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The theme of this session and the next one is entitled “The Cross in My Life.” I need to begin by explaining briefly what I mean by the phrase “the cross” because there are some people, especially those from a liturgical background who might misunderstand me. For many people the cross is a piece of wood or metal which they hang around their neck or which is placed on the wall of the church, or even above the roof of the church. I have no criticism of that, in no sense am I objecting to that. In fact, I thank God for the people who display the cross.
But when I talk about the cross, it’s an abbreviation for something else. And the something else is the sacrifice which Jesus offered on our behalf on the cross and all the consequences and benefits of that sacrifice. So that one phrase “the cross” saves me from having to repeat that lengthy phrase over and over again.
So we’re going to speak tonight about the cross in my life. First of all, I have been pointing out in previous sessions two very important facts about the cross. First of all, it’s the basis of God’s total provision for every believer. Everything we ever need in time or eternity, in every department of our lives—spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, financial, temporal or eternal—has been provided for us through the cross. There is no other basis. Either we receive on the basis of the cross or we do not receive. Paul said he who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? Just try to absorb those closing words. God will also with Jesus freely give us all things. But without Him—nothing. On the basis of the cross we can receive everything, but without that basis we are not entitled to anything.
Secondly, and this is also very important, the cross is the basis of Christ’s total defeat of Satan. Through His death, His substitutionary sacrifice, His victorious resurrection, and His triumphant ascension, Jesus has administered to Satan and his kingdom one total, permanent, irrevocable defeat. There is nothing Satan can ever do to change that fact. And it’s on that basis that we have victory over Satan. If we come in contact with Satan, if we have a conflict with Satan on any other basis but the cross, we will be defeated. But on the basis of the cross we can be totally victorious.
Because of these two important facts about the cross Satan has a strategy against the church. He cannot change what has been accomplished by the cross, that’s eternal, it’s settled by God. What he can do and what he seeks to do is to hide from the church what was accomplished by the cross so that when the church loses sight of what was accomplished by the cross, then the church no longer enjoys the benefits provided. The church no longer lives in the full provision which was made by the cross and the church is no longer capable of administering Christ’s defeat to Satan.
Now, this is brought out very clearly in one particular verse in Galatians 3:1. I have meditated on this verse now for at least ten years, probably longer. When I first read the verse, like so many verses in the Bible, I just read it and I didn’t think much about it. But gradually it impacted me more and more. I see in it myself today a key to understanding the problems of the church. This is what Paul says—there are two versions according to different original texts. I’m going to follow the shorter version which is followed in the NIV and the NASB and probably others.
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”
That’s an amazing statement. Probably you’ve never been sufficiently amazed by it. But Paul says to these Spirit filled Christians—and you’ll see in a few moments they’d been saved, they’d been baptized in the Spirit, they had witnessed and were witnessing miracles—but he says to them who has bewitched you? Witchcraft is the primary word for the spiritual forces released from Satan’s kingdom into the earth. So these, quote, Spirit filled Christians—and you know, when I hear the word “Spirit filled” and I see the lives of some people called Spirit filled, I say yes, but just a thimble full. You can fill a thimble, you can fill a cup or you can fill a bath. All of them are filled but they don’t contain the same amount. When I see the lives of Spirit filled Christians I say to myself they don’t realize that Satan has a strategy against them of which they’re not aware.
Actually, I found myself in a situation in l963, I don’t want to go back into the details, I had just immigrated to the United States. I’m one of the few people who immigrated to the United States by accident. I came for a visit, the immigration authorities at the border told me that six months was too long for a visit. I said maybe you can help me, because I’ve dealt with a lot of immigration authorities in different countries and I know you never argue with them, you just put yourself at their mercy. So they said come on in and we’ll arrange it. And so that way I, with my first wife and our five year old adopted black African daughter, made it into the States. Now, if we’d ever made application outside with that particular combination, we’d never have been accepted, you understand? So that was God’s way of sneaking us into the United States.
Anyhow, I found myself a little while later pastoring a Pentecostal church in Seattle, Washington. I cannot go into the problems of that church but let me just briefly state what had happened, just to give you some kind of idea of what can happen to Spirit filled people. The wife of the pastor fell in love with one of the Board members. As a result, the pastor’s wife divorced the pastor, the Board member divorced his wife, and the pastor’s wife and the Board member married and carried on pastoring the church. All this was publicly known, there was no secret about it. Well, you’d say that couldn’t happen in a Pentecostal church. It could and it did. And when I talked with the people they said to me there’s something about that woman, when she looks at you your blood runs cold and you just don’t know what to say. She had actually gained total control over that congregation. My first wife Lydia and I, really, we’d never been in a situation like that and I began to seek God. I didn’t know what to do about it. Of course, by that time she had moved out but the congregation was still under her domination. I read this verse:
“Foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?”
And I said that’s it. They’re bewitched. I couldn’t believe at first that, you know, Pentecostal Christians could be bewitched. When I grasped the truth and Lydia and I took a stand, agreeing together in prayer, we broke that power, the congregation was released, the situation was restored. But that was where I was first introduced to the reality of Galatians 3:1, who has bewitched you?
How did Paul know that they were bewitched? The second part of the verse tells us. They had lost the vision of Jesus Christ crucified. What had witchcraft done? It had moved in and obscured the reality of the cross and all that was obtained for them through the cross. What was the result of losing the vision of Jesus Christ crucified? I believe this will always be the result and I believe it’s the result in many, many congregations today. They went into carnality and legalism. And basically, wherever you find legalism it’s the product of carnality. Even though it may sound extremely spiritual—and legalistic people often think they’re more spiritual than others—nevertheless, it’s an expression of the flesh, of carnality and not a spirituality. And, it goes together with the works of the flesh.
Let’s read these next verses, verses 2–5, and I think you’ll see the truth of what I’ve been saying.
“This only I want to learn from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”
Notice they had received the Spirit.
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
They had begun in the Spirit.
“Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Therefore, He who supplies the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?”
Notice God was working miracles among them. They were saved, baptized in the Spirit, and they had miracles taking place. And yet, they were bewitched. And Paul says two results expressed in this: the works of the law and the works of the flesh. Legalism, carnality.
Legalism is one of those words that Christians tend to use to criticize other Christians. So I’m going to offer a definition so that it’s not vague. As I understand legalism, it’s the attempt to achieve righteousness with God by observing any set of rules whatever. Whether it’s the law of Moses, Pentecostal law, Baptist law, or Catholic law, it makes no difference. Anyone who is seeking to achieve righteousness with God by observing a law of a set of rules is in legalism.
An alternative definition is this. Legalism is adding anything whatever to the requirements which God has laid down for achieving righteousness with Him. And God has said all that is needed is to believe in Him who delivered Jesus to death for our offenses and raised Him again for our justification. No person, no church, no organization, and no Bible teacher has any authority ever to add any requirement to achieving righteousness with God except that, believing in the One who delivered Jesus for our sins and raised Him for our justification. And any addition to that, in my understanding, is legalism.
So here were people who had begun in the Spirit, who had seen miracles, but who had been tricked by Satan because Satan had obscured the reality of what took place on the cross and they’d gone back into fleshly attempts to please God by keeping rules. Does that sound like anybody you’ve ever met? Does that sound like any churches you’ve ever been in? In America, and I’m not talking about other countries necessarily, a lot of churches call themselves Grace Church. My observation is the ones that talk most about grace generally know least about it. They’re centers of legalism.
The result of this is even more shocking. It’s stated in the 10th verse, Galatians 3:10.
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT CONTINUE IN ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO DO THEM.’”
Understand, if you’re going to be justified by the law of Moses you’ve got to keep the whole law all the time. And if you fail to do that and you put yourself under the law, you bring a curse upon yourself. For the law itself says cursed is everyone who does not keep all the law all the time.
So, the result of this cross being obscured by Satan’s activities were legalism, carnality, and a curse. That’s a solemn statement. I’ll give you just one other scripture which says in one verse what took place with the Galatians. Jeremiah 17:5:
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his strength [or his arm], whose heart departs from the Lord.’”
The curse is pronounced on somebody of whom it says his heart departs from the Lord. So this is a person who has known the supernatural grace of God and experienced it in his life but then he turns back to making flesh his strength. In other words, he turns back to the best he can do by his own efforts. And in doing that, if I may use the phrase, he’s snubbed the Spirit of grace. He has in effect said to the Holy Spirit, “You’re not good enough. I think I can do it better my way.” And on that behavior God pronounces a curse.
If you want to look at the next verse you’ll see as vivid a description of somebody under a curse in one verse as you could ever wish for. Jeremiah 17:6:
“For he [the man under the curse] shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes; he shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.”
What a vivid picture of somebody under a curse. Blessings are all around him, rain falls, the earth is fruitful, but it never reaches him. He lives in a dry, barren, cursed land. Oh how many hundreds of people I’ve dealt with in that category since God has given me this understanding of how a curse operates and how people can be delivered.
But I want to challenge you tonight to consider as I’ve described the problem of the Galatians, could it be your problem? Could it be the problem of your church? Could it be perhaps the primary problem of the professing church today? Because almost every major movement in the church began with a supernatural sovereign visitation of God. Otherwise they never would have impacted history. No matter which denomination you go to—and I don’t want to name any specific denomination—they began because God visited them sovereignly with supernatural power. How many of them today are relying on the same sovereign supernatural power as gave them birth? I would say very few, if any.
I introduced this message this way because I want you to see we’re dealing with something that’s real, and current, and extremely important. It’s not some remote little group somewhere that’s gone astray. Satan’s main weapon against the church of Jesus Christ is to obscure the reality of the cross.
And what results, as I understand it, is what I call the soulish is substituted for the spiritual. Man is spirit, soul and body. The soul has its legitimate functions but it cannot take the place of the spirit. But when people move away from the supernatural and begin to rely on their own ability and efforts, they move out of the spiritual and into the soulish. And I’ll give you just a list of different ways that this manifests itself in the church. And these are just examples, I’m not making a law out of them, I’m just giving you some examples. What I’m saying is a religious substitute takes the place of the spiritual reality. Here’s a list of seven substitutions. As I go through them, just check and see.
First of all, theology takes the place of revelation. Theology is man’s reasoning, it’s making rules, inferences; but it’s not direct revelation.
Education takes the place of character building. I think you should notice that Jesus never just talked to people. They had to follow Him. In other words, it wasn’t just intellectual knowledge but it was a lifestyle that was imparted. It’s very, very dangerous to train people intellectually and not deal with their character. Because the scripture says the carnal mind is enmity against God. So when you educate the carnal mind you’re educating an enemy of God. What you get at the end is an educated enemy of God. I would suggest to you the majority of seminaries today are producing educated enemies of God. I’m not trying to be dramatic, I just believe that’s the way it is. In a certain sense, the main enemies of the gospel are the products of the seminaries.
Thirdly, psychology is substituted for discernment which is supernatural.
Fourth, program is substituted for supernatural direction, the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, eloquence is substituted for supernatural power.
Sixth, reasoning is substituted for the walk of faith.
And seventh, laws take the place of love.
I’ll say that very quickly again. And as I do it I just want you to think how much of it is relevant to your situation. Theology in place of revelation, education in place of character building, psychology in place of discernment, program in place of supernatural leading of the Holy Spirit, eloquence in place of supernatural power, reasoning in place of the walk of faith and, laws in place of love.
Let me ask you a question. If you happen to know any Christians you would categorize as legalistic—if you happen to know them. Would you say they’re very loving? Somebody came out with the right answer! See, laws and love in the Christian life tend to compete with one another. The people who are busy keeping an enforcing laws are often remarkably unloving people. If you want the standard Biblical illustration, it’s the Pharisees. Have you noticed how many miracles of Jesus they objected to? Blind eyes were opened, lame people walked. They never once expressed satisfaction at that, all they objected to was He was breaking their rules of the Sabbath. You’d thought even a Pharisee with a heart of stone would be glad when somebody who was born blind had his eyes open. Not so. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.
Now, the important thing about Galatians is that not only does it reveal the problem, it reveals God’s solution. To me this is a wonderful example of the inspiration of scripture because Paul didn’t write a theological treatise, he sat down probably in some very difficult situation and dashed off a letter because he was deeply concerned about the Galatians. The comical thing about the Galatians, they’re problem, as I’ve said, was legalism. Paul wrote letters to other churches and almost invariably he begins by thanking God for the churches he was writing to. He wrote to the Corinthians. There was incest, adultery, drunkenness at the Lord’s table—and he still thanked God for the grace of God given to them. But when he comes to the Galatians, he is so upset that he doesn’t thank God for them, he simply says, “I marvel that you have so soon moved away from the grace of God.” Legalism disturbed him much more than open sin. It’s a much subtler and more dangerous problem.
Let’s look at the remedies. This is why I’ve entitled this message “The Cross in Me.” I want to make this very personal to everybody here. You see, it’s one thing to get excited about what God has done for you on the cross, it’s quite different to embrace what the cross is intended to do in you. I have to say in the circles in which I move at present there’s very little mentioned of what the cross is intended to do in us. I would say, in my opinion, 90% of the church’s problems are due to that one fact. You see, in the long run you will not enjoy the benefits of what the cross has done for you unless you accept what the cross is intended to do in you. The cross in you is the safeguard of all the blessings and provisions of the cross for you.
Galatians states five deliverances that are provided for us through the cross. I want to go through them in the order in which they occur. The first one is stated in Galatians 1:3–4. My guess would be 90% of you have never even thought about it. I may be wrong. If I am, forgive me. One of the reasons I say that is I went a long while as a Christian and a preacher without thinking about it myself, you see. Galatians 1:3–4:
“Grace to you, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins on the cross, that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God...”
So through the cross God has provided deliverance from this present evil age. There are two Greek words that are used in Galatians and it’s necessary to separate them. The King James and even the New King James doesn’t observe the distinction all the time. The word used here in Greek is “ion” from which we get the English word eon. And it means an age, a period of time. The other word which is also used in Galatians 6:14, and we’ll come to it at the end of this series of studies, is “cosmos” which is translated world. I’ll talk about world later. But let’s look for a moment at the concept of age. We are living in a certain age. There were other ages before us and there will be ages after this. And this present age is called an evil age. I’ll show you very specifically why it’s an evil age. But let’s, first of all, take note of the fact the present age is going to end. If you live as though it were never going to end, you’re living under a delusion. Personally, when I say the present age is going to end do you know what I say next? Thank God! I wouldn’t want this age to continue the way it is forever.
Look at the parables of Jesus in Matthew 13. You know, this is the chapter with the seven parables. I don’t intend to go into the parables, I just want to take some quotations. Interpreting the parable of the wheat and the tares, in verse 39 Jesus says:
“The enemy who sowed the tares is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age.”
And in the next verse He says:
“Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.”
And in verse 48, in another parable He says again:
“So it will be at the end of the age.”
And you could find many other scriptures. But it’s extremely important for us always to remember the present age is going to end. It is not permanent. If we live and think as if it were permanent, we’re living under a delusion. The power behind that delusion is witchcraft.
Let’s explain why it’s an evil age. 2Corinthians 4:4. You need to read verse 3 to get the context. Paul says:
“But even if our gospel is veiled [or hidden] is it veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe...”
Who is the god of the age who’s blinded the minds of these people? Satan, that’s right. So you understand, Satan doesn’t want the age to end. Do you know why? Because as long as this age continues, he’s a god. When this age comes to an end, he ceases to be a god. So he is doing everything in his power to delay the close of the age. And the church should be doing everything in its power to precipitate the close of the age. But if Satan can blind the minds of the church, then the church will not do what God expects the church to do to bring about the close of the age.
And then in Hebrews 6:4–6, the writer of Hebrews speaks about people who’ve received a series of experience which I think most of us here have received. Hebrews 6, beginning somewhere in verse 4:
And you’ll notice there are five experiences.
“...who were once enlightened, have tasted of the heavenly gift, have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come...”
Notice that when we taste the Holy Spirit we taste the powers of the next age. We are, as it were, by that experience lifted out of the present age into the next age and we begin to experience in a little way what it will be like to be in the next age. I’ll give you one illustration which is a little difficult to explain. Paul says the body we have in this age—that’s in 1Corinthians 15—is a soulish body. In other words, it’s a body which only operates as the soul directs it. So if my spirit wants my body to do something, my spirit has to work through my soul. Like David wanted to praise the Lord with his mouth so his spirit spoke to his soul and said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” But the spirit couldn’t start blessing the Lord without the cooperation of the soul. You see what I’m saying? That’s called a soulish body. But in the next age, Paul says we’ll have a spiritual body. What does that mean? As I understand it, and I could be wrong—time will show, it will mean that our spirit directly controls our body, we don’t have to persuade our soul. If I want to fly to the next planet I just take off, I don’t have to argue with my soul about the rights and wrongs of the journey.
You see, what I’m leading up to is when you’re baptized in the Holy Spirit you taste the powers of the age to come. Because when you speak in other tongues as the Spirit gives you utterance, for the first time probably your spirit is directly controlling your tongue. It doesn’t have to go through the bottleneck of your silly little mind. You see that? That’s one reason why this is such a tremendously significant experience. For most of us it’s the only way at present in which we can experience what it will be like to live in the next age. I don’t have to think when I speak in tongues, you understand? My soul has to consent. If my soul says no and a lot of peoples’ carnal minds say, “No, I don’t want to speak in tongues, I don’t understand what I’m saying.” So if your soul holds out, you can’t do it. But my soul has capitulated so when I want to speak in tongues, I can. (speaks in tongues briefly) See? I don’t know what I’m saying but I know it’s good because the Holy Spirit gave it. When you speak in the Spirit your tongue does what it’s always supposed to do, it glorifies the Lord. You’ll never say one wrong word as long as the Holy Spirit is controlling your tongue.
So, anyhow, what I’m trying to convince you of is there’s going to be a different kind of way of living in the next age. Our spirit is going to be in direct control of our body. We won’t be limited by our silly little minds, our souls.
And then, going back to Matthew 13 we find another problem connected with this present age. Matthew 13:22, interpreting the parable of the sower, Jesus speaks about the kind of seed that fell on rocky soil. He says:
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and he becomes unfruitful.”
So this age has cares. I think both the NIV and the NASB use the word worries. I think another good word is cares. When you are too preoccupied with the things of the present age, that preoccupation makes the word of God unfruitful in you. It chokes out the word of God. Thank God we can be delivered from this present evil age. You see how necessary it is.
But then in Romans 12:2, Paul has another statement.
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Don’t think the way the people of this age think. You’ve got to learn to think differently. I’ll tell you the main difference. The people of this age are essentially self-centered. That’s one, almost universal description. Their attitude about anything is what will I get out of this? But the person whose mind has been renewed thinks differently. What will God get out of this? His own life is no longer the center, his life is God-centered.
And then finally, and really this is tragic, terribly solemn. A faithful servant of Christ cannot love this present age. 2Timothy 4, one of the most sad statements in the writings of Paul. Here he is at the end of his life, in prison, awaiting trial and probable execution. He has just a few faithful coworkers that have stuck with him. And one of the ones he is counting on is named Demas. But then he says, and he says it all in one sentence, 2Timothy 4:10:
“Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present age.”
See, in the long run if you love this present age you cannot be faithful to God. As they say, when the chips are down, you’ll take the wrong direction. Very, very searching thought. Let me ask you this question. Are you in any way in love with this present age? Are you living as if it was going to go on forever? Have you got all your eggs in the basket of this present age? Because one day the whole basket is going to drop and all the eggs will be smashed.
One second deliverance. We move on now in Galatians to chapter 2 and verse 19. This is probably the hardest one for Christians to understand, according to my observation. I have spent many, many hours trying to persuade Christians of the reality of this. I just don’t know how far I’ve been successful. Paul says in Galatians 2:19, this is the second deliverance. I call it deliverance from the law.
“For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God.”
Why does he say I through the law died to the law? Because the law inflicted on me the death penalty. It was the law that caused me to be put to death. And when I was put to death, that was the end of the law. See, the last thing the law can do to anybody is put them to death. Once that’s happened, they’re clear of the law. It doesn’t matter if you’ve committed one murder or sixty murders. If you’re executed, that’s all the law can do to you.
See, there is no other way out from under the law. Death is the only escape. The marvelous mercy and grace of God is the execution took place nineteen centuries ago. When Jesus died, I died in Him. He paid on my behalf the final penalty of the law that I might be clear from the demands of the law.
In a session yesterday I pointed out that it says in Colossians 2 the law is nailed to the cross. It doesn’t go beyond the cross. It can follow you up to the cross, it can pursue you, it can hound you, it can accuse you, it can condemn you, but once you get beyond the cross you’re free from the law. There’s no more condemnation, it’s all over.
Paul says I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. If you analyze that the meaning is clear. If you’re living to the law you’re not living to God. If you’re living to God you’re not living to the law. You cannot have it both ways. You can’t combine the two. This is one of the clearest and most repeated statements of the New Testament and yet I find that basically Christians are completely unfamiliar with it. And it shocks them. As I said to a group of people some time recently—and I was quite casual, I mean, I wasn’t trying to shock them but I said Christianity is not a set of rules. And their faces registered dismay. I think if I’d say there is no God they would have been less shocked.
See, I have dealt with this because I think of my background as a philosopher. Immediately I was saved, I began to see in the New Testament this is probably the most decisive single issue, is the relationship between the law and grace. And it’s not altogether simple. I think the difficulty is because we’re not used to thinking God’s way. I don’t think it’s very complicated, it just means a total adjustment of our thinking. I can see some of your faces now. If you could see your own faces you’d be shocked!
Look in Galatians 3:11–12. And you understand, this is the end of this passage about being under a curse because they’d been bewitched. And it says:
“But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for the just shall live by faith.”
Now, I happen to be able to read the New Testament in Greek. I started learning Greek when I was ten years old and I learned it for sixteen years. What I want to say you can check if you have access to the original text. In most of the places in the New Testament where it says “the law” the original says “law.” And, it makes a difference. This is one of them. Let me read it the other way.
“But that no one is justified by law in the sight of God is evident...”
Now Paul means primarily you’ll not be justified by keeping the law of Moses. But he doesn’t stop there. He says you cannot achieve righteousness as with God by keeping any law. It’s ruled out. It’s impossible. Don’t waste time trying.
Then Paul goes on in verse 12:
“...yet the law is not of faith, but the one who does them shall live by them.”
If you can keep the whole law all the time, that’s fine, you’re righteous. But nobody ever has, you see. And if you can only keep a little of the law some of the time it does you no good whatever from the point of view of achieving righteousness.
So, there are two alternatives. You’re justified by the law or you’re justified by faith—but you cannot mix them. Is that clear? A little later on Paul uses a little parable from the family of Abraham. He gives the example of Ishmael who was the child of the slave woman who is a type of the product of the law because Hagar, he says, corresponds to Mount Sinai where the law was given. And then Sarah is a type of the Spirit, a supernatural birth which brought forth Isaac who is the child of grace. But, Paul points out when Isaac came Ishmael had to go. They could not co-exist in the same family. And he quotes the statement—and the statement is by God Himself:
“Cast out the bondwoman and her son.”
Not only do you get rid of Ishmael, you get rid of Hagar. See? So you have to choose whom are you going to have in your house? Are you going to keep Ishmael or are you going to make room for Isaac, the child of grace, the supernatural? See, Ishmael was the best that Abraham could do by his own efforts but it wasn’t good enough. And the best you can do by your efforts is not good enough. You can keep on trying, and sweating, and working, and even praying, but it’s not good enough.
So if you want grace you’ve got to say no to law, you understand? This is so vivid that most of us would like to hold on to both. See? A little bit of grace and a little bit of law. God says it won’t work, I don’t accept that. If you can’t trust grace wholly then you aren’t trusting grace at all. If you have to help grace with law you’re not really experiencing grace. I wish I had a photograph to take of your faces!
But I’m going to persevere, I’m not going to stop. I believe sooner or later, as they used to say in Britain years ago, the penny will drop in farthings—if you understand that. Some of you don’t understand that, you didn’t live in those days. I assure you, that was after the time of the brontosaurus!
Now let’s turn to Romans 6:6–7. Here is the deliverance.
Do you know it or do you not know it?
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
Where was our old man crucified and when? When Jesus died on the cross. That’s an historical fact. You can’t change that. But knowing it and believing it will change you. You see? We’re dealing with facts. You have to know the whole gospel is based on facts, historical facts—Unlike almost any other world religion. I don’t know of any other world religion that’s based on facts. They’re systems, they’re theories, they’re revelations untied to any particular period of history. But the gospel is based on historical facts. It’s either true or it’s false. Personally, I believe it’s true.
Now, Paul says until this old nature, this Adamic nature, this rebel that’s called the old man has been put to death, we’ll be the slaves of sin. You see, I grew up in the Anglican Church in Britain and I thank God for much good in the Anglican Church. But my problem was every Sunday morning at 11:00 o’clock we went through what’s called the “general confession.” And we confessed a lot of things that we needed to confess. We done those things which we ought not have done, we left undone those things which we ought to have done. And I would always walk out of the church with a vague feeling that somehow I ought to be better but I wasn’t changed. And I soon discovered for the rest of the week I kept on doing the things I ought not to have done and not doing the things I ought have done. So when I got back next Sunday I would ask myself I wonder if it does any good confessing these things if I know full well I’m going to go on doing them. Does it procure me God’s favor or does it just make God more angry? Like, if your little son comes to you and says, “I’m sorry, daddy, but I messed up your flower bed.” You say that’s all right, but you know he’s going to go on messing up your flower bed. What do you feel? It could be you don’t feel too happy.
So, the only way out is to deal with the old man, he’s a rebel. As I’ve said many times, God’s solution is execution. He doesn’t improve him, He doesn’t send him to church, He doesn’t teach him the golden rule—execute him. But the mercy of God is the execution took place when Jesus died on the cross. That’s God’s mercy.
Paul goes on to say, and this is the next verse:
“...for he who has died has been freed from sin.”
Now, that’s the translation that’s followed in almost every version. But if you look in the margin if you have a margin, it means “has been justified from sin” because once you’ve paid the last penalty, you’re justified. The law has nothing more to say to you, it can do nothing more against you. Death is the way out from the dominion of the law. It’s also the way out from the dominion of sin.
Going on in Romans 6:14:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
Which are you under? You can’t be under both. If you’re under law you’re not under grace. If you’re under grace you’re not under law. And Paul very clearly implies if you are under law sin will have dominion over you. That astonishes people but that’s the way it is. Because, while you’re under law you’re doing the best you can with your own efforts—and they’re not good enough. They’re like Ishmael, they never earn God’s favor.
And then in Romans 7:5–6:
“For when we were in the flesh, the passion of sins which were aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.”
Did you hear that phrase, “the passion of sins which were aroused by the law, were at work in our members”? Paul explains a little further on, I can’t do into detail, he says, “I didn’t know what covetous was until I encountered the commandment ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ But when the commandment came, covetousness rose up in me.” Have you ever experienced that? It’s when you’re told not to do something that it really gains dominion over you. See? So the sin is actually stirred up by the law as long as we’re relying on our own efforts. You’ll have to read the whole of Romans 7, really, to get that.
Paul says in the next verse:
“But now we have been delivered from the law...”
Delivered from what? From the law. I must explain we’re not talking about secular law. That doesn’t mean you can break the law of the government by any means. We’re talking about law as a means of achieving righteousness with God. I believe Christians should be law abiding persons.
“But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”
Paul uses a picture in the previous verses which is a little complicated so I’ll try to simplify it. He gives us the example of a woman who’s married to a husband. As long as her husband remains alive, if she marries another she’s an adulteress. But if her husband dies she’s free to marry another man. The application is through the law we were married to our fleshly nature. We were absolutely committed to do what we could in our flesh. As long as our fleshly nature remained alive we were not free to be married to anybody else. But at the cross our fleshly nature was put to death. Can you say praise God? So that we are now free to be married to another. Who’s the other? The resurrected Christ.
You see, when we were married to the flesh what we brought forth was the product of the flesh. Now we’re married to the resurrected Christ. What we bring forth is the product of the Spirit. See the picture?
Let’s go on faithfully plowing ahead. 2Corinthians 3:3. I could spend a couple of hours on this theme, you may have appreciated that. But I’m not going to so you’ll appreciate that, too. Paul says to the Corinthian Christians—I love this statement because Paul says in effect, “If you want to know my theology, go to Corinth. You’ll find it written therein the lives of the people I’ve ministered to.” I like that kind of theology. Paul says, “You want to know what I believe? Go to Corinth. You’ll meet people who were fornicators, adulterers, pimps, homosexuals, drunkards, extortioners, living Godly lives. That’s my theology. They’re my letter.” If the ancient world wanted to know what Paul believed, he said go to Corinth. I don’t want to put it down in a theological treatise. And then he says this:
“You are manifestly a letter [or epistle] of Christ, ministered by us; written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God; not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh.”
That is, of the heart. Here is the difference between law and grace. Law is tablets of stone outside you that says do this and don’t do that. And you say that’s right, I’ll do this and I won’t do that—and you fail because there’s a rebel inside you that doesn’t cooperate. But grace doesn’t hold something up outside you and say do that. Grace by the Holy Spirit writes the laws of God on your heart. And when it’s in your heart that’s the way you live. You see? Solomon said keep your heart with all diligence for everything in life comes out of it. Isn’t that a marvelous thought? You see, I can’t write what I’m trying to communicate on your heart but if the Holy Spirit is here, He’ll write on your heart. None of us by our own efforts, and theology, and ministry can change a single person. But if the Holy Spirit works, He can write on the hearts of those to whom we minister and they become changed. That’s the difference. Law is external, grace is internal.
Going on with these scriptures, Romans 8:14:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Mature sons. What do you have to do to become a mature son of God once you’ve been born again? You have to be led by the Holy Spirit. There is no other path to maturity.
And you see, it’s like this. God says you’ve got a journey to take, you’ve got two options. Here’s a map, it’s perfect. Or, you can have a personal guide. The map is the law, the personal guide is who? The Holy Spirit, that’s right. So, you’re young, strong, healthy, you’ve got two degrees from a university and you say, “Give me the map. I can read maps, I’ll make it.” About 48 hours later it’s the middle of the night, it’s raining hard, pitch dark, you’re on the edge of a precipice and you don’t know whether you’re facing north, south, east or west. Then a gentle voice says, “Can I help you?” The Holy Spirit. “O Holy Spirit, I need you, help me!”
Well, you get out of that mess, you get on to the road, the sun begins to shine and you think, “I was pretty dumb, I didn’t have to get to panicky. I think I’ll have another look at the map.” You do. And when you do, your guide isn’t there. You carry on with the map and about two days later you’re in the middle of a bog and every step you take you’re sinking deeper and you think, “What do I do now? I can’t ask the guide back.” But He comes back. He says, “Let me help you.”
That really is the story of the Christian life. How many times do we have to go back to the map when we’ve got the guide? You say I’m afraid I’ll do the wrong thing without law. Let me tell you one thing for sure. The Holy Spirit will never leave you to do the wrong thing. Okay? If you are truly led by the Holy Spirit you’ll always do the right thing. You cannot rely on your own efforts but God has made for you to escape from the obligations of the law—through the death of Christ on the cross. Our old man was crucified. That’s a general statement. Paul makes it specific. I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. We have to take the general and by our confession make it specific. Would you like to do that to close this session? Say those words after me if you really mean them. And if you don’t mean them, don’t say them.
“I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.”
Do it once more.
“I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.”
Now, heave a deep sigh and say thank God.
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