One of the two most important reasons why Jesus died on a cross was to get us unstuck on ourselves. You might say, “Well, He died so that we can be forgiven for our sins.” Right. That is also why Jesus died.
There are probably quite a few people that you know, where you would love to stick the title of this teaching on their refrigerator door, or on their desk at work. You, yourself, might need to look into this a little further.
Jesus Died to Get You UNSTUCK on YOURSELF
I intend to give lots of scriptures to prove the validity of the above title. There is absolutely nothing so freeing as to be unstuck on one’s self so that God can use a person for his God ordained purposes in life. There is absolutely nothing so freeing as letting God’s Spirit use me; instead of being all caught up in what people think of ME; or thoughts about how well I am doing as compared to so and so; or being caught up in some offense that someone did to ME; or to be caught up in some vice or carnal bondage because I am living for MY own desires; or any number of concerns and hang ups about ME. When I see people leave the whole ME thing at the cross and just step out in faith for the Spirit of God to use them; it all seems so right. It is also, so Biblical.
In this teaching I want to show that being stuck up on ourselves is a Biblical and accurate way of describing one of man’s two fundamental problems. (His other fundamental problem is his need for forgiveness for his past.) It is important to understand that there is absolutely no other way to become unstuck except by the cross of Jesus Christ. No amount of psychology, positive thinking, self esteem teaching, eastern religions, or self help techniques can unstick you. In fact, they might make you more of a ME monster than you already are.
Also, the truth of the cross that we are about to discuss; is absolutely, ridiculously simple. Yet at the same time, one could write and talk forever on this subject, and show in detail how man’s infinitely complex problems can be greatly reduced with such a simple solution. Just imagine that “ME” monster in your office, church, home or school, getting unstuck on himself (or herself). Just think of the possibilities! What a different world you would live in!
Let’s look at how the Bible describes this ME problem; and then, let’s look at the truth of the cross that solves it; with our cooperation, of course.
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that is was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden and in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:6-10
There is a lot to talk about here. But, it is certainly fair to say that as soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the tree, they became self conscious, ashamed, fearful, evasive; and self absorbed. In other words, there was a whole lot of “I” this and “I” that, going on right after they ate. Notice Genesis 3:10: “…I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
As soon as they disobeyed God, it was all about “I” and “Me.” The fig leaves, although real fig leaves, are also indicative of how we wrap ourselves in various facades to impress or present ourselves to the world around us. We work hard at accumulating riches, developing skills, working on physical beauty or attributes, demonstrating intellect, acquiring knowledge, carefully choosing clothing, doing religious works, maintaining clique or group affiliations, and endless other things that we do or seek, in order to wrap ourselves; and present ourselves to the world around us. Without our place in God and under His covering, we have a natural, instinctual drive to cover ourselves and glorify ourselves. The utter shame of being completely naked drives us to find some sort of wrap and clothing so that we can show the world that we ARE something. This drive to BE something to others, goes to the heart and soul of our sin nature. This drive that causes us to obsess on ourselves is why Jesus died on a cross. He died to deliver us from this natural drive, so that we can find our true purposes in God. Then we won’t have to prove anything to anyone, anymore.
We have all heard or even seen people who will do anything and hurt anyone to get to the top of some business, organization, church, country, government, group or even clique. Their work, although ostensibly for the group, in reality, is all about them.
Right after Adam sinned, and because of his newly perceived nakedness, he felt compelled to “wrap” something around himself to show his fellow man. Because of his nakedness, he also felt compelled to hide from God in the trees. We have been impressing people and hiding from God ever since.
Also, and very importantly, Adam committed himself to seeking the desirableness of the fruit. Man has been self-centered and self-seeking ever since. 2Timothy 3:2-7 lists among many other excesses, that people “… will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, ….
In the case of Cain and Abel (Adam’s children) in Genesis 4:1-16; Cain felt envious and shamed, by God favoring Abel’s offering over his own. Cain felt compelled to remove the source of his shame and distress by removing Abel through strife and murder.
Self-centered, self-seeking people cause endless trouble for those around them. Strife, violence and even murder would be a few of such troubles. The apostle James writes on this very idea of strife.
“1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3
It should be understood that God is all about meeting people’s needs. It’s just that there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. There is a selfish way, and then, there is God’s way of getting one’s needs met.
Probably one of the Bible pictures that best depicts man’s predicament can be found in the following scriptures.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6
25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1Peter 2: 25
Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). In other words, they wanted to be able to determine for themselves what was right and wrong, like God did. They no longer wanted to just follow and obey God. They wanted to be able to make determinations apart from God and for themselves, regarding what is good and what is evil. They ate the fruit to obtain that independent, decision making ability. We have all inherited this ability and tendency. We all have tendencies to decide for ourselves what we should do. We all have tendencies to make these decisions apart from God’s counsel and will. Because of this, we have become like sheep going astray in the wilderness, everyone to his own way. True salvation brings one back into a life of obedience and surrender to God and His will. True salvation makes Jesus my Lord; and me His follower.
The end result of Adam’s sin is we have a world filled with self-seeking, self-justifying, self-glorifying, rebellious (i.e., “independent decision-makers”), ME monsters who are continuously striving with each other. Some Me monsters have learned to unite with other Me monsters so that they can get an advantage over all of the remaining ME monsters, thereby collectively getting their own way. We have governments, religious systems, and social systems; that are here to try to keep everyone in line. And now we have a Savior who died on a cross and rose from the dead in order to save cooperating persons out of their selfish and sinful ways. We have a Savior who also promises a return to Paradise (Luke 23:43) where there are no ME monsters, and where there is wonderful life.
The truth of the cross that delivers and saves a cooperating ME monster can be seen in EACH of the following scriptures. This truth as well as other aspects of our salvation is the grace and love of God:
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. II Corinthians 5:14-15
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6
1 … Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Romans 6:1b-3
24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepard and Overseer of your souls. 1Peter 2:24-25
20 “I have been crucified with Christ ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
These scriptures show us that by simple, child-like faith, we can recon or consider ourselves free to let God use us. Just as I am forgiven for my past because Jesus died for me; so I died with Christ by grace through faith, so that I can be filled with God and His Spirit to do His works.
Does not Baptism which is for BRAND NEW believers, teach us to commit to and believe that we are crucified and buried and raised with Christ? Thus, Baptism proclaims that by grace we are crucified with Christ. This is part of Paul’s gospel. What a privilege to be filled and used by God instead of being filled and driven by selfish desires. And God’s promise for such a person is seen in the following scriptures:
25 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked: for whatever man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Galatians 6:7-8
The point of listing the above scriptures is to show that in surrendering to the Lord and His will; and by submitting to being crucified with Him; God clearly promises to take care of you. You have to believe this.
You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7-9). Most of God’s promises require some sort of expenditure of energy, resources, self, or something, in order to see God’s provision in some way. Even in the great scheme of salvation, Baptism symbolizes sowing yourself in order to reap a new creation. John 12:24 makes a very similar point. Even at the end of our lives, the Bible teaches that the believers sow a physical body through our physical death and reap a spiritual body in the next life. (1Corinthians 15:35-58)
Now, another important point to be made here is that we are not saved BY good works, but we are saved FOR the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10 and scores of other scriptures). Doing good works by God’s Spirit is one of the two basic goals or purposes of salvation. Life and blessing are the other fundamental goal of Salvation. (Remember that in the garden of Eden, there were two special trees: one was the tree of life, while the other was a tree associated with obedience. In a manner of speaking, God wants to restore paradise.) Good works are symbolized by the unleavened bread of Communion, while life and blessing are symbolized by the cup of Communion. (cup of blessing, 1Corinthians 10:16; also blood is the life of the body; the blood sustains the body so that the body of Christ can do God’s will on the earth; we are forgiven through the blood so that we can have life and blessing instead of death and cursing; in other words, there is a resurrection meaning to the blood)
Going back to getting unstuck on ourselves through the Lord’s death; how does this play out in our daily walk? The reader might say, “Great, this all sounds OK. But, how in a practical way, does this ‘truth of the cross’ play out in a person’s life? How do you do this, or walk in this?” Well, this truth of the cross is an important part of the grace and love of God; and it leads to, and is a doorway to, a life of obedience to God. Let’s take another look at two of the above-mentioned scriptures.
20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who LOVED me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
14 For the LOVE of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
By grace through faith we can take the “I” out; not the physical “eye,” but the pronoun “I.” Only through this truth of the cross can a person get unstuck on themselves. No philosophy, psychology, religion, self help techniques, yoga, or special mind set can do this. Self esteem teaching cannot accomplish this. Self effort and trying to obey the law cannot rival this.
This is not about the good me and the bad me, as some falsely teach. This is all about me or not me. It’s about me or Him. By simple faith, I believe that “I’ am out of the way because Jesus died for me; so that I can by faith expect the Spirit to use me. My new life is spent being lead by His Spirit, and crying out for more of His Spirit (Isaiah 11:2 lists great qualities of God to believe for every day! I do this! The reader will find many New Testament prayers fall in line with Isaiah 11:2. Believing for God’s love to flow through me is a great attribute of the Spirit to seek every day! The gifts and fruit of the Spirit are to be believed for everyday.) We have these treasures in earthen vessels. Our greatest use and state of being is to be an empty vessel for God’s Spirit to use. There is literally nothing like it.
“For as many as are lead by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
“…Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Romans 8:9b)
Taking the “I” out is depicted in Baptism, which is for brand new believers. Baptism symbolizes how the believer by grace is united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Baptism was meant to be an act of faith and public commitment. It is a public declaration. It was the early church’s version of the sinners prayer (Acts 2:37-38, Acts 8:35-38). The meaning of Baptism is explained in Romans 6:1-11 and in Colossians 2:11-12. By immersing a person under the water, Baptism symbolizes the “crucified with Christ” truth of the cross (Romans 6:3), as well as the “forgiveness” truth of the cross; because all of the sins committed are also buried and removed. The sins committed go down with, and are buried with the “I” or the body of sin.
Because Jesus died on the cross, we can take the “I” out by faith. The “I” that wants to be equal with God instead of being submitted to God is at the very core of our problem. The “I” that wants to do his own thing instead of being submitted to God is the very heart of our sin nature. Self-reliance instead of God dependence is at the very root of our sin problem. Consider the following diagrams:
Now, by faith in Christ crucified, the “I” is taken out. The heart of the sin problem is removed.
The first diagram shows that the various sins and sin habits that drive and control us are rooted in a more fundamental problem. That fundamental problem is what we have been discussing in this teaching; i.e., the ME monster problem. The “I” that is doing his own thing, relying on himself, and glorifying himself.
The second diagram shows that by faith in Christ crucified, we can take the “I” out. With the “I” out, all of the various sin habits have lost their support system. By persistence in keeping the “I” out by faith, the various sin habits will wither and die off. In other words, for the period of time that I recon or believe that “I” am crucified with Christ by grace (Romans 6:11; Galatians 2:20; 2Corinthians 5:14; etc.), I am taking out the very source, principle and foundation of sin in my life. The “I” is like the trunk of the sin tree, with all of the various sin habits being branches of that tree. With the “I” taken out by faith, the trunk is removed and the various branches will wither and and eventually die off.
I need the Holy Spirit’s encouragement to WANT TO keep the “I” out. My “WANT TO” will determine how much freedom in Christ (from sin) that I actually experience and walk in. This truth of the cross absolutely requires my WANTING this truth of the cross to be a reality in my life. Again, for this truth of the cross to be effective in my life, I have to want to be crucified with Christ. Without this WANT TO, I need to question my very salvation; have I truly repented in the Biblical sense. This is why Baptism is so effective. A clear understanding of Baptism cements a genuine repentance even from self effort and dead works, as well as our obvious sin problems. Baptism reflects God’s genius and wisdom.
Also, and very importantly, I simultaneously believe and seek for the Holy Spirit to FILL me with God’s attributes as I EMPTY myself by faith. The Holy Spirit FILLS me, while this truth of the cross EMPTIES me. I get so caught up in and absorbed in my new life, that I forget the old ways. The thief stops stealing and gets absorbed in productive labor, etc.
Notice how the ministry of the cross and the ministry of the Holy Spirit work together in tandem. We need both in our lives. The Holy Spirit cannot work without the truths of the cross. The cross takes away sin (unleavened bread) and death (cup), while the Holy Spirit imparts and resurrects righteousness (unleavened bread) and life (cup) in the believer.
I now see myself as a vessel for the Holy Spirit to live through. I put to death all self consciousness, self serving, self defense ploys, self absorption and all other manner of sin. If I mess up and sin, I confess and ask for forgiveness from God (and man if necessary)(1John 1:9). I put the sin behind me and I move on with God.
In finishing up with this teaching, I would like to make a few points. One gigantic theme in the Bible is the deliverance from sin into righteousness (right living) theme. For example; this theme is seen in 1Peter 2:24, Romans 6:18 and many other scriptures. Another way that the Bible states this same fundamental theme is deliverance from selfishness into love or serving God. For example; this other wording is found in 2Corinthians 5:14-15, Galatians 2:19-20, and other scriptures.
“Deliverance from being a ME monster; or deliverance from ‘I;’ or deliverance from selfishness and self-centeredness; so that I can serve God and others,” is the wording I used in this teaching. This approach probably works better for this generation. Even the liberal media praises altruism and unselfish acts. The liberal media shuns words like “sin” and “righteousness.” They are even beginning to consider such words “hate” speech! But, I believe, if a person gets turned on to being delivered from being a ME monster, they will soon appreciate and love words like “sin” and “righteousness” also. The Bible simply has two basic ways of wording this great truth.
Jesus harmonizes the righteousness of the law and love in the following scripture. He basically says that fulfilling the law and walking in love are the same thing. In other words, walking in righteousness and walking in love are the same thing.
37 Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the first and great commandment. 39″And the second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
Finally, we started this teaching discussing fig leaves and our need to clothe ourselves with some kind of façade in order to impress or present ourselves to the world around us. The apostle Paul describes our need and intense desire to be clothed in. 2Corinthians 5:1-5.
3 If indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 2Corinthians 5:3-4
Now, the New Testament also makes many references to being clothed with good works. Modern-day theologians would love for the Bible to say that we are clothed with imputed righteousness, but most of the scriptures point to our being clothed with practical righteousness. Right living is a critical goal and purpose of our salvation. Remember, we are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:1-10, etc.).
7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Revelations 19:7-8
10 and have PUT ON the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. Colossians 3:10
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing. 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with GOOD WORKS. 1Timothy 2:9-10
17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich , have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’-and do not know that you are wretched , miserable, poor, blind, and naked-18 “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” Revelations 3:17-18