Intentional living…living the life on purpose, choosing to live the life God has outlined for us in Scripture that Jesus modeled for us. Those three-and-a-half years He was here was not standing in line waiting to be crucified, for that happened very quickly, but it was to model for us how we are to live a crucified and resurrected life.
Today I want us to understand that intentional living begins with intentional dying, that to live for Christ is to die to self. Paul discovered this, for he had lived a religious life. He had lived a life of zeal. He had done all of those things, but he didn't discover the life God had until he first learned to die to self.
There was an occasion where Paul had to confront another great apostle named Peter. Peter, like so many of us, was a man who was sold out to Christ but was still under the pressures of his fellow man. When he was around the Jewish Christians, he tended to fall back on certain Jewish practices so that when he was around the Gentile Christians, he began to impose and set the wrong model before them of following some of those Jewish practices the Gentiles were really free from and never had to follow. So Paul in the letter to the Galatians confronts Peter. He confronts him not from a Jewish standpoint but from the standpoint of a man who had learned to die to self, to die to the law, to die to all of those practices.
You see, there are some of us here today who are here this morning to worship and to praise and to fellowship the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. We sing to Him loudly. We praise Him loudly. But in just a few moments, we're going to dismiss and we're going to be gathered around family who don't share the same beliefs we do. There is going to be that tendency to be like the apostle Peter, to shrink back and to fall back into old practices, and if not this afternoon, this week. We'll go back to work, we'll go back to school, we'll surround ourselves with friends…friends whose company we kept before we came to Christ as Savior, jokes that we once laughed at, ways of doing things that, as a Christian, we don't prefer, but we tend to fall back on.
Paul sees this in Peter, and he confronts him to his face, and he says, "…why do you compel the Gentiles to live as Jews?" Why do you take this new life we have received in Christ, this freedom we have received and set it aside and take up again that old way of life and that old man? Oh, it ought not to be so. He really lays out for Peter his own discovery. This is the discovery I want all of us to take with us as we leave this morning.
Either you know Christ as Savior or maybe you're here seeking a relationship with the Savior, and I want you to know that to begin and to walk that life begins by dying…by an intentional dying.
Listen with me in Galatians. I want to pick up with the discussion he had with Peter back in verse 17 of Galatians, chapter 2. Galatians, chapter 2, in verse 17, Paul, speaking to Peter said, "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!" If we claim Christ as our Savior, and then we find ourselves participating yet again in sinful activities, is that because Christ has led us to do that? Is He our minister, our pastor, our leader, into sin? Well certainly not.
It's not Christ, in other words, who leads you to laugh at that dirty joke again. It's not Christ, in other words, who is leading you to back off of your praise and love of Jesus that you have right now. That is sin that is creeping back into one's life that's causing that to happen.
Verse 18, Paul said to Peter, "For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." It's one thing to be a slave to sin, to be a slave to pornography, to be a slave to cursing, to be a slave to cheating, a slave to lying, but you've been freed in Christ. Having been freed in Christ, if you return again to that pornography, if you return again to that lying and stealing, you are building that again in your own life what Christ has removed from you, and now you're the transgressor.
You see, my friend, it is one thing to commit those sins without Christ, but when you have Christ, those sins double in transgression. For now you are free from it, and to commit it again is far worse. Paul says in verse 19, "For I through the law died to the law." My friends, when Christ died the reason Christ died for your sins is because the law required it. That's the payment for your sin. That's the payment for your participation in pornography. That's the payment for your participation in lying and cheating. That's the payment for the raw deals you've struck with other people. That's the price that you pay for the life you've lived; according to the law, it is death, and Christ died.
But when you receive Christ as Savior, your death is Christ's death. He says, "For I through the law died to the law..." There's far more than death to the law; there is life through God. He says, "…that I might live to God." Paul is telling Peter, "Listen, this old way of life is nothing more than a tutor to show us our need for Christ, and so I have died to those things. The law did that. Christ did that. His death on the cross is not meaningless. It freed me from the penalty of all of those sins I have committed.
The problem is, Peter, we have to begin to live as though we have died the death with Christ." We can't just go through life and say, "Oh, I believe in Jesus, and yet have it make no change in our lives." That's not real belief. We can't just say, "I accept Christ as my Savior, but I have no intention of getting out of the swirling tide that He's saving me from." That's not salvation. Salvation is to begin anew.
Jesus said it to Nicodemus so clearly. He said, "You must be born again." But when you're born again, there aren't two of you. Salvation is not Siamese-twin living. One has to die and the other comes to life. Paul sums it up in our text for today in verse 20. This is intentional dying. This is how you do it. This is how you leave today different from the way you came in. This is how Easter '09 has significance in your life.
Paul said to Peter, and he says to you and me, he said, "I have been crucified with Christ." You see, God's way to abundant living is opposite to the world. The world's way to abundant life means you live it up, but God's way means that we must die to the selfish nature in order to live. If you want to live the abundant life that Christ has for you, it will begin with you dying to self. It will begin with you being crucified with Christ.
That's in the perfect tense in the Greek, by the way. It is a completed action never to be repeated. It's not something you do every revival season. It's not something you have to do every Easter. It's not something that you do when you really feel bad. There has to come a point in your life, a time when you are crucified with Christ. It's a completed action. The Bible tells us that Christ died once, never to die again. That must be the model of our lives as well.
We can't just keep feeling bad about the things we're doing, regretting the things we're doing. There comes a time when you must change from the things you're doing, and die to self. Paul says to Peter, "I've been crucified with Christ..." Those things of the law, those old ways of living, they were buried. A stone rolled over them and the dirt put on the grave, in my case, he said. We must die to the selfish nature in order to live.
Paul says, "…it is no longer I who live..." It is no longer me, Peter, whom you're looking at. It's no longer Saul of Tarsus. He died on the road to Damascus. It's a new creature you're seeing, and it's no longer you, Simon, either. You're Peter now. You have a new life now. To every one of you in here who have reached out and claimed the cross as your own, it's not you anymore. It's something entirely new. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
You see what he's saying here? I no longer live. Christ lives in me. The life I now live is the life of Christ. The life I'm living now is a life that is being led not by my mind, not by my raising, not by my education even, but by faith in Christ. Notice what he says here. He says, "…and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God..." In other words, I'm no longer making decisions based on my own preferences.
Oh, to live the Christian life means you die to all of your preferences. The goals you had, the plans you had, the selfish dreams even that you had, those things are dead. They die. Instead, Christ makes those plans for you. Christ makes those decisions for you. You may be saying, "Well, that's not very good because I had some really good plans. I had some really good dreams."
What I want to tell you, before you're disappointed, before you walk away thinking, "Well, I don't want any of that." Let me tell you that the life that Christ has for you is far better than the plans you had. It is far stronger, far more abundant in its living quality than anything this world had to offer you, than anything this world was trying to trick you into doing.
Paul says, "Listen Peter, the life I'm living now…this man standing before you, I'm not living based on some legalism. I'm not living based on some law. I'm not living to please other people. I'm not living even to please some standards. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God. In other words, I trust that what He tells me to do is the best thing for me to do.
I trust that the words and the Scriptures that He has laid out for me are the best for me…that when He tells me that the marriage bed is undefiled, when He tells me to wait until marriage, that that's the best for me. That when He tells me to live an honest life even though a little, white lie would get me out of trouble, that I'm going to choose to live the honest life because I know, though I can't see it, I know that that's best for me. Peter, I'm not going to fall back to these old practices. I'm not going to lead people through that because I'm living by faith in the Son of God."
Notice what he says about that, "…who loved me and gave Himself for me." He loved me enough to die for me, and so I have to love Him enough to live for Him. He gave Himself…in the Greek literally…he gave Himself up for me. I'm going to give myself back to Him. His model of sacrifice is my model for living. Really, the challenge that He has for us is…do we live this way? What He says to Peter is what He's saying to us. Is this the decision making in our life? Have we died to self? Are we living in the newness of life that Christ offers?
Listen to what Paul would say later in Romans, chapter 6, in verse 5. He speaks of this same concept…this intentional dying. He says, "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death…" Paul says that when you're saved, when you come to Christ in faith, there is a dying that takes place. In that dying…notice this…there is a uniting. We, who have received Christ as Savior, are united in His death. The one thing that ties us together above all else is His death in that we die like He died. We die to self.
You might be a good church worker, you might be a moral and religious person, but we have no likeness together if you haven't died to yourself. We're going to have conflict at some point if you try to utilize and make decisions based on the old man. Paul says if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, well then certainly, we also shall be united together in the likeness of His resurrection.
It would be, I guess, a martyr if all the Christian living was nothing but dying to self. The reason we die to self is so we can live in resurrection. Resurrection living is not just something we're going to do some day. Oh, there will be a glorious day when physically our bodies will be resurrected, but let me tell you something right here and right now, if you received Christ as Savior, if you die to self as Scripture demands, you are raised again to walk in the newness of life and that's resurrected living.
If you think about it, when Jesus was resurrected, if you'll do a study, you'll see He was different. He's no longer the carpenter's son. No one comes and challenges Him anymore at His resurrection. For 40 days He speaks to 500 different people, and He teaches the truths of God. He walks through walls. He is resurrected living in those last 40 days. He ascends up to heaven. He assumes the ride and the power and the glory of being the Son of God. Before the resurrection, before the death, He walked as a human, but after the resurrection in resurrected living. Oh, His life is different. He stands taller. He speaks with boldness. He proclaims these truths.
My friend, your life is to be different when you receive Christ as Savior. Oh, to have intentional living has to start with intentional dying. Paul goes on in verse 6, and says, "…knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with..." Why? "…that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
I tell you, if you've received Christ as Savior you're no longer enslaved to that sin that drove you to the cross. Now you may, because of past friends, because of your past life style…you may draw yourself back to it. You may build again that which Christ removed, and my friends you are the transgressor for doing that. You are the sinner for doing that. What you were once enslaved to you're no longer enslaved to. If you choose to go back to it…oh, you've committed all the more sin.
Maybe what you need to do this morning is examine your own life. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 13, verse 5, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves." Test yourselves. Can I walk away from that lifestyle? Can I walk away from that sinfulness? Can I boldly stand in resurrected living? Do these things that this preacher is saying, do they mean something? Are they real in my life or not? "Test yourselves," Paul says, "Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified."
You should know this morning whether or not Jesus Christ is living in you, calling the shots in you, is the priority of your life. Friends, when I say Jesus lives in you, how does that strike you? Do you know that it is true, or do you secretly wonder, "What would that be like?" That's the litmus test Paul gives us. Either He lives in you or He doesn't. Either it's a reality or it's a wannabe. Either this morning you're able to stand in the power of Christ and stand against that old way of life and walk away from those old temptations and things that once enslaved you, or else you've not yet died to self.
This is no time for maintaining appearances. This is a reality check…an intentional life check. Have you died to self? Paul says in Romans 8, verse 9, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you." You're not in the flesh anymore. Your decisions are not fleshly decisions anymore. Your cravings are not fleshly cravings anymore if you're living in the Spirit of God. Your desires, as the Psalm says, are the desires of God. He gives you the desires of your heart.
Notice what Paul says, "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." The same resurrection power that raised Christ literally from the dead is a power that is in infused in the life of those who die to self.
Dying to self is not the end. Dying to self is not the monastic way of life. Dying to self merely ushers in resurrected living. "He who can raise Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit." Yet Christ doesn't operate automatically in the believer's life. We don't become robots to Christ. We make a decision. It is a matter of living the new life, as Paul said, by faith in the Son of God.
Peter had all of this access, and yet he chose to build again. Paul said, "I'm crucified, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith. I choose to trust that what God has for me is better than what the world has for me. I live by faith. I walk by faith, not by the sight, not "seeing is believing," but I choose to step out where I cannot see, and to grab hold of that which I cannot feel, and to live a life of faith. That's the life that God has for you. It is a life that begins with intentional dying. It is then faith and not works which releases the divine power of God to give you that abundant life.
Just as we model in the waters of baptism of dying to self and being raised to walk in newness of life, just as Christ modeled for us in His own death, burial and resurrection to glory, so too, salvation (genuine salvation) begins with an intentional dying to self and being raised to walk under the power of the Holy Spirit to a resurrected life full of joy…a joy inexpressible, one that is full of glory, one that is beyond comprehension, one that cannot be described, one that cannot be easily understood, one that cannot be fabricated, one that cannot be made up, but a genuine, real abundant life…if you will die to self.
Not religion, but die to self.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription