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TEXT: I Peter 2:24
SUBJECT: The Passion of Jesus Christ #31: Die to Sin, Live to Righteousness
Does Jesus Christ bring us life or death? Most believers would say He brings us life. If you asked them to prove it, they would rattle off a long list of Bible verses, most of them from the Gospel of John. Here's a sample:
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
I am the bread of life.that gives life to the world.
I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that by believing, you might have life through His name.
Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him.
Yes, our Lord came to bring us life. But this is not all He came to bring us. He also came to bring us the gift of death.
If this sounds like a contradiction, it is not. In fact, the death He came to bring us is the other side of life. Or, you might say, it is the life seen from another angle. We ought to be ever mindful of the death He offers us in the Gospel, and deeply thankful for it.
Christ suffered and died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This is the title of Chapter 30 in John Piper's small book, The Passion of Jesus Christ, and the topic of tonight's sermon.
UNION WITH CHRIST
Who died on the cross of Passover Week about 30 AD? If you had been there, you would have said 'three men died that day-two were criminals, and one was the Lord Jesus'. This is what you would have seen with your eyes-three crucifixions. But, if you read the New Testament, you'll find a great many others died that day as well. You wouldn't have seen their bleeding bodies or heard their awful groaning, or smelled the stench of their death, but they were there-they were there every bit as much as the Man on the middle cross.
Who were they? They were the Lord's People, all of us, whom, Paul says, were crucified with Christ, dead with Christ, and buried with Christ.
In what role did our Lord die on the cross? He died as the Bearer of our sins. This means, when He died, our sins died with Him. Or, to use the wording of our verse, we died to our sins. We used to love our sins, serve our sins, and be bound to the fate of our sins. But now, we're not. All because Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
'Crucified with Christ' is a figure of speech, of course, and one you'd do well to spend some serious time thinking about. If it were true, what effect would it have on your temptations?
Tom Johnson was a lifelong lecher. He started chasing girls at the age of twelve, and he never gave up the chase, even when he was too old to remember what he was chasing them for! But now, Tom Johnson, dead, and as a long line of pretty women pass by his coffin, they have no effect on him at all. He has died to lechery.
Susan Anderson was a social climber all of her life. She envied the people above her and scorned the ones below her. But now, Susan Anderson is dead. As the doctors, attorneys, and bankers file past her coffin, she feels no envy at all. When the maids and gardeners bid her farewell, she doesn't despise them. She has died to envy and scorn.
Without pushing the figure of speech too far, this is what happened to us when we died with Christ. The life we used to live was lost, along with its selfish and unwholesome desires. The desires are still in the world, alive and well, you might say. But not for us. Because we're dead with Christ.
DEATH-REAL BUT PARTIAL
The death we have in Christ is a real one. The Bible plainly teaches that we have died-I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). We have been united with Him in death (Romans 6:5). One has died for all, therefore, all have died (II Corinthians 5:14).
The Bible also teaches that our death to sin is not complete. Peter was crucified with Christ, but even after the Day of Pentecost he fell into hypocrisy and came mighty close to heresy. Mark was another fine man who had died to sin, but when things got hot, he ran home to mama. Paul, perhaps the greatest and most consistent disciple in the New Testament confessed, I have not attained, neither am I yet perfect. What was true of the great saints is true of the lesser ones too.
We all have to admit that, though temptations don't have the power over us they once had, there's still some life in them. We have to live with the tension of being dead to sin and, at the same time, dying daily to sin.
Ours is a twilight struggle, long and painful with plenty of losses mixed in with our victories. But the victories over temptation that we've had mean we are dead to sin! As unbelievers, we never once overcame a temptation. Of course, we said no to one sin, but in doing that, we said yes to another. No to some degrading thing, perhaps, but yes to pride or self-righteousness or looking down on others who weren't as successful as we were.
But now, we have some real victory over sin; it's far from perfect, but imperfect doesn't mean unreal. It is real. Sin has lost its lordship over us because we are crucified with Christ.
This provides real hope. The fact that I'm dead to sin means that, in time, I will become-what do I call it? Dead-er? More and more dead to sin. This means you must not despair! If you're going through a rough patch of temptation, keep you head up, when firmly (though imperfectly) resisted temptations become weaker in time. You may not think so; it may seem impossible to you. But it's true. Because we're crucified with Christ, sin is crucified, and this means, it cannot live! Our Lord lived six hours on the cross; the men alongside Him lived longer, it seems, and sin will live longer than they did. But it is doomed. Nobody ever got off a cross alive! And sin won't be the first to do it!
We are truly dead to sin, though the fullness of our death has not yet come. But it will come. In this life, it will come in stages, some of them may be quite noticeable, but most won't be. Most will come so gradually you won't even notice it. But in time, your graces will grow and your sins will wither away. Because you're crucified with Christ.
Theologians say there are four steps in our sanctification (which includes our death to sin). First we have conversion, where the sinner becomes a saint. This is often the most dramatic step-a raging alcoholic becomes a sober disciple of Christ. For others, it's less dramatic, but it remains the decisive moment of your life. It's the moment when you pass from death to life, from the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of God's Dear Son.
The second step is, in fact, a series of steps, it's growth in grace. Under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, believers become holier than they used to be, more mature, more consistent, and more deeply devoted to the Lord Jesus. Growth in grace allows for many backslidings-of which every Christian is aware. But by taking three steps forward and two steps back, you make progress. And that's what we do: progress.
The third step is death, when our souls are made sinless and come to a fuller enjoyment of Christ than any living man has ever had.
The final step is the Resurrection, when our sinless souls are reunited with our glorified bodies, then we will be fully and forever dead to sin, as dead as our Lord was on the cross.
DEATH BY FAITH
Like every part of our salvation, this death to sin is received by faith alone. Why faith? Because faith puts us into Christ, and only in Christ do we die to sin.
Do you want to die to sin? Sin itself is a kind of death, and this death has no good in it. For dying in sin is followed by a Second Death and a sin that eats at you like an immortal worm and burns like a fire that can never go out.
But death to sin is a good death, a death full of life. You can have this death if you want it, by putting your faith in Christ. Connected to Him, your sins will die, for He is an almighty tonic, the only cure-all for what ails you.
A little girl had a string of plastic beads. She wore the beads every day and loved them dearly. One day her father told her to give him the beads and he would give her something better. She didn't want to do it at first, she fought against it for a time, and she wondered why her dad was so mean to take her beads away. Finally, she gave in to her father and he handed her what the plastic beads cheaply imitated: a string of cultured pearls.
The life unbelievers hold on to is like the girl's plastic beads: it's a cheap imitation of real life. Let go of it, die to your sins, and you'll get something better in return: Life.
This is what faith is. Letting go of the beads because your Father has promised you something better in return.
ALIVE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS
Speaking of this 'something better', we die to sin so that we can live to righteousness. We don't die so that we can die, but die so that we can live.
This life is deeply rooted in Christ. Did He love me enough to die for me? Yes He did, and so gratefully I surrender my sins to Him to do the things that make Him happy. At first, they may not make me so happy, because bad habits are hard to break and new ones are painful and awkward to get into. But I'm doing it for Christ. And this sweetens the effort and pain.
Christ suffered and died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. And we will do both, infallibly we will do both. For our Lord's death cannot be in vain. It will accomplish everything it set out to do.
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