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By David A. DePra
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal. 5:4)
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)
Paul said that he sought to know NOTHING among the churches except CHRIST CRUCIFIED. It would seem, however, that more and more today, that churches seek to know almost everything BUT Christ crucified. I would submit that if Paul were this concerned about this matter, and sought to bring it front and center, that we had better take heed to what he had to say.
When Paul said these words, he was not saying that every word that came out of his mouth was about Christ crucified. No. Read the epistles. He writes about many other things. But having said that, everything that Paul wrote was based upon as a foundation, and governed by, as a living Truth, Jesus Christ Crucified.
The fact is, if our Christian life, let alone our Christian teaching, is not based on Christ crucified, we are IN ERROR. You can see this inherent in the words of Paul, but you can also see it all through the Bible. Ignore, neglect, minimize, or water down the Cross, and you are in GRAVE error. Take it far enough, and you don’t even have Christianity any longer.
Repent and Believe
Most professing Christians easily confess that Jesus Christ died for them on the Cross. I submit that every professing Christ had BETTER confess that – or they are, in fact, NOT a Christian. Make no question about it, unless you confess that Jesus Christ died for you personally, and unless you repent and turn to Him as your Lord and Savior, you cannot be saved.
Over and over again, the Bible states that you and I must repent or we cannot be saved. Why? Because repentance is a change of mind towards God – in other words, we TURN to Christ. We change our moral attitude towards Him. The idea that we could actually be saved by NOT repenting is utter heresy. What? Are we saved if we do not turn to Christ? Nonsense.
Now, don’t misunderstand. We, of ourselves, could never initiate our own repentance. No. The Bible says that no man can come to Christ unless the Father first draws him. (see John 6:44) But note that there are TWO facets to this – God does the drawing, and then, on the basis of that, and in response to Him, WE DO THE COMING. That is repentance. In order to COME TO Christ we have to TURN FROM ourselves, and our old life. This we MUST do if we are to be saved.
You will also note that there is no requirement here to listing and confessing every sin we have ever committed before we can come to Christ. No. Now, I’m not saying that we ignore our sin if we are aware of it. But who knows his own heart? What I am saying is that TURNING to God and, in the light of His conviction, having a change of moral mind towards Him is the key. That is repentance. Then, once I repent and turn to Christ, God has all the freedom to expose any sin He sees fit to expose. And I confess those – but not so I can come to Christ – but rather I confess BECAUSE I HAVE COME.
Repentance is the result of seeing LIGHT – both light about our sin, but light about Jesus Christ as our Savior. Once God brings us light, we cannot go back. We will never be the same again, one way or another. If we refuse the light, we will be in greater darkness. But if we embrace the LIGHT – embrace the revelation of the Person WHO IS THE LIGHT – then we can say we have repented. We have changed directions. We no longer belong to ourselves. We belong to Him.
This is a very simple turning to Christ. The Bible says that to be saved, we must, "Repent and believe." Well, we repent BY believing, and we believe by repenting – not of sins just yet, but we repent of unbelief! We repent of having lived without trust in Christ. And again, if we repent of NOT believing, then by definition, we will BELIEVE and be turning to Christ. Then, all of sins find forgiveness and we find freedom.
Many Christians think that we must REPENT, and get all freed from sin, so that we can come to Christ. We think this not only for salvation, but also for our every day relationship with Christ. But no. We must come to Christ SOLELY BY FAITH – we don’t earn this privilege by getting rid of our sin – we come to Christ so that we can get free from sin! He alone is the solution for sin. Our turning to Christ for freedom from sin IS repentance.
It is impossible to repent, as the Bible means the term, unless we come to the Cross. For if we are turning to Christ we are turning to Christ crucified. To repent is a renunciation of both sin and SELF, and that will bring us to the death of both: The Cross. Anyone who tells you that you need not repent, or that you need not come to the Cross, in order to be saved, or in order to be in Christ, is a liar.
The Solution for Sin
Despite the finished work of Jesus Christ on His Cross, the power of sin has been broken – although not the presence or possibility. Those who teach that the sin nature is gone through Christ are in error. No. But the power is broken.
Yet we sin. And when we sin we don’t want to sin. We are exactly as Paul spoke of himself – we cannot do what we want to do. And we cannot stop doing what we hate. This frustration applies not only to our outward acts, it applies all the more to inward attitudes. We, "try to believe," but seem to fail. We, "try to love," but cannot. We struggle and battle and try harder and harder. And if we are honest we will have to admit that we are getting nowhere – at least we are getting nowhere positive. The only place most of us get is defeated.
If you have gone on with Christ to any degree, you know this. You have passed through seasons where you are in utter despair over yourself. Perhaps you even ask HOW it is possible to be a born again believer and continue to live in such continual failure and defeat. Where is the victory spoken of in the Bible? Where is the Truth in actual living?
I have known Christians who have gotten to the verge of forsaking their faith because they are not seeing evidence IN THEMSELVES that the finished work of Jesus Christ is TRUE. They have tried every conceivable method of finding power in Christ. They have done this over sin, but even over such things as answered prayer. They pray and pray and God never seems to answer them. I would submit that at least they are honest.
So what are we to say? That CHRIST IN US – that the Cross of Jesus – should not be expected to produce change in Christian people? I mean, are we new creations or not? I submit that the Bible says outright that people are supposed to be changed drastically by the Truth – we are supposed to be SET FREE. We are supposed to live HOLY lives. So why does it not happen for most people?
Now, when I say that it does not happen for most people, perhaps you think I’m talking about immoral people. No. I’m also talking about religious people. It is entirely possible, due to natural temperament, religious training, and a nice environment, to not evidence a whole lot of bad things in your life – and yet to be just as much fallen from grace as is someone who is clearly immoral. You might think you see evidence in yourself of Christ. But you are just looking at yourself through self-righteous eyes. You are deceived, and in fact, may be living in a greater unbelief than you imagine.
We must get this. It is possible to be self-righteous, religious, and living fully in the bondage of that religious flesh, but to think that you are evidencing the fruits of the Spirit. It is possible to have virtually NO faith in Christ, but to live a nice, religious life, under some system of LAW. It is possible to be so deceived that you can be a Pharisee but think you are living in the grace of God. It is also possible to be living so deeply in one’s soul and psychic life that you think you are walking in the Spirit. This too is great deception.
But that being said, it is nevertheless a fact that there are millions of professing Christians today who are living under the realization that what is described in the Bible as Christianity is NOT what they are experiencing. They read about spiritual fruit and don’t see any in themselves. They read about a relationship with God and have to confess to knowing little about it. Where this is the case, despair is close at hand.
I think that a big part of the despair in this matter is that we are looking at our flesh and at our natural man and think there ought to be evidence of Christ there. There never will be. God is not going to make us into evidence of Christ. No. Christ Himself IN US is the evidence. He must be seen in and through us.
So the great irony is this: We want our flesh to act like, and look like, Christ. Instead, God says the flesh must DIE – be crucified with Christ. How different are the ways of God than are the ways of religious man.
There is only one solution for sin; for flesh – and thankfully, that solution has been fully executed. It is the Cross of Jesus Christ. Thus, if we are not experiencing the Truth of the Bible, the reason may well be that our faith is not in Christ crucified. It is not in what Christ has done through the Cross. I can personally testify that it is possible to have very little faith in Christ crucified, and yet think you have ALL of your faith there. It is possible to be just that ignorant. Especially in a day and age wherein the Cross is barely mentioned any longer in churches.
The good news is that God is not passive on this matter of the Cross. Indeed, I believe that it is absolutely impossible for us to get to the place where all of our faith is in Christ crucified unless God brings us there. And He will bring us there if we will let Him do so.
Now, how would you suppose that God will bring us to the place where all of our faith is solely in Christ crucified? Teaching alone won’t do it – teaching will tell us what God wants to do. No. It is really simple. God will have to demolish every other object of our faith. Only then will be come to the place where we see that the grace of God in Christ is our only hope, and be able to put our faith solely upon Christ crucified.
I want to say that again – every other object of our faith must be demolished. God will demolish these by ALLOWING THEM TO FAIL. And what might we think is the most common object of our faith – that which most commonly substitutes for Christ? That is an easy answer: Ourselves. We put confidence in our flesh. If not confidence in our ability to obey God, then we put confidence in our ability to FIX our disobedience through our own efforts.
We do this through MANY subtle methods. Most of them are really LAW in some form, even if they don’t take the form of some list of rules. Some Christians, for example, take the verse, "I can do all things through Him that strengthens me," and they spring into action. Others develop rules and principles to live by. Others form accountability groups. Others memorize the Bible. Others fast. Others give money. Others try to cast out, "generational curses." Others try to worship really hard thinking that this will purge out their problem. But in the end, NONE of these things work. NONE of them. There is NOTHING we can do to help ourselves. And until we see this, we aren’t going to come solely by faith to Christ!
I am absolutely convinced that the seasons we pass through of utter and complete failure to help ourselves have a purpose – God uses even those. It isn’t that God LIKES this type of thing. But it is necessary because of the nature of things. God must allow us to become fully and eternally convinced that there is nothing we can do about ourselves. He must allow us to take our efforts to the place of complete depletion. He must allow us to despair over ourselves. He must allow us to be reduced down to complete defeat. But not so that we will turn away from Him, or remain in defeat. No. Rather, this is the only way we can SEE THE TRUTH about ourselves, the futility of our own efforts, and the absolutely necessity of the Cross of Christ.
Have we realized that to try to fix the sin problem in ourselves is SIN? We usually think we are trying to obey. But the question is, "Where is our faith?" And above all, if we are really trying to obey, then why isn’t it working? And let’s be honest, it usually doesn’t work. Indeed, we simply make it worse. Trying to fix the sin problem in ourselves is, as noted earlier, nothing but unbelief. It is a denial of the finished work of Christ – perhaps not in intent, but through the ignorance of unbelief.
If we – I said WE – if WE try to solve the sin problem in ourselves we are fallen from grace. Jesus will be of no effect to us. Sure. Jesus has already solved the sin problem and this is the source of all grace. Trying to do it ourselves puts us OUTSIDE of His grace in practical Christian living. Indeed, we will be under a LAW – even if we don’t call it that – and be caught in the unresolved cycle of the law of sin and death.
"The law of sin and death," is a term Paul uses in Romans. It means I try and try, and fail and fail, and try harder, only to continue to dig a deeper hole of failure. There is no way out. No resolution – that is, unless I am deluded into thinking that I have succeeded. But the law of sin and death is contrary to everything that Christ has done. That is why Paul says, "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death."
Until we get to the place where we are absolutely convinced – in a way that BREAKS the unbelief in us – until we are absolutely convinced that NO ONE and NOTHING can help us except Christ crucified, we will continue to try to deal with the sin problem. And we will be caught under the law of sin and death. We will LIVE in defeat. We will not be in the grace of God. We will fail.
Again -- we must realize that to try to fix the flesh WITH the efforts of the flesh is sin, and unbelief. It can do NOTHING but make Christ of no effect for us. Why? Because it is actually, whether we realize it or not – and I’m sure we DON’T realize it – it is a denial of the only solution for us, Christ crucified.
The solution to our sin – to everything that is wrong with us – is really quite simple. It is WE who make it complicated, which is why God must allow us to be completely defeated in our own efforts. The solution is that I have to put all of my faith solely in Christ crucified. I have to do this even if there is no evidence that I am free from sin – indeed, there won’t be any evidence or I wouldn’t need to trust Christ. I have to put my faith in the Cross and KEEP IT THERE no matter how many times I sin and fail. What Christ has done is NOT dependent upon anything about me. It is not dependent on whether I live up to it. It is simply given to me.
Paul said, "I AM crucified with Christ." (Gal. 2:20) He did not say that every time he sinned that he had to get crucified with Christ all over again. No. This is a done deal. It doesn’t matter whether we are showing evidence of it – put your faith in it as a done deal and in time there will be evidence.
But if we notice Paul’s words closely, he did not say that our SINS were crucified with Christ. No. Neither did he say that the penalty for sins were crucified in Christ. No. He said WE were crucified with Christ. We must take our place of oneness with Him in His death. The fact is, Jesus did not merely bear our sins. He bore us. And He died. And when we come to the Cross we must take our place in HIS death because it is OUR death.
Now, this is not merely rhetoric. It means that a DEATH occurs in us. It is the death of the old man. Paul wrote:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he lives, he lives unto God. (Rom 6:6-10)
Despite these very clear verses, there are millions of Christians who continue to believe that Christ died merely to bear the punishment or penalty for sin. Almost as if what is wrong with man is that GOD is mad at him and hanging a punishment over his head – and that Jesus took that away. No. Jesus did not take away punishment for sins – He was the Lamb of God who took away the SIN itself – of the whole world.
If Jesus took away only the penalty for sin then we are NOT set free from sin itself, but only the punishment FOR sin! No. Indeed, God didn’t even stop at taking away SINS. He took away the very nature of sin. And that nature of sin finds it’s ground in us in what we call SELF-OWNERSHIP.
SELF is not wrong. If you have a free will you have a SELF. But because of Adam, SELF became corrupted. What we are in Adam are those who are independent of God – or, to put it another way, self-dependent. We own, govern, and rule ourselves – to the disregard of God. This could never be dealt with by merely removing the penalty for sins. No. The only solution for it is DEATH.
When we come to the Cross we are not only giving our sin to Christ, we are giving our SELF to Him. That is why Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let Him deny himself and pick up his cross…." This speaks of the relinquishment of self-ownership, not only in BAD ways, but in what seems to be GOOD ways. All of this is to be planted into the death of Christ that we might be raised in Him, "no longer living for ourselves, but for God."
Many times when we try to overcome sin, the problem is found right here. We are still owning ourselves – but nevertheless trying to fix what ails us. We are not getting to the root problem. We cannot fix the fruit of a bad tree. Rather, the whole tree must be cut down – including even our own efforts to produce good fruit. This can only be done through the Cross. The Cross brings death to the SELF – and with that, the sins go, too!
Faith in self is unbelief. Faith in my ability to believe is unbelief. No. I have to, as it were, step outside of myself and cast myself wholly upon Christ crucified, with no conditions attached.
Numerous times in the NT we are told about, "the power of the Cross." Thus, if we put our faith in Christ crucified, there is a power in Him. We will find that it is a greater power than the sin that might otherwise bind us.
Of course, it is possible, once I realize that I must put faith solely in Christ crucified, to try to do so, almost as a religious exercise, and then FAIL. But this is all part of God allowing us to come to the end of our own efforts. It has got to be one of the biggest ironies of all that to try to fix our flesh through our own efforts is actually equal to walking in the flesh. To try to do so is a lust of the flesh – religious flesh.
The Cross of Christ has not only dealt with all sin, but it has dealt with the sin of our trying to deal with our own sin. Get that. Even that is under the Blood. Which is why it MUST go. God wants to bring us to the end of our own efforts to do what Christ died to do.
To put one’s faith solely in Christ crucified means that I will not allow my bad works to separate me from God. But it also means that I will not use my good works to try to draw God close to me. The two are the same unbelief. Both are a matter of being under the law and fallen from grace. They are a matter of confidence in self. We are in God only because we are in Christ – and this begins by being crucified with Christ.
Faith in Christ crucified means that I make no reference to myself at all in putting faith in Him. I do not bring into the picture any good work I have done, nor any bad work. I do not present even my FAITH – rather, I look only to the object of my faith, Jesus Christ. I am, in a very real sense, completely OUT of the picture. This is why the Cross is often pictured as our being, "baptized into His death." We are swallowed up in Him. We have NOTHING to do with what He has done, except to receive and trust in Him solely. That is grace.
Paul shared his own experience in Romans 7. Romans 7 is not a description of Paul BEFORE he saw the Truth. It is a description of himself at that time – it is the normal Christian experience. And what was Paul’s solution to, "the body of this death?" He said:
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 7:24-25)
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