But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.
~ Daniel 5:20-21
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
~ Galatians 5:24
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
~ 1 John 5:4-5
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
A New Life, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
~ Galatians 6:14
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace:
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious measure,
Sung by flaming tongues above:
O the vast, the boundless treasure
Of my Lord’s unchanging love!
— R. Robinson
That is what we have been trying to do in our consideration of Paul’s great words in Galatians—to take in the greatness of this boundless treasure. It is so grand, so glorious, that all efforts and endeavours will inevitably fail, and yet it is our business to look at it and to examine it and survey it, that something of the vastness of its glory may shine in upon us.
We must remember that the cross had been a stumbling block to Paul once. The idea that a saviour should die in helplessness upon a cross was ridiculous. The Saviour was to be a great and mighty man, a military person, a man of power who should be attended with great pomp and ceremony. The idea that this man who was born in a stable in Bethlehem and had worked as a carpenter, who had not even been trained as a Pharisee, the idea that he should be the long expected Messiah, and that this death of his upon the cross was the crowning glory of his life and of his coming, the thing was a stumbling block to him. It was ridiculous. It was blasphemy. Also, Paul had persecuted the church of Christ, and, as he told the very august company one day when he was appearing before the Roman governor Festus and King Agrippa, ‘I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 26:9). That was his position.
And the thing he especially despised was this death upon the cross. But yet, what he is saying here now is that this means everything to him. ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.’ What he is saying here, is that this is the lynch pin, the centre of everything. This is the greatest thing in the world, the greatest thing that mankind has ever known, the greatest thing that ever happened. Notice that he does not say that he admires it, he does not say that he is going to try to set out to imitate it. Many have said both these things. He does not say that it is just one incident in a remarkable life, a tragic one, a very regrettable one, that is not what he says at all. Neither, let us observe, does he say that it is just something at the beginning of the Christian life. There are many Christians who have said that in one way or another. You start with the cross, they say, then you go on to what they call a deeper Christian life. The cross, they say, is only for conversion, the cross only deals with forgiveness of sins. It is something that marks the beginning, and then you go on and you do not come back any more to the cross. You start there, but then you leave it, and you go on to the deeper depths of the spiritual life.
That is not what the apostle Paul says. Here is a man writing at the full height of his maturity as a Christian, the great apostle to the gentiles. At the very height of his experience he says, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ He has not left it to go on to some higher reaches. The cross is still everything to him. Why? Because, he has found that everything proceeds from the cross. It is the source and the fount of everything that he has as a Christian, everything that he has become, everything that he can ever hope for. And what I have been trying to do is to draw out these different aspects of the cross which the great Apostle had come to see and which in his various epistles he helps us to see likewise. So now, let us look at it like this. We have seen that Paul says that the cross has put him in an entirely new position, that he was crucified with Christ, that when Christ died he died, and that that is true of all who believe in Christ, that they die with him, and they finish with the law, they are under grace, and they start living a new kind of life.
Now I want to consider that aspect of the matter a little further just to show again how everything proceeds from the cross, and how a Christian is a man who glories in the cross. If the cross is not central to you, you are not a Christian. You may say that you admire Jesus and his teaching, that does not make you a Christian. You can do that and be a Mohammedan. You can do that and still remain in the Jewish religion. You can do that and remain just a moralist. No, the cross is vital, the cross is central, everything comes out of it. Let me put it to you like this. The Apostle tells us that the cross governs his view of himself and that he has a new view of himself as a result of the cross. This, of course, has been implicit on several occasions already as we have seen as we have dealt with this matter, but I am now going to put it explicitly to you. I am going to work it out with you, because it is, after all, one of the most glorious aspects of this great doctrine of the cross of Christ. It gives a man an entirely different view of himself.
Now, how does that happen? If you read 2 Corinthians 5 you will find that he there expands this aspect in a particularly clear manner. He has got two great things to say: ‘Wherefore,’ he says in verse 16, ‘henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.’ That is one. But here is another in verses 14–15: ‘For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.’ What he is saying in that chapter is all summarized in verse 17 when he puts this astonishing statement before us: ‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’ And among the ‘all things’ that have become new, is a man’s view of himself. He has an entirely new view of himself, and one of the most wonderful things that the cross of Christ does to a man who knows its meaning and understands what happened there, is that it delivers him from himself; and this is one of the most glorious deliverances a man can ever know, to be free and delivered from himself.
Let us work this out. The Apostle puts it like this. He says that a man as he is by nature, a man who is not a Christian and who has not seen the message of the cross, he has got a view of himself. And, according to the Apostle, he views himself after or, if you like, according to the flesh. Now if you are familiar with Paul’s writings, you will know that he always makes a contrast between the flesh and the spirit. Seeing things ‘after the flesh’ means seeing things as they are without the light that the Lord Jesus Christ casts upon them through the Holy Spirit. So left to himself, without the light of Christ, this is how man thinks of himself. He thinks of himself always, of course, in terms of the things that are true of him. Birth, this state into which he was born, where he was born, his father and mother, grandfather, grandmother, antecedents, lineage, all that concerns him, is all there. The Apostle was never tired of referring to this, because of this tremendous change that had taken place in him. He could not get over it. Let me quote to you again what he says in Philippians 3: ‘Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless’ (vv. 5–6). That was how he used to think about himself, and that is the sort of way in which every man by nature thinks of himself. Birth, antecedents, pedigree.
Not only that, he thinks in terms of his station in life, and his position in life. What class are you born into? What is your position? Then in terms of wealth. Born wealthy, born poor. These are the distinctions, the world is full of them, the world is divided up along these lines today, and we know all about it, and we know of all the jealousy and the rivalry, and we know of all the despising. It is there, this is humanity, this is life, this is man without Christ. And then, of course, he thinks of himself in terms of his inbred natural powers and propensities. Has he got a good mind, or a good brain? Can he think, or is he like those lesser breeds without the law? Is he a man of understanding, or is he just a man who is taken in by everything that comes along, and who lives only for pleasure? A man thinks of himself in terms of his ability, his knowledge, his understanding, his grasp of affairs or of some particular study. These are the ways in which a man thinks of himself.
And then he thinks in terms of his goodness. I am trying to reduce what the Apostle says about himself in Philippians 3 to a number of principles, to show that they are universally true. This is where you get the rivalry between nations, nationalism, and all the bitterness and the things that are destroying the modern world—apartheid, and anti-semitism and all the other things that are disgracing the life of humanity. All these arise because men think of themselves in natural human terms. And then other things come in—goodness, as against badness, and here religion comes in. People are proud of being religious, proud of the fact that they are religious, always brought up to be so, they say, carrying on a noble tradition. And these are the ways in which they tend to think of themselves. They do so entirely in terms of the way in which they find themselves, because a man does not determine his birth or who his parents are going to be; he does not choose his own pedigree, he does not choose his own powers, even. It does not behove us to be proud of any power we may have, we have not produced it. Shakespeare did not produce his powers, he was born with them. Every man is born in the way that he finds himself. We can use and develop the powers, but we cannot create them. That is where all this pride in these things is so monstrous and so ridiculous. So that is the first thing that the Apostle tells us about this view of self, without the light cast upon it by the cross of Christ.
The second characteristic of that view is that it is entirely self-centred. The Apostle puts it like this, when he says that ‘(He the Lord) died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again’ (2 Cor 5:15). Man by nature lives unto himself. Paul did. He did it as Saul of Tarsus; we have all done it. And this is one of the tragedies of man. Man lives for self in all its varied forms. Self- consciousness, awareness of self the whole time, watching self, regarding self, leading to pride in self. This, with the previous things, leads to pride, self conceit.
But perhaps the most troublesome thing of all and the most tragic thing of all is self-centredness, and this is the curse of the human race since men fell. What most of us need above everything else is to get away from ourselves, to forget ourselves. But we revolve around ourselves. We are the centre of our universe and we are always looking at ourselves, and everything is judged and evaluated in terms of us— what it means to me, what it does to me. All our rivalries, all our bitterness and jealousies come out of that. It is true of individuals, it is true of nations. Self-centredness. And then in addition to that, selfishness, of course. Wanting everything for this self. No wonder Paul says we should no longer live unto ourselves but unto him who died for us and rose again. The self-centred man or woman is always selfish, obviously. Feeding this self, pandering to it, wanting it to obtain things, wanting others not to have it, everything to build up and to satisfy this horrid, terrible self, which governs us and which controls us. All that leads, of course, to being sensitive, seeing insults where they are not meant, and where indeed they very often do not exist. Hyper-sensitive. Always afraid somebody is going to detract from us. Feeling somebody is trying to do so. Feeling hurt, feeling wounded. And that in turn leads to self-protection. Self-protectiveness. We spend a lot of our time protecting ourselves, even trying to avoid the possibility of something that might harm us. It becomes quite a great business, always protecting this delicate, hypersensitive self at the centre.
On top of all this, and this is the most mysterious thing of all about mankind, in spite of all I have just been saying, man as he is by nature is, in the main, self-reliant and self-confident.
In other words, he believes that he has it in him to make a success. ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’ He does not like religion because it tells him that he cannot save himself. He objects to it. He believes that he can. He has the power, it is in him. ‘Believe in thyself,’ says the whole psychology of the world, and he is ready to do so. Trust yourself. Be yourself. So the life of man is governed in this way, by this entirely wrong and false view of himself. He lives through himself. He is the beginning and the end. He is his own god, he is autonomous. Self-centred, autonomous, modern independent man, who does not believe in a god because he does not need him, because he himself is someone, and yet you see that the whole time here he is, nervous, apprehensive, afraid, sensitive, hypersensitive. That is how this great man was as Saul of Tarsus, before he met the Son of God on the road to Damascus, and saw the meaning of his death upon the cross.
What difference, then, did it make? Well, let me give a new view. ‘If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away’—all that has gone—‘behold all things are become new’ (2 Cor 5:17). And there was nothing that thrilled this mighty man more than the new view that he now had of himself. He had been liberated from all that old life. It was a terrible life when he really saw what it meant. It was a sham, it was a fraud; it was always insecure and it never gave real peace of heart, rest and satisfaction. But now it is all different. He has a new view of himself through the cross. It is the cross that has really shown himself to himself. He has seen that he, like everybody else, is a sinner, and a vile sinner at that. He has seen that he is full of sin, that he is unworthy, that he is vile. Once a man sees himself in the light of the cross, he sees the horror of that self- centred view in its every aspect. It is all wrong; it is not true. It is because that view is not true of any of us, that the world is as it is, with all the strife and tension and the animosity, the unhappiness and the misery. Self is the cause of all these things.
So here you find that the Apostle when he comes to write about himself and about men in general, now begins to say things like this—‘There is none righteous, no, not one’ (Rom 3:10). You see, he had said before that touching the righteousness which is of the law he was blameless, but that was because he had got his own private interpretation of the law, as all the Pharisees had. Now he sees the truth of the law, and he is convicted. The law says ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and the moment a man realizes that coveting is a sin, he knows he is a sinner. Everybody has sinned. You may not have done the thing, but if you wanted to, and if, perhaps, the only reason why you did not do it was because you had not the courage to do it, that means you are a terrible sinner. Coveting, condemned, the law revived, sin revived, I died.
He says the whole world lieth guilty before God. ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.’ ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,’ and he is involved, he is among them. And not only that, he sees that he is a failure. This man who had been so self-confident and self-satisfied, so proud of his morality and his religion, and his knowledge of the law, cries out in an agony, ‘Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (Rom 7:24). Sin within him, sin in his members. He knows what he wants to do but he cannot do it. He knows the law is good and righteous and holy, but he himself is sold under sin. To do good, he says, is one thing, to desire to do good is one thing, to do it is another thing. When I would do good, evil is present with me, ‘For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do’ (Rom 7:19). Here I am—with my mind I desire to keep the law of God, but I find another law in my members, dragging me down and enslaving me. He had seen all that, so now he has an entirely new view of himself, and he realizes that he is entirely without strength. He commends the love of God in Christ to the Romans by putting it like this, ‘For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ We were without strength. ‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (5:6, 8). And again, ‘For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God …’ (v.10). But he thought he was serving God. He thought he was a most godly man, and very pleasing in God’s sight. He says—I came to see that I was an enemy of God, I was not worshipping and serving God, I was worshipping and serving myself. That is why I was proud of my morality, proud of my religion, proud of my understanding. I was not serving God, I was my god, though I thought I was pleasing God.
It is the cross that showed him all this, because, there on the cross, what the Lord Jesus Christ was telling him, telling all of us, was that he had come into this world, and had had to go to the death on the cross, because we are what we are: because we are sinners, because we are failures, because we are helpless, because we are lost, that there is no good thing in us, more, that we are dead, spiritually dead, and to be spiritually dead means that we do not know God. We may talk about God, but we do not know him. That is what spiritual death means. Our Lord says, ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ (Jn 17:3), and to be dead is the exact opposite. It means that you do not know God, that you do not know Jesus Christ.
Now, God is a living God, and he wants to be known. He made man in order that man might know him and in order that he might have fellowship with him. Man was meant to be the companion of God, and you and I are not merely to discuss God or to talk about God as if he were some philosopher. God is to be known, the God who spoke to Abraham as a friend. Abraham knew him and so did Isaac and Jacob. All these men, the patriarchs and the saints of the Old Testament, they knew God. David speaks to him with an intimacy. Do you know God? If you do not, it is because you are dead, spiritually dead, and the Apostle came to see that that was his state and condition. ‘And you hath he quickened,’ he says to the Ephesians, ‘who were dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph 2:1) and he was one of them. ‘The children of wrath,’ he says, ‘even as others’ (Eph 2:3). At the cross Paul comes to see all this. The cross shows him that the Son of God would never have died on that cross but for the fact that men were in this desperate plight. If they could have been saved in any other way, they would have been. But it was not possible, and therefore the cross proclaims that man is completely hopeless and vile. But thank God, it does not stop there. You see, what Paul had learned from the cross is that the Lord Jesus Christ had died for him there in order to deliver him.
Now many terms are used to explain this, and one of them is the term of paying a ransom, paying a price. Man has become the slave of the devil and of sin, and of evil, and he has got to be bought. The Apostle says that he discovered that what was happening on the cross, was that the Lord Jesus Christ was purchasing him, so he writes to the Corinthians about morality and behaviour and he puts it like this: ‘What?’ he says, ‘know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s’(1 Cor 6:19–20).
Now then, here the new view comes in. He was the slave of the devil, the slave of the world, the slave of sin, and of evil. He could not get free, try as he would. But he has been bought out. He has been delivered, he has been set free. He has been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son. He has been redeemed. And now he has got a new view of himself. He is not his own, he does not belong to himself any more. He formerly lived to himself, but no longer, he has been bought with a price. He has a new life, he is in a new world. You know, this so grips and thrills this man, that he cannot stop saying it. He says it everywhere. I have quoted you 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, but listen to him saying it in Galatians 2:20, the very epistle we are studying: ‘I,’ he says, ‘am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ You see the difference, what a tremendous statement this is: ‘I live, yet not I.’ In other words, he says, I am not what I was. I used to live to myself, and for myself. Now I live, yet not I. It is not that any longer, it is this: ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’—on the cross.
So you see, it is an entirely new type of life. He is not living as he was before. The cross has changed everything for him. He lives now not unto himself —‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ Or listen to him saying it again, in the epistle to the Romans at the beginning of chapter 8. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For’—note this—‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’ He used to live the life of the law, unto the law of sin and death, a life of sinning and condemnation and fear of death and the grave, of bondage, of the tyranny of that life under the law. ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free …’ he is no longer living there, he is living here, he is a new man. He has an entirely new outlook upon life and it is all summed up in that great phrase, ‘I, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’. He is no longer living unto or for himself, but he is living unto him who died for him and rose again. That is his great argument in 2 Corinthians 5, ‘… because we thus judge,’ he says, ‘that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.’ It is an absolutely new life with an entirely new view of himself, what he is, what he is meant to be: ‘old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’ I, yet not I. ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’
Is it surprising that this man glories in the cross? He is still living in this world, and people can be very difficult, so he writes like this in the first epistle to the Corinthians: ‘Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God’ (4:1). When you think of me, he says, think of me like that. Do not think of me as Paul, because the moment you do that you will think of Apollos and Cephas and you will be arguing which is the greater man. Think of us as the steward ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. ‘Moreover,’ he says, ‘it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.’ And further: ‘But with me, it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord’ (1 Cor 4:2–4). What a deliverance. Look, says Paul, you really do not trouble me. Say what you like about me, you cannot affect me any longer. With me, it is a very small thing that I be judged of you or of any man’s judgement. Do you know that experience? Are you like that? Are you immune to criticism? Can you say that you are unconcerned by what people think about you? Can you not see that it would be heaven to be able to say that? Think of the misery and the unhappiness that is caused to you because you are afraid of what people think, what people say. Here is a man who has been delivered from himself, and says, ‘with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of any man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.’ Not only does he not worry about what other people think of him, he has even stopped thinking about himself.
Have you ever thought of the amount of time you waste in thinking about yourself—looking at yourself, preening yourself, examining yourself, awarding marks, afraid of others? A sheer waste of time, and an abomination. I am not only not concerned, he says, about what other people think of me, I do not even think about myself. I have finished with myself, my judge is the Lord, and I live to him and to his praise, I, yet not I. ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and who gave himself for me.’ What a change. What a deliverance. And it is the cross that has done it all. You are not your own, because you have been bought with a price, and the price was the precious blood of Christ, ‘as of a lamb without blemish and without spot’. Now, because of this new view of himself, Paul has also got an entirely new view of the whole of life and all its attendant circumstances. He now knows how to live in a new way, and we all need to learn that, do we not? Before, it was a question of moral striving, vain effort, trying to be good, trying to keep the law, trying to be moral, trying to be religious. But having to do it all himself. And all being done for self and all leading to nothing but utter, absolute, failure. And another of the wonderful things that is done to us by the cross of Christ, when we truly understand its meaning, is that it changes all that. It enables us to live in an entirely new manner. Read again what this same man, the apostle Paul, writes to the Romans. Look at chapter 8 again. I have already quoted verses 1 and 2, and I will now quote verses 3 and 4: ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ It is the whole explanation of the cross. It was on the cross that God condemned sin and the flesh in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. In other words, the cross gives a man an entirely new outlook upon how to live life in this world.
And this is how it does it. Before a man sees the meaning of the message of the cross, he thinks in terms of good and bad, he thinks in terms of actions, but he cannot get any further, and because he cannot get any further, he cannot do what he wants to do. But the cross gives us an entirely new view of sin, and it shows us that sin is our greatest enemy. It shows us things we like and things we are fond of, and things the world dazzles before us, as the enemies of our souls. They are the things that put us in jeopardy. It shows us that what the world glories in is what has brought us to our present misery. It is the thing that makes us unhappy, it is the thing that produces all the problems. The thing that seemed so wonderful is the thing that makes us afraid to die and afraid of God—that is what it really is. The cross strips it of all its gaudy colouring and reveals it unto us in its vileness and foulness.
And it does it in this way. What was it that brought the Son of God to the cross? The answer is sin. Sin. Rebellion against God. This principle of evil. The selfishness of man. This is the thing that crucified him. Man sees it for what it is for the first time. Not only that, it gives him another revelation, and I will explain it like this. Sin is that which contradicts the whole purpose of God in Christ and the whole purpose of the Son of God in going to the cross and dying in that cruel and shameful manner. Paul puts it to Titus in these glowing words: he says, ‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us …. What for? To save us from hell? Read on, ‘that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works’ (2:11–14). He gave himself for us on the cross in order that he might deliver us from that evil life. He did it to prepare for himself a special people, a possession for himself, a people zealous of good works, to ‘redeem us from all iniquity’. So if I go on living that self-centred life, I am denying the very thing that took him to the cross. Not only that, I am denying everything I claim to believe as a Christian.
A man who has seen the message of the cross, and yet goes on sinning, is a man who is contradicting himself. ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead (or that die) to sin, live any longer therein?’ (Rom 6:1–2). Listen, says Paul, if you go on sinning you are denying all you believe. And again, ‘Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God’ (Rom 6:11–13). That means, you see, just this: that your sanctification is governed by your view of the cross. You do not say that the cross is only about justification, or the cross is only about conversion and that then we leave that and we go to the higher reaches, and are in the realm of the Holy Spirit only. No. The cross governs sanctification. It is the mightiest argument for sanctification. You are contradicting your own initial beliefs if you continue in sin and are not living the holy life, or, in the words of the apostle John , ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure’ (1 Jn 3:2–3).
Once a man sees the message of the cross, he has an entirely new view of everything. He is not just trying to live a good life now; not just trying not to do harm; not trying to live just on the edge of the law —not wanting to be prosecuted, but going as far as he safely can. That is all finished. He is a new man. He has been bought with a price, he is a son of God. He is being prepared for him. He has a new motive. To sin now means that he is wounding love, he is not breaking a law. He is wounding the love of the one who gave himself for him. He says, I cannot do it. I have been bought with a price. I have no right to do it, I am not my own. I belong to him. I am a slave of Christ as I used to be the slave of the devil and of sin. I have no right to, and I cannot do it. He has a new conception of sin, he has new motives for living a holy life, and thank God, over and above all, he has got new power whereby to do it.
For the Christ of God died not only that we might be forgiven but that we might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and his power. He teaches us how to live, and he also teaches us how to suffer. Because we live in a world of suffering and we need to be taught how to suffer, he teaches us how to suffer. The cross teaches us how to suffer, not only how to live morally and ethically, but how to suffer, ‘The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. They come to us all: misunderstanding, people misunderstanding us, injustices done to us, the failure of trusted friends, people in whom we reposed every confidence letting us down, disappointments, loneliness, physical pain. How do you stand up to these things? These are the things that come to all of us, how do we meet them, how do we live? This is the way: read what the apostle Peter says about this. ‘Servants, be subject to (obey) your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bear our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls’ (1 Pet 2:18–25). There is the only way, the cross—misunderstanding, injustice, treachery of friends, the loneliness, even his disciples forsaking him and fleeing from him. In the dark night, they all forsook him and fled, and left him alone. But he had known that it was coming, he had told them that when he said: ‘The hour cometh … that ye shall be scattered … and shall leave me alone: and yet,’ he says, and yet, ‘I am not alone, because the Father is with me’ (Jn 16:32).
And so it is, that no experience can ever fall to your lot but that he has gone through it. The treachery, the misunderstanding, the abuse, the injustice, the loneliness, the agony, the sweat:
In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part.
– M. Bruce
Yes, in the light of the fact that he has been made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and ‘was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’, he is able to succour us.
So the cross not only teaches me how to live, it teaches me how to suffer, how I should follow in his steps. And it also teaches me how to die, that we have all got to die. And it is only the cross that really can teach me how to die. Let me show you some of the ways in which it does that. He has taken the sting out of death. You see death is not the trouble, it is what follows death that is the trouble. Men say nothing happens after death, but they do not know, and they cannot prove it, and they do not really believe it. The last enemy is the fear of death, who is ever waiting for us with that scythe of his. Ah, but it is all right. Hear this great Apostle as he puts it again to the Corinthians. Oh this corruptible, he says, must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. ‘So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor 15:54–57). By dying on the cross he satisfied the law and he has taken the sting out of death to all who believe in him and in the efficacy of his atoning sacrificial death. He has taken the sting out of it. He has conquered death and the grave, but in addition to this, by dying there upon the cross he has shown us how to die.
Do you remember how the author of the epistle to the Hebrews puts it? ‘Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame …’ and the cross was a terrible thing for him, that was why he had been sweating in the garden. He knew that when the sins of men were placed upon him he would lose the face of God and suffer in his righteous soul a death. The author of life dying, he did not want to. This was terrible, but he endured it. How? ‘… For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin’ (Heb 12:1–4). But he did, and he teaches us how to die.
You have only to look at him dying on that cross to realize that the sting has gone. And that he has gone on as he said to prepare a place for you. ‘Let not your heart be troubled,’ he said, ‘ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (Jn 14:1–3). So look at this apostle Paul later in his life. He was a prisoner in Rome, his captor was none other than the notorious Emperor Nero, an unprincipled, unjust, capricious dictator, and the Apostle was hearing rumours almost every day as to when he was to be put to death. And he knew it was coming, and could come at any moment, but this is how he faced it: ‘According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you’ (Phil 1:20–24). That is the way to face death. And now that death is gain, that death means to be with Christ, which is far better, death is no longer a spectre, not since the death of the Son of God. He saw the way to heaven, and to die, if you believe in him and his death, means to go to be with him. To be with Christ, which is far better. It is gain.
And so you see that out of this cross come all these wonderful things. Man is delivered from his petty self, he is taught how to live and enabled to live in that way. He is taught how to suffer whatever may come. He is taught how to die victoriously and triumphantly, because he knows that Christ by dying conquered death and his death led to the glory of the resurrection, the ascension, and his sitting in the glory at the right hand of God.
It is not surprising is it, that this man says, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ’? What else is there? This is everything. Every good thing comes out of this. Without this there is nothing. With this there is everything—in this world, in life, in death, and in the glory everlasting, which awaits the children, the people of God.
Are you glorying in the cross of Christ? Or are you still glorying in yourself? Have you seen yourself? Look to the cross, and you will see yourself, you will hate yourself, and you will pray to be delivered and he will tell you that he has delivered you. He died that you might say, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ I am not my own, I have been bought with a price. I belong to him, who loved me so well that he died for me, and ever liveth to make intercession for me, and who will come again and receive me unto himself.
Oh the vast,
the boundless treasure
Of my Lord’s unchanging love.
– R. Robinson