This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
We’re continuing with the theme which I entitled “The Cross in My Life.” This teaching is taken mainly from the epistle to the Galatians and in the previous session I began by pointing out that the Galatian Christians, although they were Spirit baptized and had witnessed miracles of God in their midst, were under a sinister satanic power which Paul defined as witchcraft. The evidence was that they’d lost the vision of the cross. They no longer really grasped what had been accomplished for them and in them through the cross. The result was that they had degenerated into carnality and legalism, and were at least in danger of coming under a curse.
I sought to point out that there are two main aspects to the cross. There’s what the cross does for us, which we all get excited about and quite a lot of people preach about. But there’s another side which is what the cross is intended to do in us. And for many people that’s much less exciting. I think a lot less is said about it. I would suggest to you the results of that not being taught are manifest in the church today. In fact, without going into a lot of details, we have seen a lot of sad scandals and problems recently in the church in the United States and other nations. I would say every one of those problems goes back to the root cause that the work of the cross was not effective in the lives of the people involved. In fact, I think in a way that’s the root of all our problems in the Christian life, that we don’t avail ourselves of the provision God has made for what the cross is intended to do in us.
I said also the remarkable thing about Galatians is it not merely pinpoints the problem but it states the solution. The solution is a five-fold deliverance which is provided for us through the cross. And in the previous sessions we looked at the first two deliverances. Galatians 1:4, deliverance from this present evil age. May I just ask a question, because it interests me. I’m not trying to pinpoint anybody but for how many of you was that a new thought that we’ve been delivered from this present evil age? Would you just raise your hands so I can see. Well, that’s really the majority of the people here. I expected it would be that way. I’d have to say this is a truth that the Lord led me to individually, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody else preach it. I’m not saying it’s never been preached. I’m sure in the days of the Puritans and probably in the days of Wesley and other revivals this truth was probably central. That’s why they had revival. And really, there never will be revival without this truth, not genuine revival because the things that are dealt with in us by the cross are the things that hinder revival.
So, the first deliverance was from this present evil age. The second deliverance, how many of you can remember what that was? From the law, that’s right. And that was one which shocked some of you. I do want to say again emphatically I am not talking about civil law. I’m not talking about the law of the nation. I’m talking about the law only as a means of achieving righteousness with God. I personally believe the New Testament teaches that basically, with a few exceptions, Christians are obligated to be law abiding people. The only exceptions would be where the civil law conflicts with our duty to God, in which case our duty to God must come first.
There are three more deliverances that I want to deal with in this session. The next one is in the verse following deliverance from the law. Galatians 2:20, Paul says:
“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.”
And notice again it’s the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that provides this deliverance. What is it that is dealt with in verse 20? You can answer not just in one word but in one letter. I, that’s right. The old ego. You know, ego is the Latin word for I. I think this is as important as any deliverance that’s mentioned in Galatians. I have been crucified with Christ. The Old King James says I am crucified with Christ. It’s not just something that has happened, it’s something that’s a continuing state of my being. I am continuously and permanently crucified with Christ. I have come to the end of myself. Don’t put your hands up, how many of you ever had a hard time coming to the end of yourself? I see some of you are willing to put your hands up anyhow! How many of you discovered that God sometimes has to use a very hard road to bring us to the end of ourselves? And we complain and we are disturbed and upset, we think, “God, what are you doing with me?” He’s bringing you to the place where Galatians 2:20 really is true in your life. I am crucified with Christ. I’ve come to the end of me.
You see, like most ministers I’ve dealt with all sorts of people in all sorts of places. I meet many people who are running away from their problems. They may be running away from their wife, their husband, their family or some particular problem they got in. But what I discover is the real problem is one we can’t run away from because we take it with us wherever we go. What is that? It’s me, myself. The only way that we can get free from that problem is through the cross.
I would interpret this statement as escape from personal ambition, pride and self-centeredness. Let me say those three words again. Personal ambition, pride and self-centeredness. I would say those are by far the commonest problems in the Christian ministry today. I must be careful not to be negative but I think there’s not a single person in the ministry today, including Derek Prince—and primarily Derek Prince, who does not have to be continually on our guard against those three related things: personal ambition, pride and self-centeredness.
I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody in the Christian life goes into error except through pride. Pride is the only reason why Satan can bring us into error. And yet I see countless Christians going into different sorts of error. You see, if you stop to consider, what was the first sin in the history of the universe? Pride, that’s right. And it didn’t take place on earth, it took place in heaven. It took place in the full light of eternity and of God’s glory. That’s a frightening thought, isn’t it? So if pride could break through there, it must be much more easy for pride to break through here on earth. Somebody said this to me once and I think it’s worth bearing in mind. Pride is a sin about which Satan never makes you feel guilty. I mean, I’ve taken that to heart.
And you see, when it comes to self-centeredness—I’m being very open with you—I really got nothing to hide and nothing to lose. I’m in the ministry because God has put me there and as long as it pleases Him to keep me there I’ll be there. When that’s over, I’m not hanging onto anything that I know of. But I was born an only child. I never had brothers or sisters. I was blessed with a good brain and I was always successful at school and in college. Basically, I expected to be number one. I made my way up to the age of 25 that way. A brother that has ministered with me quite a lot in the past said one day that I was the most self reliant person he’d ever met. I don’t know whether that’s true or not but all through the first 25 years of my life I relied on myself. And within limits I did a good job. Then God revealed Himself to me and started to change me. Let me say He hasn’t finished changing me yet but He did a radical work in one night. He totally redirected me. I made a U-turn and I’ve been going in a different direction ever since.
But God, I’d have to say, has a sense of humor because I had no idea what His plan for my life was. About four or five years after I was saved I was married to a Danish lady in Jerusalem who had a children’s home. And not only did I get a wife but I got eight daughters in one day! Now, girls were a strange, remote race to me. So if you could ever think of anybody less qualified by background than me for that position, you’d have to look a long way. All through this I realized for years God had been dealing with my self reliance. I’m one of those people, every time I’m confronted with a problem my first reaction is what am I going to do about it? Thank God I’ve come to the place where I quickly say that’s not the point. What is God’s answer? But it’s taken a long while for me to get there.
Let’s look for a moment in Philippians 2:3–4.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition [or conceit], but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself: let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
So, that’s the exact opposite of self-centeredness, isn’t it? Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. I wonder how much would stop being done in the church if that rule was followed? How much ministry is motivated by selfish ambition? How many ministries are built on somebody’s desire to have the biggest something? I don’t say this to be critical but I just state it as it’s a problem that I think is corrupting the life of the church. It’s a problem that’s got to be dealt with. The only way to deal with it is the cross, there is no other way. You see, the alternative is stated just in the previous two verses of Philippians 2:
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy...”
Those are beautiful things. They’re things we’d all love. But you see, they’re incompatible with selfishness and self-centeredness. Then Paul says:
“...fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
So there are two opposites. Verses 1 and 2 are what we’d all like but verses 3 and 4 are what very frequently we experience in ourselves and in others. And until we come to the cross and accept God’s sentence upon me, we will never have a solution to these problems. There is no other solution, there’s no other way but the cross.
In 2Timothy 3 we have a very vivid picture of what human character and human behavior will be like in the last days. There are actually eighteen specific ethical and moral blemishes that Paul lists. As I read them I invite you to consider how many of them are conspicuous in our contemporary culture. And having lived over 70 years I can think back quite a long way. I grew up in Britain between the two world wars. I’d have to say that Britain, although not by any means a Christian nation, was basically a law abiding people. And I find that when I talk to young British people today and tell them what it was like in those days they can’t believe that I’m telling the truth.
I also visited the nation of Sweden for the first time in l947 for ministry. I’d have to say Sweden was the most God fearing nation that I’d ever been in. You could sense the fear of God in the streets, the people lined up in the streets on Sunday morning to get into the churches. And basically, you could trust the people to be absolutely honest and true to their commitments. I was in Sweden in l983 or 4 and I was interviewed by a young Christian Swedish journalist. He was asking about my background. When I told him what I remembered of Sweden in that time he could not believe that I was describing his own nation—so rapid and so radical has been the moral and ethical slide in Sweden.
I first came to this nation in l967. It was a peaceful, harmonious nation. I don’t mean that everybody was Christian but basically it was almost the kind of place you’d like to come to to get away from your problems. Could that be said today? You see, there’s something going on all over the world. It’s going on with amazing rapidity. We can hardly adjust to the pace of the change. But it’s described here in 2 Timothy 3. One thing I like about the Bible is it tells it as it is. It’s never sentimental, never indulges in wishful thinking, its promises are true but its warnings are equally true. So this is what Paul says:
“But know this [you can be sure of this] that in the last days perilous times will come.”
In the margin of my version the alternative translation for perilous times is times of stress. That’s really remarkable because again, 40 years ago people didn’t talk a lot about stress. Today you can’t go to any doctor without him sort of saying your problem is stress. And he may well be right. But it’s a significant change that’s taken place in the last 50 years.
Now let’s look at the reason for the perilous times. Let me tell you it’s not nuclear fission. The reason for the problem is inside human beings, that’s where the problems begin.
“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God...”
How many of the features of that list are conspicuous in our contemporary culture? And it’s not just in one nation, it’s in many, many nations around the earth. What I want to point out to you is the root of the problems, it’s in the first statement. Men will be lovers of themselves. It’s self love that gives rise to all these other problems. And you would say, well, after all these people are not churchgoers, they’re not Christians. That’s not what Paul says. He says in the next verse:
“...having a form of godliness...”
Paul would never use the word godliness of a non-Christian religion. So these were people who had a form of Christianity but they deny its power. What is the power that they deny? The power that will change selfish people. That’s what Paul’s talking about.
You see, it’s easy for a Christian to be very respectable, to abstain from drugs, alcohol, nicotine and all these obvious sins. And to pay his debts, drive a good car, not infringe the traffic laws. And yet, to be a very self-centered person. Is that true? And such a person has a form of godliness but is denying its power to change people radically. And until self is dealt with we have not been changed radically.
You know what the word radical means? It’s derived from the Latin word ?radics?, a root. Radical is that which goes to the root. And that’s how John the Baptist introduced the gospel and Jesus. He said, “Now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. And every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be hewn down and cast into the fire.” The gospel is the most radical message that has ever confronted humanity. It deals with the root. And the root is selfishness, it’s the self life, self love. And the only axe that will cut that root out is the cross.
See, I became involved in the ministry of deliverance in the l960s. I began to work with the obvious sins like people who needed deliverance from nicotine, or alcohol, or drugs. After a while I discovered I was only dealing with small branches that grew on bigger branches. Some of the bigger branches, one of them was frustration. I find every addiction grows out of a frustration. And if you don’t deal with the frustration you haven’t really solved the problem of the addiction.
And then I realized that I was still dealing with branches but I wasn’t getting to the trunk of the tree. And you see, you can cut down a lot of branches but the tree will go on growing and it will grow more branches.
And finally, God showed me I had to deal with the root. The root is self love, selfishness, self-centeredness. Until that root has been dealt with we really cannot have the benefits of the gospel that God intends us to have. Self and the Christ nature are opposites. We have to let self die and the Christ nature move in and take the place of self. What I’m trying to say is this. Be realistic about yourself. Don’t overestimate your spirituality. I’m not bringing anybody under condemnation because God is gracious, He’s merciful, He’s patient. He’ll go on dealing with us. But don’t deceive yourself that you’re beyond where you really are spiritually. Check on how much self still dominates your life because that will tell you the answer.
In Matthew 16 Jesus stated the rules for following Him. You notice I say rules but because of what I’ve been preaching about rules I’d better say the first steps you have to take. Matthew 16:24–25:
“Jesus said to his disciples...”
He didn’t talk to the crowd.
“...If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life [but the Greek says soul] will lose it; and whoever loses his life [or soul] for my sake will find it.”
So what are the essential first steps if you want to follow Jesus? Not if you want to be born again. You know, being born again has become a kind of label that just exonerates people from the responsibilities of Christianity. I’m born again so don’t tell me that I need to change. I’m not convinced. Jesus says if anyone desires to come after me, what’s the first thing he has to do? Deny himself. What does that mean? Do you know what deny is? It’s say no. So if you want to follow Jesus the first thing you have to do is say no to yourself.
The second thing you have to do is take up your cross. God doesn’t impose the cross on you. He didn’t impose the cross on Jesus. Jesus took up His own cross. What is your cross? There are two definitions I’ll offer you. One is your cross is the place where God’s will and your will cross. The other is it’s the place where you die. It’s your decision, you don’t have to do it. But you can’t follow Jesus till you’ve done it. If you want to come after Him you have to deny yourself, say no to yourself and take up your cross, the place where you’ll die.
And God has a specific cross for each one of us. I’ve met more than one man who thought his wife was his cross. If you can pick your wife up or put her down, maybe. But your cross is something you don’t have to carry, it’s your decision. But you can’t advance any further without it.
What does it mean to deny yourself? Well, in the Greek it’s deny your soul. Generally speaking, Bible commentators say the three functions of the soul are the will, the intellect and the emotions. The will is what says I want, the intellect is what says I think, the emotions are what say I feel. So when you deny yourself you say it’s not what I want, it’s God’s will; it’s not what I think, it’s what God says; it’s not what I feel, it’s what the Holy Spirit impresses upon me. So there are three areas where you have to deny yourself. Not what I want, not what I think, not what I feel. When you’ve done that you can begin to follow Jesus.
After that you can begin to say Philippians 4:13:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The Prince version is:
“I can do all things through the One who empowers me within.”
You cannot receive His power within as long as you’re operating your self life.
Okay, we must move on, we’ve got two more deliverances to consider. The next one is in Galatians 5:24.
“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires.”
What’s the deliverance from there? Crucified the what? The flesh. What are you delivered from there? The flesh, that’s right. We have to define what the flesh is. The flesh is not your physical body. It’s the nature that you received when you were born in your physical body. It’s essentially the nature of a rebel, it has all sorts of desires and feelings that are not in line with God’s will and are not subject to God. God’s remedy is crucifixion. You see, as far as God’s concerned, the crucifixion—well, let me say a little bit more about the nature of the flesh. Notice that phrase there, first of all. Galatians 5:24:
“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires.”
That’s not a denomination but those are the people who belong to God. It’s not Baptists or Pentecostals or Presbyterians. It’s those who are Christ’s. What’s the mark, what separates them out from the others? They have crucified the flesh.
If you turn for a moment to 1Corinthians 15:23, you’ll find the people that Jesus is coming back for. Do you want to know who they are? It’s not the Presbyterians, nor the Baptists, nor the Pentecostals, nor the Catholics. It says in verse 23 about the resurrection:
“Each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits [He’s already risen], afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
Who is He coming for? Those who are Christ’s. What’s the mark of those who are Christ’s? Galatians 5:24, they have crucified the flesh. So who is Jesus coming back for? Christians who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. So now you know how you have to qualify.
We had a lady in our church in London years ago, whenever she prayed she said, “Lord, help us to remember it’ll be too late to be getting ready.” I have never forgotten that. You can’t leave it to the last moment, you’ve left it too late. You have to have already dealt with the flesh.
You see, this nature that we’re talking about is in direct opposition to the will and the way of God. Romans 8:7–8, Paul says the carnal mind—now the word carnal is the same as fleshly, it’s just a different word derived from a Latin root.
“The fleshly mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be; so then those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Those who are controlled by their fleshly nature cannot please God. There is no way you can do it. You can try as hard as you will, you can be as religious as you please but you cannot do it.
And then in Galatians again, 5:17. Paul brings out the same thought. Galatians 5:17:
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit [the Spirit of God], and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary one to another...”
Your natural fleshly desires are contrary to the way and the will of the Spirit of God.
“...so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Maybe that’s a revelation to some of you. You set out with all sorts of good intentions, you consecrate yourself, you go forward at the altar of the church, pray a nice prayer and say, “That’s it.” And about a month later you say how could I have ever got so far away from what I intended to be and do? The answer is the flesh lusts against the Spirit. You have in you an enemy of God and that enemy has to be dealt with. You cannot lead the Christian life successfully until the flesh has been dealt with in you.
Paul had that problem. Perhaps that will encourage you. It’s not a problem just a few people have, it’s universal. You need to read Romans 7 right through sometime and see Paul’s personal struggles against the flesh. My observation is the most dedicated Christians and the ones whom God intends to use the most are the ones who have the main struggles. You see, Pentecostals used to have the attitude—I think it’s changed. I’ve been a Pentecostal for 48 years. The attitude used to be you get saved, baptized in water, baptized in the Spirit, speak in tongues, and you have no more problems. How many of you know it doesn’t work that way? Wish it did. I know it doesn’t. Why? Because it didn’t work with me. And furthermore, I pastored Pentecostals long enough to find out it isn’t like that. The reason is the flesh. It’s an enemy, an enemy of God.
Anyhow, listen to what Paul says about his own experience in Romans 7:15:
“For what I am doing, I do not understand: for what I will to do, that I do not practice but what I hate, that I do.”
None of you have ever had that experience. Paul was unique. Was he—or was he? No, it’s true of all of us. None of us can point a finger at somebody else and say there you are, that’s you. We need to look in the mirror and say there you are, that’s me. But Paul explains the reason, the reason is the fleshly nature in each one of us. It is not subject to God’s law, nor can it be.
I would basically say religion as opposed to salvation is a system of trying to make the flesh behave. It makes it religious but it doesn’t enable it to please God. You see? A lot of religious people are just suppressing the flesh. They’re making it conform outwardly but the inward attitude isn’t there.
In Galatians 5—you notice most of this comes from Galatians—what was the problem of the Galatians? Carnality and legalism. So you see, Paul is dealing with both. And he says in Galatians 5:19:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident...”
There’s a slight difference in the text. Some say one thing, some say another but the difference is not significant.
“The works of the flesh are evident; which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, drunkenness, revelries and the like.”
Now, if you analyze the works of the flesh, they fall into four categories which I’ll briefly mention. First of all, sexual immorality. That is adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness. Most people think that’s what the works of the flesh are. They don’t think there’s any other area that needs to be dealt with. Actually, that’s by no means the greatest problem.
The next area is the occult. Idolatry and sorcery, or the Old King James says witchcraft. That’s a work of the flesh. But when the flesh indulges in it it become demonic, you understand? But the initial motivation for idolatry and witchcraft is the fleshly nature. Witchcraft is humanity’s way of controlling people and getting them to do what you want. Any attempt to control others is the beginning of witchcraft. And when you go much further along that it becomes demonic. So that’s the second category.
The third category which is much the largest is all wrong attitudes and relationships. It lists here hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy. Those are all different descriptions of wrong attitudes and wrong relationships. It’s much the largest area of the flesh. So, those are just as much sins of the flesh as adultery or fornication. But you see, basically speaking, religious people condone those whereas they’re strictly against sexual immorality.
And then the final is what I call sensual self-indulgence. Drunkenness, revelries and the like. But they’re all different expressions of our fleshly nature. They all have to be dealt with.
1Corinthians 3, Paul pinpoints the cause of divisions in the church. If you were asked to say in one phrase what is the cause of all division in the body of Christ, would you have an answer? I believe the answer is very clear. It’s the flesh. All divisions go back to the carnal nature. And until that’s dealt with we’ll always have division in the body. 1Corinthians 3:3–4. Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christians, he says:
“You’re still carnal.”
How does he know?
“For where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal, and behaving like mere men?”
The mere fact that there’s divisions and strife is sufficient evidence that we’re carnal. You see that? Then Paul says how do I know it?
“Some of you say, ‘I am of Paul,’ and others, ‘I am of Apollos,’...”
As long as you are divided by following human leaders rather than Christ, you’re carnal. See, I’ve heard theologians from the old line denominations say the Corinthian Christians were carnal because they spoke so much in tongues. That is not what Paul says. He says you’re carnal because you’re following human leaders rather than following Christ. And he didn’t say it’s all right to be following Paul but not all right to be following Apollos. He said whoever you follow. So you see, people who say, “I am of Luther,” or “I am of Wesley,” or “I am of Calvin,” if they make that their first commitment they come under this category.
A lot of people think theology is the cause of division. It’s not. It’s carnality. Of course, a lot of theology is used carnally but the root cause of division in the body of Christ is the flesh. And the only solution is the cross. We need to deal with that, each one in our own situation.
In Romans 6:6, a passage that we continually go back to, Paul states that God has provided the solution.
“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.”
So that’s God’s provision: execution. But, God has made the provision, we must apply it. You understand? Christ has done His part, we have to add ours. There’s a passage in 1 Peter which has spoken to me so powerfully. 1Peter 4:1–2:
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind...”
In other words, be prepared for the same thing.
“...for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”
That’s a rather surprising statement. He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. For a long while I wondered about that because I thought to myself Jesus suffered on our behalf. So, why do we have to suffer? I think God made it clear to me. Jesus has made the provision, we have to apply it. Our old man was crucified, that’s happened. But Galatians 5:24 says those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh. Who does it there? Not God but we. And crucifixion any way you look at it is painful. So what do we have to do? We have to crucify our fleshly nature, we have to take those evil, rebellious desires and attitudes and we have to nail them to the cross. One nail through my right hand, one nail through my left hand, one nail through my feet. I have to do that. That’s not done for me. It’s painful but it’s the way out of sin. He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.
Now let me give you an example because otherwise it’s difficult for you to understand. The example I usually take is this fine young Christian lady of about 20 years old who is a committed Christian. She’s a member of a good fellowship, she has a pastor who is a godly man who really cares for her soul. But she becomes emotionally involved with a man who is not a committed Christian. He’ll go to church just to get her but he really has never made a commitment of his life. And her godly pastor says don’t get involved with him, he’s not really a committed Christian—it won’t work out. She’s got two options. Each of them is painful. She can accept her pastor’s advice and nail her feelings and desires to the cross. I love him, that’s not the most important thing. I want to be married, that’s not the most important thing. I’m afraid of being lonely, that’s not the most important thing. Every one of those attitudes has to be nailed to the cross. That’s painful. But it doesn’t last for long. After a little while there’s a glorious freedom. And if we want a happy ending to the story, in due course the right man comes along and she really gets married and is happy. That’s the happy side.
Now suppose that she doesn’t do what she ought to do. Suppose that she doesn’t crucify her attitudes and her desires and her emotions. She goes ahead and marries him. All right. Fifteen years later after she’s had three children he walks out with another woman. She has to pick up the pieces of her life and handle a family without a head. That’s far more painful. And it lasts far longer. Hopefully at the end of it all she learns her lesson. She says I was self willed, self pleasing, I gave way to my flesh, I didn’t accept the cross.
I was giving this example to a group a while back and a lady who was right in the front row right in front of me said, “You’ve told my story exactly” when I finished. She had just been divorced and her husband left her with six children. I’m not saying all divorce springs from that cause but a lot of unhappy marriages of Christians are the result of not crucifying the flesh.
So, what are you going to do? Are you going to take God’s solution which is painful, let’s not be sentimental about it. It’s painful to deny your strongest desires and wishes and feelings. Or are you going to refuse the cross and suffer the consequences which will be, in the long run, much more painful. That’s the decision we have to make.
I must move on to the fifth and final deliverance. Galatians 6:14:
“God forbid that I should glory [or boast] except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Come on, you theologians, what’s the deliverance from there? The world. Are you happy about that or does it cause you mixed emotions? Let’s define the world first. Worldly is one of those terms that Christians use to criticize other Christians. That’s not God’s purpose. I mean, I’ve been through all that, I don’t want to go through it again. You know, all the seventeen rules of what you must not do in order not to be worldly. I would say basically the people who make those rules are very worldly people, but that’s just by the way. What do we mean by the world? I’ll give you my definition. The world is a social order or a system of life which refuses the righteous government of Jesus Christ. Because, Jesus is God’s appointed governor, He’s qualified, He’s met the conditions, He’s the only one God will appoint as ruler of the human race. But the world is a system, an attitude that refuses the righteous government of Jesus. Worldly people can be religious, they can be nice, they can be respectable but when you challenge them with unreserved submission to the Lordship of Jesus, that attitude comes out. That’s the world.
Let’s look at a few things that the New Testament tells us about the world. John 15:18–19, two remarkable verses because in these two verses Jesus uses the phrase “the world” six times in two brief verses. He says to His disciples:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
What did Jesus do to us? He chose us out of the world. You see, the word for church in New Testament Greek, ekklesia—from which we get the word ecclesiastical and so on—means literally a company of people called out. Called out from what? From the world. So you can either be in the world or you can be in the church but you cannot be in both. They’re mutually exclusive.
Let’s see what John says about the attractiveness of the world, the glamour of the world. 1John 2:15–17:
“Do not love the world, or the things in the world.”
I think that’s kind of a question of age. If you’re under 25 the temptation is to love the world. It seems so glamorous, it seems so exciting, it seems to have such a lot to offer. But all its glamour is tinsel, there’s no reality to it. If you’re over 25 or over 40, your problem will not be so much loving the world as loving something in the world like a special kind of car, or a special kind of house, or special clothes. You understand? There’s just something that draws you. Older people probably are disillusioned about the world but there’s still something in the world that holds onto them. It may be something intellectual, it may be reading all sorts of books which you shouldn’t be reading. You shouldn’t be filling your mind with a lot of garbage but because of your intellectual background there’s still something that holds onto you. I have a principle, I try never to fill my mind with garbage. If I think anything is unhealthy for my mind, the moment that I sense it’s unhealthy I close my mind and shut it off. I do not want to carry garbage in my mind. But a whole lot of Christians who wouldn’t indulge in immorality or sensuality indulge in a lot of intellectual garbage gathering. And that’s the way the world still holds on to their lives.
Let’s see what John goes on to say.
“If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
You cannot love the world and God the Father at the same time. You have to choose.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Everything in the world is not of God the Father. That’s this world system. And John mentions three specific types of temptation, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. In the original temptation in the garden of Eden there were all three. The fruit on the tree was good for food, it was pleasant to the eyes, it was to be desired to make one wise. That’s the pride of life. The pride of life is I’m pretty clever, I can handle life on my own. I don’t need God. That’s all of the world, it is not of the Father.
You see, if I may say so, the essence of sin originally was not the desire to do evil because the temptation was good—be like God, know good and evil. There’s nothing wrong with that. The essence of sin is the desire to be independent of God. And that’s the pride of life. And as long as there’s anything in us that resists depending on God, the pride of life has not been dealt with in us.
Then John says:
“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it...”
It’s all impermanent. It’s not going to last. Can you say amen to that? It’s hard to believe that, isn’t it? But it’s true.
“...but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
That’s an exciting statement. If I will renounce the things of the world and align my will totally with the will of God, I am as unshakable and undefeatable and unsinkable as the will of God. There’s nothing that can defeat me because there’s nothing that can defeat the will of God.
So, there’s the options. Stay embroiled with the world and suffer its miseries or turn your back on the world, align yourself with the will of God and become unsinkable, undefeatable.
Concerning the world, it’s amazing how much the apostle John tells us about the world. He’s the chief writer. In 1John 5:19, John makes a sweeping statement:
“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”
Who is the wicked one? Satan. The Greek is even simpler. It says the whole world lies in the wicked one. The whole world. It’s under the sway of Satan.
And then in Revelation 12:9 we have this picture of the many facets of Satan and it calls him the great dragon, the serpent of old, the devil—that’s the slanderer—and Satan the resister who deceives the whole world. The whole world is under the deception of Satan, you understand.
In James 4:4, James says:
“Adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that the love of the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be the friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
We cannot love God and the world simultaneously.
John 14, Jesus said the ruler of this world comes and has nothing in me. You see, the question is do we have a fifth column? Does Satan have a fifth column in us. Do you know the origin of the world fifth column? Well, there was a war in Spain, civil war, Spaniards fighting Spaniards. There was a certain Spanish general besieging a Spanish city and another general said to him, “What is your plan to capture this city?” And he said, “I have four columns advancing on the city: from the north, the south, the east and the west.” Then he paused and said, “But it’s my fifth column that will take the city for me.” The other general said, “Where is your fifth column?” He replied, “Inside the city.” See, the church is never defeated from without. Jesus was never defeated from without, you and I will never be defeated from without. But, if there’s a fifth column inside us, that’s how we’ll be defeated.
Let me end with a little parable about the ship and the sea. Some of you have heard that before. A ship in the sea is all right. The sea in a ship is all wrong. What’s the application? The church in the world is all right. The world in the church is all wrong. What happens when the sea gets into a ship? It sinks. What happens when the world gets into the church? It sinks. The only remedy is the cross.
Let me quickly recapitulate the five deliverances here in Galatians. From this present evil age, from the law, from self, from the flesh, and from the world. I like to close with the words of Paul. God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me and I to the world.