Imperatives of the Crucified Life – I
Do you remember when God wrote David's epitaph He said one thing very clearly—David served the Lord. Turn there with me again to Acts 13:36.
- 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 are we 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.
What Did Saul Do Wrong?
Remember our study of the life of Saul these past few days? 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
- 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.
What Can We Learn from Saul’s Failures
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.
- Any part of our flesh (like Agag) that we exempt from mortification will come back with a vengeance and slay us.
- 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 passage demonstrates the attitude we need, and the 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 your walk in Christ.
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