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Steve Mickel: Cruciformity, Romans 6:1-14

February 27, 2023

Audio Recording

As carriers of the death and life of Christ, we are conformed and transformed into the image of Christ. Our identification with and participation in the cross of Christ informs every aspect of our lives and our relationships.

The Beauty of the Cross
The Beauty of the Cross
Steve Mickel: Cruciformity, Romans 6:1-14

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Well, the first Sunday of lint, this season called lint. We're not a very liturgical church, if you didn't know that. but we're kind of leaning into the church calendar a little bit this year. And, and, and so we're in the season of lint, and it's, it's, it's a 40 days, 40 days between Ash Wednesday that happened last Wednesday, where priests typically it is more Catholic, but it even goes, it's older than, than just Catholicism. But priests would put, dip their finger in ash and put, cross of ash and remind you that, from dust, you came from dust, you will return. They say that over you. But that, but the idea of it is not just to kind of think about our mortality, but also to realize that we are, we are redeemed by the cross, saved by the cross.

00:49 And, this idea is kind of built into LT of like, kind of reflecting over these next 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter of our, of our, kind of our condition as humanity and our brokenness. And, it's often, filled with repentance and, and coming to God. you know, and, and, and, and kind of that tradition, it's this time of mourning in a sense. And, and so this is the first Sunday of Lent, and one theologian wrote these words about it. Lent is an opportunity to contemplate what our Lord really did for us on the cross. And so for the next three weeks, here at West Side, we're going to contemplate the beauty of the cross. And isn't that interesting that we put those, that phrase together? It's, it's a paradox and you're gonna see throughout the message is kind of, this whole idea of the cross is a paradox, because in one sense, it's the, it was the instrument used by the Roman empire of, to, to, to, to kill someone significantly.

01:49 Like, not, don't just put them to death, but like, make it a spectacle. And, and, and they did that to Christ. And yet because of what Jesus did on the cross, what it represents, we now now say the beauty of the cross. It's really an interesting kind of idea beyond, behind this. And it's, it's, it's an emblem of beauty now that people wear around their necks. You know, and I love what Paul writes in Galatians chapter two. if you don't know who Paul is, he wrote nine books in the, that are included in the New Testament, one of the most significant kind of Christians of, since, since Christ Rose from the Dead. And it says in Galatians, he wrote in Galatians two 20, I have been crucified with Christ. So Paul here embodies the crucifixion. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live and the flesh.

02:46 I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I've been reflecting deeply on this idea of that we have been crucified with Christ. I've been crucified with Christ. And, and if you embrace Jesus, you've been crucified with Christ. This idea and what that means. And, you know, as a Pentecostal, both in tradition and practice, I grew up in a kind of a Pentecostal tradition. I so easily bypassed the cross and got right to the resurrection, and especially the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter one and two. I mean, I, it just, you know, the, the crucifixion was kinda like a blip on the screen. Like, okay, well that's, that was an important moment, but man, the resurrection, you know, and, and we're gonna get to resurrection less than 40 days from now. Easters will be upon us, but there's something central that I think I missed in the cross, that as I began to reflect on this, you, you can't read through the letters of Paul without running into the cross almost on every page and every chapter.

03:54 It was central to him. And I realized now that I cannot, and you cannot be raised with Christ in his resurrection and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit unless you first die with Christ, by the way, it's not a one and done death. Paul's use of this, of I have been crucified with Christ. It's not, I have been, and now I'm not. It is this, in, in, in the original language. It's this word that describes, I am crucified and I am continuing to be daily crucified. It's an ongoing experience, just like the resurrection is an ongoing experience, so is the crucifixion. So this train of thought led me to, to see that, becoming like Jesus embodying his ethos and his values, we must, we must reconcile ourselves with the cross and what it means and what it means to be crucified with Christ.

04:55 And, and that led me to one author who described this idea of conformity to the image of Christ, by coining a new word called cruciform. And this was decades ago, crumity. And that simply means it's an ongoing pattern of living in Christ and of dying with him that produces a Christlike person. Atos are called it the crucified life, a sense of like a life that is shaped by the cross of Christ. And again, don't worry, we're gonna get to Easter for all of you people. Like I don't, I just wanna talk about resurrection. Can't talk about resurrection without talking about crucifixion. There is no resurrection, right without crucifixion. And I'm, and I would argue that there is no resurrection in your life. There is nothing that can, that's from, can go from old to new, from death to life if un un unless you first walk through your own crucifixion.

05:55 So, Jesus, as we open up up your word today, I pray that maybe we would see something we haven't seen before, and that it would do something in us and change us and transform us, that maybe even old truths would come alive again for us. And help us to see what your great work on the cross achieved for us in this life. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen. All right. I wanna do something different than I normally don't do. And I used to do it all the time when I was a younger preacher, but I haven't done it recently. And I'm gonna go verse by verse through half a chapter of the Bible. So for some of you that are Bible nerds, you're like, yes, this is amazing for the other 98% of you, bear with me. It'll be okay. It'll be we'll. Get through it together.

06:39 and if you have a Bible with you, turn to Romans chapter six. I always ask you if you have, I always tell you, Hey, grab your Bible and turn to Roman six, and then I put the Bible on the screen. And so why would you bring your Bible? So I'm defeating the own, my own purpose of telling you to bring your Bible. But anyway, if you have a Bible or you have it on your phone, I would encourage you, because we are going verse by verse to follow along with me, either on your iPhone or whatever device you have, or your Bible or, okay, on the screen. So we're gonna do this together. Now, before we dive into this, earlier in Romans, so we're gonna be in Romans six. So earlier in Romans, Paul, is utilizing a metaphor. And I, this is an important metaphor for us to understand what he says, what he writes in Romans six.

07:20 And it's this metaphor of the people of Israel who were enslaved in Egypt. And so if you, you know, if you remember your Sunday school class, right? So they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 plus years, and then Moses comes and delivers them, and, and they, and they have to cross through the Red Sea, to, to leave Egypt to, to leave the place of enslavement. They had to cross through the Red Sea. And Paul uses that kind of imagery to describe a baptism like going into the waters of the Red Sea is kind of like a baptism. and, and, and they cannot return to slavery. This is an important idea as we, as we talk about the crucifixion, that, that they crossed over and cannot return, even though they sometimes desired to go back to Egypt. They, they, they, they, they entered into a new reality.

08:08 And cruciform, as as you'll see, is this intentional crossing over putting aside, the desire to return to bondage, which, Paul often calls sin the sin. This, this desire to live life on our own terms is a bondage. It's something that, and we desire to go. It's, it enslaves us. And so, so it is this idea that we desire to go back to that. And this crumity is the way in which we continually, depart from that desire. But the tension is, as you can imagine, is it feels like sin. This desire to live on our own terms, rules over us, like it, like it's in charge. And we know we sh we shouldn't like succumb to the desires of our flesh, but we do. It reminds me of a Star Wars film. Of course, I know I haven't used one in a long time though, so gimme a little break on that.

09:04 But episode three of Star Wars, , I'm still gonna use it. Obi one and Anakin are trapped by this ray shield. And, funny, as I was researching this, that there's some geeks out there. I don't know why, I don't know why I find these websites. It was just random cuz I'm not that much of a geek, really. But some were like, you can't be trapped by a shield. But anyway, that's doesn't really go with the point , it actually works against my illustration, but they're trapped by a shield. And Obi one says this, wait a minute, how did this happen? We're smarter than this. And Annakin replies apparently not master. This is the oldest trap in the book. And I was thinking about that. And the reality is that living by our selfish desires and ambitions is the oldest trap in the book. We've been doing that for generations.

09:54 I did it yesterday where we live by this kind of other way, this other law in a sense, this other rule that self is kind of at the center. and, and what, and, and that we, and that whatever, you know, whatever is good for us is okay. And that's all this idea. And, and, and, and it doesn't lead to life. It actually leads to death. It doesn't lead to our best. It sometimes leads to our worst. And, and so this idea that's, that's, that's the tension. And and this is the reason why we need cruciform, that Paul's gonna talk to us about. So, all right, let's dive in because we're gonna go verse by verse 14 verses, oh, I'm so excited. verse one. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that Grace May abound? Now, obviously, we're missing something, right?

10:47 So you'd have to read Romans one through five to understand that Paul has been talking about grace, the grace that Jesus bought for us on the cross, that we are free from sin, where sin bounds, grace abounds all the more. And so he's been arguing that grace is, this, is, is central for our experience to understand who we are, that Jesus forgives us and forgave us and continues to forgive us. It's, it's done. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he said, it is finished, right? But then Paul says, just to make sure nobody got kinda got the wrong idea. Well, does that mean then you can just go ahead and sin whenever you want because grace will abound all the more, because this is the, because it's, we always look for loopholes to do what we want to do. And, and so Paul says, no, of course not.

11:37 That that's by no means. Verse two, how can we who die to sin? So this idea of cruc crumity, how can we crucified with Christ? How can we who die to sin still live in it? Now, I've, I've read this a number, number of times and I've always felt like that's probably just a rhetorical question, , you know, I mean, he's just saying how can who die to sin still live in it? I thought, well, well, let's, let's actually answer that question. Like, okay, so how can we who died to sin still live in it? And I would say to Paul, it's pretty easy actually, right? It, it is actually pretty easy. It's like this gravitational pull in our lives to live according to our desires and our flesh. It's like, that's what it means to be human. Sometimes you kind of think that, right? And so Paul's, I know he is being rhetorical, but how can we who died descend still live in it? Well, I do that every day.

12:35 So, so Paul actually wants us to think more deeply about this idea of what it means to die to self, to be crucified with Christ. And how does that, how does that actually transform the way that we see ourselves, the way that we see God, the way that we see, others around us? Verse three, do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism in into death. one of the reasons why we don't sprinkle in baptism, right? So some of you may come from a tradition where, where the pastor or priest just sprinkles you. The reason why we don't do that is because of, because of this. And many other scriptures that talk about this baptism being the, metaphor for dying and, and buried being buried .

13:34 And so, so it's morbid. I know. And I love telling people that are being baptized, okay, what's going on? Because they, they kind of get a little nervous like, I'm coming back up, right? Pastor, you're not gonna leave me in the waters of death. No, I don't. Like, of course not. But the symbolic like, like, I am dying to myself. And when I come up, I am a new person in Christ Jesus. The old has gone, the new has come. It's this beautiful metaphor, but we wanna live and the new has come and the beauty of life without the death, without being baptized. And you're like, well, I, I, do I, does that mean I need to be baptized every day? No, of course not. But we might actually need to be crucified with Christ every day. And the metaphor helps us to understand what that means, to die to self constantly in need of him. in a sense, we need a daily funeral service.

14:37 So maybe, yeah, don't, don't do this. It'd be weird. But, but maybe, you know, when you get up tomorrow morning, you know, put on black and just go to your knees and prayer. Oh God, I, I crucify myself, my desires, my wants. I just put 'em, I lay 'em at the cross. And help me to rise up to the life that you have for me. Maybe, maybe, maybe we just need a daily funeral. Serve as a conscious untethering from this world. All right? Verse, we're never gonna get through this. Verse four, where am I at? Verse four. Verse four. So we were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death in order that, okay, so that there's a purpose in the death. There's a purpose in the dying. There's a purpose in the crucifixion of ourselves. We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead, by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

15:38 And again, that is a daily experience that Paul's talking about. It's not a one and done. You know, we do a disservice when we just say, raise your hand to receive Christ as if that's the only time that you're going to make a decision to follow Jesus. It's a daily decision to walk in the newness of life. And that phrase made me think of like a newborn, of like a baby, 9/10/12 months old, whatever it, what, you know, however hard dad's driving them, that's when they start walking. At least my, that was my kids eight months. That's the record, right? What's the record? My kid's gonna beat it, you know, whatever it is. And I just, I love when they take their first steps. It's not, it's this new thing. It's like this amazing, and they're still dependent upon, upon their parent. And it's like, that's how I see this, like every day waking up, is I crucify myself before Christ walking in this newness of life dependent upon God to help me with every step.

16:32 The sense of like a daily rhythm of that. All right, let's verse five, four. If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him and a resurrection like his, I wanna really key in on that, that word united. It, it, it makes you think about, Jesus telling his disciples that, that, that, that we are branches and he is the vine. And we, we need to stay linked in and connected to Christ, and we need to be united with him, that we actually can't lay our lives down or take them back up and walk in newness of life without being connected into him through his word, through prayer. It, we can't do this in our own effort. And when you try, it doesn't go right when you just try, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna do better.

17:23 I'm gonna live better. I'm gonna be a better person. I'm not gonna live according to my sinful desires, all et cetera, et cetera. If you try to do that on your own, you will fail. But when we, when we link into Jesus, when we are united with him, it makes this possible. Verse six, we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. This is an important verse. And, and because of this, this idea of being enslaved to sin. So I've already confessed to you earlier in the message that I, that I sent every day. So I, and you might be thinking, how is that possible? Well, just think about . I mean, I wake up thinking about myself more often than anything else. I think about what I want to eat and I gotta have my coffee before I can think about anything else. And it is all my world revolves around self. Your yours does too. I mean, it's not, it is in a sense what it means to be human. I mean, it's not like, and and Paul hears like, like he understands that he understands that this body is kind of off at times running the show.

18:43 But he, but he's trying to get at this idea of, but are you a slave to it? Are is who, who's in charge? This is why the practice of fasting is so important. Cuz we we're like telling the body, you're not in charge and it doesn't go down quietly. Every time I fast my body raise, rises up and goes, you're not in charge, bro. I am . Eat the English muffins. You know, some of you might remember that message. But anyway, I , but this, this who's in charge, and Paul, Paul is trying to say, listen, the through cru deformity, through the cross, a daily practice of laying down our lives, our old self, we are crucifying the flesh daily saying that you're not in charge, you're not in charge.

19:38 Our old self has been crucified. And listen, it has been crucified once and for all, but I'm, but I also know that I need the daily practice of it to remind it. So what does that mean? So, we often, I don't like this phrase, but I often hear it, I've even said it, we are sinners saved by grace. Have you ever heard that phrase? That's wrong. I sin every day, but I'm not a sinner. , you're like, you're crazy. That's the definition. Now, that's not my identity. My identity is, is the reality that I have been crucified with Christ and now I live, I am alive and Christ. And so we know that our old self was crucified with him. It's important that we understand, like, I am broken, I am broken, but Christ has redeemed me. You know, the spirit of the age tells, tells us that you're okay, just, you're just, you're okay. There's nothing you need to do. There's nothing you need to repent of. There's nothing that you need to be sorry for. There's nothing wrong with us. And so what happens is, if we buy into that kind of worldview, there's no need for repentance. There's no need for crucifixion, both in Christ or in us.

21:09 See, through cruciform, we realize I do need to repent. I do need to turn from my way every day. And it's in that place that my chains are loose, that I'm no longer bound. Look at verse eight. This kind of Paul kind of keeps us going here. Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over him. So Christ died once and for all so that I could live. But I can't live unless I walk through crucifixion. So some people have used this passage and they talk about dead men walking, you know, we're just dead men walking. And I'm like, no, I'm not. I'm not a dead man walking. I'm a live man walking. I'm not a zombie. I have chosen to walk through crucifixion, self denial on a daily basis.

22:10 And because of that, I am alive in Christ right now. I am alive in Christ. Tomorrow when I succumb to a selfish desire, even in that moment, I am alive in Christ. There is no condemnation, there is no shame even when we screw up, because we have bought into the reality that Jesus Christ was crucified for my sin once and for all. And even though I may walk into the flesh now and again, I am my condition, my identity, who I actually am is alive in Christ. Verse 10, for the death He died. He died to sin once and for all. But the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin, therefore reign in your body. It's like, consider I am. How do you think about yourself when you think about yourself and your relationship with God and your spirituality and the relationship of your flesh with, with Christ's, resurrection and all that stuff.

23:24 Do you, do you feel guilt and shame? Like, I need to be better. Do you guys know I don't do that anymore. I mean, I'm a screw up and I don't, I don't like hang out there. I don't like, just think about all of that all of the time. Matter of fact, I now believe this is crazy. You'll think this is crazy that when I am in the act of sinning, whatever it is, I used to think Jesus kind of took a step to the side like, oh, I'll be in the other room, , you go do what you need to do. And when you're ready to come back to me, that's not right.

24:03 I mean, you don't have to go very far in the Bible to find out that's not right. Adam and Eve send and God is looking for them. And so when I, I have this idea now in my mind that when I'm in the act of whatever, Jesus is right there with me, , it gets a little awkward. . We're like, oh, when I, when I stop for a moment, I recognize Jesus is with me. Even in, when I, when I act out the flesh or when I think that thought or when I, when I, maybe, when I, maybe I'm gonna bend the truth just a little bit. You know, Jesus is like with me in it. I like, it's amazing. That's what he did on the cross. And that's how God sees us, is through Christ and the cross. And he doesn't, he doesn't like turn his back on us when we sin.

24:54 He like just keeps looking. I see you no matter what you do, no matter what you're going to do, I see you through Christ and his cross and the cross and the sin that he took on him. I see the, I see you that way, cleansed, pure, righteous, clean at all times. What the heck? He can't. That's not right. You can't do that. God, I deserve what I'm gonna get for the stuff that I do. And he's like, no, no, you don't. Because of what Jesus did for you. You deserve my love. And you've got it. It's powerful. Consider yourselves. Think about yourselves differently. What the church has often done has made the people feel like they aren't, they aren't good enough, or they're not really saved until they, you know, until they get control of their flesh. You know, or when the flesh rises up randomly when it does, right? Well, I guess, man, you got, boy, you got a lot of work to do.

26:04 Jesus has done the work for us. Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Verse 12, let not sin, therefore reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. And you don't listen. Right? You don't even want to present your, your body that way. Once you realize that Jesus is with you, that he is born, the cost of our sin, that, that, that we are justified in Christ, that he loves us regardless, you're like, ah, I don't wanna, I don't wanna keep living there. And so, you know, it's like, so don't suppose, like, just don't keep doing that. Don't present your members. You don't even want to. But present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and your members to God as instruments for righteousness, for sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law, but under grace.

27:07 So I crucified my flesh the other day, and I did it again today, and I will do it again tomorrow. I will repent of my sin and my self-centered ways every day for the rest of my life. It is part of a practice of coming to God in repentance and then living into his grace by his grace into resurrection power. Jesus said in Luke chapter nine, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross. How often daily, and follow me for whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life, for my sake will save it. I wanna invite the worship team to come back up. We're gonna take communion together, and there's ushers who are gonna be walking around. If you didn't get one of these communion cups as you walked in, make sure you have one. I this is a, this is gonna be an important moment for all of us today.

28:11 Just wanna ask you, what, what struggle do you face often, like I've found in my own life that I, I have kind of one area in particular that this is a constant, like nagging, self-centered kind of thing in my life that I need to like, like take, you know, I, I need to crucify every single day. What is it for you? What is a co, what is a, what is a common practice or an idea or a thought that this really is centered around self that you need to crucify today, that you need to bring to God today? That you need a daily offer to him? For me, it's a, I struggle in the area of impure thoughts. And so I, I, I, I'm, I often recite what Paul said, whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is noble, think about these things. You know, I just, I just, I I it's a practice of cruciform. It's a funeral. It's my funeral every day. I don't spend a ton of time there. I, but I acknowledge my brokenness and it leads me, it leads me to resurrection. I can't, I can't get to the resurrection. I can't get to the power to live like Christ unless I first die to myself.

29:33 So that's what this is, right? It's, it's not just remembering Christ in his crucifixion, but Paul encouraged us every time that you take this reflect, take an inventory, just kinda where am I at? Am I trying to do life in my own, on my own terms, in my own way, with my own strength? Or am I dependent upon the work of Jesus to, to bring me life? So as we take communion together in just a moment, it's a reminder of Christ's death for us, but also that we are crucified with him. I was gonna skip this, but I think I'm supposed to just share one more analogy that maybe will help some of you kind of land the plane on this idea. many of you have probably had a, a, a bad landlord at one time or another. so I want you to, but I want you to imagine that, I want you to imagine a horrible, a horrible, person that you have to rent from.

30:37 And they oppressively demand that you pay your rent on time and they're just, every time they send you an email or they do, they still knock on doors. I don't think that's the image I have. You know, knock on their door, give me the money. Where's my rent? You know, that kind of thing. he has every right to ask you for it, right? You have, you sign an agreement, by law, you're required to pay him. I I always say go to the man as a man too. But anyway, on time, a full amount. But now imagine that you move from that situation to a new apartment, and the landlord is amazing. They're generous. They try to help out. They're, they're quick to kind of come in and try to fix some things when they need, when they need to. You're still required to pay your rent on time. That rule hasn't changed, but it's like, I don't mind, I don't mind paying my rent on time. This landlord's amazing. I mean, they're so helpful and they're so gracious and they're so compassionate. And, and, and I know that maybe if I can't pay the rent exactly, you know, the full amount or on time, they'll probably give me a little bit of grace.

31:48 But what I see what happens in church is that, and Christians in particular, the the old landlord shows up at your doorstep in this new apartment, bangs on the door, demanding their rent. And at first you're like, you go for your wallet because it's innate. It's like, yeah, yeah, you're right. I blew it. I you're like, wait a second. You're not my landlord. I left that house. I crossed that river. And I don't need to go back to that place of shame and condemnation. I'm living in this new place of grace, grace, grace and it, and it changes everything. That's what Jesus did. It changes everything. So, Lord, as we take the bread and the wine, Lord, that you would transform us in this, even of the taking of the elements, we embody your crucifixion in us, and we lay our lives down again. We crucify ourselves, our selfish desires, our sin on our crosses, and we thank you, Jesus, that you died once sin for all, so that we could live not according to our flesh, but by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. We love you Jesus. And we thank you

33:31 For the cross. We pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.