Acts 13:36 “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. NIV
As we saw when we studied this passage, serving God’s purpose is all that really matters in eternity; life on earth comes down to one question—who we are going to serve?
Serving God is what we were called to do, and a servant is what we are called to be. Salvation starts the process as we are transferred from Satan’s dominion and into God’s. We receive a new heart (software for our operating system) and are empowered to serve the Lord.
But the challenge is that this new operating system, our new life in Christ, is carried on through our old vehicle (or hardware). This body of ours is supposed to carry out the wishes of God—but often doesn’t want to. Our mind entertains doubts and questions. We listen to our flesh that pours out a constant stream of fears, cautions, anxieties, and rebellions. Often we are paralyzed by indecision and uncertainties of what exactly it is we are to do. That is everyday life on planet earth this side of Heaven.
God’s Word clearly warns us that we do not conquer our flesh by physical means— human resolve, self-effort, religious activity, or sheer will power.
The flesh is only conquered by the power of the cross worked out in our life by the Holy Spirit. There is a war always brewing between our flesh and the Spirit of God within us. One of the clearest descriptions of that warfare is in Galatians 5, turn there next with me please.
Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. NKJV
Flesh can’t defeat flesh. Resolves, promises, fighting and striving in our own power only leads to further defeats–it is only by yielding to the power of the cross. And what is the power of the cross? It is the defeat of death, sin, and Satan that Jesus accomplished once for all time when He died on the cross.
Remember our study of the life of Saul these past few weeks? We saw repeatedly that the downfall of King Saul started with his selective obedience. But his undoing was when he spared Agag. We learned that if we want to waste our lives just be like Saul who kept only the best–of what God hated.
Remember when we started our look at Saul the first king of Israel. I explained that God rejected him for disobeying a very clear command. Then I read the actual orders God gave him. Turn their again with me please.
1 Samuel 15:3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ” NKJV
To God the Amalekites were a deadly poison that had to be dealt with; they were emitting dangerous spiritual radiation that would contaminate all that came into contact with them. So when God gave them into Saul’s hand he wasn’t to even spare their livestock – every one and every thing was to be destroyed. But Saul and his men went through that which God hated and saved the best.
1 Samuel 15:32-33 Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.
Samuel was God’s man, His obedient instrument for that moment—and Samuel’s harsh action towards Agag is an example of how we must deal with the flesh, that old sinful part of us that remains.
Let me repeat the message God has left us from the failed life of King Saul. Saul is a picture of one of God’s servants who suffers loss. Let me underline in your heart and mind this sobering truth–any part of our old life that we spare will come back and slay us and rob us of God’s blessing, fruitfulness, and rewards.
o Any part of our flesh (like Agag) that we exempt from mortification will come back with a vengeance and slay us. o All of our flesh (like the Amalekites) always comes to strike us down when we are weakest – and then rob us of our crown.
The battle was already won by Christ, the world, my flesh and the Devil were all defeated at the cross–and we just need to believe and act upon that truth! How do we do that more regularly?
Two passages explain this truth. The first the attitude we need, and second the action we need to take. We need to repeat, reaffirm, and remember over and over again that the past work of Christ’s death on the cross saved me and keeps me. Listen to Paul in Galatians 2 as he sets forth the attitude we are to have.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ (past event–justification); it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (present event-sanctification); and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God (present event-sanctification), who loved me and gave Himself for me (past event-justification). NKJV
Notice the sandwich type presentation. The past work of Christ on the cross secured my salvation in the present and offers my sanctification in the present, based on the past work of Christ’s cross.
How did I get saved? By trusting, believing, clinging to the truth that Jesus Christ took my sins, and stood in my place and bore the punishment of God’s wrath I deserved. The guiltless One took my guilt; the sinless One took my sin; the Holy One took my wretchedness and on and on I could go.
But did I see Him there personally? No, it was by what? Yes, faith.
I believed the truth of God’s Word and God changed me forever. The same way we were saved is the same way we live the rest of our lives.
Was I saved because I completely understood the Gospel? No, I am still understanding more and shall until glory!
Was I saved because I felt that God saved me? No because sometimes I feel that He couldn’t have because I am so unworthy and sinful—does that un-save me? NO.
So apply that faith that you and I have for the work of Christ on the cross in our place and apply it now to the rest of our walk.
Now join me in Colossians 3, as we see the action we must take to live the life of killing our flesh, mortifying our flesh—and living the crucified with Christ life!
Now, in simple faith that saved you repeat that to yourself. (Just like my old pastor John MacArthur always used to tell us ‘preach the Gospel to yourself!’) Say something like this:
Even if I do not feel it, understand it, or even at times want it I WILL by faith, believing YOU consider myself dead to sin. Or in times of need, “Lord I operate on what I know is true, you have made me dead to sin.”
When I truly prayed, asking in simple faith for Christ to save me—whether I felt a strong emotional feeling or not, God began His work within me. I started changing from the inside out. The same is true with these imperatives.
- Jesus lived—that’s history.
- Jesus died—that’s theology.
- Jesus died for me and took my sins upon Himself on the Cross—that’s salvation.
- Jesus died for me to live through Him—that’s sanctification.
And Christ’s work on Calvary forever gave us the power and authority so we can stop anything that enslaves us and so that we can start anything He asks us to do!
Just as there is nothing we can do before our salvation to make us accepted by God; and there is nothing we can do after our salvation that makes us acceptable to God.
As we were saved only by the accomplishment of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross—so we live each day ‘by faith’ (the same faith by which we were saved). We are always dependent upon Christ’s gracious death upon the cross that saves and keeps us!
Please stand with me to read Colossians 3:1-25, one of the greatest chapters in God’s Word and one of the clearest presentations of crucified living–and pray.
This chapter is built around 14 imperative commands. Remember that God never commands me to do what He hasn’t already given me the grace to accomplish by faith through His Spirit!
Let’s walk back through this chapter, see what Paul relates to us from the Lord, and then pause and ASK the Lord to unleash these powerful spiritual qualities in our lives today.
If then you were raised with Christ,
- seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
[Because of Christ’s death for my sins—I can now seek and do what pleases God. Close your eyes, look up at the Lord and say, Lord Jesus today I want You to help me seek things above!]
- v. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
[Because of Christ’s death for my sins—I can now turn my mind to the Lord’s channel and really experience Him. Close your eyes, look up at the Lord and say, Lord Jesus right now I want You to set my mind on things above!]
- v. 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth:
Paul is saying is, “Put to death every part of your self which is against God and keeps you from fulfilling his will.” He uses the same expression in Romans 8:13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” It is exactly the same line of thought as that of Jesus when he demanded that a man should cut off a hand or a foot, or tear out an eye when it was leading him into sin (Matthew 5:29, 30). The Christian must kill self-centeredness and regard as dead all private desires and ambitions. There must be in his life a radical transformation of the will and a radical shift of the center. Anything which would keep him from fully obeying God and fully surrendering to Christ must be brought to the Great Physician to be surgically excised.
[Because of Christ’s death for my sins—I can now go to my Great Physician and He will surgically removed any tumor of sin that kills my walk with God. Close your eyes, look up at the Lord and say, Lord Jesus right now I want You to kill these evil desires in my life.]