Dead to the world

By , July 24, 2013

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus
have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
Galatians 5:24 (NIV)

When a person was sleeping rather soundly my mother would observe that they were “dead to the world.” By this she meant that the person was totally unaware of the world around them. Their lights were out and they heard and saw nothing.

Those who claim to be followers of Jesus are described in the Bible as being “dead to the world”. Now the Bible does not use that kind of terminology but conveys exactly that idea through saying the person is crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14). Crucifixion was a well understood phenomenon in Paul’s day as he wrote our text. People who were crucified died. They no longer took an active part in the events of life. Within 2-3 days at the most they were gone and the world no longer meant anything to them.

A very prominent theologian said one time that Jesus invites us to come to Him and die. In some sense that is what happens to everyone who believes in Jesus. They renounce the world and what it offers in order to have Jesus. People who are Christians recognize the truth that Jesus is worth more than anything this world can offer.

Now this does not mean that we go off and live in a cave somewhere by ourselves and wait for the second coming or our death. What this means instead is that though we still live in this world and enjoy its blessings, we are prepared to give up any thing or all things this world offers in order to keep Jesus. It is sort of like the marriage service where each party to the union says they give up all other people to have this person exclusively.

So if I lose my health, wealth, reputation, friends or anything else, I will be content as long as I have Jesus in my life. This is certainly saying a lot and often it is a lot less that we actually lose when we become Christians. Yet, for some, perhaps just a few believers in Jesus, a great cost is involved when we follow Him. Some do not get off easy.

We can think of the martyrs in the early church who were tortured, imprisoned, thrown to the lions and other things. These paid dearly and with their lives all because they loved One who taught them to love their neighbour. Jesus taught His people to love the ones who abused them and to pray for them. This is a form of denial of self that is so very costly. Yet, Jesus claims such allegiance from His followers.

No one should claim such allegiance from others unless that person is the Creator. We owe everything to the One who spoke the worlds into existence. This is one very strong reason why some people choose to be atheists. If they admit the existence of God then immediately they recognize a responsibility to the One who has made them. Better to pretend God does not exist that to recognize His legitimate claims on our lives and possessions.

At lunch last week with a dear and trusted friend I was told by him that the fourth verse of one of the churches greatest hymns is never published in hymn books these days. The hymn writer is the man most responsible for getting the church to sing hymns that were not Scripture put to verse. He took a lot of flak for his “hymns of original composition” but He steadfastly stood by his conviction that the church needed more than the Psalms to sing. He composed hundreds of hymns but perhaps his most beloved hymn is entitled, “When I survey the wondrous cross.”

The fourth verse of this hymn that is always omitted these days in hymnals is as follows:

His dying crimson, like a robe, spreads o’er His body on the tree,
Then am I dead to all the globe, and all the globe is dead to me.

Isaac Watts

Watts got the point right about becoming a Christian. We must consider ourselves dead to the world because Christ died for us. We are alive but alive to Jesus and His will instead of alive to our own will. Jesus demands such radical obedience when He says in Matthew 16:24,

“If any one would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (NIV).

As anyone in Jesus’ day knew, if a person was seen walking down the road carrying a cross it was a one way trip. They were never seen again, they were about to die.

Have you come to Jesus and died? Do you have this radical relationship to the One who died and rose again for sinners? If you have then whatever your loss in this life you have already decided the issue. As long as you have Jesus you will learn to be content.

If you have not taken up your cross to follow Jesus then you should “die” today in order to receive the abundant life He offers everyone who will turn to Him. He waits to hear from you. Come to Him and come today.

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