THE POWER OF THE CROSS
I'm convinced from God's word that in order for believers to grow spiritually and experience joy, peace, and power in their lifetime journey, we must understand our real identity in Christ. We must know who we are in Christ and the spiritual victory we have because we are in Him. Therefore, not only is it imperative that we understand that we are alive with Christ and what this means for us in our daily lives, we must also understand that we have died with Him. Just as His life is our life, His death is our death.
Clearly understanding that God says you are alive with Christ rests on an understanding that you've also died with Christ. It is vital that you know that your old self has died. You are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)! You have a new life! You are in Christ and the life of Christ is in you! These spiritual realities in the believer are accomplished solely by God through the cross-work and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Words are inadequate to express how amazing this work of God is in the lives of his children!
Knowing and living out the reality that the old you has died is a fundamental part of Pauline identification truth that I believe is not properly taught or emphasized nearly enough in the church today. You will hear many sermons on giving (more than enough), obedience, prayer, and serving (more than enough), but very few on on our amazing new identity in Christ, and as specifically related to us having died with Christ. This foundational teaching from God's word, which is absolutely essential to how we grow spiritually God's way in our walk with Christ (sanctification), is not easy to find in churches today. This is nothing less than a tragedy!
The Apostle Paul certainly wanted the saints in Rome to understand that not only had Jesus Christ died for their sins, they had also died with Christ. He wanted them to understand that their death with Christ was foundational to living their new life in Him! It's key to experiencing victory over sin in our lives.
"We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him 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." (Rom. 6:2-4)
Because we were put into Christ when we trusted Him, God says we also died with Christ, were buried with Him, and were resurrected with Him! The old you, connected to the first Adam, died with Christ and was buried. The new you, in union with the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) and a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) because you rose to new life in Him, are alive with Him. His life has become your life!
"When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory." (Col. 3:4)
Furthermore, since your old man was crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), you share in His death to sin. The Bible says that Christ died to sin once for all. By faith, see yourself as God sees you -- dead to sin. Since we have died with Christ, we have been freed from sin.
"...because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Rom. 6:7)
You are no longer a slave to sin, the old master. You have a new master, Christ, and you are now a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:18).
When our old sin nature wants to rise up in us, we must remember what God has done for us at the cross. As we see ourselves as having died with Christ at the cross and rest in that spiritual fact, the Holy Spirit is free to manifest the life of Christ in us. His death is also our death. His life is our life.
The cross is central to all of this. It was there that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. It was also there that we died with Him. What happened 2000 years ago at the cross was God's way to reconcile us to Himself, recreate us in His Son, and bring eternal glory to Himself. We need to understand and appreciate the power of the cross in our faith walk on a daily basis!
"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel - not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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." (1 Cor. 1:17-18)
Paul made the cross a strong focus of his teaching because God had revealed to him the great power in the work of Christ at the cross. He understood that there was great power in understanding and relying on what happened at the cross.
"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)
Our new identity in Christ, which should lead us to praise God for the new life we have in the risen Christ, should also lead us to praise God because our old selves died with Christ at the cross. Through the cross, God has provided us with the one way we can experience liberation from sin in our lives.
Our faith must rest on the fact that our old selves died with Christ at the cross. We must see ourselves as God sees us. The sin nature that produces sin in us was condemned by God at the cross. We were judicially separated from it by God. We died to it. We have been freed from the old master, sin, and are now alive to a new master, Christ!
As we rest in these spiritual realities based on our union with Christ, the Holy Spirit works in us to produce the godly character He desires for us. This is all the work of God through His amazing grace! We need not struggle, strive, or follow a rule system in order to have the life of Christ become more and more evident in our lives. That way leads only to frustration and failure! God's way is by faith -- trusting in Christ to increasingly live out His life through us because He is our life!
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:1-3)
The Apostle Paul's teaching on spiritual growth centered on Christ in the believer. We see this as he argued against legalism, describing it as "those weak and miserable principles" (Gal. 4:9), and emphasized growing in Christ:
"My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." (Gal. 4:19)
Rest in these facts from God's word: Your old sin nature was crucified with Christ at the cross 2000 years ago. You have been separated from it. Christ has not only you saved you from your sins, He has also delivered you from the power of their source, your sin nature. You are now united with Christ and it's His life living in you and through you!
This is God's way of transforming us -- making us increasingly like His Son! That is His primary purpose for us and it's all for His glory!
Walk joyfully by faith as we rest in all that we have spiritually accomplished because we are in Christ!
Stephen J. Moll
Grace Life Church
Proclaiming Jesus Christ and the Gospel of God's Grace