Chapter 7, Part 5 (continued)
Overcomers have to Fight
B. The Battle to Buffet My Body (1 Cor. 9:27) (continued)
(2) Knowing God's Grace
Grace is often misunderstood by the believers of the last days. They believe that since everything is by grace, there would not be any conditions or demands in receiving it. Or else, it would not be grace. What they do not realize is that the air we breathe is also God's grace. Without air, all creatures would be dead! Air is God's gift and we can freely enjoy. However, we have to fulfill the conditions in receiving air - to inhale and exhale. If we did not, we could not enjoy it! So grace can accomplish two amazing things. One refers to everything that the Lord has accomplished for us that we cannot on our own accomplish. The other refers to what He has prepared for us that we do not qualify to enjoy or receive. But if we are willing to apply according to the conditions, it can be ours. In the same manner, we have to buffet ourselves. Other than knowing objectively what the Lord has already accomplished for us, we must also subjectively strive for victory in order to accomplish what the hope our Lord has upon our lives. If this is the desire, then we need to pay attention to the following:
(i) Christ has already dealt with the "self'
The "self" mentioned previously originally refers to all that passed down from Adam to the whole mankind. The Scriptures calls it "I" (Gal. 2:20, 6:14), "old self" (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 4:22), "flesh" (Gal. 5:24, Rom. 7:14) and "own life" etc. "Life" is originally the word "soul" (Matt. 10:39, 16:25). At the same time, the Scriptures also tell us that God knows our own selves are damaged beyond repair and He desired to completely resolve it by putting it to death. So it was nailed on the cross and died through Jesus Christ. Therefore the four occurrences of the verb "crucified" (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 2:20, 5:24, and 6:14) were all in simple past and present perfect (action completed) tense. In Galatians 2:20, the verb "crucified" is in the present perfect tense, passive voice. The literal translation is: "With Christ, I have been co-crucified". In Romans 6:6, the verb "crucified" is in the simple past tense and it is also in the passive voice. The literal translation is similar to that in Gal. 2:20. The difference is that the action in the former is already complete and what was completed remains to this date. The action in the latter was completed in the past and it occurred only once but is forever completed. In this manner, we cannot crucify our "old self" or "own self"! If we can crucify our "own self", then the crucifixion of Christ on the cross would be redundant! So, every prayer such as: "Lord, please crucify my old self!" or "please help me to crucify my old self!" are muddled prayers! The reason is that we cannot crucify it but over 1900 years ago, Christ crucified it on Gogoltha. Even before our great grandfather and great great grandfather were born, before we knew where we were, Christ had already crucified "I" or the "old self" with Him on the cross. When He died on the cross, our old self had already died with Him!
(ii) Believers need to apply
This "co-crucifixion" appears to be quite mysterious but it is a reality that can be experienced. All those who have experienced will say "Amen"! But for those who have not, it is beyond their comprehension. The reason is that although it is a reality that was accomplished once and it is forever effective, it exists in the objective. If we want this objective reality to become our subjective experience, we must apply for it. The effectiveness of Christ as our sin offering was not made effective after we were born but it was accomplished long ago on the cross. As long as we apply or receive, the objective salvation He accomplished will instantly become our subjective enjoyment. Salvation is received in this way and so is overcoming. Praise the Lord! Then we are able to declare to our old self: "You are accursed because there is no goodness in you and you are good for nothing. You are already crucified with Christ; through our identification with Christ and our application, you are already dead and buried!"
Even though we can say so, the reality of the matter is not that simple! When you try to declare this to your old self, is it extinguished from now on or does it still act like before? For most of us, it is still as before! Why is that? The reason is that you do not know how to apply or do not understand the truth of having died with Christ. The verb "buffet" is formed by the combination of two words "under" and "cheek bone". The original meaning is to punch and bruise the cheek bones and this can be fatal. The object "my body" is not the physical body. It is the "self". This kind of expression in the Scriptures is called "companion name", "interchanged" or "understood" term. It calls the companion of the object or the accompaniment as the object. Other examples would be "every knee" and "every tongue" which refer to "every person" (Is. 45:23). To "buffet my body" is no other than Paul's very serious desire and attitude to deal with his "own self" so that it does not come around again in his old age! The way he handled it was what he said, "With Christ, I have been co-crucified." (Gal. 2:20)
(iii) Death with Christ must be sincere
Originally the "co" in "co-crucified" has the meaning of "accompany", "united" and "experience together". So to be "co-crucified" certainly does not mean that Christ died alone or we died alone. Rather, both parties are united and together both experienced death. In other words, "co-crucified" is a type of personal acknowledgement. Since it is a personal acknowledgement, then there must first be the willingness to die. In other words, prior to the application of the co-crucifixion which exists in the objective, there must be a genuine affirmation of the willingness to die to one's "own self"! The reason is that in the bottom of our heart, we always regard our own selves as most precious and we are not really willing to die! The Scriptures say: "No one hates his own flesh". Everyone always takes care of themselves! Even Satan said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life!" It is common enough to hear people say that they are willing to no longer live for themselves but to live for the Lord. The fact of the matter is that they probably do not know what they are talking about! People often imagine that as long as my will is made up and I feel good about it, I can do what I have set out to do. If this is the case, then New Year's resolutions would be readily accomplished! The fact of the matter is that resolutions are mostly talk. This is exactly what the Scriptures say: "...for I am not practicing what I would like to do but I am doing the very thing I hate!"
So, it is not so simple and up to us. If we really want to die to our "self", it is not something that we can do on our own. Rather, the Holy Spirit must lead us to the point where we see ourselves as completely hopeless. In other words, we have to come to a genuine realization that in our "self", there is nothing good. In addition, we have also experienced hopelessness in crucifying our "self". In fact, the self gets more active with every nail! We can then know the importance of acknowledging the death of our "self"! Once we acknowledge or see this reality, we can then by simple faith receive what Christ did for us on the cross.
"Crucified with Christ" has always been an unattainable slogan in the church. As a result, it is very difficult for believers to receive practical teaching and guidance. "Self" is frequently more active among those who claim to be spiritual and church groups that claim they have been already crucified with Christ. They think that they are the top dog and often have a chip on their shoulder! When they are obviously trying to show off, they shamelessly say it is zeal for the Lord. When they are obviously interpreting the Scriptures using their own understanding, they lie and say it is inspiration from the Lord! When they are obviously trying to build up their own dynasty, they deceive themselves and others by saying that they are expanding the Kingdom of God. When they are obviously catching converts to join their religion, they would say that they are saving souls. People can make neither heads nor tails of their actions! Why would people indulge in such delusion? Do they really think they can fool everyone? The reason is that they are deceived by their "self" and are unwilling to be crucified! They think that to "refute oneself" is actually identical "to be crucified". So they fall flat for the trap set up by their "own selves"! Everybody knows that the things do not disappear because we deny its existence. The deceitfulness of the flesh is even worse. The more you deny it, the wilder and more lawless it gets! How does the Holy Spirit lead us so that we can genuinely say that we are willing to have our "self" crucified? The sequence of procedure is as follows:
(iv) The Holy Spirit leads us to die with Christ
After our spiritual lives have been awakened or in other words, the function of our mind is restored, the power of sin (self) in the members of our body and the new power of our mind (nous) begin to wage a protracted war (Rom. 7:23, 8:6). In the beginning, we might not immediately sense the power of sin. But in time, in other words when our spiritual life begins to sprout shoots, the Holy Spirit will lead us to discover some of the degradation and deceitfulness of our "self". Meanwhile, we would also have started to tangle and fight it with all our abilities. We will try to control it with rededications, new vows or resolutions. We might even invent some strict rules to regulate it, hoping that they will put the "self" within control! All these self efforts might work for a short while but eventually we will cry like the apostle Paul: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free?" This kind of leading by the Holy Spirit from a "wretched man" to the point of "no condemnation (imprisoned)" (Rom. 7:24, 8:1) may occur more than once. If the goal is not reached the first time, the Holy Spirit will continue to lead until we go through a series of such pains and struggles. We will come to experience that our own efforts are not totally useless, but they bring more failures and discouragement (Rom. 7:18 - 25). We will further discover that in spiritual warfare, our own "volunteer efforts" are completely useless! We would then unconsciously say, "Lord, I am finished! I can never handle my 'own self! I am dead." Then the Holy Spirit leads us to our death -- the very end of despair. Everything through our own efforts is finished. Then we know how foolish and ignorant it is to substitute "living by faith" with "regeneration by one's own efforts"! At that point in time, we can really apply for the fact of crucified with Christ. We will realize that over 1900 years ago, when Christ was crucified on Gogoltha, my "self" also died there with Him! We can also effectively declare to the "self" that, "You are useless. God has already crucified you with on the cross. By faith I accept your complete death in Christ so that all that is Christ becomes my all in all. " In this manner, the Holy Spirit leads us into the death of Christ. The spiritual crisis is over. The stubborn "self" is now powerless and "my body has be buffeted". The overcomer can now also have the upper hand. Praise the Lord!