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Nearly all Bible believers know that Jesus was crucified for us. But some seem to think this means we do not have to be crucified. They want to receive the benefit of Jesus' death, but don't seem to realize that we too must die.
Not only did Jesus die to make us Christians, but as Christians we must be crucified with Him. Each of us needs to examine himself and ask whether he/she has been crucified with Christ. "Have the nails pierced your hands and your feet?"
Consider some ways the Bible says we must die spiritually. [Compare Philippians 3:10]
Consider some other passages that help us understand the meaning of Galatians 2:20.
To come after Jesus, we must deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him (verse 24).
Some think it means we must be willing to bear a burden: "bad health is my cross I bear," or "my husband is my cross." But the meaning is far deeper than that. Jesus said to take up your cross and follow Him. Was Jesus' cross just a burden for Him to bear? A cross is a place to die! Jesus' cross is where He was crucified.
Verse 21 - Where was Jesus going? He was going to die. Jesus said that He was going to die on the cross. Then He said, if we want to be his disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Jesus gave his life for us. Now we must give our life for him!
Verse 25 - If we refuse to give up our life now - if we are determined to keep it for ourselves - then we will lose it later. If we lose it now, we will gain it later. The subject being discussed is not bearing burdens but losing life. In order to live, we must die!
Verses 26,27 - If we live so we gain the whole world, we may lose our soul at the judgment. Jesus is talking about what it takes to receive eternal life. Many people would be willing to bear a few burdens or make a few changes for the Lord. But not many will give their lives!
Verse 24 - To come after Jesus, we must deny self. This means total devotion and dedication to serving God. Give up what you want and live your life to please God. Take up your cross and follow Jesus means to deny self and be crucified with Him: Give your live for Him just as surely as He gave His life for you.
Those who belong to Christ must crucify the flesh, with its passions and lusts, and walk in the Spirit.
We all have natural desires that are not necessarily wrong. But sometimes they lead us to disobey what the Spirit teaches in the word. To walk according to the Spirit, we must put to death these desires: crucify the flesh.
It is not always wrong to do as we desire, but we must not let our desires control what we do. Are your fleshly lusts crucified, or do they still control your life? "Have the nails pierced your hands and feet?"
Now consider again the verse where we started.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Self must be slain, because the desire to please self is what hinders us from dedicating ourselves to serve Christ. Note other passages:
Jesus died for us so we should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us.
Most people prefer to please themselves. "I don't want anybody telling me what to do!" "I want to be in charge of my life." This attitude must be killed. We must let God be in charge of our lives and tell us what to do. We must live for Him, not for self.
The Macedonians gave generously because they first gave themselves to the Lord.
To crucify self means to give oneself as a sacrifice to God. When Jesus was crucified, He gave His life as a sacrifice to do us service. When we are crucified with Him, then we give our lives as a sacrifice to serve Him.
The parallel to Matthew 16:24 adds to take up your cross daily. Many people will submit to Jesus once in a while or even most of the time. Crucifying self means denying your desires every day. It is a continual struggle to achieve total devotion to the Lord.
Most people understand that giving one's life for a cause would be an act of supreme devotion. When a parent dies saving a child or a fireman dies saving someone trapped in a burning building, we understand those people paid the supreme sacrifice. That is what Jesus wants of us: the supreme sacrifice. We may need to die physically for His cause; but if not, we still must give our lives in His service.
When Galatians 2:20 says, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me," it means we must live our lives as He would live if He were in our place. He died to save me; now I must let Him live through me.
Now consider again the question: "Have the nails pierced your hands and your feet?"
Many people fail to serve God because they are doing what they want. Others fail because they are doing what other people want. Consider two areas where this applies:
We die with Christ from the basic principles of the world. This refers to submitting to human laws (verse 22).
Note 2:8 - We must guard lest men spoil or capture us after the traditions of men and rudiments of the world, not after Christ. The world follows religious laws and traditions that originate with men, not God. Christians must submit instead to Christ.
Worship based on human commands is vain.
This does not mean we never submit to human rules in any realm of life. Jesus tells citizens to obey civil law, children to obey parents, and wives to submit to husbands. But we must never violate the will of God in order to follow human rules. God has made His rules and revealed them in the Bible. We must do nothing except what He has authorized.
Why should we not bow to the Pope or to Mary, follow man-made creeds, sprinkle babies for baptism, use instruments of music in worship, have quarterly or weekday communion, call preachers "Reverend," send church contributions to man-made institutions, or involve the church in entertainment or recreation?
These are all man-made religious practices. God's word never tells us to do any of these things. We should not submit because we died with Christ! The men who made these laws did not die for us; Christ died for us. So we should give our lives, not to do the will of men, but to do the will of Christ who died for us.
Death often refers to separation. We separate ourselves from man-made laws, refusing to obey them. Instead we follow Jesus the head (Colossians 2:19).
So, have we been participating in man-made religious practices or fellowshiping those who do practice them? If so, we need to learn to be crucified with Christ.
Because Jesus died for me, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. The context shows this means that I do not heed the pressures of the world that would influence me to disobey Christ (compare verses 12,13).
Friends or relatives may want us to participate in sin. They may ridicule us or even persecute us when we refuse to go along with error. We tend to want to go along with the crowd. We must be crucified to such pressures, so they don't lead us to disobey God.
Jewish rulers believed in Jesus but would not confess Him, because they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God.
It is not always wrong to do what pleases people. But we are wrong when our desire to please people leads us to displease God or refuse to stand up for the truth.
Note: Losing our life, taking our cross, and following Jesus are all discussed again here. We are required to serve Jesus even when this alienates us from our dearest loved ones. If we are not willing to make this sacrifice, we are not worthy of Jesus.
One of the biggest problems in the church is spineless people who will not resist peer pressure. They will not stand up to those who are in sin, but allow loved ones to influence them away from the truth.
We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). We must refuse to practice sin, we must refuse to fellowship sin, and we must speak out against it. This requires us to die to the will of men, including our dearest loved ones.
So consider again the question: "Have the nails pierced your hands and your feet?"
1 Peter 2:24 - Jesus bore our sins on the cross so we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Once again, not only did Christ die for us, but now He requires us to die.
This also involves death in two senses:
The old man was crucified so the body of sin might be done away (verse 6). We have died to sin being united in the likeness of His death (verses 4,5).
In physical death, the spirit departs from the body (James 2:26). In baptism, the body of sin is cut off from our soul. He who has died is justified from sin (verse 7).
This happens when we obey from the heart the form of teaching delivered and are then made free from sin. This includes baptism into Jesus' death (verses 3,4). His death then forgives our sins (death to sin) and we are raised to walk in newness of life.
"Have the nails pierced your hands and feet?" Has your old man of sin been crucified? If not, you are still in sin, and this will lead to eternal death (verse 23). Either you are crucified with Jesus, thereby killing the guilt of sin, or it will kill you! It is a matter of spiritual life and death.
If we have died to sin (the guilt is removed), why return to the practice of sin? Why allow it to continue to live in your life?
That is what some want to do. What good would it do to receive forgiveness, if we just return to sin?
Living after the flesh will lead to spiritual death. To avoid that death, we must put to death the deeds of the body (sin). We must be led by the Spirit (through the word) and avoid sin. Otherwise, we will die. Either sin dies or we die.
Often in Western movies the good guy and the bad guy meet for a showdown. Everybody knows someone is going to die. "It's either him or me!" You and I face a daily showdown with sin. Either we kill it, or it will kill us. Has sin been crucified in your life, or is it alive and well?
[1 Corinthians 15:31]
Verses 3-7 - We died to sin, so we should put to death these earthly members, because they cause God's wrath to come upon us. When a body dies, all the members are dead. If some members are still alive, the body is not dead.
"Fornication, uncleanness, passion, and evil desire" - Put off, not just illicit sexual relations, but also the things that encourage them: dirty movies and music, pornography, dancing, scanty and indecent apparel. Have you put these to death?
"Covetousness" - greed and over-emphasis on material things. Do you lie, steal, or cheat to get ahead in business? Gamble? Neglect your children, attendance, Bible study, or teaching others for the sake of possessions or pleasure?
Verses 8-10 - "Anger, wrath, malice" - Do you lose your temper and say cruel, hateful things to hurt others? Do you seek vengeance to get even with people you think have harmed you? Do you hold grudges and refuse to forgive even when people repent and ask your forgiveness?
"Blasphemy, filthy language, lying" - Do you stretch the truth or omit important facts in order to lead people to believe what is not true? Do you slander people to hurt their reputation? Do you tell dirty jokes, use profanity, or take God's name in vain?
"Tender mercies, kindness" - Do you try to put yourself in other people's place and consider their viewpoint? If you must tell them they are wrong, do you do it from a sincere concern for them? Some are quick to criticize others. Are we also quick to do it for the good of the other person, or just to win an argument, or just to get our own way?
"Humility and meekness" - Do we insist on our own way: "my way or no way." Do we submit humbly to God's will? Do we give in to others, when we can do so without sinning? Do we honestly recognize and admit our sins, or do we justify and rationalize?
"Longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness" - When people apologize to us, do we really forgive, or do we continue to hold a grudge? Do we from time to time drag out the memory of the old sin and remind the person who committed it and use it as a weapon to beat people with?
Above all, do we "put on love"? Do we really do what is best for others, or do we selfishly seek what we want? Do we always act with goodwill for all who are involved?
To be crucified with Christ means to put sin to death. But the problem is that sin does not die easily. Even when we have been cleansed from guilt, and when we thought we put that bad habit or that bad attitude to death, it has a way of coming back to life. We must put to death all those sinful members and keep them there.
When we have totally, completely dedicated our lives to God - died to self - we will find it is much easier to die to sin and live to righteousness. When we find we are struggling continually overcoming some sin and becoming what God wants us to be, we must go back to the basics of our relationship with Jesus Christ and totally dedicate ourselves to His service. We must crucify ourselves.
2 Timothy 2:11 - To live with Jesus, we must die with Him. We usually think that life comes first, then death. But Jesus teaches that, spiritually you must die first, then you can live. Eternal life comes only after we die to self, to the will of others, and to sin.
"Have the nails pierced your hands and feet?" Jesus died for you. Have you died for Him?
* Have you died to self by truly denying yourself and committing your life to serving God?
* Have you died to the will of others, by determining to follow only Jesus' teaching in religion and obeying Him regardless of what others may want?
* Have you crucified the old man of sin by believing and being baptized? Are you daily crucifying the practice of sin in your life?
"Have the nails pierced your hands and your feet?"
Copyright 2017,David E. Pratte; gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.