The Revised Version properly has the above text “I have been crucified with Christ.” In this connection, let us read the story of a man who was literally crucified with Christ. We may use all the narrative of Christ's work upon earth in the flesh as a type of His spiritual work. Let us take in this instance the story of the penitent thief, Luke 23: 39-43, for I think we may learn from him how to live as men who are crucified with Christ. Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ.” And again: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom I have been crucified to the world, and the world to me.” We often ask earnestly: How can I be free from the self life? The answer is, “Get another life.” We often speak about the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon us, but I doubt if we fully realize that the Holy Spirit is a heavenly life come to expel the selfish, and fleshly, and the earthly life. If we want, in very deed, to enjoy fully the rest that there is in Jesus, we can only have it as He comes in, in the power of His death, to slay what is in us of nature, and to take possession, and to live His own life in the fullness of the Holy Ghost. God's Word takes us to the cross of Christ, and it teaches us about that cross, two things. It tells us that Christ died for sin. We understand what that means, that in His atonement He died as I never die, as I never can die, as I never need die; He died for sin and for me. But what gave His death such power to atone? It was this: the spirit in which He died, not the physical suffering, not the external act of death, but the spirit in which He died. And what was that spirit? He died unto sin. Sin had tempted Him, and surrounded Him, and had brought Him very nigh to saying, “I cannot die.” In Gethsemane He cried: “Father, is it not possible that the cup pass from me?” But God be praised, He gave up His life rather than yield to sin. He died to sin, and in dying He conquered. And now, I can not die for sin like Christ, but I can and I must die to sin like Christ. Christ died for me. In that He stands alone. Christ died to sin, and in that I have fellowship with Him. I have been crucified, I am dead.
And here is the great subject to which I want to lead you.—What it is to be dead with Christ, and how it is that I can practically enter into this death with Christ. We know that the great characteristic of Christ is His death. From eternity He came with the commandment of the Father that He should lay down His life on earth. He gave Himself up to it, and He set His face towards Jerusalem. He chose death, and He lived and walked upon earth to prepare Himself to die. His death is the power of redemption; death gave Him His victory over sin; death gave Him His resurrection, His new life, His exaltation, and His everlasting glory. The great mark of Christ is His death. Even in Heaven, upon the throne, He stands as the Lamb that was slain, and through eternity they ever sing, “Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain.” Beloved brother, your Boaz, your Christ, your all-sufficient Saviour, is a Man of whom the chief mark and the greatest glory is this: He died. And if the Bride is to live with her husband as His wife, then she must enter into His state, and into His spirit, and into His disposition, and ever be as He is. If we are to experience the full power of what Christ can do for us, we must learn to die with Christ. I ought not, perhaps, to use that expression, “We must learn to die with Christ;” I ought, rather, to say, “We must learn that we are dead with Christ.” That is a glorious thought in the 6th chapter of Romans; to every believer in the Church of Rome—not to the select ones, or the advanced ones, but to every believer in the Church of Rome, however feeble, Paul writes, “You are dead with Christ.” On the strength of that he says, “Reckon yourselves dead unto sin.” What does that mean—You are dead to sin? We can not see it more clearly than by referring to Adam. Christ was the second Adam. What happened in the first Adam? I died, in the first Adam; I died to God; I died in sin. When I was born, I had in me the life of Adam, which had all the characteristics of the life of Adam after he had fallen. Adam died to God, and Adam died in sin, and I inherit the life of Adam, and so I am dead in sin as he was, and dead unto God. But at the very moment I begin to believe in Jesus, I become united to Christ, the second Adam, and as really as I am united by my birth to the first Adam, I am made partaker of the life of Christ. What life? That life which died unto sin on Calvary, and which rose again; therefore God by his apostle tells us: “Reckon yourselves indeed dead unto sin and alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” You are to reckon it as true, because God says it—for your new nature is indeed, in virtue of your vital union to Christ, actually and utterly dead to sin.
If we want to have the real Christ that God has given us, the real Christ that died for us, in the power of His death and resurrection, we must take our stand here. But many Christians do not understand what the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans teaches us. They do not know that they are dead to sin. They do not know it, and therefore Paul instructs them: “Know ye not that as many of you as are baptized into Christ Jesus, are baptized into His death.” How can we who are dead to sin in Christ live any longer therein? We have indeed the death and the life of Christ working within us. But, alas! most Christians do not know this, and therefore do not experience or practice it. They need to be taught that their first need is to be brought to the recognition, to the knowledge, of what has taken place in Christ on Calvary, and what has taken place in their becoming united to Christ. The man must begin to say, even before he understands it, “In Christ I am dead to sin.” It is a command: “Reckon ye yourselves indeed to be dead unto sin.” Get hold of your union to Christ; believe in the new nature within you, that spiritual life which you have from Christ, a life that has died and been raised again. A man's acts are always in accordance with his idea of his state. A king acts like a king, otherwise we say, “That man has forgotten his kingship,” but if a man is conscious of being a king, he behaves like a king. And so I cannot live the life of a true believer unless I am filled with a consciousness of this every day: “I thank God that I am dead in Christ. Christ died unto sin, and I am united with Christ, and Christ lives in me and I am dead to sin.” What is the life Christ lives in me? Ask what is the life Adam lives in me? Adam lives in me the death life, a life that has fallen under the power of sin and death, death to God. That life Adam lives in me by nature as an unconverted man. And Christ, the second Adam, has come to me with a new life, and I now live in His life, the death-life of Christ. As long as I do not know it, I can not act according to it, though it be in me. Praise God, when a man begins to see what it is, and begins in obedience to say, “I will do what God's Word says; I am dead, I reckon myself dead,” he enters upon a new life. On the strength of God's everlasting Word, and your union to Christ, and the great fact of Calvary, reckon, know yourself as dead indeed unto sin. A man must see this truth; this is the first step. The second is—he must accept it in faith. And what then? When he accepts it in faith, then there comes in him a struggle, and a painful experience, for that faith is still very feeble, and he begins to ask, “But why, if I am dead to sin, do I commit so much sin?” And the answer God's Word gives is simply this: You do not allow the power of that death to be applied by the Holy Spirit. What we need is to understand that the Holy Spirit came from Heaven, from the glorified Jesus, to bring His death and His life into us. The two are inseparably connected. That Christ died, He died unto sin, and that He liveth, He liveth unto God. The death and the life in Him are inseparable; and even so in us the life to God in Christ is inseparably connected with the death to sin. And that is what the Holy Ghost will teach us and work in us. If I have accepted Christ in faith by the Holy Ghost, and yield myself to Him, Christ every day keeps possession, and reveals the full power of my fellowship in His death and life in my heart. To some this comes undoubtedly in one moment of supreme power and blessing; all at once they see and accept it, and enter in, and there is death to sin as a Divine experience. It is not that the tendency to evil is rooted out. No; but the power of Christ's death keeps from sin, and destroys the power of sin; the power of Christ's death can be manifested in the Holy Spirit's unceasingly mortifying the deeds of the body.
Some one asks me if there is still growth needed. Undoubtedly. By the Holy Spirit a man can now begin to live and grow, deeper and deeper, into the fellowship of Christ's death. New things are discovered by him in spheres of which he never thought. A man may at times be filled with the Holy Ghost, and yet there may be great imperfections in him. Why? For this reason: because his heart, perhaps, had not been fully prepared by a complete discovery of sin. There may be pride, or self-consciousness, or forwardness, or other qualities of this nature which he has never noticed. The Holy Spirit does not always cast these out at once. No. There are different ways of entering into the blessed life. One man enters into the blessed life with the idea of power for service; another with the idea of rest from worry and weariness; another with the idea of deliverance from sin. In all these aspects there is something limited, and therefore every believer is to give himself up after he knows the power of Christ's death, and say continually: “Lord Jesus, let the power of Thy death work through, let it penetrate my whole being.” As the man gives himself unreservedly up, he will begin to bear the marks of a crucified man. The apostle says: “I have been crucified,” and he lives like a crucified man.
What are the marks of a crucified man? The first is, deep, absolute humility. Christ humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. When the death to sin begins to work mightily, that is one of its chief and most blessed proofs. It breaks a man down, down, and the great longing of his heart is, “Oh, that I could get deeper down before my God, and be nothing at all, that the life of Christ might be exalted. I deserve nothing but the cursed cross; I give myself over to it.” Humility is one of the great marks of a crucified man.
Another mark is impotence, helplessness. When a man hangs on the cross, he is utterly helpless, he can do nothing. As long as we Christians are strong, and can work, or struggle, we do not get into the blessed life of Christ; but when a man says, “I am a crucified man, I am utterly helpless, every breath of life and strength must come from my Jesus,” then we learn what it is to sink into our own impotence, and say, “I am nothing.”
Still another mark of crucifixion is restfulness. Yes. Christ was crucified, and went down into the grave, and we are crucified and buried with Him. There is no place of rest like the grave; a man can do nothing there, “My flesh shall rest in hope,” said David, and said the Messiah. Yes, and when a man goes down into the grave of Jesus, it means this: that he just cries out, “I have nothing but God, I trust God; I am waiting upon God; my flesh rests in Him; I have given up everything, that I may rest, waiting upon what God is to do to me.” Remember, the crucifixion, and the death, and the burial are inseparably one. And remember the grave is the place where the mighty resurrection power of God will be manifested. And remember those precious words in the 11th of John: “Said I not unto thee”—when did Christ say that? It was at the grave of Lazarus—“that if thou believest, thou shalt see the glory of God?” Where shall I see the glory of God most brightly? Beside the grave. Go down into death believing, and the glory of God will come upon thee, and fill thy heart.
Dear friends, we want to die. If we are to live in the rest, and the peace, and the blessedness of our great Boaz; if we are to live a life of joy and of fruitfulness, of strength and of victory, we must go down into the grave with Christ, and the language of our life must be: “I am a crucified man. God be praised, though I have nothing but sin in myself, I have an everlasting Jesus, with His death and His life, to be the life of my soul.”
How can I enter into this fellowship of the cross? We find an illustration in the story of the penitent thief. Thomas said, before Christ's death, “Let us go and abide with Him.” And Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee to prison, or to death.” But the disciples all failed, and our Lord took a man who was the offscouring of the earth, and he hung him upon the cross of Calvary beside Himself, and He said to Peter, and to all: “I will let you see what it is to die with Me.” And He says that word to-day, to the weakest and the humblest; if you are longing to know what it is to enter into death with Jesus, come and look at the penitent thief. And what do we see there? First of all, we see there the state of a heart prepared to die with Christ. We see in that penitent thief, a humble, whole-hearted confession of sin. There he hung upon the cursed tree, and the multitudes were blaspheming that man beside him, but he was not ashamed publicly to make confession: “I am dying a death that I have deserved; I am suffering justly; this cross is what I have deserved.” Here is one of the reasons why the Church of Christ enters so little into the death of Christ; men do not want to believe that the curse of God is upon everything in them that has not died with Christ. People talk about the curse of sin, but they do not understand that the whole nature has been infected by sin, and that the curse is on everything. My intellect, has that been defiled by sin? Terribly, and the curse of sin is on it, and therefore my intellect must go down into the death. Ah, I believe that the Church of Christ suffers more to-day from trusting in intellect, in sagacity, in culture, and in mental refinement, than from almost anything else. The Spirit of the world comes in, and men seek by their wisdom, and by their knowledge, to help the Gospel, and they rob it of its crucifixion mark. Christ directed Paul to go and preach the Gospel of the cross, but to do it not with wisdom of words. The curse of sin is on all that is of nature. If there be a minister who has delighted in preaching, who has done his very best, who has given his very best in the way of talent and of thought, and who asks, “Must that go down into the grave?” I say, “Yes, my brother, the whole man must be crucified.” And so with the heart's affection. What is more beautiful than the love of a child to his mother? In that lovely nature there is something unsanctified, and it must be given up to die. God will raise it from the dead and give it back again, sanctified and made alive unto God. So I might go through the whole of our life. People often say to me: “But has God made all things so beautiful, and is it not right that we should enjoy them? Are not His gifts all good?” I answer, yes, but remember what it says; they are good, if sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. The curse of sin is on them; the blight of sin is on everything most beautiful, and it takes much of God's Word, and much of prayer to sanctify them. It is very hard to give up a thing to the death, and it is hardest of all to give up my life to the death, and I never will until I have learned that everything about that life is stamped by sin, and let it go down into the death as the only way to have it quickened and sanctified.
The penitent thief confessed his sin, and that he deserved death. Then, next, he had faith in the almighty power of Christ. A wonderful faith. It has no parallel in the Bible. There hangs the cursed malefactor with Jesus of Nazareth, and he dares speak, and say: “I am dying here, under the just curse of my sins, but I believe Thou canst take me into Thy heart, and remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.” Oh, that we might learn to believe in the almighty power of Christ! That man believed that Christ was a King, and had a Kingdom, and that He would take him up in His arms, and in His heart, and remember him when He came into His Kingdom. He believed that, and believing that, he died. Brother, you and I need to take time to come to a much larger and deeper faith in the power of Christ, that the almighty Christ will indeed take us in His arms and carry us through this death life, revealing the power of His death in us. I cannot live it without personal contact with Christ every hour of the day. Christ must do it; Christ can do it. Come therefore and say: “Is He not the Almighty One; did He not come from the throne of God; did He not prove His omnipotence, and did the Father not prove it when He rose from the dead?” Would you be afraid, now that Christ is on the throne, of doing what the malefactor did when Christ was upon the cross, and entrusting yourself to Him to live as one dead with Him? Christ will carry you through the very process He went through; will make His death work in you every day of your life.
I note one thing more in the penitent thief—his prayer. There was his conviction of sin, and his faith, but there was, further, the utterance of his faith in prayer. He turned to Jesus. Remember that the whole world, with perhaps the exception of Mary and the women, was turned against Christ that day. Of the whole world of men as far as I know, there was but that one praying to Christ. Do not wait to see what others do; if you wait for that,—alas! I desire to say it in love and tenderness,—you will not find much company in the Church of Christ. Pray incessantly: “Lord Christ, let the power of Thy death come into me.” For God's sake, pray the prayer. If you want to live the life of Heaven, there must be death to sin in the power of Jesus. There must be personal entrustment of the soul into His death to sin, personal acceptance of Jesus to do the mighty work.
We have seen what the preparation is on the part of this man; let us look, secondly, at how Christ met him. He met him, you know, with that wonderful promise, with its three wonderful parts: “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” A promise of fellowship with Christ,—“Thou shalt be with me;” a promise of rest in eternity, in the Paradise from which sin had cast man out,—“With me in Paradise;” a promise of immediate blessing,—“To-day shalt thou be with Me.” With that three-fold blessing Jesus comes to you and me, and He says: “Believer, are you longing to live the Paradise life, where I give souls to eat of the Tree of Life, in the Paradise of God, day by day? Are you longing for that uninterrupted communion with God that there was in Paradise before Adam fell? Are you longing for perfect fellowship with me, longing to live where I am living, in the love of the Father? To-day, to-day; even as the Holy Ghost says: 'To-day shalt thou be with me!' Longest thou for Me? I long more for thee. Longest thou for fellowship? I long unceasingly for thy fellowship, for I need thy love, my child, to satisfy my heart. Nothing can prevent My receiving thee into fellowship. I have taken possession of Heaven for thee, as the Great High Priest, that thou mightest live the Heavenly life, that thou mightest have access into the holiest of all and an abiding dwelling place there. To-day, if thou wilt, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” Thank God, the Jesus of the penitent thief is my Jesus. Thank God, the cross of the penitent thief is my cross. I must confess my sinfulness if I want to come into the closest communion with my blessed Lord. There was not a man upon earth during the thirty-three years of Christ's life that had such wonderful fellowship with the Son of God, as the penitent thief, for with the Son of God he entered the glory. What made him so separate from others? He was on the cross with Jesus and entered Paradise with Him. And if I live upon the cross with Jesus, the Paradise life shall be mine every day.
And now, if Jesus gives me that promise, what have I to do? Let go. When a ship is moored alongside the dock, with everything ready for the start and all standing on the quay, the last bell is rung and the order is given, “Let go.” Then the last rope is loosened, and the steamer moves. There are things that tie us to the earth, to the flesh-life, and to the self-life; but to-day the message comes: “If thou wouldst die with Jesus, let go.” Thou needst not understand all. It may not be perfectly clear; the heart may appear dull, but never mind; Jesus carried that penitent thief through death to life. The thief did not know where he was going, he did not know what was to happen, but Jesus, the mighty conqueror, took him in His arms, and landed him, in his ignorance, in Paradise. Oh, I have sometimes said in my soul, bless God for the ignorance of that penitent thief. He knew nothing about what was going to happen, but he trusted Christ; and if I can not understand all about this crucifixion with Christ, and the death to sin, and the life to God, and the glory that comes into the heart, never mind, I trust my Lord's promise, I cast myself helpless into His arms, I maintain my position on the cross. Given up to Jesus, to die with Him, I can trust Him to carry me through.
Shall we not each one take the blessed opportunity of doing what Ruth did when she, in obedience to the advice of her mother, just cast herself at the feet of the great Boaz, the Redeemer, to be His? Shall we not come into personal contact with Jesus, and shall not each one of us just speak before the world these simple words: “Lord, here is this life; there is much in it still of self, and sinfulness, and self-will, but I come to Thee; I long to enter fully into Thy death; I long to know fully that I have been crucified with Thee; I long to live Thy life every day.” Then say: “Lord Jesus, I have seen Thy glory, what Thou didst for the penitent one at Thy side on the cross; I am trusting Thee, that Thou wilt do it for me. Lord, I cast myself into Thy arms.”