Dead ‘And’ Alive
Study Guide, May 24, 2020
Pastor Clay Olsen
So how has that ‘reset’ button been working for you this last week? Right, it does take more effort than pushing a button, but hopefully this reset process has helped you enjoy the blessings of living day by day with a raised-up mind-set. But we didn’t have time to explore what else the Apostle Paul revealed to us about just how we are to go about doing that. So, since you are here today or out there today or wherever you are today, let’s look into what Paul said about that today.
And by the way, this might sound like an odd question, but, did you know that you have already died? Did you know that you are already dead…and I’m already dead? In a very real sense, a part of you is dead. We’d better get right to the passage to see what we’re talking about. Look at this: Again, we explored this first part: Col 3:1-4- “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” Okay we walked through that. But then Paul reveals this: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” NASU
Again, did you know that you had died? The story goes that while Mark Twain was once in London a rumor started in America that he had died, and a newspaper printed his obituary. When Mark Twain learned about this he wrote back: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” But this report in Col 3:3 is no exaggeration at all about your death and my death. In fact, the fact that part of us is already dead is so important that the Apostle wrote about it over and over throughout his letters to the churches. For example: To the Romans he wrote: Rom 6:6-9- “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him.” NLT
How amazing is that? “We were crucified with Christ”, Paul says; “We died with Christ”, Paul says; “Since we died with Christ”, Paul says…You see, when we look at the Cross we see Christ there, of course! But Paul said we are to also see ourselves there, because we were crucified and died with Christ! When Jesus went to the Cross, He took us with Him! When Jesus was crucified and died, we were crucified and died with Him!
How are we to understand this earth-shaking truth? Well, yes, practically, you and I are still alive here and now. But positionally and spiritually, your independent natural self, or sinful soul was actually there…actually there at the cross with Jesus. Think about this: As our Substitute, Jesus went to the cross alone, without us, to pay the penalty of our sins. But as our Representative, Jesus took us with Him to the cross, and there, in the sight of God, we all died together, with Christ. Therefore, we can be forgiven of our sins because Jesus died in our place. And now we can even be delivered from ourselves because we died with Him. God’s way of deliverance for us is to put us away in the cross of His Son, and to then make a new person by recreating us in union with Jesus, the Risen, Ascended, Living Lord and Savior! 1
What Paul is revealing to us is that in order for you and for me to set our born-again minds on the things above, we also have to also see our old sinful self on the cross with Christ…for that is where our old-independent from God-sinful self, died with Christ. And that’s right where our old-independent from God-sinful self needs to stay. And that’s why Jesus said we should carry our cross around with us day by day. Mark 8:34- “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” NASU
This was surely a very startling statement for the people to hear. For every person living under Roman rule in Judea knew exactly what the cross was all about. They knew that a cross was a thing on which a person was put to death. People often talk about their crosses; like in terms of, their crosses that they have to bear. And they mean things like their burdens and their problems and their struggles, and like the kinds of things that we are going through with this pandemic crisis and such. And all of these are certainly heavy burdens. But that is not what Jesus is talking about here. Nor is it what we are supposed to be doing with our heavy burdens in the first place. In fact, we are never commanded to carry our heavy burdens around with us anyway. Jesus said this in Matt 11:28-30- “Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” NLT
One of our problems is that we so often are trying to carry around the wrong burdens. Now, having concern and having compassion and seeking to do something about our burdens and other people’s burdens is a good thing and a blessed thing. But Jesus said that there is a particular way that we are to deal with all of these burdens. And that is, that we are to first cast these burdens, cast those cares upon the Lord, and then let Him carry the heavy load of them, all the while He then works through us and we work with Him on doing something about those burdens. But it starts with transferring those burdens onto Him through prayer and in faith. Remember that Identity re-set? Jesus is the Vine…we are His branches. Remember – ‘Through us and not from us.’ And what did Jesus say that we could do about anything apart from Him, that is, anything of lasting value apart from Him? Jesus had one word for that: ‘We can do…NOTHING!
So Jesus calls us to bring our heavy burdens to Him and to then let Him carry the heavy weight of those burdens. And then He calls for us to take His yoke, or to place ourselves beside Him in His yoke, and then carry the one burden in particular that He does give to us instead. Again, we are to exchange our burdens with His burden, and do that over and over day by day.
The Jewish people spoke of the yoke as the ‘yoke of the Torah’. So we would think of this in terms of the Word of God. And so, if the ‘yoke’ is the Word of God, what then is His burden? Well, what was Jesus’ burden? Jesus’ burden was to do the ‘Will of the Father’. So the yoke is the Word of God, and the burden is the Will of God. And that’s why Jesus began with calling people to ‘deny themselves’, so that they could now think in terms of: ‘Not my will, but Thy will be done!’
The point is; denying oneself is not the same as self-denial. We practice ‘self-denial’ when, like, for a good purpose, we occasionally give up things or activities. But we ‘deny self’ when we surrender ourselves to Christ and determine to obey His will. We exchange our will with Christ’s will. And this is then followed up with a daily “dying to self’ as we take up our cross and follow Him. And get this: from the human point of view, we are losing ourselves, but from the divine perspective, we are finding ourselves.2
When we live for Christ, we become more like Him, and, amazingly enough, this brings out our own unique individuality, a ‘new self’, a new-dependent upon God-spiritual self! And this new-dependent upon God-spiritual self is exactly what we are to be raising-up and living out as we practice thinking according to this new mind-set!
The one thing that Jesus told us to carry was our cross. And the one thing on that cross is not our trials, not our troubles, not our burdens, but just ‘us’…meaning our old-independent from God-sinful self that was positionally crucified and died with Christ, and now needs to practically and daily stay attached to the Cross so that we can now experience our new-dependent upon God- spiritual self as we follow our Lord and Savior day by day. Again, what we are to be carrying around on our cross each day is our self…our old-independent from God-sinful self. For that is the old part of us that needs to stay on the cross.
Many people wear crosses of some sort…often as jewelry, or even as a way to share their faith. And it is a great way to show your thankfulness to Jesus and to remind you of your great salvation. The Apostle Paul said that he even gloried in the Cross. But he also added another focus point that we are pointing out today. Let’s look: Gal 6:14- “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.” KJV
On that Hill of Calvary were three crosses; one with Jesus, and on either side were two others…two thieves. One thief remained unconverted and the other thief became converted. The historians didn’t record their names, but the Apostle Paul did. He said one was named ‘the world’, and the other was named ‘and I’. You see, the whole world was on that hill that day…everyone who has ever lived was on one of those crosses. There was Jesus, and then an unconverted thief, and a converted thief. Again, the whole world was on that hill that day. You see, even if you are now converted, now saved, you and I are still converted thieves. We have each stolen from God’s sovereign authority over our lives by living not by God’s will, but by our own will. We have each stolen from God’s right to be loved with all of our soul, and all of our heart, and all of our mind. We have each stolen from God’s leadership by instead of following His ways, we have gone our own ways, with sins of commission, as well as sins of omission. We have each stolen from God’s Lordship over the use of our time, and our talents, and our treasures. Oh yeah, we are each and everyone a thief. But because of God’s great love and mercy, and because we have a great Savior, and by God’s grace and through our faith, we are now converted thieves…we are saved thieves!
But now, think about this: That converted thief died on the cross that same day with Jesus. So his old-independent from God-sinful self, died with Christ that day, and stayed dead. But his born again new-dependent upon God-spiritual self was raised-up with Jesus to Paradise that day. But what if he had lived? What if this converted thief had lived? What would Jesus’ words to him have been? They would have been exactly what Jesus told all of us who have chosen to follow Him… “You must deny yourself, and take up your cross and follow Me.”
You see, as long as you and I are still living, converted thieves that are still living, we each still carry that old-independent from God-sinful-self with us, even though God created a new-dependent upon God-spiritual self that is united to Christ’s own life. And so that is why we need to carry our cross in order to carry our old-independent-sinful self on it, as we daily die to that old self and then walk in our new self as we follow Christ in dependence upon Him and live out our life that is a ‘shared life’ in union with Him.
You recall that Jesus gave Paul that new name after he was converted. Before his conversion he was named ‘Saul’. Jesus did that with Peter, too, from Simon to Peter; Jacob was changed to Israel, and so on. Several Scriptures indicate that every born again person has or will have a new name as well. Actually, this would be very helpful for you and for me to think about, and to think about it because of this: It’s like if Paul would have carried a cross with him, and someone were to ask him: “So, Paul. What’s on your cross that you are carrying?” And Paul could have answered, “I am. That is, Saul is on this cross. The person I was is on this cross. Actually, that part that is still with me till I go to Heaven, my old-independent from God-sinful self is on this cross, because I’m trying to be less and less of Saul each day, and more and more of Paul, or the new-dependent upon God-spiritual self each day.”
In order to live a raised-up life with a raised-up mind-set we are going to have to stop trying to revive what’s already dead, our old-independent from God-sinful self, and keep focusing on and discovering and experiencing what God is trying to do in our new-dependent upon God-spiritual self, which is in union with Christ. Remember, our very name ‘Christian’ means ‘one who is In Christ’! Amen? ‘In Christ’…united to Christ’s life. That’s not just semantics, that is the reality of the fact that a Christian is one who now has a ‘shared life’ that is indissolubly united to Christ’s life.
And that’s what the Apostle Paul is calling us to do: to keep our old Saul on the cross each day and keep raising up and building up the new Paul of our life, by setting our minds on the things of God day by day.
Maybe you could add that concept to your wearing of a cross…you can let people know that it not only reminds you of the work of Jesus on the Cross to save you from your sin, but it also reminds you that Jesus is now working on saving you from yourself; that is, saving you from your old self, as in: “I’m trying to keep my old-independent from God-sinful self on the cross so that God can develop and use my new-dependent upon God-spiritual self.”
By the way, you no doubt have noticed that we keep contrasting ‘independent’ and ‘dependent’. And the reason for that is because it is a clear way of contrasting the difference between our will and God’s will. And, remember, that was the whole problem to begin with; from our first parents in the Garden of Eden to us; all living according to our independent self-will instead of living according to a devoted dependence upon and to the will of God. That’s why Jesus had to come; to pardon our sins by His own sacrifice, and to reverse the curse and convert our souls, so that we could now live a shared life with God, in dependence upon Him, whereby we now say to God; ‘Not my will, but Thy will be done!”
So you and I have something to carry each day, don’t’ we? We have a cross to carry. And we also have something to keep on that cross that we carry each day. And that is – ourselves; or the old part of us, our old-independent from God-sinful self. Or, the old Jane or the old Fred or whatever our name is. And then we need to set our mind to follow Christ, letting Him transform and lead the new part of us; or the new Jane or the new Fred and such, that new creation of the new-dependent upon God-spiritual self that Christ raised up in us and truly is the ‘real us’; the ‘real you’. And as we do this day after day, well friends, not only will we be pleasing and useful to God, but we will also be satisfied and successful in life…because true success is ‘usefulness’ to God. Plus, this simply is the greatest adventure you can have in your life…to ‘deny yourself, and take up your cross, and follow Christ!’
1. Miles J. Stanford, Principles of Spiritual Growth, p. 73
2. Notes on ‘Denial of Self’ gleaned from: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.