Have You Died to Sin?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage all who desire to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Dave, as you know, we’ve been discussing things related to the Christian life, which you really underscore in your book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, things that you rarely hear in Christian circles but are what Christianity is all about. For example, the meaning of the cross in our lives, the crucified life, denying self, being dead to sin, and dying daily. Will you give those who are listening for the first time a general idea of what these aspects of Christianity mean?
Dave: Well, Tom, you mentioned several things: the meaning of the cross, the crucified life, dying to self, dying daily—well, it just goes back to what the Scriptures say. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ . . .”
Tom: Right. Galatians:2:20.
Dave: Right. Galatians:2:20; or 2 Corinthians:5:17, “We thus judge if one died for all, then were all dead . . .” The example we’ve given in the past about Barabbas—Barabbas could say, “Christ died in my place,” but it simply set him free to live life as he wanted to—as a criminal, really. That’s not what Christianity is about. And the critic, skeptic atheist, could, in fact, complain and say, “It’s not just that the innocent die in the place of the guilty. That’s not justice! That’s not Christianity.” We die in Christ. When I believe that Christ died for me, I acknowledge that when He took my place, He was punished for my sins, and that that is the punishment that I deserved—eternal separation from God. Therefore, I have accepted His death as my death.
Now, if I’ve accepted His death as my death, then, as Paul said, “I’m crucified with Him, and it’s no more I but Christ who lives in me.” By God’s wonderful grace, He accepted the penalty. Not only in His grace but in His justice, because Christ paid the penalty. So He rose from the dead, and that demonstrated the acceptance by God of the penalty He paid.
So now, we have new life. We have given up our old life. We’ve given up life as we would live it, and the old man, as the scripture identifies it, in ourselves, what our ambition had been, and our sinful desires, and so forth, our self-centered (you mentioned denying “self”)—our self-centered orientation, which is . . . self-preservation is our number one priority. You hand a tray of cookies to children, and you just see it: they all grab for the largest one. We’re all looking out for number one, although they have seminars to teach you how to do that now, which is unnecessary.
So, we’ve given up life as we would live it. We recognize that we are sinners; we’re condemned; we are depraved; we are corrupt! And we want a new life. And Christ comes to live that new life in us.
Tom: So, we’re to be dead to those things.
Dave: Right. By faith! It’s not that I try to stifle my natural desires; not that I turn over a new leaf, that I try, somehow, in my own strength, to overcome the evil in my nature, but I accept the fact that Christ paid the penalty. I have died in Him, and by faith I have a new life of the resurrection life of Christ, which is only for dead people. You have to be dead to qualify for resurrection life. And the life Christ gives is the resurrection life that He brought forth from the tomb, having paid the penalty for our sins.
Tom: Dave, I’m sure many of our listeners out there are thinking about application here in their own lives. But last week at the end of the program we talked about why so many Christians don’t experience this power that Christ has. You talk about the resurrected life in Christ. What would be some reasons . . . they may be thinking to themselves, This is what I want, but I keep falling short here.
Dave: Well, the basic reason is lack of faith. “The just shall live by faith . . . We walk by faith, not by sight.” I have to believe God’s promises. I have to believe that I am crucified with Christ. It hasn’t happened to my flesh yet—to my body—so scripture says, “The flesh [that’s what I am by nature, not just my body but what the scripture calls, again, ‘the old man’] lusts against the Spirit”—that is the Holy Spirit, who has come to live within.
My heart is deceitful. David said, “Search me, O God, try me; know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” So, I can maybe even think that I really want God’s will, and maybe what I really want is God to bless my will. So it takes some understanding of Scripture: “The Word of God is living, powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword.” It pierces, even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and it discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. So as I read the Scriptures, I get a little more insight into the deviousness of my own character, and that helps me to walk by faith; helps me to desire that which is of God. But basically, it’s a walk of faith. I’m trusting Him. I’m trusting His Word, and no matter what doubts come along, I simply rest in Him.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, when you talk about something—or you lay out faith—sometimes (I know you know this, because we’ve been looking at this for a long time) but you get a little anxious, a little nervous, when you even use the term—wonderful, biblical term—because there are ideas of faith out there . . . I think about some of our listeners, who are saying, “Oh, I just have to have faith? If I can just conjure up enough faith . . .?”
That’s not what you’re talking about, but that’s what many—many who are evangelizing so-called over the airwaves, through TV, and so on . . .
Dave: Yeah, it’s a good point, Tom. Faith is not a force. Faith is not some power. Faith is not positive thinking, or possibility thinking—in other words, a power of my mind, so that if I can really believe something, that will make it happen. No, that is not what faith is. Jesus, in Mark 11, said, “Have faith in God.” So faith is absolute, total trust in God and in His promises. Faith puts me in touch with Him and allows me to experience what He will do for me. Faith is not a power of my mind that I exert by positive thinking and that causes good things to happen. That is the flesh, once again. It’s an occult idea, of course, and it is absolutely contrary to the Word of God. Never does the Word of God give me to believe in positive thinking. Positive thinking, of course, is a meaningless term when it comes to morals, to truth, to God, and with a walk of faith. If you want to talk about “positive,” there are chemicals—chemical bonding—in chemistry. There’s a positive and a negative in electronics, in magnetism, and so forth. But positive and negative has nothing to do with truth; it has nothing to do with righteousness; it has nothing to do with holiness and living the Christian life! That is by faith in Him.
Now, you could say, “Wow! Jesus is very negative, because He said, ‘Except you repent, you will all perish.’” Jesus said that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies, and the temple would be destroyed, and so forth. Did He bring that about by . . .
Tom: A self-fulfilling prophecy?
Dave: Yeah, . . . His negative confession? And there are some people who would want to put out of the Bible anything they call “negative.” No! It’s true. Whether it is true or false, whether it is biblical or not biblical—that is the issue. Not this positive and negative. Now, some people aren’t accepting what I’m saying, but please think about it. Find out!
I remember, Tom, in fact, being on a radio program—this was many years ago, shortly after Seduction of Christianity came out, and I was being interviewed by the owner of the station, who was a talk show host. And he was going to embarrass me. In fact, that’s what he said: “Well, I’m going to embarrass you now!”
And I said, “Go ahead! [laughing]”
And he said, “You say in this book, Seduction of Christianity, you’re opposed to positive thinking. Why, the Bible is the greatest possibility thinking, positive thinking manual that ever there was! What do you say to that?”
And I said to him [laughing], “I don’t want to embarrass you!”
And he said, “Go ahead!”
I said, “Well, look it up in your concordance. You won’t find the word ‘positive’; you won’t find the word ‘thinking,’ and you certainly won’t find the phrase, ‘positive thinking.’ Doesn’t it seem a bit odd to you that what you call ‘the greatest positive thinking manual in the world’ doesn’t even know this concept?’”
Just think about that a little bit, whoever’s listening out there. You’ve been programmed or persuaded to think that if you could just think positively . . . No! If you could just trust God and believe His truth and believe His Word.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, the guy tried to embarrass you. That was a no-no. Now, we’re good friends, so I’m not going to try and embarrass you, but I'm going to take you to task . . .
Dave: (chuckling) Oh, Tom, I’m not so sure about that!
Tom: Okay. Well, let’s see here. We’ve been talking about the crucified life, denying self, dying daily—well, I’m going to ask a question here: what is necessary—of all of these things that we’ve been talking about—what do you have to know? What do you have to understand about these things to really accept the gospel? For example, you write in your book, An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, you say, “Consenting to be dead and willing for Christ to be their life was not only the Colossians’ basis for victory but the essential gospel they must embrace. Otherwise, there could be no salvation.”
Now, are you pushing the envelope a little bit here, Dave?
Dave: Well, Tom, the gospel, of course, in its simplest form, Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Then, what is the gospel? Well, the gospel is that “Christ died for my sins, was buried, rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.” So if I really believe that, and accept that, that’s going to bring some truths into my heart and mind.
I may not understand it fully at the time, but what you were quoting there in Colossians, chapter 3, there’s not question that he says (I think we discussed this last time, or maybe before), verse 5, I think it is, he says, “Mortify your members.” No, he says, “Mortify, therefore, your members.” Verse 12: “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God . . . .” So we get a list of what we shouldn’t be and what we should be, and now he is telling them it is because—the reason why I am to live this way, and I am living out the gospel now—the reason why I’m to live this way is because . . . he begins by saying, “Since you, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.”
Now, you didn’t understand that, when you became a Christian. But to really be saved and to be able to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, and to live this Christian life, there are some things that you mature into, you begin to understand. It’s not just by . . . we’re not puppets, and God now begins to pull some new strings, so we begin to do new things. But it comes to us by an understanding. I can’t believe—I can’t trust—God for what I don't understand He’s willing to do for me. So, he says, “Seek those things that are above where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on this earth, for you are dead; your life is hid with Christ in God.”
Now, I didn’t understand that, when I opened my heart to Christ and He came to live in me, but if I am really saved, I will understand this as He makes it clear to me. And I can’t be saved without knowing this, without understanding it—unless I die right after I’m saved—because I will bear the fruit that comes of the new birth. So, if I’m really born of God, I will believe this, and I will rejoice in this. The people that are saying, “I just can’t live the Christian life. I mean, I just have such struggles and problems. I feel so bad about it. It bothers me.”
Those people are on the right track! They’re like Paul in Romans 7, who said, “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me? The good that I want to do, I can’t do it. The evil that I don’t want to do, that’s what I do. Who will deliver me from this body of sin.” He says, “I thank God for Jesus Christ.”
But it’s the person who can live in sin and who doesn’t seem to have a conscience about this, who says, “But I went forward at this crusade” or whatever, or “I got saved 20 years ago, and I know I’m saved because I made this decision. But I can live like I please!”
I have real concerns for that person as to whether they’re really saved or not. So, I think that’s what I was trying to say.
Tom: Well, the reason I wanted to underscore it, in this program and in our heart and in our ministry, we want people to understand the gospel. We want them to receive the gospel. And you told me one time—and I thought this was really important—that in the presentation of the gospel, you don’t want to go beyond anything the Lord presents. And one example would be the thief on the cross. How much did he understand? We don’t really know. We don’t know his background and that. But we do know that when he made this confession to Jesus, Jesus said, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”
So, his understanding, his heart—surely Jesus could look upon his heart and so on. But as you just read that, you say, “Hey, he didn’t really understand the crucified life,” although here’s a man on the cross, interestingly. But he didn’t really understand these things that we’re talking about, and I don’t want to err on this program by saying, “Hey, look, here is what you have to understand and what you have to believe.” We’re talking about the gospel, but not just what you must believe to be saved. We’re talking about the gospel as it applies to whoever’s life is in Christ, right?
Dave: Well, Romans chapter 5 deals with that: “If, when we were rebels, we were saved by His death, how much more shall we be saved by His life?” So, having accepted Christ’s death in my place, and having been given new life in Christ, now, I begin to experience His life! And I begin to mature. My faith becomes deeper, and Christ begins to reveal Himself to me through His Word. I’m understanding more, and the saving life of Christ—wow! I didn’t know anything about that when I believed in Jesus as my Savior who died for my sins. But He has come to live His life in me. That’s going back to 2 Corinthians:5:17, and we didn’t finish the verse. “We thus judge if one died for all, then were all dead, and He died for all, that they which live . . .” There’s the purpose of it! I didn’t understand that when I got saved. “. . . that they which live should no longer live unto themselves but unto him who died for them and rose again.”
So now, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you’ll keep My commandments.” My love begins to grow for Christ as I begin to understand more fully what He did for me. That God—He didn’t have to do this. And I’m such a . . . I begin to see more of what a wretched, miserable creature I am. It’s not that I have to think I’m somebody, or otherwise God wouldn’t die for me. My love grows the more I realize what a miserable, unworthy creature I am, and how deep He had to reach, how far down He had to go to become my Savior, to take my place on the cross. I begin to love Him more and more and more, and that motivates me. “We love Him because He first loved us.”
So, the more I know His love, the more I experience His love, the more I understand of it through His Word, the more I grow in my desire: I want to please Him. And so, that has a powerful transforming effect on my life as well. It’s the person who got saved, so he says, but then does nothing about it—doesn’t read the Word of God, doesn’t fellowship with people out there who also love the Lord. You're not going to find a perfect fellowship. There are so many people that I have met even recently—they’re just meeting at home, alone, because “we can’t find anyone that we can agree with, or we can get along with,” although they may not say it in so many words.
No, we need to fellowship with other believers, and we begin this walk of faith. And we desire to please our Lord, and we serve Him. But the person who says he got saved and then he’s just living his life, like Barabbas, I have real problems with whether that person really knows Christ and the gospel or not.
Tom: Dave, do you think (we’ve only got about a minute and a half left here), but do you think that part of the problem here is how we go about evangelizing? For example, if I were to inform somebody unsaved, or people that I was talking to, about the resurrected life in Christ, about dying, at least they would have a better idea of what would be expected of them.
And, again, this is not works salvation, but this is at least an understanding—you know, we’re trying to have them understand what Christ did, how He paid for their sins, and so on, but also what your life in Christ ought to be according to the Scriptures.
Dave: I think, Tom, there’s a lot of emotionalism. We build people up emotionally because we want them to raise their hand, stand up, come forward. I find often the gospel is not adequately explained. Now, we’re not going to explain the whole Christian life, and they think that that burden is being put on them, but they need to understand their sin, their unworthiness, and the love of God—that Christ would come and die for them, and that this is the only way the penalty could be paid. They need to understand that in order to be saved, I believe, initially.