were born again, God immersed us into Christ’s death and removed our sinful nature so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 2:11).

   Our salvation must be based on faith in this truth of the cross from beginning to end.  Just as we were saved by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross, we must now live by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross.  God said, “’My righteous one will live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of our soul (Hebrews 10:38-39).”  Since our soul could only be saved by faith in Christ’s work on the cross; our soul can also be lost by unbelief in Christ’s work on the cross. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (Heb 3:12-14).”

   Jesus declared that a great apostasy (the falling away of many from the faith) would mark the time just before His return (Matthew 24:1 & 10).”  That apostasy is happening now!  When Christians fall away from the faith, it is manifest in two ways.  For some, their sins are evident – they are lovers of self, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  However, the apostasy of many others is cloaked in a false religious morality. These people practice an outward form of “Christianity,” but they are inwardly lawless and rebellious to God.  They think that as long as they religiously follow so-called “rules of Christianity” (such as going to church and paying their tithes), they are right with God.  However, if they do not live by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross, they are lawless and unrighteous in God’s eyes.  As Jesus said, “On the outside you appear righteous to people, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).”

   Many Christians believe since they “accepted” Christ at one time, they have an automatic pass into heaven no matter how they live here on earth.  However, this is a complete perversion of the gospel.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Unless they turn away from their lawlessness (cloaked in a counterfeit Christianity) and practice the sanctification that comes from faith in Christ and His work on the cross, they will be shocked and horrified in the Day of God’s Judgment.

“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”   Matthew 13:41-42

The Overcomers

“Everyone born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4-5

All of God’s promises concerning our eternal inheritance in Christ are reserved for those who are overcomers. The Lord promised, “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be His God and he will be My son (Revelation 21:7).” God wants all His people to be overcomers. There is no other option. We will either overcome the world or be overcome by the world. The Bible says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).”

   But how can we overcome the sinful desires of the world that wage war against our soul? If overcoming depended on our natural strength, we would be defeated.  However, we can have the victory if we apply our faith in Christ to use the weapons God has given us (Ephesians 6:10-17).  The Bible says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are divinely powerful to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).”  What are those spiritual weapons?  The Bible says, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death (Revelation 12:11).” This verse reveals three powerful weapons that God has given us to overcome Satan and the world.  The first and foremost weapon is the blood of the Lamb.   The blood speaks of the triumphant work that Jesus Christ accomplished by His crucifixion.   By His death on the cross, Jesus completely destroyed Satan’s power over God’s elect.  “When He (Christ)disarmed the (spiritual) powers and authorities, He… triumphed over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15).” How did Christ’s death disarm Satan’s power over us?  When we were born again, God spiritually immersed us into Christ’s death to remove our sinful nature and replace it with Christ’s holy nature (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:11).  Therefore, Satan no longer has any power over us to make us sin   (1 John 3:8).  “For we know that our old man was crucified with Christ, in order that our body of sin (our sinful nature) might be destroyed, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).” 

   The second weapon that God has given us is the word of our testimony.  The Bible says the word of God is a like a sharp two-edged sword that is divinely powerful (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).  How do we employ this divine sword of the Spirit?  By our mouth!  Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart (Matthew 12:34).”  Confessing our deliverance from the power of sin is the natural way for our faith to express this truth.  The Bible says, “It is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke.’  With that same spirit of faith, we also believe, therefore we also speak … for it is with your heart that you believe, resulting in righteousness, and it is with your mouth that you confess, resulting in salvation  (2 Corinthians 4:13; Romans 10:10).” The Greek word for salvation is sozo, which goes beyondforgiveness of sins and includes our total deliverance from the power of sin.  Our faithful testimony of the power of Christ’s blood enables us to overcome Satan’s attempts to snare us in sin.

   The third weapon that God has given us is the ability to pick up our own cross and lose our soul-life for Christ.  Jesus said that His disciples must lose their soul-life and even hate it for His sake (Mark 8:35; Luke 14:26; John 12:25).  The Greek word used for life in these three verses and in Revelation 12:11 is psyche, which is the soul-life that emanates from our natural personality and encompasses our attitudes, affections and abilities.  Just as Jesus overcame Satan by laying down His life on the cross, we will also overcome by laying down our soul-life by the power of the cross.  But what does it mean to lay down our soul-life for Christ?  It means that we lay down our self-will and selfish desires to Christ’s authority.  Although the ultimate test of losing our soul-life may be to die for Christ, we will have many daily opportunities to lay down our soul-life when Christ’s will crosses our natural will and selfish desires.  The only way we can overcome this self-will is to believe that Christ removed our sinful nature by His death.  Then, knowing we are dead to sin, we can overcome sinful desires and die to our self-centered soul-life by faith in the deliverance that Jesus Christ has purchased for us by His death on the cross.

   Here’s what we can do to become an overcomer and fully experience our inheritance in Christ:

  • Believe the truth that we have died with Christ and we no longer have a sinful nature (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20).
  • Confess the truth that we are now dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11; Hebrews 10:23). 
  • Act on the truth by daily laying aside our old sinful way of thinking and putting on the mind of Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24). 

  In the Book of Revelation, the Lord has a lot to say about overcomers.  Jesus promised those who overcome would not be hurt by the second death, but would eat of the Tree of Life; they would be clothed in white garments and have their name in the Book of Life; they would receive hidden manna and a new name; they would be a pillar in the temple of God and belong to the new Jerusalem, the city of God; and they would rule over the nations with Him (Revelation 2 & 3).

“Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ… thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ… we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” 2 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:37

The Secret of Sanctification

“The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them.” Psalm 25:14

The Hebrew word for “secret” is sod, which can also be translated as “friendship.” Its root meaning is “intimate and confidential counsel.” God promises to share His intimate and secret knowledge with those who fear Him.  This secret knowledge contains the keys to understanding the full provision of His new covenant.  When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to others in parables, He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them (Matthew 13:11).”  Jesus gave Peter the keys of the knowledge of the kingdom so that, by his apostolic ministry, many of God’s elect would enter the kingdom of heaven through the new covenant established by Christ’s death on the cross (Matthew 16:19; Luke 22:20).  The apostle Paul called these keys to understanding the new covenant and entering the kingdom of heaven the “mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).

   There are two keys of knowledge we must possess to understand the mystery of the gospel and enter the kingdom of heaven.  The first key is to know Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  The second key is to know we died with Christ (Romans 6:8).  These two keys are inseparable: without the first there would be no second and without the second no one could enter the kingdom of heaven.  This is the whole gospel of Christ that makes up the complete message of the cross.  For when Christ died on the cross, He died not only to forgive us from the penalty of sin, He also died to deliver us from the power of sin.  Forgiveness of sins is only the beginning and not the end of God’s eternal purpose for His elect (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).  The aim of Christ’s death on the cross and the goal of the gospel is to produce a people who walk in sanctification, wholly submitted to Christ’s sovereignty (Titus 2:14).  Both these keys of the kingdom (forgiveness and sanctification) are evident in God’s apostolic commission to Paul: “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me (Acts 26:20).”

   Many people think that just having forgiveness of sins is enough to enter the kingdom of heaven.  This is not true.  Jesus said that if you continue to practice sin, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:23).  The apostle John warned, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has seen Him or knows Him (1 John 3:6).” All Christians face this dilemma: after they are saved, how can they live in this sin-sick world without being compromised by sin?  Many Christians mistakenly try to overcome sin by the best of their ability (Galatians 3:3). If they possess some natural moral ability, they may outwardly appear to succeed, but inwardly they will still remain lawless to God.    We cannot use 1 John 1:9 as an excuse to keep on sinning and think we will still enter the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:13).  As Paul said, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be!  How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus have been baptized (immersed) into His death?… For we know that our old man was crucified with Him so that our body of sin (our sinful nature) would be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:1-7).”  This Scripture contains the key of knowledge to overcoming sin.  We might call this knowledge the “secret of sanctification” since it remains a mystery to so many professing Christians.  Paul wrote, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great (1Timothy 3:16).”

   What is the secret of sanctification?  The secret to overcoming sin is to know that you have died with Christ and that you no longer have a sinful nature (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11).  When God has revealed this divine truth to you, you will be set free from everyentangling sin (John 8:31-36).  You can count on the fact that you are dead to sin with absolute certainty just as you can count on the fact that one plus one equals two (Romans 6:11).  This is God’s way for you to escape every temptation to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13).  This liberating truth is called the doctrine of co-crucifixion.  However, it is not enough to just mentally agree with this doctrine.  If God does not personally reveal this truth to you, you will not have the spiritual conviction and understanding to wholeheartedly believe and act on it and bear the fruit of sanctification (Romans 6:19-22).  Just as you cannot say “Jesus is Lord” and truly believe and act on it unless the Holy Spirit reveals this truth to you, you also cannot say that you no longer have a sinful nature and believe and act on it unless the Holy Spirit reveals this truth to you (1 Corinthians 12:3).

   Only those who have a “good and honest” heart and humble themselves like a little child will understand this word of the cross and hold on to it with persevering faith to bear the fruit of sanctification (Matthew 13:23; Luke 8:15; 18:17).  The word of the cross will remain veiled to all who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3).  “For without sanctification no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).”  Many false “Christian” teachers do not walk in sanctification and thwart others from finding this key to enter the kingdom.  As Jesus said, “Woe to you… for you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You yourselves did not enter and you have hindered those who were entering… therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Luke 11:32; Matthew 21:43).”  This fruit is the proof that your salvation is real and your faith is enduring (James 2:26).  To all those who bear the fruit of sanctification, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34).”  Many know that Christ died for their sins, but few know that their sinful nature died with Christ (Matthew 22:14). God will only reveal the secret of sanctification to those who love Him and fear Him.

“I praise you. Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Matthew 11:25-26

When Church Fails

“I am about to desecrate My sanctuary, the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection.” Ezekiel 24:21

“I will forsake My house, abandon My inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hand of her enemies.” Jeremiah 12:7

At the close of this age, Satan will be given authority for an appointed time to overpower the church (Daniel 7:21-25; Revelation 13:7). This will be a time of great tribulation and persecution just before the second coming of Christ. During this hour of darkness, many of Christ’s servants will be imprisoned and killed (Matthew 24:9). And many professing Christians will fall away from the faith (Daniel 11:33; Matthew 24:10; Revelation 13:10). But even in this darkest hour, the victory is the Lord’s, for Jesus declared the powers of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). Our God will have a faithful remnant who will spiritually endure and overcome this crucible to triumph over Satan. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they did not love their lives even when faced with death (Revelation 12:11).”

Why would God allow His precious church to suffer persecution and death? Consider this: why would God allow Jesus, His precious Son, to suffer crucifixion and death? Because, from out of His Son’s death would arise many sons and daughters. Then why would God allow His church, whom He loves, to be overpowered by the enemy, even for a season? The Lord will allow this dreadful calamity because, once again, He is after something of far greater eternal value. He wants a holy bride whose love and devotion to Him is pure and unadulterated. Throughout the Bible, the relationship between God and His people is compared to a marriage covenant. God’s chosen and beloved people could count on His faithfulness to honor this covenant and protect and provide for them. However, God’s covenant was also conditional upon His people’s faithfulness to Him. “If you will obey My voice and keep My covenant, you will be My treasured possession and you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).”

Unbelief and unfaithfulness to God result when God’s people trust in their own ability and righteousness rather than in God (Jeremiah 17:5; see also Deuteronomy 8:17-19). When His people abandon their love toward Him for other things, God no longer calls them His bride but a harlot with other lovers. Jesus said, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me (Matthew 15:8).” During such times, God sends His prophets to warn His people to repent of their spiritual adultery and return to Him. However, if they continue in their idolatrous ways, God abandons them to lawlessness and allows them to be defeated by their enemies. Instead of God’s divine protection, they will experience calamity.

When the children of Israel had forsaken God, they mistakenly thought they could look to the temple of the Lord to keep them safe from destruction (Jeremiah 7:1-15). In the same way, when Christians who are lawless look to church for security rather than to God Himself, calamity is coming. Our relationship with God may be under New Covenant grace but we still have a holy responsibility to remain faithful to the Lord. When the church at Pergamum allowed idolatry among their members, Jesus warned if they did not repent, He would war against them with the sword of His mouth. When the church at Thyatira engaged in immorality, Jesus said He would kill those who did not repent. When the church at Sardis was spiritually dead, Jesus warned if they did not repent, He would erase their names from the Book of Life. When the church at Laodicea turned lukewarm toward the Lord, He warned if they did not repent, He would vomit them out of His mouth (Revelation Chapters 2 & 3).

Even God’s faithful remnant can expect to experience His refining fire (Daniel 11:35). God disciplines His church so that it might share His holiness (Hebrews 12:4-10). “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God (1 Peter 4:17-18)?” At the close of this age, Satan will be given power over the church until the strength of God’s people is shattered (Daniel 12:7). But it is not God’s power within us that will be broken; it is our natural strength. As the apostle Paul said, “We were under great pressure, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we would not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).” If we are willing, God will press us, even to the point of death if necessary, so we might fully embrace His Son and His completed work on the cross. God not only wants us to know Christ died for us (Romans 5:8); He wants us to know we died with Christ (Romans 6:8). Knowing we have died with Christ is the secret to defeating Satan and overcoming sin. When we know (believe and act) that we have been crucified with Christ and that our sinful nature has died and been removed, we will be freed from the power of sin (Romans 6:6-7). Then we will no longer depend on our own strength to overcome Satan and sin (Philippians 3:3). Instead, we will trust Christ, who lives in us, to be our overcomer and hiding place in the coming tribulation and persecution (Galatians 2:20).

In the coming darkness when Satan wages war against God’s people, many will fall away from the faith. At that time, let us fix our eyes on Jesus who will never forsake us. Men can fail us, church can fail us; but Jesus will never fail us. Stand firm with God’s faithful remnant all over the earth and lift your head high because the coming of the Lord is near. Do not be surprised when this fiery ordeal comes upon us. Jesus will use this great tribulation to purify His bride like a crucible refines gold (Revelation 7:9-14). Then our Lord will return with His army of angels and overcoming saints to crush the enemy, judge the world and rule the nations.

“For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this!”  Isaiah 37:32

Come Out of Babylon!

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit… Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins and receive her plagues.” Revelation 18:2-4

   The new Jerusalem is the holy city of God, the bride of Christ and the kingdom of heaven. In dark contrast, Babylon is the abominable city of Satan, the mother of harlots and the kingdom of the world (Revelation 17 & 18).  Yet many of God’s people are not only doing business in Babylon, they are living in Babylon and loving Babylon.  This is appalling, since God’s intention was, by His Son’s death, to rescue us from the dominion of darkness and bring us into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).

    The English word “church” is derived from the Greek word kuriakos, which means “to belong to the Lord.”  In the New Testament, however, “church” is directly translated from the Greek word ekklesia, which means congregation, and its root meaning is “to call out from.”  Based on the Greek words kuriakos and ekklesia, the church comprises those people who belong to the Lord and whom He has called out from the world.  However, after we are saved, if we do not come out of Babylon, we will be judged with Babylon.

   Salvation is only the beginning and not the end of God’s eternal purpose for His people.  The power of Christ’s gospel is intended to not only save you from Babylon; it is intended keep you (sanctify you) from ever returning to Babylon. On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to God on behalf of His disciples, “I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of world, even as I am not of this world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (John 17:15-17).”  The apostle James warned God’s people to keep themselves “unpolluted by the world (James 1:27).” The apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world (John 2:15-16).”  The apostle Paul exhorted, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:4).”  Many professing Christians say they want to avoid the mark of the Beast, but tragically they already have the mark of Babylon on them.  Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).”  Your heart cannot be divided between two cities – the new Jerusalem and Babylon.  Once again, Jesus said, “Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:21-24).”

   Babylon is the kingdom of this world.  When you seek to fulfill your soul-life with the riches and pleasures of Babylon, you are an enemy of God’s kingdom.  Everyone who is not born again already belongs to Babylon but every Christian who is governed by his soul-life (instead of the Spirit) remains captive to Babylon.  The Bible says that Babylon is a dwelling place for every kind of demonic spirit (Revelation 18:2).  You may be born again, but if your soul-life is not submitted to Christ, you can be snared by Babylon’s forces.  If you habitually seek comfort, companionship and fulfillment in Babylon, you are hostile to God.  James warned, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4).” Paul said, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21).”  

   How can you escape from the tentacles of Babylon and God’s wrath to come?  If you are a born again Christian, begin to believe and act on what Christ has accomplished for you on the cross.  Only the cross of Christ can save you and deliver you from the kingdom of this world.    The Bible says that when Christ was crucified, your sinful nature was not only crucified with Him; it was removed from you so that Christ might live in you (Romans 6:3-11; Galatians 2:20).  Therefore, the cross of Christ has fully delivered you from the power of Babylon.  Since you no longer have a sinful nature, Babylon should no longer have a foothold in you.  As Paul testified, “May I never boast except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).”  Babylon rules and corrupts the world – politically, economically and religiously. The false church belongs to Babylon and comprises everyone who practices a form of godliness, but by their deeds deny the power of the cross (2 Timothy 3:5).  The true church is Christ’s bride, whereas the false church is Satan’s harlot.  Every child of God must come out of the false church before God’s wrath is poured out on Babylon. 

   When our hearts are set on the world and we are indulging ourselves in the things of the world, we prove ourselves to be enemies of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18-19).  If we lose sight of Christ and His completed work on the cross, then the desire to follow Him, suffer with Him and come out of the world loses its focus and becomes pathetically dim.  If we allow ourselves to be seduced by Babylon, we will lose our inheritance as Christ’s bride.  “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).”  The time is coming when God will judge Babylon.  Every child of God should judge themselves now and, if convicted of sin, you must repent resolutely and come out of Babylon so you will not be judged and condemned with the world.

“We know that we are the children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord… “And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me.”    2 Corinthians 6:17-18

God’s Glorious Church His Eternal Purpose

“Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy… to present her to Himself as a glorious church.”  Ephesians 5:25-27

   The Bible uses several terms to describe the church: the city of God, the temple of the Spirit, and the body of Christ.  However, the “bride of Christ” may best describe the divine relationship God is preparing the church to have with His Son.  This divine union is the eternal purpose of God the Father.  It was in God’s heart from before time to obtain a bride and holy companion for His Son.  The apostle Paul knew God’s desire when he declared, “I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin (2 Corinthians 11:2).”  It was also God’s intent to reveal His divine power and wisdom through the church.  Paul said that God’s grace was given to him “to bring to light… the mystery, which for ages was hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:9-11).”

   From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God’s eternal purpose for man is evident. In the Book of Genesis, we see God created Adam in His image to have fellowship with man and to have man rule over the earth (Genesis 2:27-28; 3:8).  But instead of preserving his friendship with God and his dominion over the earth, Adam disobeyed God and fell under Satan’s domain.  Adam’s rebellion against God affected all mankind and the entire human race inherited his sinful spiritual nature (Romans 5:19).  Yet despite Adam’s fall, God did not change His divine plan.  At the right time, God sent His Son, born as a man, to destroy Satan’s power and restore mankind to Himself.  Jesus Christ came to earth with one overriding mission – to die on the cross in order to rescue us from Satan’s rule and reconcile us to God (Colossians 1:13-22).  Christ’s crucifixion is, therefore, the most momentous event in history and the triumph of the ages.  Through His death on the cross, Jesus Christ redeemed us from both the penalty of sin and   the power of sin.  On the cross, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for our sin so we might drink His cup of salvation.  God used the death of His only Son to perform a divine heart transplant  and save us from certain doom.  When Jesus died on the cross, God exchanged our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine heart (Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 2:11-3:4).  God then raised Jesus Christ from the dead and exalted Him as the eternal King of glory (Philippians 2:9-11).  Therefore, God included us in His Son’s death so that His risen Son might sovereignly live in us (Romans 6:5; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27).

   From His Son’s death and resurrection, God has created a people in His Son’s image – the body of Christ, the church, who is destined to fulfill His eternal purpose (Romans 8:29-30).  What Adam lost for mankind by his disobedience, Christ regained for us by His obedience to the death.   For as a husband loves his wife, Christ loved the church and gave His life for her.  Just as Eve was created from Adam’s body to be his bride and glory, God created the church from Christ’s body to be His bride and glory.  And as Eve was created as Adam’s helpmate to reign over the earth, God created the church as Christ’s helpmate to reign with Him in the age to come.

   By the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ destroyed Satan’s power to keep us captive to sin and death (Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).  However, the church has, in the past, chiefly failed to enforce Christ’s victory because she has tried to do, in the power of her soul, what she can only do through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.  “And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death (Revelation 12:11).”  The blood speaks of the triumphant work that Christ has accomplished by His crucifixion.  When the church knows (and acts on) the divine truth that she has died with Christ, the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against her.  When the church realizes she no longer has a sinful nature inherited from Adam and she is a holy new creation in Christ, she will not only vanquish Satan, she will fulfill her eternal destiny.  “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down (Revelation 12:10).”  When the church puts no confidence in her natural morality and ability and by faith trusts solely in Christ to overcome through her, she will be ready to reign with Him (Philippians 3:3).  “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:6-7).”  Under the Old Covenant, when Solomon completed building God’s temple, the glory of God filled the temple, which was His house (2 Chronicles 7:2).  Now, under the New Covenant, when the Holy Spirit has completed building the body of Christ into God’s temple, the glory of God will once again fill His house, which is the church (Ephesians 2:19-22).  “’And the latter glory of this house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord (Haggai 2:9).”  

   God’s divine plan is to have an eternal companion and co-regent worthy for His Son and a heavenly family for Himself.  God chose the church for this purpose before the foundation of the world.  He birthed the church from out of His Son’s death and He will glorify His risen Son through the church.  When the church has fulfilled God’s mission of ushering in His kingdom, Christ our King will return and crush Satan under His feet.  Then the bride of Christ, the glorious church, will eternally reign with her divine Lover and Lord, the Lamb of God.

“To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21

The Lord’s Supper

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

   The first century church experienced spiritual fellowship and close community life among its members (Acts 2:42; 4:32). On the Lord’s Day (Sunday), the believers would meet together (normally in their homes) to share “the Lord’s Supper” as a full fellowship meal (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20).  The primary purpose of eating this covenant meal together was to remember the Lord’s death through sharing  “the bread and the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

   What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and sharing “the bread and the cup”?  God ordained that we partake of the Lord’s Supper to proclaim our union with Jesus Christ (made possible through His death) and to celebrate our union with one another as fellow members of Christ’s body.  With this in mind, the apostle Paul taught, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing (the Greek is koinonia, which means communion) in the blood of Christ?  Is not the bread which we break a sharing (communion) in the body of Christ?  Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).”  For this reason, the Lord’s Supper is now also called “Communion.”  Remember, though, “the bread and the cup” were normally taken as part of a community meal than as a separate ceremony.

   At the last Passover (traditionally called the Last Supper), Jesus Himself instituted the believers’ practice of sharing “the bread and the cup” as a means to remember His death. “When the hour had come, He reclined at the table and the apostles with Him, and He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’  And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.’  And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given to you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood (Luke 22:14-20).”

   Just as God ordained the practice of water baptism to remind us of the spiritual benefits of our union with Christ’s death and resurrection, God ordained the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the divine provisions we have in Christ’s death and resurrection.  What are these provisions?  Before we were saved, we were born into sin and were, therefore, in bondage to sin.  We were also destined to receive the just penalty for our sin, which is spiritual death and eternal separation from God.  However, by His death on the cross, Jesus Christ delivered us (who believe) from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.  In baptism, our “burial” under water demonstrated that our sinful nature died and was removed from us (when we were born again) so we might have Christ’s resurrection life (Romans 6:3-11).  In the Lord’s Supper, the bread and the cup also demonstrate this full provision of Christ’s death.  The cup represents Christ’s blood that was shed so that we might receive forgiveness for our sins.  The bread represents Christ’s body that died so that we might receive His resurrection life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life… this is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die (John 6:48 & 50).”

   How did Christ’s sacrificial death provide us with His resurrection life?  This is the mystery of the cross, which the Bible also calls the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).  God used the death of His Son to perform a divine exchange.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He opened the spiritual door for God to exchange our sinful nature with His divine nature.  We receive this divine exchange (made possible by Christ’s death) when we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior and become born again of the Spirit.  Therefore, whenever we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim this glorious provision of Christ’s death.  We express our eternal gratitude that Christ’s body is the door through which we have been reconciled to God (Colossians 1:20-22).

   Sharing the Lord’s Supper each week is not   just a time when we remember Christ’s death.  It is also a time when we eagerly look forward to celebrating it in our Father’s kingdom at the marriage supper with our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.  The Bible records of that day, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready… blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).”

   Although the Lord’s Supper is a joyous time together, we must not partake of the bread and the cup in a thoughtless or unworthy manner.  The Bible exhorts us to properly recognize the body of Christ whenever we share the Lord’s Supper together.  We are to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ with genuine love and respect as fellow members of God’s family; otherwise we will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of Jesus and we will be severely disciplined by the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).  On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples recognized Jesus Christ when He was “breaking bread” with them (Luke 24:35).  Whenever two or more of Christ’s disciples gather together in our day, may they also recognize that He is in their midst as they “break bread” together.

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,  you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26

Anointed for Burial

“There came a woman with an alabaster vial of costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head…  Jesus said, ‘She has anointed My body beforehand for burial.  Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken in memory of her.’” Mark 14:3-10

   What is the meaning of this story that Jesus said should be told wherever the gospel is preached?  The details of this event, which occurred just before the Lord’s crucifixion, can also be found in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-8.  From these accounts, we read that Mary, whose brother Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus, poured a vessel of costly ointment, worth nearly a year’s wages, on the Lord’s head.  Some disciples considered this extravagant and Judas led them in complaining that her actions were a waste.  “The disciples were indignant when they saw this and said, ‘Why this waste?’  For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor (Matthew 26:8-9).”  But Jesus said, “Leave her alone… she has done what she could.  She has anointed My body beforehand for burial (Mark 14:6-8).”

   This story reveals the cost of the gospel and the worth of Christ.  Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his soul-life will lose it, but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:34-35).  In other words, the gospel of Christ will cost us our whole life.  The goal of the gospel is not just to save sinners.  Salvation is just the beginning and not the end of God’s purpose.  This is why God included us in His Son’s death so that His risen Son might sovereignly live in us.  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus have been baptized (immersed) into His death (Romans 6:3)?” Just as Jesus was anointed for burial so that, by His death, He might bear much fruit, He has also chosen us and included us in His death, anointing us with His Spirit so that we too might bear much fruit.  The Bible says, “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death (Romans 6:4).”

   How do we produce this fruit?  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his soul-life loses it, and he who hates his soul-life in this world will keep it to life eternal (John 12:24-25).”  We must take up our cross and lose our soul-life to bear fruit.  “For if you are living according to the flesh (the unconverted soul-life), you will die; but if by the Spirit, you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live… all those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death on the cross the flesh (the unconverted soul-life) with its passions and desires (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24).”  The only possible way we can carry our cross and lose our soul-life by the Spirit is to believe we have died with Christ.  Why is this?  The Bible says when Christ died, our sinful nature died with Him and was removed from us (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11).  So when we take up our cross, we identify by faith with Christ’s death so that His death becomes our death.  Paul testified, “I have been put to death on the cross with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).”

   Exercising faith in this Biblical fact enables us to overcome the power of sin and produce fruit.  When we give ourselves wholeheartedly to Christ’s sovereignty in this way, some may say we are wasting our life and we could do so much more with our talent.  To the carnal-minded, losing our soul-life for the sake of the gospel is a terrible waste.   However, you only entertain the idea of waste when you underestimate the Lord’s worth.  Jesus is the “Pearl of Great Price” worth selling everything for, so that we might know Him (Matthew 13:46).  When God opens our eyes to see His Son’s worth, we will gladly lose our soul-life for Him.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! (Revelation 5:12).”  Paul said, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so I may gain Christ (Philippines 3:8).”  God has always intended that the preaching of the gospel would produce a people wholly devoted to His Son, a people rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:18), which spring from faith in the truth that believers are “dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11).  By including us in His Son’s death, God has also intended that His risen Son would sovereignly rule in our lives.  This means we become bondslaves of the Lord in everything we think and do.  This is the fruit of the gospel that God has, from the beginning of time, desired to express through us, which is the fruit of our sanctification to Him (Romans 6:22).

   The end of the age is almost upon us.  Many true believers will be poured out as a sacrificial offering for the sake of Christ and His gospel (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6).  Jesus Christ has already anointed us for burial by including us in His death and giving us His Holy Spirit.  Let us pray that the fragrance of this anointing will be poured out through our lives.  As Paul shared, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).”  Therefore, knowing that we have died with Christ and we have been anointed for burial by the Holy Spirit, let us proclaim the Lord’s worth to all heaven and earth by “wasting” our lives on Him!

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to   the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.”  2 Corinthians 2:14-16

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