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he "Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness"
To Make us Die to Sin and Live for Righteousness
There are many wonderful truths to be discovered in the Bible.
One of those wonderful truths, that is familiar to all of you, is that Jesus died so that those who believe in him might never know the miseries of eternal death and separation from God. This truth is of course to be found, amongst other places, in the third chapter of John’s Gospel where we read:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (Jn.3:16)
This is good news and it is news that we all need to hear, understand and respond to. I hope that all of you have done all of that!
Yes, Jesus died that all who believe might live – glorious truth! – but at the same time the Bible teaches that there is a very real sense in which Jesus’ died so that his people might die with him!
It is to this aspect of Jesus’ death that we must direct our thoughts this evening.
The Christian’s Union with Christ
As far as God is concerned when Jesus died on the cross all those who believe in him, that is all of his true followers, were also present. Jesus’ death involves us profoundly and this has far reaching implications for all his actual and all his would-
You see when a person turns in repentance and faith to the Lord Jesus Christ and becomes a believer he not only accepts Jesus as his Saviour but he also accept his own death as a sinner – for his old life as a sinner is brought to an end as he ‘dies’ with Christ. Conversion is the "equivalent of dying to sin".
The Bible is really quite clear about this -
Rom.6:5 "we have been united with him in a death like his"
2Cor.5:14 "one has died for all, therefore all have died;"
The evidence that the believer has thus died with Christ is his faith which expresses itself in the new life that he now enjoys:
Gal.2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
This bringing to an end of an old way of life and its replacement with a new is the stuff and substance of NT teaching. Everywhere conversion and coming to faith in Christ is spoken of as something highly important and far-
The type language that accompanies conversion emphasises the great scale and scope of this work of God in the soul of man. Thus we are familiar with terms such as a new creation, a birth, a new life, a new man, a new hope, a new commandment, a new covenant.
Think about baptism for a moment. Baptism is the outward sign of an inner grace; it signifies the entry of a person into the Christian faith and the beginning of the life of faith. Paul, writing to the Romans about baptism does so in terms of a death and a new life:
In Christian baptism water represents the grave and immersion in water is a picture that speaks then of death and burial. A baptism is completed not when a person is plunged under the waters but when that same person re-
The believer’s identification with Christ in his death is directly related to Jesus’ death for his sins. Indeed as Peter puts it:
1Pet.2:24 "(he)... bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."
And so in his new life the believer is not to go on living in the same old way that had characterised his life prior to his conversion. Jesus did not die for our sins in order to leave us in them but in order to totally transform us. Our new lives are now destined to be characterised by uprightness and righteousness the very qualities that our sin had destroyed.
The Example of Lazarus
We read earlier in the service the account of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead and some of the detail of that story serves well to illustrate the new life to which the believer is introduced.
Lazarus had died and been laid in the tomb and he had been there for four days in the heat of the Middle East before Jesus arrived on the scene. His sister Martha knew that after this amount of time his body would already have begun to decompose consequently she was hesitant to have the stone rolled back from the tomb: she knew that her brother’s corpse would stink.
Nevertheless Jesus insisted. The stone was rolled away and Jesus called Lazarus back to life and the dead man was restored to life. When he emerged from the tomb he was however still wrapped up in the grave clothes which would themselves now be soiled.
What do you think?
Were those old grave clothes appropriate clothing for a man who was now alive?
Of course they weren’t. They were fine for the tomb; they fitted with the old, with the past but not at all with the new.
Not surprisingly Jesus issued some more instructions. Lazarus was to be set free from those old smelly grave clothes – he had a new life to live after all.
Now I suppose it could have been possible for Lazarus to return to the tomb the following day and to collect together all those rotting rags and to dress himself in them once again – but I bet he didn’t! How foolish that would have been, how inappropriate! He had a new life to live!
Similarly for us who believe. We have died with Christ and the death we have died is a death to sin, a death to the old way of life. We can compare our former lifestyle dominated by sin to those stinking old grave clothes that Lazarus had worn – yes, we could go back to our old sins but how foolish and how inappropriate. We have been set free from everything that has the odour of death about it and we have been set free in order to live our lives the way God wants us to.
Let the "dog return to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, return to wallow in the mire." but let not the Christian imitate them.
Jesus warned of the folly of having once put the hand to the plough only then to turn back.
Such turning back may suit the seed sown among thorns or the seed sown on stony ground but it is most definitely not the sort of behaviour that befits seed sown in good soil!
Now perhaps some of you are thinking that that sounds all very good but it doesn’t match up with my experience very well. I believe in Jesus, you say, and I have put my trust in Jesus but I still go on sinning and doing what is wrong. It doesn’t look very much at all like I’ve died to sin!
And you would be right in a measure to want to raise such matters – after all it is clearly wrong for someone who has died to sin to go on living in sin (Rom.6:2).
Paul is the one who dealt at length with this question and the way in which he dealt with it was not to deny for one moment that a believer had together with Christ died to sin. Instead he repeats this fundamental gospel truth:
Rom.6:6 "We know that our old self was crucified with him..."
Rom.6:8 "Now if (or since) we have died with Christ..."
As Paul does this he underlines the purpose and the expected consequences of such a dying with Christ:
Rom.6:6 continues with "in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin."
Our old relationship with sin has undergone a radical fundamental and definitive change the moment we have been converted. We have died to sin and we must seriously take that fact onboard, we must believe God’s word rather than trust in our feelings or in the way in which we understand our experiences.
Listen to how Paul continues:
First let’s be clear about what Paul is NOT saying. Paul is not saying that the Christian believer is to pretend that something is true when it isn’t. What Paul is calling upon us to do as Christians is to actively take Christian doctrine into account in our lives. We are not simply to depend act upon our feelings and assume they are telling us the truth. If we have died with Christ then we are to act upon that fact in our lives.
We are dead to sin
We are alive to God
We are not obligated to do what sin wants us to
We are free to present ourselves to God and no longer to present ourselves to sin
Before we became Christians sin dominated us completely – we might not have been as bad as it was possible to be but everything about us was contaminated by the pollution that is sin. We were slaves and could do nothing about it.
But that has all changed since Christ died for us and included us in his death! Sin may bark its orders but we are no longer compelled to obey as we once were.
That does not mean that we never slip up, that we never make mistakes and that we never sin any more – and we should not try to suggest otherwise as the NT is clear that Christians do regrettably sin. Having formed sinful habits over long years of practice it may at times be very easy to slip back into our old ways. However while sin was the inevitable fruit of our lives while we were mere sinners it really is an aberration in the life of a believer. There is provision made for a Christian who slides into sin – confession to God leads to forgiveness and renewed cleansing. But the fact that such provision has been made is by no means to be taken to mean that the Christian can go on sinning with impunity.
There is a world of difference between a natural fruit and an aberration! When sin occurs as an aberration in a Christian’s life it leads to grief and sorrow. Whereas when sin happens as natural fruit in a sinner’s life it tends to cause little fundamental heart-
A sinner is one who sins habitually – the sinner who goes to Christ for forgiveness is made a child of God and this is such a profound change that he/she no longer seems to be called a sinner any longer. A believer who commits sin from time to time, yes, but to be called a sinner as though nothing had happened, no. A Christian is a saint who sometimes sins, not a sinner who sometimes does what is right.
Paul is saying that the right use of Christian doctrine will have a profound impact and influence in a believer’s life. Taking God at his word – which is the essence of faith – will prove productive. We are to think of ourselves in terms of our new identity in Christ – our old man is no longer our true identity.
We will make progress in overcoming sin and in resisting temptation.
We will make progress in pleasing God
We will make progress in becoming more like the Lord Jesus and this after all is God’s great design for his chosen ones:
Rom.8:29 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
1Cor.15:49 "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven."
1Jn.3:2 "Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."