One of the keys to understanding our opening verse is found in Galatians 2:20, When we give our lives to the Lord we are to die to self, "I have been crucified with Christ;...”. Many believers, however, do not understand that we are to crucify our sin on that cross! It means we do not carry on and live like the rest of the world. We have been “set apart” unto Christ. Being set apart means separated, being different, listening to a different voice, the voice of the Lord God! Fortunately for us, we have been doubly blessed by Him. Not only has He given us the Holy Scriptures, He also gave us the Holy Spirit.
We are not to follow a man but to follow Christ, “and 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,...”. There is only one way to walk by faith and that is to be immersed in the Scriptures, all of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Timothy 3:16 emphasis mine) Scripture teaches us the character of God. It teaches us His sovereignty. It teaches us that nothing is impossible with God. But God will not do anything that does not reflect His character or His will. God’s will means that it is God initiated! Not our ideas, not a political agenda, not a church leader. We are to follow God, He leads, we follow. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25 emphasis mine) Lose is putting to death the old sin nature, render void our earthly wisdom in exchange for spiritual wisdom from above. Literally to accept that this earthly world has nothing to offer us and to change our perspective to a spiritual one that can only be seen and understood through the Holy Spirit.
Not too long ago someone I know posted on social media that they didn’t want people around them who could teach them how to die, they wanted people around them to teach them how to live. My spirit was so grieved as I read this. The truth is that you can’t live for Christ until you die and then you walk in freedom and in the power of the Holy Spirit! The Apostle Paul gave us such a great reminder of this very truth of God’s sovereignty and love for us. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS’; and again, ‘THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.’"
(1 Corinthians 3:18-20) Keep this in mind as we continue and, hopefully, our hearts will be opened to this truth and remind us of the Lord’s great love for us that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to earth to die for us.
What set the Apostles apart from the rest of the people? They were regenerated, they were changed. The ideas and traditions of man were stripped away and nothing remained but God’s Word. Man wasn’t glorified. And that was deeply disturbing to the Pharisees and Sanhedrin. And that is exactly why they hated Jesus! They liked being put on a pedestal and being glorified. We cannot be saved by man’s interpretation of the Scriptures and we can’t be saved by following laws. Jesus was very clear on that.
Notice that I didn’t ask what set the twelve disciples apart from the rest of the people? Let’s be honest, the disciples walked with Jesus for three and a half years. They witnessed miracles, healings, deliverances and yet even though they knew He was the Son of God, the Messiah, it hadn’t transformed their hearts. They loved Jesus, their devotion to Him is undeniable. They relied on Him to provide for them. They left their trades and their families to be wholly committed to Him. But they continued to think as they always thought. That probably describes the majority of people today who call themselves Christians. Going to church doesn’t save you. We must be reborn, regenerated.
It wasn’t until Jesus was arrested, faced a sham trial, was beaten far beyond what any mortal man could have endured, was hung on a cross, was buried, and rose again and came to them to present Himself alive, did they believe. When Jesus returned to them from the grave they were faced with Truth. Their sin was manifested and had to be dealt with. They could no longer continue on as if they were ok, they were not. Their unbelief was exposed, their sin was exposed and it all had to be faced. It was truly at this time they were regenerated and their lives became a reflection of Jesus Christ the Messiah. They became bold, just as Jesus had been bold to speak the truth and not fear man or death. What they had been taught was now alive in their hearts and the old person had been crucified with Christ, they now lived for Christ because they had one hope, one faith, one goal. That was to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. They had become like their Rabbi, Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Messiah. They had died to their old fleshly desires and beliefs and now were truly living! (In the Jewish faith, rabbi’s had students who were called disciples because they studied, not only the Torah, but also their teacher (rabbi) and the goal was to become like them. Thus when Jesus’ disciples called Him Rabbi, they weren’t being discourteous, they, unfortunately, didn’t see the whole picture yet.)
The Apostle Paul experienced this same exchange of the old life being crucified and being regenerated and he gave us a very clear picture of dying to self and also the true understanding of what this regeneration really is all about. Baptism is important and should not be taken lightly, it is a picture of what a true believer is. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:4-14 emphasis mine)
You and I, if we are truly believers, are to experience this same rebirth. We can’t do it ourselves, it is a work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul gave us a good testimony in which we can use to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us how we are doing in our walk with the Lord. “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 emphasis mine) Read the underlined and bold section again. Why did Jesus Christ give His life for us? Was it to make sure we were happy and secure and could live a good life experiencing a life of lots of money, a nice home, cars, boats, airplanes, etc.? Was it so that we could be lifted up by man and be important? Was it because we are such good people that we deserve these things?
Sounds pretty silly when we look at it like this, doesn’t it? Yet, what do the prosperity preachers teach? They teach that you were created to live extraordinary lives, with good health and wealth! What do the word of faith preachers teach? That you are to declare health and prosperity! Are you sick? You are under the attack of Satan because God is the healer so you are to select Scriptures regarding healing and declare that you are healed! (I actually had someone tell me this exact thing. God had clearly shown me that what I was experiencing was not going away and He had a new season for me. While it was not what I wanted to hear, I was at peace with it and was looking forward to what the Lord may have in store for me going forward. Then one day this friend of mine told me that I was under an attack from Satan because I wasn’t healed! If I wasn’t so immersed in God’s Word and in a personal relationship with Him, I would have been devastated and would have begun seeking what God never intended for me!)
Don’t misunderstand me, God still heals today, but just as He didn’t heal everyone in Jesus’ time on earth, He doesn’t heal everyone today. So what is the key, what is the proper perspective we should have on healing? “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) That peace will also give you the courage to pray as Jesus did, “saying, 'Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’'" (Luke 22:42) Surrender ourselves in His capable hands and trust Him‘ for the outcome, regardless of what that outcome is. It very well may not be what you want, but remember, our hope is in Christ alone! “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
We meet men and women in both the Old and New Testaments that are transformed by God’s grace. We need to understand the grace of God so that we are not deceived by the teachings of today’s teachers who have taken God’s grace so far out of context that there is no biblical basis that can be used to justify it. What they teach is opposite of dying to self and living in Christ. Let’s look at a couple definitions of grace to give us understanding. One definition that I love is, “God’s grace is the very presence of God (the Holy Spirit) that lives in me and causes me to become the person that God intended for me to be.” Another definition says it this way, “The grace of God works in our lives to produce the will of God.” Many people confuse God’s mercy and grace. Mercy is what God gives us that we do not deserve. God’s grace takes that mercy and transforms our hearts to produce His will!
Grace is abundant beginning in the Book of Genesis all the way through the Book of Revelation. King David was known as a man after God’s own heart. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to hear God say that of you? It truly would be! However, not too many are willing to actually endure the training to the end to hear such words of praise from the Lord. The first king of Israel, King Saul had sinned and God removed him as king, spiritually, but he will still in the position physically. (This is a picture for us to examine ourselves because we often lose the anointing that God had placed upon us but refuse to move from that position or that season of our lives!) David was hired to play his instrument for the king to soothe him so that the evil spirits would depart from him. King Saul was greatly pleased by this, for a time. Soon he became jealous of David and tried to kill him! Now here’s where we can begin to understand how God’s will works in our lives. David had already been anointed to become king of Israel but he had not yet been appointed, he was in training. God’s mercy saved David from Saul’s spear (he tried to kill David) and God’s grace worked in David’s heart to trust God and not become hateful or revengeful!
Jesus reminded us how difficult this road can be, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14) Most of us want to hear these words, "His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' “ (Matthew 25:23) But when it actually comes to being faithful are we sometimes more like the servant who failed the test? "And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'” (Matthew 25:24-25)
What do we do with the following words that Jesus spoke? "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) Do you consider the commandments in Scripture to be too difficult? Do you believe they are not meant to be taken literally? Do you believe they are no longer applicable to today’s world? If you answered yes to any of those questions, what do you do with these words of Jesus? "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18 emphasis mine) What Law? Law of Moses, the Torah. (I would suggest you do a study on this topic for your own understanding. We are not talking about all the laws that the Pharisees and Sanhedrin added that burdened the Jews. We also are not talking about the laws that cannot be kept because there is not a temple.)
David wasn’t perfect, he made mistakes, he committed sin, but he was known as a man after God’s own heart because he was teachable and easily convicted of his sin. He desired to please God. He trusted God because he saw over and over again God’s grace in his life. David had a very difficult life. At a young age he was anointed as the next king of Israel. That may sound wonderful but if you study the life of David you will find that it was a very difficult road that actually brought him to the place when he actually became the king! He became great because of his humility and trust in God. He died to self. Because of this, he was given the gift of song, of prophecy, and leadership. God didn’t stop the hardships in David’s life, He actually lead him into them so that he would become the man that God intended him to be. That’s such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us, He loves us too much to leave us in the sinful condition we were in before we surrendered to Him! Is there evidence in your life, my dear friend, that God is on the throne and not you?
One of the things that David longed to do in his life was to build a temple for the Lord. Sounds like a really good idea, right? He wanted to protect the Ark of the Covenant which was God’s Mercy Seat. But God said “no”.
Listen to these words of David, “I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word according to all Your name. On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O LORD, when they have heard the words of Your mouth. And they will sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (Psalms 138:1-8 emphasis mine)
David died to self that he might be risen to new life with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God. God’s love for us has no end. Nothing is impossible for Him. There, however, is a key that we will end this devotional with. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” (Romans 8:28-29 emphasis mine) In order to understand this correctly we need to understand that “predestined” does not mean that God chose certain people to be saved! God “predestined” those who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior to become like His Son, Jesus Christ. Let that sink in. Just as we must allow ourselves to be searched and respond to conviction, we become broken because we see the total vile nature that has inhabited our lives. We confess these sins and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come into our hearts. That is the first step of our salvation. Next we begin to change our behaviors and habits. We don’t do this alone. We pray and are lead by the Holy Spirit. As we begin to read the Scriptures and pray, we begin to understand God’s character and what He desires for us. As we fall in love with the Lord, we trust Him more and more and our mind begins regeneration. Understanding this gives us the true understanding that the Lord is desiring to transform us into true followers of Jesus Christ and a reflection of His life. So we have a choice, again, do we follow the Holy Spirit and become truly transformed/predestined to reflect Jesus Christ? If the answer is “yes” we too will say For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”.
Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for the Scriptures which teach us who You are, teach us Your ways so that we can be transformed into the image of Your Son Jesus Christ. Forgive us Father for our failures and unbeliefs. We lay ourselves before You and commit to You our whole hearts. Use us for Your glory! We love You with our lives. This we pray in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, amen!