Why do 90% of Christians struggle to receive grace and live the Christian life? There are two reasons. First, they do not properly value what Christ accomplished on the cross. Second, they do not know what happened to them on the cross. Every believer knows that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but not every believer knows that they died too.
“We died with Christ…” (Rm 6:8)
“You died with Christ…” (Col 2:20a)
“For you died…” (Col 3:3a)
Who died? You died! “How did this happen? I don’t remember the nails?” Well you’re going to have to take God’s word for it. Jesus died for the whole world right? Are you part of the whole world? Then by trusting in His representative death you are included in it:
We judge thus: That if One died for all, then all died. (2 Cor 5:14)
Good news for the whole world
Somehow we have bought into this idea that Christ died solely for Christians. But this is not the message of reconciliation that Paul preached. “God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 5:18). Who is the “us” that Paul is referring to in this passage? In the next verse he tells us:
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself… (2 Cor 5:19a)
Christ died for the world. Christ carried the sins of the world. Because of one man the world had a sin problem. But on the cross the world was delivered from that problem.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Cor 15:22)
You might say, “This sounds like universalism.” It is not. What God provided you still need to receive. The benefits of the cross are for all, but you won’t enjoy those benefits if you reject them through unbelief. (And for more on 2 Cor. 5:14, read this.)
My point is this: If you believed that sin and death came to the world through one man, why is it hard to accept that reconciliation came through another?
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Rm 5:18)
Christ died on the cross as humanity’s representative. This does not mean that everyone is now counted righteous, for we must still respond to God’s grace with faith.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:19)
And how do we receive the gift of God’s righteousness? Through faith, from first to last (Rm 1:17).
Good news for Christians
Because they are confused about the cross, many Christians are trying to die to self. They’re striving so hard that they’re on the verge of shedding blood for Jesus. Put down that hammer! Jesus didn’t bleed for you just so you could bleed for Him. He died so that you might live.
Every man-made religion preaches self-denial and dying to self but the Bible simply declares, You died! Your old man is dead already. Water baptism helps us get this. When you were baptized you were re-enacting your co-crucifixion with Christ:
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (Rom 6:3)
You might say, “But I’m still a mess. I’m still battling with sin.” That may be so, but you will gain nothing by trying to do that which God has already done. The work of the cross is finished. Here’s Watchman Nee writing in The Normal Christian Life:
Let me tell you, You have died! You are done with! You are ruled out! The self you loathe is on the Cross in Christ. And ‘he that is dead is freed from sin’ (Rom 6:7). This is the Gospel for Christians. Our crucifixion can never be made effective by will or by effort, but only by accepting what the Lord Jesus did on the Cross. (p.52)
When did you die? Well when did your Christ die? You did not die the first time you responded to God’s grace and you did not die when you were water baptized. You died 2000 years ago, long before you were born! Now this sounds like foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18). Here’s Watchman Nee again:
Must we ask God to crucify us? Never! When Christ was crucified we were crucified; and his crucifixion is past therefore ours cannot be future… That we have died in Christ is not merely a doctrinal position, it is an eternal and indisputable fact. (pp.44-5)
Origin determines destination. If you think you are still in Adam, then the best you can hope for is to be a decent sinner. But when you know that you died with Christ, you will be empowered to live with Him here and now (2 Tim 2:11). To live the victorious life that Christ has called you to, it’ll help if you know the answer to three questions: (1) What did I lose at the cross? (2) What did I gain at the cross? (3) What did I retain after the cross? We’ll look at some answers to these questions in the next post.