This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
In our previous three days of teaching I’ve tried to cover in outline that which was accomplished for us by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I think it would be good at this point if we were to try to recapitulate the various successive aspects of the exchange which took place. So, remember what you do with your left hand and your right hand. And you know what to say at the end, too. This is always a test for me, myself, but let’s see if we can do it.
- Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.
- Jesus was wounded that we might be healed.
- Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness.
- Jesus died our death that we might share His life.
- Jesus was made a curse that we might receive the blessing.
- Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory.
- Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance.
And our old man was crucified in Him that the new man might come to life in us. I don’t think we’ve done that one so let’s do it once more. Our old man was crucified in Him that the new man might come to life in us. That’s right. I got one real good student here.
Oh, I left out poverty, thank you for reminding me. Let’s not leave out poverty. Let’s add it. Jesus endured our poverty that we might have His abundance. Amen. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you.
Now today we’re moving into a new area which is the area of what God intends the cross to do in us. This is completely distinct from what Jesus has done on the cross for us. I would have to say according to my observation, which is limited, there is relatively little emphasis in the contemporary church on this aspect. But if I understand it rightly, we will never have the real permanent benefits of what Jesus has done for us unless we permit the cross to do in us what God has ordained. I believe that nearly all the problems that beset the church collectively and individual ministers and Christians are due to the failure to let the cross do its work in us.
I’d like to turn therefore now to Galatians 3. What really blesses me about Paul’s epistles is they were never written as theological treatises, they were written in all sorts of places like jails and people’s homes. They were written out of urgency and a sense of a need to deal with some situation. And yet, structurally they are the most perfect theology. If you look in Galatians 3:1 where we’ve already looked previously, we find the problem that Paul was dealing with in Galatia or in the Galatian churches. Again, I offer my personal opinion. I think this problem is extremely common in the contemporary church. In fact, I think it’s probably the commonest single problem. It’s a problem that’s not easily recognized. If there’s immorality or drunkenness or completely false teaching, people recognize it. But the problem here is carnality expressed in legalism and it sounds so good and so religious that we feel a little guilty if we don’t go along with it. But actually, Paul was more upset about Galatian churches than he was about the church in Corinth where they just had plain old-fashioned sin—which is really much easier to deal with than this religious, spurious version of what Christianity is intended to be.
So, the problem in Galatia was the cross had been obscured by Satanic forces which Paul identifies as witchcraft. I pointed out earlier in this series Spirit quote, filled—and I wouldn’t use the word myself because I think a lot of people who call themselves Spirit filled have had an experience of the Holy Spirit but they’re far from full. Anyhow, let’s use the phrase. Spirit filled Christians can be bewitched. Has that sunk into your realization?
The evidence of witchcraft at work was that they had lost the vision of Jesus Christ crucified. I suggest to you wherever this happens in a church that has the vision, the same cause is responsible. It’s a Satanic infiltration. Let’s read what Paul says now:
“O foolish Galatians...”
How many of us want to be called foolish? I think a lot of us would rather be called immoral or wicked than be called foolish.
“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified?”
What had witchcraft done? Obscured the vision of Jesus Christ crucified. Because, the crucified Christ is the only basis of all God’s provision for us. So if that is obscured, we no longer enjoy God’s provision.
Secondly, the crucified Christ was the means of Satan’s total defeat. On the cross Jesus administered to Satan and his kingdom a total, eternal, irreversible defeat. Satan can do nothing about that but he can blind the eyes of the church to that fact. And that he’s very eager to do.
Now what blesses me in Galatians is that the letter not merely presents the problem but it presents the solution. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today, the solution to the problem of a church that has lost the vision of the cross, how to come back into what God has provided. And Galatians unfolds, as I understand it, five successive deliverances that take place when we allow the cross to do its work in us. Now we’re not talking about what Jesus did for us on the cross. Thank God for that but don’t stop there. There’s a work to be done in every believer through the cross dealing with our root basic problems.
Now we’ll turn first of all, to Galatians 1:4. This speaks about a deliverance which has been made available to us through the cross. Again, I’m just limited in my observation, but I do travel a lot and I come together with a whole lot of different Christians. I don’t think that I can remember encountering a single group anywhere in the last 10 years that had a clear vision of this deliverance. It is something that has completely dropped out of the thinking and the consciousness of Christians. And it is radical. I’m grateful to the dear sister that gave me a black T-shirt with white writing on it that said, “Be a radical Christian.” If this wasn’t being videoed and going all around the world, I might have worn the T-shirt. But anyhow, we’re talking about something that is radical. Let’s read Galatians 1:3–4:
“Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins...”
Where did He give Himself for our sins? On the cross. All right. We’re talking about what He did on the cross.
“...that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
Did you realize that it’s God’s purpose that through the cross we should be delivered from this present evil age?
You’ll find some translations mix up the words “age” and “world.” I just want to say a word about these two concepts. The Greek word for “age” basically is that. I mean, that’s not exactly. Eon. It’s a period of time, a very long period of time. Basically, according to the Bible, time is measured in ages and generations. In every age there are X number of generations. And one of the beautiful phrases in the Bible which never comes out in translation is usually translated “forever and ever,” but what it actually says is “for the ages of the ages.” So not merely do we have ages but we have ages that are made up of ages—if you can remember that. And not merely do you have one of them, you have X number of them. So, when you think about eternity, think about ages made up of ages.
The other word is cosmos from which we get such words as cosmonaut and cosmological and all sorts. Cosmos is a sociological term in the New Testament. It has other uses but in the doctrine of the New Testament, cosmos describes people of a certain category. We’ll come to it a little later in this study. But just bear in mind that when we’re talking about the age, we’re talking about an eon—however long that may be.
I want to point out to you certain facts about this present age which I think will enable you to understand why we need to be delivered from it. In other words, we should not belong to this age. We’re people from another age. There’s a lot of talk today about the new age movement—which I don’t believe in, let me say that. But we really are the people of a new age. We’re living in this age but we belong to a future age. I’ll show you that in a moment. If you or I are living as though we’re forever in this age, we’ve missed the whole purpose of God.
The first thing I want to say is the present age is coming to a close. Let’s look at Matthew 13, just a few quick scriptures. This is the chapter of parables and Jesus is interpreting parables. I won’t go into that in detail, but in verse 39, speaking about the parable of the wheat and the tares, He says:
“The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age.”
So, this age is coming to an end. If you feel like I do about this age, you’ll say, “Thank God.” I can’t think of any worse prospect than the present age continuing forever. With all its misery, its sickness, its darkness, its ignorance, its cruelty, its war—thank God is it not going on forever.
And then in verse 40 Jesus says:
“So it will be at the end of the age...”
And in verse 49 of the same chapter:
“So it will be at the end of the age...”
And you can find many other passages. I just want to point out to you this age is impermanent.
Why is it an evil age? The reason is because it has an evil god. 2 Corinthians 4:4, a very important scripture. Paul is talking about people who can’t see the gospel because their minds have been blinded. And he says:
“Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded.”
Who is the god of this age? Satan. Why is it an evil age? Because it has an evil god.
Now you could say God could depose Satan, but that’s not His program. Satan will remain the god of this age as long as this age continues. God’s program is to terminate the age. And when the age terminates, Satan will no longer be a god. He knows that well. That’s why he does everything in his power to prevent this present age from coming to an end. That’s one of the reasons he resents the church, because the church is God’s instrument to bring this age to an end. Did you realize that? One of our main responsibilities in the world is to bring the age to an end, because it cannot end until we’ve done what we have to do. What’s that? Various things but mainly Matthew 24:14:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come.”
The end of what? The end of the age, that’s right. So, why does Satan oppose the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom? Because when that’s been done, the age is going to end and he will no longer be a god. We are the people who threaten him. He’s not threatened by politicians, military commanders, academicians; he’s threatened by the people who have a purpose to preach the gospel of the kingdom. And I want to say I’m one of them. I am as far as I know totally committed to that task.
Let’s notice Hebrews 6:4–6. The writer is here talking about people who’ve had a number of experiences and then deliberately go back, deny them and deny Jesus Christ. He says you can do nothing more for them, they’re cut off. My aim is not to present that fact but just to list the experiences that these people have had. Hebrews 6:4:
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened [experience number one] and have tasted the heavenly gift [number two] and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit [number three], and have tasted the good word of God [number four] and the powers of the age to come [number five]...”
So there are people today—and I believe I’m one of them, I believe you are among them—who have experienced those things. And having tasted the good word of God, and having become partakers of the Holy Spirit, we have tasted the powers of the next age. One reason, I believe, is that God wants to spoil our taste for the powers of this age. God wants us to have tasted something so totally different and so utterly superior that we’ll never again be enamored of the powers of this age. But I don’t see that happening with many Christians up to this time.
And then Matthew 13, going back to the parables. The well known parable of the sower and the seed. Jesus interprets the different types of soil and the results that were produced from the seed. He speaks about the one who received the seed among thorns in Matthew 13:22:
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word...”
This version that I’m reading, the New King James, says “the cares of this world.” But that’s inaccurate. The word is not cosmos, it’s eon. It’s the cares of this age. I think you’ll find all the new translations use the word age. Isn’t that right? NIV, NASB and so on. And most of them use the word “worries.” So:
“...the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of riches...”
What’s the deceitfulness of riches? Well, first of all, people think that riches will make them happy. They never do. Some of the unhappiest people in the world are some of the richest. Another deceit of riches is it’s going to last forever. It isn’t. When you leave this life, you leave it all behind you. But:
“...the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and those people become unfruitful.”
See that? If we are preoccupied with the issues of this age and all our focus is on what’s going on in this age, the result will be that we’ll be unfruitful Christians. The Word of God will not do its work in us. Could that have happened to any of us? Is there a possibility that we or some of us could have become totally preoccupied with issues of this age? Political issues, social issues, theological issues? And we’re living as though this age was going to go on forever? It isn’t. If you could see your own faces! I’m telling you good news!
It’s coming to an end, thank God. There will be an end of misery, shame and crime and hunger. There’s only one thing that will bring it to an end, that’s the coming of the Lord. Nothing else will do it. The church has had 2,000 years to do it and they haven’t made much progress. There’s more misery, more war, more sickness, more poverty and more ignorance in the world today than there ever was. Thank God the Lord is coming back! He can handle situations.
I tell people sometimes if you want to stand up to the antichrist, that’s fine. But I’m not going to be a hero. I’m going to let Christ deal with the antichrist. Let’s not get involved in all that.
Do you understand then that the worries of this age will make us unfruitful? Maybe you’ve had a problem in your life, “Why don’t I see more results? Why don’t I get more answers to prayer? Why are I not successful in leading people to the Lord?” Could it be that you’re too much preoccupied with the issues of this age? Because, they’ll make you unfruitful.
Then we look in Romans 12:1–2. Paul comes to the point where he is applying the theology of Romans 1–11. Most commentators would agree Romans 1–11 is the theological, the doctrinal basis of the gospel. I was a professional logician, philosopher, and I want to give you my personal opinion. The epistle to the Romans is the most wonderful piece of logic that has ever been penned by a human being. You never need to feel intellectually inferior for believing your Bible. There is not another work on earth that can rival this for intellectual accuracy and clarity. But having gone through all the theology, Paul does end. He never does. He says this is how it works out in your life. You will not find theology divorced from living anywhere in the New Testament. Always theology is related “and this is what it means for you and me in our lives.” Now he comes to the therefore at the end of 11 chapters.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren...”
Some of you have heard me say when you find a “therefore” in the Bible, you need to find out what it’s there for. This therefore is there because of the previous 11 chapters of Romans.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren...”
What? What does he want you to do? Be very spiritual? Study a lot more? Go to seminary? Well, he doesn’t say that. He says
“...present your body a living sacrifice...”
How down to earth the Bible is, isn’t it? Just when we’re getting super-spiritual, God says, “I want your body on the altar without reservation. And when I have that, I’ll do something in your mind. Then I’ll renew your mind.” If you want a renewed mind you have to present your body. God doesn’t renew your mind on any other basis. Paul goes on to say in the next verse:
“Do not be conformed to this world...”
That’s my translation but it’s “age.” Do not be like the people of this age. Don’t think the way they think, don’t act the way they act. Have a different set of priorities, focus on different issues. Don’t focus on the temporal, focus on the eternal. That doesn’t mean you’re unpractical. The people who really focus on the eternal in the light of God’s Word are the most practical people on earth today. They’re the ones who are getting results.
Let’s look at what he says:
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...”
God doesn’t change us from outside in, He changes us from inside out. Religion cleans you up on the outside, dresses you in new clothes and tells you not to eat this and not to drink that. God changes us from the inside. When you think differently, you’ll live differently. God is not interested in external change that doesn’t touch the inner nature.
Well, I’m coming back to this later so I’ll move on. Let’s look at one last tragic scripture. 2 Timothy 4:10. Here’s Paul near the end of his ministry, a tremendous success, isn’t he? Or is he? By whose standards? Forsaken by most of his friends, an elderly man, rather cold in winter, sitting in a jail awaiting an unjust trial and execution. Is that success by this world’s standards? Not even by the church’s standards today. What does he say? I’m sure he must have shed tears as he wrote these words:
“For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present age.”
There’s a man who had been with Paul years. He was a trusted coworker. Paul was relying on him—and he quit, he walked out. Why? What was the cause? Tell me. He loved this present age. Understand, that in the long run you cannot love this present age and be faithful to Jesus Christ. Thank God that He has provided a way of deliverance through the cross.
Part 14 – Deliverance From Law and Self
In other words, if you want to experience deliverance from this present evil age, you’ve got to follow through with the other four deliverances that Paul mentions. So we’ll turn now to Galatians 2:19–20. We’ll read them both. There’s two deliverances or a double deliverance spoken of in these verses.
“For I through the Law died to the Law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
The first deliverance there is from the law, the second is from self. And they go very closely together. Now, multitudes of Christians really have never understood that we need to be delivered from the Law. And I have to keep a rein on myself at this point because if I got into this I’d be on it for the rest of the day. It is, I think, the most neglected major theme of New Testament theology, is the relationship of the Christian to the Law. I personally believe that multitudes of Christians who talk about being under grace are living in a kind of twilight, halfway between grace and law, and they’re not getting the benefits of either. I have observed—this is a dangerous thing to say—but the churches which call themselves with the name “grace” very often contain the people who know least about grace. What has happened in many cases is we declared we’re no longer under the Law of Moses and we’ve made our own silly little religious laws and substitutes. Paul said the Law of Moses was perfect, it was given by God. If that law couldn’t do it, no other law can. It’s silly to expect it.
All right, let’s take the first deliverance now. “I through the Law died to the Law.” You see, the last thing that law can do is execute you. Once you’ve been executed, the Law has no more claims on you. And the fact of the matter is that I was executed in Christ. My old man was crucified with Him. So I am no longer subject to the Law. I’ve moved out of that whole area where the Law operates. I’m in a new area.
Because of that, Paul says, and notice this carefully, I through the Law died to the Law, that I might live to God. In other words, in order to live to God, I have to get free from the Law. As long as I’m under the Law I cannot live for God. That’s a breathtaking statement, but it’s exactly what the New Testament says.
Let’s look for a moment—we’ll be going backwards between Romans and Galatians which really essentially deal with the same theme. Romans 6:6 which we’ve looked at already.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him [Jesus], that the body of sin might be done away with [the old carnal, Adamic nature might be put out of action] that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
As I said before, there’s no other escape from the slavery of sin but to escape from that nature. Then Paul says:
“For he who has died has been freed from sin.”
That’s the translation I use. I think most of you find the same. But it’s not the literal meaning. What Paul says is very specific. “He who has died has been justified from sin.” Okay? Some of you may have it in your margin. In other words, once I’ve paid that penalty, the Law has no more demands on me. I’m justified, I’m acquitted, I’m clear. I’m out of the territory where the Law has demands on me.
Now, let’s go back to Galatians. A little lower down in chapter 3. I say lower down because in my Bible it happens to be lower on the page. It might be higher up on yours. Verse 10–12. Paul is writing to people who have experienced grace, been saved, been baptized in the Holy Spirit, witnessed miracles and now decided that in order to get perfect they’ve got to start keeping the Law. Paul calls them fools. Then he points this out, verse 10 and following:
“For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse; for it is written, [and he’s quoting from the Torah, the Pentateuch:] ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT CONTINUE IN ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO DO THEM.’”
Once you commit yourself to keep the Law as a means of achieving righteousness, you’ve got to keep the whole Law all the time. And if you break any point at any time, you come under a curse. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue all the time to do all the things that are written in the Law.” That’s what the Law itself says. Then Paul goes on, verse 11:
“But no one is justified by the Law in the sight of God and it’s evident because, [and he quotes the scripture Habakkuk 2:4:] ‘THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’ [Verse 12:] Yet the Law is not of faith, but ‘THE MAN WHO DOES THEM [that’s the man who keeps all the commandments all the time] SHALL LIVE BY THEM.’”
We’ve got two options. We can live by the Law and if we break it, we’re under a curse. Or we can live by faith which is not living by the Law. They are mutually exclusive alternatives. You can’t have the best of both worlds. Actually, what you’ll have is the worst of both worlds. You have to make your mind up, I have to make my mind up. Am I relying on keeping the Law in order to be righteous with God or am I simply relying on the fact that I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on my behalf?
Let’s turn back to Romans again for a moment. You see, Romans is the theory, Galatians is the application to people who haven’t absorbed the theory. That’s why they go so closely together. Romans 6:14:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you...”
Praise the Lord! I didn’t hear you. That’s good news, isn’t it? Sin shall not have dominion over you. Why not?
“...because you are not under Law, but under grace.”
The implications of that are startling. If you’re under Law, sin will have dominion over you. The reason why sin doesn’t need to have dominion over you is because you’re not under the Law but under grace. And again, they’re exclusive alternatives. Either under Law or under grace, but not under both. If you’re under Law, sin will have dominion over you. If you’re under grace, you’re not under Law and sin will not have dominion over you.
Then in Romans 7—and I could multiply this ten times, these scriptures—Romans 7:6:
“But now we have been delivered from the Law...”
Delivered from what? It doesn’t say from sin, it doesn’t say delivered from Satan. All that’s true but here he says we’ve been delivered from the Law. Dear Lord, if I could photograph your faces now, it would be worthwhile keeping a record. Now we have been delivered from the Law. Can you say that? “We have been delivered from the Law.” Take a deep breath, sigh. You don’t have to do it.
“...having died to what we were held by...”
Where did we die? On the cross. When Jesus died, He died for us.
“...so that [listen] we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”
Again, they’re mutually exclusive alternatives. If you haven’t been delivered from the Law you cannot serve in the newness of the Spirit. You cannot mix them.
You see, I pointed out to people scores of times it’s like finding your way from a certain place to a destination. You’re given two options. You can have a map, you can have a personal guide. The map is perfect, there’s nothing wrong with the map. But the fact of the matter is no one has ever yet made the journey by the map and arrived. Statistics are against you. Millions have tried. The map is the Law. Who’s the guide? Not Jesus but the Holy Spirit, that’s right. That’s not setting Jesus aside. So, which are you going to choose? Are you going to take the map, stumble on, end up in a precipice? Or, are you going to say, “Holy Spirit, you lead me.” Then you say to the Holy Spirit, “Well, I’m glad you’re leading but you know, I’ve got a map here, can I show you my map?” The Holy Spirit says, “Thanks, I know the way, I don’t need the map. Besides which, I was the one who made the map.” So that’s the choice, you see?
If you’re going to be led by the Holy Spirit, you have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. You have to cultivate a relationship with Him.
Let’s look at just two scriptures which speak about this. Romans 8:14:
“For as many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God...”
I put in the “regularly” because that’s the continuing present tense.
“As many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God.”
The Greek word is a mature son, not a little baby but a mature son. When you are born again of the Holy Spirit, you’re a little spiritual infant. To grow from infancy to maturity there’s only one pathway, being led by the Holy Spirit. As many as are regularly led by the Holy Spirit, they are mature sons of God. So, if you want to be a mature son of God, what do you have to do? Tell me. Be led by the Holy Spirit. There is no other way. It’s a limiting clause. As many as and only as many as.
Now turn to Galatians 5:18:
“But if you are regularly led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”
Did you read that? If you are regularly led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. But the only way to spiritual maturity is to be led by the Spirit. So, if you want to be mature, you cannot be under the Law. You cannot mix them. You’ve got to make a breathtaking decision—and it’s frightening. If I stop keeping rules, what will happen? I’ll do the wrong thing. Let me reassure you, you can be sure of one thing, the Holy Spirit will never lead you to do anything wrong. Can you believe that? That’s your security. He will never lead you to do anything wrong.
Now we’ve got to move on because we’ve got to deal with another deliverance. But let me just try and help you a little bit. See, there are only two ways of achieving righteousness. One is works, the other is grace. One is Law, the other is faith. One is keeping rules, the other is being led by the Holy Spirit. And, you say, “This is awfully risky. You mean I’ve got to let go of those 53 rules which I’ve been keeping?” You know, orthodox Judaism has 613 commandments, did you know that? The most orthodox Jews will confess privately they only keep 32! They won’t say that in public.
Well, now I’ve go to try and wrap this up. See, God’s way of righteousness is not struggling, it’s yielding. Yielding to who? To Jesus. Jesus in me. Jesus is our righteousness, our wisdom, our holiness, our redemption. I always think of the story of a little lady somewhere who was greatly admired for her personal holiness. Somebody said to her one day, “Sister so and so, what do you do when you’re tempted?” She said, “When the devil knocks at the door, I let Jesus answer.” You see, it’s not meeting the devil in my own strength, it’s letting Jesus move in and take charge of the situation. It’s not struggling, it’s yielding. It’s not effort, it’s union. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Do branches bear grapes by keeping rules? You can hang all the rules for bringing fruit in front of a vine, it won’t even both with them. Why does a vine branch bring forth grapes? Because the life of the vine is flowing into the branch. Jesus said, “As long as you abide in me, you’re all right. If you get severed from me, then you’re in trouble.”
All right, we’ve got to go on with the next deliverance which is very, very important. We’re going back to Galatians 2:20:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
What’s the deliverance from? Just one single word, one single letter, “I,” that’s right. Not I but Christ.
Let me show you this little thing. I’m not good at doing drawings but here we have it, I, big me. I’m important, look at me, help me, pray for me, heal me, I need help now. You see, the more self-centered you are, the less it works. People with problems are the slaves of their own problems, did you know that? They focus on their problems, they focus on themselves, and the more they do the more they are enslaved to self.
The alternative is Christ—which has got a little “i” in the middle with a dot on it to keep it in place. See what I’m saying? Not I but Christ. That’s a decision, you have to make up your mind. It’s not going to be me, I abdicate. In my place Jesus moves in and takes over. See, that’s the first step in following the Lord. A lot of people are trying to follow the Lord but they’ve never taken the first step. Matthew 16:24:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone desires to come after me [follow me, live like me], let him deny himself...”
What’s the first step? Denying yourself. Then:
“...take up his cross and follow me.”
You cannot follow Jesus until you’ve done those two things. Denied yourself and taken up your cross. What does it mean to deny yourself? Well, the word deny means to say no, doesn’t it? So, to deny yourself is to say no to yourself. Yourself says, “I want,” you say, “No.” Self says, “I think,” you say, “That’s not important.” Your self says, “I feel,” you say, “What you feel isn’t what matters, it’s what God says.” You have to turn against that self in you.
Then you have to take up your cross. This is not actually part of this study but it’s no extra charge for it. What is your cross? I’ve heard two definitions. One is the place where your will and God’s will cross. The other is it’s the place where you die. So you see, God’s not going to put the cross on you. I have met more than one man who thought his wife was his cross! No. If you could take up your wife and put her down by your choice, then she could be your cross. Your cross is something you can choose, you can decide if you’re going to take it.
Jesus said when He was going to the cross, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down by my own choice.” And that’s true of you when you follow Jesus. No one can take your life from you. Relax. The preacher can’t do it, the church can’t do it. Only you can do it. Only you can decide I’m going to take up this thing and die on it. After that you can follow Jesus. Let’s read those words again.
“If anyone desires to come after me, let him [what’s the first step?] deny himself [and the second step?] and take up his cross...”
That’s right. So, here’s the truth in Galatians. “I am crucified with Christ.” When Christ died, I died. That’s the end of my ego.
Let’s look in Philippians 2, a picture of what is practically involved in this exchange. Philippians 2, you know, contains that tremendous passage where it speaks about the self humbling of Jesus, the seven steps that He took downwards to the death at the cross. After all, we’re not under Law, why don’t we read it? Philippians 2:5:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus...”
Learn to think the way Jesus thought.
“...who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal to God...”
Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped at. There was another person who did consider equality with God something to be grasped at. What was his name? Well, it wasn’t then, it was Lucifer, that’s right. Lucifer reached up, slipped and fell. Jesus stooped down and was raised up. I’ve got a series of tapes that’s called “The Way Up is Down.” If you want to go up, go down. I think it was Moody who said, “As a young preacher I used to think that God kept His gifts on shelves. And the best gifts were on the highest shelves and I had to reach up for them.” But he said, “Later I discovered the best gifts were on the lowest shelves and I had to stoop down for them.” Let’s just for a moment look at this. Here he is, equal with God.
“He made himself of no reputation.”
Step number one. The Greek says he emptied Himself. I think it’s Charles Wesley who said, “He emptied Himself of all but love.”
Number two, “He took the form of a servant.” But He could still have been an angel and been a servant.
Number three, “He came in the likeness of men.” He took on humanity.
Number four, “He found in appearance as a man.” I understand that to mean that when He appeared on the streets of Nazareth, there was nothing to distinguish him from the other men and women round about Him. There was nothing to mark Him out.
Number five, “He humbled Himself.” Not merely was He a man, He was a humble man. He wasn’t a priest, He wasn’t a ruler, what was He? A carpenter, that’s all.
Number six, “He became obedient to death.” He not merely lived as a man, He died as a man.
And number seven, the ultimate, the death at the cross. Then you get the sevenfold exaltation of Jesus, beginning in verse 9:
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him...”
Notice the therefore. Why did God exalt Jesus? Because He humbled Himself. Jesus said everyone that humbles himself shall be exalted. Look, I can offer you a guaranteed way to exaltation. Humble yourself. God has taken responsibility for the consequences. The lower down you go the higher up you’ll end. Your part of the bargain is going down, God’s part is taking you up.
We’re nearly at the end of our time, we’ve got to go quickly.
“God highly exalted him,” number one.
Number two, “gave Him the name which is above every name.”
Number three, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”
Number four, “things in heaven.”
Number five, “things on earth.”
Number six, “things under the earth.”
And number seven, “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
See the perfect structure of those verses? Do you think Paul sat in his cell and tried to work out how he could do it? He was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
But the lesson for us is the way up is down. The way to life is death. Not I but Christ. It’s a decision. God has made the decision possible, you have to make the decision personally.
Let’s go back to Philippians now, the previous verses. Because, this is the outworking. Philippians 2:3–4:
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit...”
Do we have a problem with selfish ambition in the church? Or conceit? Dear Lord. I personally believe that most of the problems in the church, and particularly in the ministry, are traceable to one cause—pride, that’s right. Pride is what releases the other problems.
See, I spoke about taking the root and you remember I said it was rebellion. Really, there’s a root to the root. The root to the root is pride. If you trace the history of sin in the universe, it didn’t begin on earth, it began in heaven. The first sin was what? Pride, that’s right. Which led to rebellion. And anyone who is proud will end up a rebel.
Let’s go on.
“...let each esteem others better than himself; let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.”
That’s the end of self-centeredness. Really, you know, your biggest problem is yourself. I meet people who are running away from their problems. They’ll go right around the earth to get away from their problems. It’s usually their wife or it’s alcohol or something like that. The truth of the matter is wherever you go you take your biggest problem with you. Because, your biggest problem is self. The only solution is the cross.
There’s one beautiful scripture which we won’t turn to because we don’t have time. The wonderful secret which Paul was commissioned to preach, Colossians 1:27, how many of you know what it is in three words? Christ in you. Christ in me. When does that come? When I say, “Not I but Christ.”