Everyone knows that life and death are a reality that we all must face in this life. What some people may not know so well is that these two things are also a very significant part of our spiritual walk. That is what I will be discussing today.
As Christians we say, “I am alive!” We sing the songs, “I am free!” Are these things false? No, they are not. We are indeed set free. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we are now able to truly live as we were meant to live, but what does that mean for us? What is this freedom? Does being free from the law and now being under grace mean that we can do what we want?
The scripture is clear – no.
Nothing of our own flesh should be alive. We are to crucify our flesh and leave that old corrupted body behind, walking in a new purified body made holy by the blood of Christ. We are to lay down our lives and everything we care about for Christ. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25 We fail so completely in this area sometimes. It such a vital part of the Christian walk to truly grasp the meaning of this verse. This verse applies to so many aspects of our lives, and yet so many of us choose to ignore it.
The freedom we have was given to us by Jesus, and that freedom is from the bondage of sin. However, even as Christians we do not become saved and then all the sudden we’re perfect for the rest of our lives. It is a long, difficult journey to become like Christ and to leave sin behind us. We are not to live in sin. Through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we are given the ability to have victory over sin.
Often this freedom is misinterpreted as freedom to do what we want to do. Our sins have been forgiven, so now we can do what we like, and we’re all going to heaven! This, however, is completely untrue. The grace God has given us is not for us to abuse, it there to provide us with a way to continue on to perfection through Jesus Christ. Romans 6 gives us an excellent picture of this. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:1-3 The rest of that passage up until verse 13 continues to press the issue of sacrifice and death. The sacrifice of our desires and the death of our flesh. The two are nearly one and the same. We all like to do things and we like to have things, but many of those things are not in God’s will for us. They may be things that in and of themselves are not sin, but they drag us down, and get in between us and God. Those are the things that people say aren’t important and that they’re okay, but they aren’t okay at all! Satan knows for most people he cannot tempt us with outright murder, but he can tempt us with anger, which can lead to bitterness, which can lead to hate, which can lead to murder. It is the same with all sin. With exceptions, most people don’t just come right out and purposefully commit heinous acts. It is most often a slow, gradual erosion of standards, morals, or anything else that would stand in the way. The Bible compares the Christian walk to a race. It makes a very interesting differentiation in the following verse: ” . . . let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus . . . “ – Hebrews 12:1-2 (emphasis mine) Notice the differentiation between “weight” and “sin”? That’s two different things. Obviously, sin is the greatest hindrance to us and pulls us far away from God. Clearly though, there are other things, not being sin, that “weigh” us down and keep us from running the race God has willed us to run. We must be free of those things in order to do the Lord’s will. Our desires must come to be in line with God’s. Psalms 20:4 tells us that God will grant us our “heart’s desire”. As a carnal, fleshly believer, my desires (i.e. being rich) will not necessarily being granted by God. It is as our hearts grow to be more like His and our desires become His that our desires will be fulfilled. Jeremiah 17:9 says that our “hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”. So, it is not until our hearts are poised towards Him that the Lord will give us the desire of our hearts – not until our hearts are aligned with His.
This is the death we must go through. The death to self. This is the message we don’t want to hear. To daily kill everything you care about in your heart. To deny yourself that which you want most. To be hurt and to allow yourself to continue to be hurt for Christ’s sake. These are the things of the true Christian walk. Indeed these things are easy to say, but what will we do when we are faced with the test? Will the character of God in us give us the victory, or will our flesh that we have been feeding like a monster in the sewer destroy us?
This death, is what saves us. Only through death to ourselves can our spirits rise to true life in Christ. Only when we, in our flesh, have become nothing, can Jesus flood our hearts with Himself, and use us in ways we would never have imagined. “When I am weak, He is strong.” God does not use pride. He does not use self-strength. He uses the meek, the lowly, the humble, the gentle, and the broken.
If we want to walk the narrow path of righteousness, if we desire to walk in true victory over our sinful nature, we must go through the death of ourselves, and out from that into the life of Jesus Christ in us.