The Preeminence of Christ:
1. We have been looking at what the Bible says about HOW to have a Christ centered life.
2. If that is to be the case, SELF must be dealt with by God’s ordained means… and God’s means is an END to self.
3. We looked at the yoke… and the altar. Today we will look at the cross.
4. And while there are shades of differences in meaning between these three Biblical illustrations, there is also a thread of unity: they each speak of the end of self.
a. Yoke: the end of self will… submitted
b. Altar: the end of the self life… delivered over to another
c. Cross: the end of self… dead
5. Until the self-life is dealt with – we can never say that Christ has the preeminence in our lives. This is a must.
RECKONING SELF TO BE DEAD (Rom. 6:11)
1. We don’t LITERALLY put our bodies on an altar, slay it, and offer it to God. (That is suicide! Don’t do that! This is figurative language.)
2. The offering up of self on the altar is done by an act of the will and it is also an act of FAITH.
3. In Romans 6, Paul emphasizes the FAITH aspect of it.
a. We ARE dead if we are born again. We died with Christ. This is a spiritual reality.
• We were baptized into His death. (6:3)
• We were buried with Him by baptism into death. (6:4)
• We have been planted together in the likeness of His death. (6:5)
• Our old man was crucified with Him (6:6)
• We are dead with Christ (6:8)
• Our faith united us with Christ in His death.
• This is a chapter about God’s means of victory for the believer.
• It is also a chapter about death: our death… with Christ.
• The prerequisite for a victorious, Christ centered life is DEATH.
» No death, no experiencing resurrection life.
» No death, no victory.
» No death, no resurrection power.
» Self MUST be dealt with… and death is God’s means.
» Hence, God says that our old man was crucified.
b. We are told to RECKON it to be so. (Rom. 6:11)
• Reckon: count it as a fact; believe it; accept it as truth;
• Even though it doesn’t always SEEM or FEEL like our old man is crucified, God commands us to RECKON it to be so… because He said it is so! Trust Him.
• God wants us to believe that we died…
• Faith BELIEVES what God has said.
• We died to sin and self.
• We died to the world… all of our former attachments to the world system are ended. We are now a new creature.
• It takes an act of the will to CHOOSE to reckon this to be so.
• This is an act of faith –
» BELIEVING that my life came to an end… (God said it did; do you believe that?)
» Now it is no longer I but Christ…
» Believing that it is not my will but Thine that counts
» It is FAITH that keeps our old self-life on the cross.
» Faith believes that my old self-life died with Christ and by faith we experience the reality of that death in our lives.
4. The concept of DEATH adds a new level of depth to the concept of dealing with our self-life.
a. There are no shades of death; no degrees of death. Death is absolute.
b. Either one is dead or alive… one cannot be ½ dead; 2/3 dead…
c. Consecration is like that…at any given moment, either we are yielded or we are not yielded to God.
d. God demands ABSOLUTE surrender… DEATH to our self-life… and nothing less will do.
e. One man put it this way: Would a husband be satisfied to hear that his wife was 95% faithful to him?
f. Neither would the Lord be satisfied if his bride, the church – was 95% consecrated to Him.
5. If we are ever to experience a Christ centered life… where Christ truly has preeminence, the old way of life needs to be dealt with… and dealt with in a Biblical manner.
a. Self-will needs to be taken out of the way… so that we might submit to Christ’s yoke.
b. Self must be offered upon the altar of sacrifice… slain…
c. Self must be kept on the cross by faith… reckoning it to be so…
d. This is not some strange, obscure, back-burner kind of truth. This is CENTRAL to living the Christian life. It is oft repeated in the Scriptures.
e. Christ can never have the preeminence when “I” am in the way… when self is seated on the throne.
f. But when we reckon self to be dead and YIELD to God, THEN the Spirit of God controls us, fills us, and produces a Christ centered life in us.
LET HIM DENY HIMSELF (Matt. 16:24)
A. Overview of Verse
1. This is NOT the plan of salvation—as John MacArthur and our Presbyterian brothers are trying to tell us. (GAJ; pg. 196)
a. This is not the way of salvation, but is the way of the discipleship… and there IS a huge distinction between the two!
b. You don’t get to heaven by following Christ; through self-denial; or by suffering persecution. That’s salvation by works!
c. Once saved, this is the way God wants us to LIVE the Christian life… not how to OBTAIN the eternal life.
d. God expects believers to follow Him; to deny self; and to be willing to suffer for His name’s sake… but that is not the way to OBTAIN eternal life.
2. Vs. 21 – Jesus just told the disciples that He was going to suffer. Now He tells them that if they were going to follow Him, they too would suffer.
a. Vs. 22 – Peter didn’t think that Jesus suffering and dying was a good idea. Why not assert your authority, your rights, and your power? After all, you are important!
b. Vs. 23 – Jesus rebuked Peter and noted that he was serving as a mouthpiece for Satan.
c. Peter savored the things of MAN (as opposed to God). God’s ways are not our ways.
d. Man’s way is to be self-assertive and fight for our rights… demand our own way.
e. God’s way was to be willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake… the way of self-denial.
B. Let Him Deny Himself
1. When we are following our own way, SELF has preeminence in our lives.
2. When we are following the Lord, HE has the preeminence in our lives. It is as simple as that.
3. Jesus told His disciples that if they were truly going to follow Him, they would have to DENY SELF.
a. Self is ever and always a hindrance to following the Lord.
b. It’s our nature to want to go OUR way; any way but His way.
c. Self-will always prevents Christ from having His way in our lives… and prevents Him from being preeminent.
d. Here Jesus challenged His disciples to a life of self denial.
e. This is not a means of obtaining life… but rather an attitude that ought to characterize our lives as we follow Christ.
4. Denying self means different things to different people.
a. The Catholic version of self denial is giving up things: as in Lent… or paying penance…
b. The ascetic version of Jesus’ call to self denial was a call to an austere lifestyle; but Jesus was not calling us to give up all of our material goods and live in a cave…
c. Poor people are not necessarily selfless or free from materialistic views. Nor are rich people selfish and materialistic.
d. It is entirely possible to live an austere lifestyle… to give up all material goods, and still have SELF sitting on the throne.
e. The Lord never called us to abandon material goods or even pleasure. (“God hath given us richly all things to enjoy.”)
f. Self denial does not mean that we must give up all of our earthly pleasures or material goods.
g. But it DOES mean that we must be WILLING to do so should the Spirit so lead you as an individual… and God puts our willingness to the test from time to time…
h. Self denial means we are willing to put our head in Christ’s yoke. It means we are willing to put our all on the altar. It means we are willing to hold all we have in an open hand… and not a closed fist.
i. Self denial means that we are willing to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
j. Self-denial is further defined by Paul as “not I but Christ” in Gal. 2:20.
k. Self-denial is being totally committed to the will of God – willing to deny self by putting our head in His yoke… willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake… willing to change… willing to be humbled…
l. Read “dying to self” paper…
C. Take Up a Cross
1. Once again, the Lord speaks of that which ought to be the ongoing attitude of the believer… of a true disciple…
2. The cross was a symbol of cruel torture and death… it doesn’t always conjure up that image today, but that is what was meant when Jesus spoke those words.
a. This cruel form of punishment was reserved only for the lower class and for slaves.
b. The convicted criminal was forced to carry his cross (or at the least cross beam…) to the place where it would be attached to the standing beam.
c. As he carried the cross, he would be ridiculed and scorned by all the bystanders along the way.
d. Carrying the cross was humiliating; to be followed by the cruelest form of horrific suffering.
3. We abuse this language today.
a. Folks often refer to a nagging backache, or a chronic disease, or poverty, etc… as the cross they have to bear.
b. Not all suffering is a “cross” in this sense.
c. That kind of suffering is better described as a thorn in the flesh, but NOT a cross to bear.
4. Bearing a cross is used figuratively here as a reference to an attitude of being WILLING to suffer for righteousness sake, as Jesus did.
a. The world vented its hatred towards Christ by nailing Him to a cross… an instrument of suffering and death… persecution.
b. When we take up a cross, it means to accept the place of rejection with Christ… accept the hatred and scorn from the world.
c. Christ could have recanted at any point and the suffering would have ceased… but that was unthinkable.
5. If we are NOT WILLING to suffer for righteousness sake, then that means that our personal comfort and well being has preeminence over Christ. Self is ruling and reigning.
a. The martyrs were forced to decide WHO is preeminent in their lives: self or Christ.
b. They were forced to see this issue with a clarity few of us ever realize:
• As the breadwinner in the family, who will take care of my wife and children?
• Wouldn’t I be able to do more good alive than dead? Why not recant… avoid the unjust suffering… and go about doing good?
• Lots of excuses can be devised to avoid suffering for righteousness sake.
• Self denial doesn’t come up with excuses. Self denial bites the bullet and denies self… it always chooses to honor Christ above personal comfort or pleasure…
c. When Jesus told His disciples that if they were going to follow Him they would have to take up a cross, He was demanding from them each a willingness to suffer for righteousness sake… even to the death of the cross if need be.
• Few believers have actually had to die for their faith… but every one of us is to be WILLING to do so.
• That attitude of being willing to suffer for Christ is an expression of selflessness… and it is the spirit of what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up a cross and follow Me.”
• And only in that kind of life can we say that Christ has the preeminence.
D. Whosoever will lose his life will find it (Matt. 16:25)
1. The way of discipleship is the opposite of the way of the world.
a. For the world, there is immediate gain, but ultimate loss.
b. For the disciple, there is immediate loss, but ultimate gain.
2. The one who SAVES his life will LOSE it.
a. It is our nature to want to SAVE our lives.
• The flesh hates the cross… and the way of the cross.
• The flesh wants to better its condition by avoiding persecution for Christ’s sake…
• Wherever there is pain, we want to save our lives.
• Wherever there is sorrow, grief, suffering, cost, difficulty, we want to SAVE our lives… spare self from anything painful.
• The flesh wants to save itself from the narrow way… save itself from any loss…
• Even Paul wanted his thorn in the flesh removed…
• And do you remember Peter’s initial words to Christ when Jesus predicted His death and resurrection? “Be it far from thee Lord!” To which Jesus replied, “Get thee behind me Satan; thou savorest not the things of God, but those that be of men.”
• It is the way of man to want to save our lives… men want to escape suffering and death; but escaping it is not always God’s will.
• The flesh doesn’t want to sacrifice… to give… to yield or to surrender. It doesn’t want to lose its life… or control over its life.
• The flesh wants to keep its life… health… prosperity… happiness… pleasure… resources…
• The believer who lives this way may not be living in gross sin.
• The believer/disciple who saves his life may not see his behavior as especially sinful or rebellious.
• What’s so sinful about buying a boat? Or about going fishing? Or about taking a good job offer in Butte, Montana? Or about taking the family to the lake for the weekend?
• Those things are perfectly good and decent in themselves IF the Lord so leads.
• But if it is SELF making all the decisions… if we are grabbing at things to make us happy, without regard to what God wants… and we are refusing to sacrifice self… then we are “saving our lives” and we will lose in the end.
• If we are living in such a way as to spare ourselves from the cost (time and energy) sacrificing for the Lord’s service… spare ourselves from giving to others (to keep it for self)… spare ourselves from persecution by caving in… then we are “saving our lives.”
• If our goal in life is to ENJOY life, have fun, be happy, healthy, and prosperous… then we are thinking like the world. We are “saving our lives.”
• We pursue our goals in life with a lot of zeal and gusto. And obtaining those goals usually involves compromising our spiritual lives.
• In the immediate, we may save our lives from the cost and suffering involved in sacrifice for the Lord… but in the end, we are the losers.
b. But in saving our lives, we actually LOSE.
• By holding on to life (our time; resources; natural talents; spiritual gifts; our energy; capacity to serve; etc.) … we lose out on REAL LIFE… the abundant life… and rewards in glory.
• We loose out on the rewards we COULD have had for a selfless life of sacrifice… a life of giving… ministering… a life of Christlikeness!
• In fact, those who try the hardest to be happy are usually the most miserable!
• Those who desperately try to become happy by making their business successful at any cost end up losing… their marriage… their children… their hope…
• Lot thought he was saving his life by choosing the lush green valley… but he really lost it. He lost his wife, his family, and ultimately all! And he was miserable—a righteous soul vexed daily!
• They often end up with broken lives… but in the afterlife is when their REAL LOSS is seen.
• Those who aren’t saved, end up in Hell…
• Those believers who lived for self lose out on eternal rewards… their lives go up in smoke as wood, hay, and stubble. They are spiritual losers.
3. Jesus told His disciples that the way to FIND LIFE was to LOSE it.
a. How do disciples LOSE their lives?
• By putting their all on the altar… by putting their head in Christ’s yoke… by reckoning self to be dead…
• By living every day by thinking: Not my will but Thine be done! I must decrease and He must increase.
• By being willing to yield; give up; surrender our will and our ways; to follow Christ regardless of the cost; by denying self in the everyday practical things of life…
• We lose our lives when we chose to have our family turn on us rather than offend our Lord…
• We lose our lives when we are bypassed for the raise and promotion because we refuse to sin against God by lying…
• We lose our lives when we for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
• We lose our lives when we donate Sunday afternoons to go to choir rehearsal and sing songs for the edification of the saints and the glory of God…
• We lose our lives when we sacrifice our career for a life of missionary service…
• We lose our lives when we sacrifice a career or put it on hold for a decade or two to bring up our children…
• We lose our lives when we drive our children to Christian school every day and pay the big bills each month… or by teaching them at home… because God has so led…
• We lose our lives when we sacrifice the cruise in order to give generously to the Lord’s work…
• We lose our lives when we get up a half hour early each morning to have our quiet time with the Lord…
• Very few believers actually lose physical lives for Christ in our country today… but every believer ought to be willing to lose his life… yield over his life… in these practical ways…
b. In losing his life, he really FINDS it!
• It is more blessed to GIVE than to receive.
• Only the believer who is willing to lose his life will find an abundant life in Christ…
• All others will have to settle for a self-centered, earthly, worldly life, barren of spiritual fruit and contentment or joy.
• But what joy belongs to the one who is willing to lose his life for Christ and Christ’s glory!
• Happiness is based on fluctuating circumstances. We don’t need happiness. We really need JOY – the fruit of the spirit!
• That is what makes life worth living.
• The believer who loses his self-centered life gains a Christ centered life… which is far better.
c. John 12:24-25 – Jesus applies a principle to His own life, death, and ministry… and to His followers.
• It was necessary for Jesus to die, to be buried, and then to rise again.
• Like a seed, it must first die and be buried before it can rise into a fruitful state!
• Resurrection life only comes from death. Fruitfulness in the Christian life comes only through death to the self life.
• If you really want to FIND life… you must first LOSE it!
• If we want to hold on to our life (a seed), we can grasp it tightly and keep it to ourselves, and at the end of 25 years we will have one, lonely, barren seed.
• But if we let go of the seed, let it die and bury it, then it will sprout up and become a fruitful tree… producing season after season of good fruit!
• But the way to fruitfulness is death. The way to an abundant life is death. The way to victory is death. The way to finding life is losing it.
LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU (Phil. 2:5)
1. For Christ to have preeminence in our lives, we need to have the MIND of Christ… His mind ruling, not ours.
a. Paul gives this command for a very practical and specific purpose: believers were fighting!
b. Phil. 4:2 – they needed to have the same mind… the mind of Christ.
c. Phil. 2:2 – evidently, there was some discord in the assembly… strife… (vs. 3) selfishness (vs. 4).
d. Where there is pride, contention, strife, and selfishness, it is obvious that Christ does not have the preeminence in the lives of the believers Paul was addressing.
e. The problem: Christ was not preeminent; self was.
f. The answer: “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5)
2. What MIND did Paul want in the individual believers at Philippi?
a. He wanted them to have the same mind (mindset; attitude) that the eternal Son of God demonstrated in the incarnation.
b. Vs. 6 – Christ existed for an eternity in the past in the form of God. His outward glory and radiance were manifestations of His inward nature. Myriads of angels worshipped at His feet.
c. Vs. 6 – He thought it not robbery to be equal with God: He did not esteem it necessary to grasp on to this visible, outward manifestation of His internal divine essence. He was willing to “let go” of this outward expression of His glory.
d. Vs. 7 – He made Himself of no reputation: lit = He emptied Himself… and took on the outward form of a servant… and became a Man.
• Emptied Himself = kenosis
• Christ emptied Himself of His outward manifestation of His divine glory when He became a Man.
• He emptied Himself of His RIGHT to exercise His divine powers when He became a Man…
• It was a self renunciation… a refusal to use what He had for His own advantage… for personal gain…
• He still possessed all of His divine powers and attributes, but chose not to exercise them… and He did so for us!
• He still possessed all of His divine essence and glory, but chose not to manifest it outwardly.
• This was an emptying of SELF.
3. Vs. 10 – Christ demonstrated this selfless spirit even unto the death of the cross.
a. This attitude of utter selflessness that knows no limits… is what Paul is talking about when he says, “Let this mind (attitude) be in you.”
b. If we want to manifest Christ in our lives… to manifest the mind, heart, and compassion of Christ… then we need this attitude: selflessness demonstrated in the kenosis experience…
• When He left the outward show of His glory behind…
• When He humbled Himself to become a servant of men…
• When He put OUR spiritual well being ahead of His own comfort and ease.
c. “Let this mind be in you” is a command. Hence, obeying it is an act of our will.
• Will we CHOOSE to manifest this Christ-like, supernatural attitude of selflessness… or will we choose to manifest the much more natural attitude of selfishness?
• There was strife and pride which indicated to Paul that SELF was reigning. Christ was pushed aside.
• Paul’s answer: the believers need to push self aside… by manifesting the holy and humble attitude of Christ.
d. This command is in essence quite the same as the others we have looked at.
• If Christ is to have the preeminence in our lives, we need to STOP allowing self-serving motives to control our thinking, our hearts, our attitudes, and hence our behavior… and START allowing the selfless attitude of Christ to take over.
• Only THEN can we say that Christ has the preeminence in our lives… when we have the mind of Christ.
• The mind of self or the mind of the flesh will ALWAYS take the position of preeminence…
• That is unless we by faith put him back on the cross… reckon self to be dead…so that we no longer are enslaved to that selfish nature… but the new nature that exalts Christ can rule and reign!
• And oh how practical! If we want to get rid of the strife and vainglory in our lives… if we want to learn to stop butting heads with people we love… then here is one awesome lesson: Consider Christ’s kenosis experience.
4. Are you willing to empty yourself of self? Are you willing to put aside your so-called rights… be willing to esteem others better… lowliness of mind?
a. This is what occurs when Christ has the preeminence.
b. And even if we differ on the details – we can still be of one accord… likeminded… because we have the mind of Christ.
c. Christ has preeminence in our lives when we have the mind of Christ. So let it be in you!
5. As Christians, we ought to be armed with that same mind… that same attitude. (I Pet. 4:1-2)
a. Arm yourself: this verb speaks of a soldier putting on his weapons and armor for battle.
b. We are to be armed with the same mind as Christ had: unswerving allegiance to doing God’s will—regardless of the personal cost.
c. Christ is our example of an attitude of being willing to suffer for righteousness sake. (I Pet. 3:17-18) He suffered for well doing.
d. Whether we are living in a day of persecution or a day of relative ease, we are ALWAYS to walk about with this same mind: an attitude of being willing to suffer for righteousness sake… willing to do God’s will…
e. Peter states that if we are willing to be identified with Christ in His sufferings by faith, then we too will experience victory over sin—he hath ceased from sin!
f. If we are unwilling to identify with Christ on the cross—we died with Him—then we will never experience victory OVER sin. We will never experience the power of the resurrection in our lives.
g. The cross speaks of a BREAK with our old life of sin. He that is dead is freed from sin! (Rom. 6:7)
h. This is an attitude of selflessness… even to the death of the cross. This is the mind of Christ… and we are to be ARMED with it daily. How incredibly powerful is this attitude!
i. Maintaining that attitude is our responsibility. We are to take that position of mind/heart/attitude… and WALK that way… moment by moment… day by day…
6. Conclusion: If we want victory over sin; if we want to live in the will of God; if we want a life in which CHRIST truly has the preeminence, then there is a prerequisite: the cross!
a. The old self-life must be faced and dealt with—God’s way.
b. God’s way is the cross… death. Nothing less will suffice.
c. When self is out of the way, then and only then will Christ be able to manifest His life and character through us… through an empty yielded vessel… to be filled with the fullness of God… filled with a Christlike character by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit… a walk in newness of life… a new creature!
d. God’s way of victory is not so much dealing with this issue or that… giving up this practice or that. Rather, God’s method is dealing with SELF:
• Yoke: the end of self-will… submitted…
• Altar: the end of the self-life… surrendered…
• Cross: the end of self… dead… delivered over to the death of the cross
e. Until the self-life is dealt with – we can never say that Christ has the preeminence in our lives.
f. But when we ARE submitted to His yoke… surrendered our all on the altar… and delivered over self to the cross… THEN we experience God’s power in our lives… a life truly worth living!
IF YOU ARE NOT SAVED: God’s message is: BELIEVE and be saved today!