Crucifying the sinful nature
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
~ John 1:11
Jesus Christ was crucified. He died a painful death on the cross, to redeem us for God.
We are saved by faith in Jesus. We are saved because we believe that He died and rose again.
The Bible says that we receive salvation through the mercy of God. We did nothing to deserve mercy. We are able to place our faith in Jesus because God has given us the ability to believe. It is a gift from God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. This gift is a treasure that is worth more than gold.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.×
However, the Bible says that we must endure to the end in our faith in Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:22-23].
But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.×
There is a huge difference between earning salvation (which would mean that God would owe us something, and would give us reason to take pride and to boast), and guarding the gift of salvation.
Of course, if you see the gift of salvation as something that can never be lost, then there is nothing to guard – always assuming you can ever be sure that you had the gift in the first place.
How do you guard the gift of salvation?
Five sections in the book of Hebrews warn against a downward slide that starts with neglect and drift, becomes a hardening of the heart, then a falling away, then indulging in deliberate willful sin and, finally, despising the grace of God. That’s how you can lose the gift of salvation – by treating it as a light matter, by not valuing it. Eventually you reach the place where you stop believing in Jesus.
What is necessary to actively guard the gift of salvation?
The important thing that you need to do, the Bible says, is to exercise your faith in Jesus Christ. You express this faith through acts of loving kindness [Galatians 5:6]. Acts of loving kindness are done through self-sacrifice in serving others. This means death to self – living for Jesus by serving others. That means your fallen, selfish nature – what the New Testament calls ‘flesh’ – has to die.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.×
It is vital to state, once again, that:
You have salvation, which means legal right-standing with God, through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross.
You have been crucified with Christ, the Bible says [Romans 6:6 and Galatians 2:20].
For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin …
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.×
However, we are called on to make this legal right-standing an increasing reality in our experience. To do this we need to yield to the dealings of the Holy Spirit and to co-operate in His work of changing us into the image of Christ [Galatians 5:25 and 2 Corinthians 3:18]. In other words, we have a part to play. We have responsibilities. (2 Peter 1:5-11 ).
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
And we … are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.×
2 Peter 1:5-11
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.×
The image that the New Testament uses for this dying to self is the one of crucifixion – a slow, painful suffocating of self.
Galatians 5:24 says:
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus crucify the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
This is the experiential outworking of our faith. I, for one, have not reached the point of complete death to self. We are called on to crucify the sinful nature, which means that I, at least, am facing an ongoing painful future, until the Lord takes me home to glory.
This raises an interesting question: How do we crucify ourselves? You can nail your feet to the cross, metaphorically speaking, and then one hand, and then what? You will need help with that third nail. And help is what God promises, through the Holy Spirit. He is working every circumstance to bring you to an end of yourself. Every tough experience you go through is Him, helping you with your problem of needing to die to self.
This makes sense of Jesus’ words: “Pick up your cross”. March to your execution. “Deny yourself” [Luke 9:23 and Luke 14:27].
Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”×
It also makes sense of the apostle Paul’s warning to those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ [Philippians 3:18-19].
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.×
The Bible presents all this as a warning and as an encouragement. If you are suffering trials of many kinds, it is not because you lack faith [James 1:2-4]. It is because God means it for good – the strengthening of your faith, the slow destruction of your self-life, the salvation of your soul [1 Peter 1:6-9].
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.×
1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.×