3 : 4 April 2004

The Marvelous Working of Death and Life
Pastor Ted Hegre



For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may he manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. (2 Cor.4:7-12)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who sealed his testimony with his blood, (he was killed by Hitler) in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, says, “When Christ calls a man He bids him come and die”.

This is true, and the essence of discipleship is contained in those words, but there are different kinds of dying, or should we say, there are deeper and deeper applications of the cross of Christ, working out in the Christian the deeper fellowship with God and greater conformity to Hi death, all for the purpose of releasing the life of Chris! Through us in an unhindered stream of grace; for He Himself has promised that rivers of living water shall flow from the inward parts of the true believer.


First there is the death to the old life in the initial crisis of justification. Then there is the death to the “old man" “--the carnal mind,--the “sin which dwelleth in me”, or whatever we call this contrary principle in one who is justified but not sanctified. At first we saw one aspect of Christ crucified, the substitute dying, in our stead: the stroke of judgment due us for our sins fell on Him, and for His sake all who repent and believe are pardoned and born from above.

It is later that we see the deep derangement and enslavement of our nature to the things of our own little world as the Holy Spirit faithfully reveals to us our self-life in all its forms and subtleties. We long for and begin to seek a deeper deliverance, not now so much from the problems of the outer life, but rather from those of the inner man.

The deliverance comes when the Holy Spirit reveals that Christ not only took our sins to the Cross, but He took the sinner there also, and from now on, one must reckon himself dead to the whole sordid business and thus become alive to God and His king of love, yielding the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control, in place of the old bitterness and jealousy, envy and impatience, to say nothing of the temptations to greater sins that plagued him.


There is a deeper dying, even though the crisis of justification and sanctification are past. Paul calls this “always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus that the life also Jesus may be manifested in our body”. The early church new all about this and produced disciples. But about the year 300 the chill of worldliness crept into the church, and began to produce nominal Christians, as she does today.

We are living in days when the term Christian does not fully describe a disciple. So many others, too, use the term. When, in the early church, those who knew better spoke against this low level of Christian living, the leaders of that time being too wise to deny that there was a higher level, offered opportunity for those who wanted to be “out and out” For God to form a monastic order where they could separate themselves from the world and live only for God.


These communities were founded by sincere men and their motive was right, but this did not solve the problem of “Christian living" for Christians. It merely recognized the two levels, and we have ever since had the two classes. All admit that the church at large is not what it ought to be, but for the most part the idea held is that discipleship is good and wonderful but not necessary. But a Christian must follow Christ. Every believer should be a disciple.

Jesus’ whole life and everything He said are summed up in a word of the Apostles’ Creed, “suffered”. He not only expects us to follow Him so that we have the joy of forgiveness and the peace of God, knowing that we have eternal life, but He expects us to follow Him in sacrificial living. It is not only that we are supposed to live sacrificial lives, but also once we are “taken” by the Cross, the life of sacrifice will be the only life that satisfies. The Spirit of Jesus dwelling within always leads us the way of the Cross, and it is from the Cross that the blessings of life and salvation flow.


The crisis of sanctification is not enough. The new man must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The new life is nothing less than Christ Himself dwelling within. But we have the treasure in earthen vessels. Christ Himself is the treasure and He is within and we have all things in Him. There is not the slightest lack, whether in the line of purity or power, in Him, and He longs to not only flood our lives with His own gracious Spirit, but He longs to overflow through us. This flow of life is held back by the hard shell of unbroken humanity; therefore we must break if we expect to reveal Christ The crisis of sanctification is not enough. That deals with the inner life. Now, the Spirit yearns to bring us into a deeper fellowship with the Cross and that brokenness which will re veal the treasure within.


Gideon and his 300-man band is a good illustration of this truth. Remember how each man was given a trumpet, pitcher, and a torch, the torch being placed within the pitcher. Then the leader said, “Look on me and do likewise, and behold, when I come to the outermost part of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow the trumpet, land all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp”. When they reached the outer most part of the camp Gideon and those with him blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers. The rest followed suit and stood in their place round about the camp, and the Whole army of the enemy, 135,000 men, were put to rout by those 300 men of God.

If we want the success that Gideon and his men had, we must follow in their footsteps. They blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers; and when the pitchers were broken the light was released, breaking forth, shining out, no longer limited by the hard shell of the earthen vessel, but broke forth in power and doing through 300 what the 32,000 sword Of his original army could never have done.

We have been blowing the trumpets, but we have not been breaking the vessels; consequently our preaching and testimony have not had the power of Gideon’s men. The Christ of the Cross gave the message and it was this, “It is finished”. We thank God we can proclaim this truth far and wide. As Gideon’s men followed their leader, we can follow ours. There is no lack in the indwelling Christ, but we limit Him by refusing to break. We refuse the cross of sacrifice.


Body merely gives quality to our life so that we can present it to God as a living sacrifice. We notice in Romans 12:1 that Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy crisis of sanctification is no substitute for sacrificial living: rather, the crisis of sanctification, including cleansing from indwelling sin, and the filling of the Holy Spirit acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service”.

It is one who has already been made pure and holy, acceptable, who is called to present himself as a living sacrifice.

So, we see the crisis of sanctification is not the end, but merely the means to the end of the Christian life. God saves and sanctifies us so that our lives will have the proper quality so that they can be planted to produce good fruit. Jesus says the same thing in just a little different way, “Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die it abideth by itself alone, but if it die it beareth much fruit”. It is a good seed, purified seed, seed with life in it that is planted, and it is not planted there for purification; it is planted for reproduction. It is necessary first to be made pure and holy so that our lives will have proper quality; but we must not stop there. We must allow ourselves to be planted into a deeper experience of death so that fruit will be the result.


A disciple is a learner, a follower of his master. The way of the Lamb is the way of sacrifice. How do we sacrifice? We can sacrifice what we have and we can sacrifice what we are. When we sacrifice what we have we call it sac rificial giving. Remember David at the threshing floor of Araunah? When this yielded Jebusite offered him oxen for the sacrifice and threshing instruments and the yokes of the oxen for the wood, David said, “Nay; but I will verily buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burnt-offerings unto Jehovah my God which cost me nothing”. So, too, giving without cost is no sacrifice, if we want to learn sacrificial giving we must be prepared to pay the price.


In the New Testament we find three levels of Christian giving: First there is proportionate giving where Paul tells us to lay aside according to how God has prospered us. He doe not state the amount, but no doubt expects at least what is commanded in the Old Testament which was 10% plus some extras which made it 15%. The second level of giving is illustrated in the case of Zacchaeus who, when he was saved, gave half of what he had. The four-fold restitution perhaps took the rest. But that is only the second step. There is still deeper, and we find that in the case of the widow who did not have much but gave all that she had. This pleased Jesus so much that He called His disciples’ attention to her act. God is looking for men who will sacrifice in their giving today if we think that we give too much we can well read Brenton Thoburn Hadley’s “The Nail-Pierced Hands”:

Lord, when I am weary with toiling,
And burdensome seem Thy commands,
if my load should lead to complaining,
Lord, show me Thy Hands, - -
Thy nail-pierced Hands,
Thy cross-torn Hands,
My Saviour, show me Thy Hands

Christ, if ever my footsteps should falter.
And I be prepared for retreat,
if desert or thorn cause lamenting,
Lord, show me Thy Feet, - -
Thy bleeding Feet,
Thy nail-scarred Feet,
My Jesus, show me Thy Feet.
O God, dare I show Thee
MY hands and my feet?


But it is not only sacrificing what we have. We must also sacrifice what we are, in real sacrificial living. It is a costly life. It costs more than money. It will cost our time, effort, comfort. It will cost also our security. We must learn how to live in such a way that we no longer seek to save our selves, but we are willing to break the vessel and reveal the Christ within.

There are countless ways to give of ourselves. Isaiah says, ‘If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in darkness and thy thy obscurity as the noon day”. It is not only the sharing of our funds, but the drawing out of ourvery souls to the hungry. This is sacrificial living.

This is the way that Paul lived. He said, “I die daily’ He had no reference whatever to sin in this statement. The context Is very plain. It shows clearly here that the reference is to physical death. He is willing to hazard his life to death daily.

The preceding verse says, “We stand in jeopardy every hour”. The following verse says, “After the manner of man I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus”. It would re quire the greatest stretch of the imagination and the greatest liberty in exegesis to apply this to death to sin. It does not at all refer to sin here but to his willingness to sacrifice his life that others might live. Someone has said, “I once saw the trail of a bleeding hare on the snow”. How that describes the life of the apostle Paul. Wherever he went he left his blood. He never saved himself, but he literally sacrificed himself over and over again. He says, “in deaths oft”.


That great soldier of the cross, Willis Hotchkiss, was once giving an account of his early life in Kenya Colony, Africa In those early days they had to live on native fare, for they could take little equipment along, and no special food. He mentioned also the fear of man-eating lions,and other things that they -suffered in those days. After giving a long account of the dangers of living there, of how many lost their lives, and the costliness of the whole thing, he concluded by saying, “But don’t talk to me about sacrifice. It is no sacrifice. I saw Christ and His cross and I did all this ecauselloved Him”. Then he quoted Watt’s matchless song, “When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss And pour contempt on all my pride.”

When someone asked another missionary if he liked his work in Africa, he replied, “Do I like this work? No, my wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonably refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse. We do not like association with ignorant, filthy, brutish people. But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does like? God pity him if not. Liking or disliking has nothing do with it. We have orders to’go’ and we go. Love constrains us”. Yes, friends, when we are taken by the Cross, we will live sacrificial lives because we love Him.

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand;
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascended star,
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swoone
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? no scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far,
Who has no wound nor scar?