“For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance,”
In this service however—on Good Friday, we are commemorating the death of Jesus. This is not the season of laughter and dancing. These things simply are not appropriate on this day. Rather, this day is the season of weeping. It is the season in which mourn.
In addition, on this particular Good Friday service, we are going to be thinking about another aspect of that death. We will be considering how the death of Jesus affects even our own death.
In the words of the Apostle Paul:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)
On Sunday last, I asked you to read this verse every day this past week—to memorize it and to meditate on it. Today is Friday. You have had five days to meditate on these words.
But of course today is not just any Friday, it is Good Friday. It is the day when we consider the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Considering what took place on this day long ago, in some ways it may seem insensitive that we call this Friday “Good,” but in other ways it is completely appropriate.
We are speaking about the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior. What the people did to him on that day was evil. But because Jesus submitted himself to the crucifixion, the good that came from that is that he took upon himself the punishment for our rebellion that rightly should have been required of us. Through his death, he paid the penalty for our transgression. We have been given the opportunity for life.
The Sale is Final, but what about the Service Plan?
But that gift of life is more complicated than many make it out to be. Many people teach that this is nothing more than a simple transaction, like Jesus was going into a Wal-Mart and making a purchase. Jesus paid the price for our souls, and we now belong to Him. Many teach that our only part in this is that we simply need to pray the “sinner’s prayer” and ask him to save us. Say only the words, and we are saved. Others teach that we only need to be baptized, and we are saved.
Though there may be some aspects to these views that are correct, they are oversimplifications. It is true that Jesus paid the entire price for our salvation. We are saved by the grace of God. We are not saved by the works that we must do to earn it. But even though there is an aspect of truth to these teachings, as a whole, this “easy salvation without commitment” is a corruption of the truth.
It is because of these unbalanced teachings that we have so many Christians that are weak in their walk with the Lord. It is because of this way of thinking that many who say that they are Christians and citizens of heaven live no differently than if they were merely citizens of the world. They do all the things that the world does and pursue the same goals as the citizens of the world. We even have many people who may think that they are Christians, but who may one day be horrified to find out that they are not.
Depart from Me
Do we not take seriously the words that we considered on Sunday that every branch of the vine that is not producing fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire? Do we not consider the words of Jesus to be words of caution when he used this same imagery and applied it also to trees? Here is what Jesus said:
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?”
Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness! (Matthew 7:19-23 BSB)
Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ.”
If we learn anything this Good Friday, we should learn that crucifixion is a somber topic. Death is a serious subject.
The Life that Comes from Death
I would like to point out two words taken from these examples of the vine and the tree—the fruit that comes from Jesus, and the will of the Father in heaven.
Of the vine, Jesus says “every branch that does not bear fruit is cut off and burned.” He also speaks of fruit regarding the tree, but then adds; “Only he who does the will of My Father will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Living a Christian life involves more than repeating a few words or having water applied in some form to your body. It involves a death.
This death, first of all, happened on what we call a “Good Friday” some 2000 years ago. When Jesus was crucified and died on the cross of Calvary, he took upon himself the sin of the world. In fact, the Apostle Paul says that on the cross, Christ actually became sin.
It was sin that was put to death on the cross. When Jesus rose from the dead, he rose in newness of life, bearing no remnants of the sin that he brought to the cross. The sin was dead. It remained dead. It was only the righteous life of Jesus that was brought back to life.
In Paul’s day, it was not baptism that people would point to as an indication that they were people of God. It was not that they said the sinner’s prayer. The people of those days would say what made them God’s children was because they were of the circumcised race.
To this, Paul said, “May I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. What counts is a new creation. (Galatians 6:14-15 BSB)
Death Before Life
When Paul states that he “was crucified with Christ,” he is identifying himself with the experience of Jesus on the cross. Paul is saying that it was more than the sin of the world being put to death on the cross. Paul personalized his identification with the death of Jesus. For Paul, it was especially that his sin had been put to death on the cross. He had been crucified with Christ.
It is only because he identifies with the crucifixion of Christ that he can also identify with the resurrection of Christ. Extrapolating from these words, it becomes clear that we cannot experience the life of Christ if we refuse to put our sin to death.
Paul also speaks of this in the book of Romans. There, he asks a question, then immediately answers it with another question: “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?”
Paul speaks here not so much about the act of crucifixion, but progresses to the next step of our dead bodies being buried with Christ. After Jesus was put to death, it is important for us to remember that he was put in the grave. He did not immediately come to life after he was killed, but for portions of three days he remained dead.
Good Friday is all about the crucifixion of Jesus and Easter Sunday is all about His resurrection. But we must not forget the day in between—that Saturday when Jesus remained dead. The reason that so many Christians do not have victory in their lives is that they do not appreciate the important role that death must play in their walk with Christ.
It is here where the act of baptism comes in; because it is this which best illustrates the act of the death and burial of our sin and our old way of life. Paul writes the following:
Are you not aware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4 BSB)
Paul is saying that we cannot walk in a new life if we have not properly put the old life to death. The Christian life is not the life of the walking dead. We are not to be spiritual zombies who are walking around in spiritually dead bodies. Those old bodies need to be put to death. They must be placed in the grave, and nevermore brought to life. They must not be allowed to have any form or influence in our new lives with Christ. Our old selves must stay dead. Those bodies must remain in the grave.
It is only then that we can experience a new and resurrected life. Paul continues:
For if we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:5-7 BSB)
Freed from Sin
Freed from sin. Allow that phrase to settle into your thoughts and find a home in your life. There is a common misconception in the world about the concept of freedom. Generally, the world’s view of personal freedom is being unrestricted in our actions—doing whatever we desire.
But this view is completely opposite of the reality. We have the idea that it is we who are in charge of our lives. We think that we reign as masters of our own lives. No so. It is not we who control things and who reign in our lives. It is the sin that controls us. The sin in our lives is what is dictating to us what we are to do.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires. Do not present the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. For sin shall not be your master. (Romans 6:12-13a, 14b BSB)
His Death Became Our Own So that His Life Can be Ours
Before we can live, we must die. We can never be free from sin simply by determining to do better. Sin is a powerful foe. Even when we think that we have defeated it in our lives, if sin has not properly been kept in the grave, at any moment it can raise its hideous head against us. We cannot continually be repressing the sin in our lives. By merely repressing it, we are allowing it to fight against us another day.
We must put it to death. This is the pattern given to us in the death of Christ.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. So you too must count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:9-11 BSB)
Do you see that this is where life begins? Before we can live, we must die.
In between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday lies Holy Saturday. It is a day largely ignored by many churches. Do not ignore it this year. Today, in this Good Friday service, when we share in the Lord’s Supper, think not only of the death of Jesus. Think also of your own death—that is, put to death those sins in your life that are keeping you from having a victorious life.
Think not only of one or two sins that you want to die, but every part of your life. There is no aspect of your life that has not been influenced in some way by sin. Allow God to touch every facet of your life and put it to death.
Then tomorrow, on Holy Saturday, contemplate the death of these things. Allow those things that you have put to death today, to stay dead. Keep them in the grave.
If you do so, on the following day, Resurrection Sunday, the new life that you will be celebrating will not only be that of Christ risen from the grave, but you also will be walking in newness of life. You will have been brought out of death and into a new and victorious life!
God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21).