Tullian Tchividjian|9:22 am CT

Dying To Live

We Christians have a remarkable tendency to focus almost exclusively on the fruit of the problem. We do this as parents with our children, pastors with our parishioners, husbands with wives and wives with husbands. We do this with ourselves. Others do it with us. Like Job’s “friend”, Eliaphaz, we often draw simplistic conclusions about life, ourselves, and others based exclusively on what we see (Job 4:8).

The gospel, on the other hand, always addresses the root of the problem. And the root of the problem is not bad behavior. Bad behavior is the fruit of something deeper. Our chief problem, as Jesus made clear, is “not what goes into a man”, but the defiled heart–or root (Mark 7:15).

Harold Senkbeil rightly identifies our real enemy: death. Sins are the fruit of a much deeper problem, a problem that only God can solve. Death is the root of the problem.

“This looks good”, she thought to herself. Such shiny fruit; it fairly cried out to be eaten, to be enjoyed. And what a broadening experience such enjoyment would be-the knowledge of good and evil, the Mighty One had said. How could He want less than the very best for His own?

“My husband and I will  be like God Himself,” she reflected. “Now, could that be so bad?”

The serpent made sense: it would be much better to know both good and evil than to know only good.

“Here, have some.” She handed the juicy pulp to her husband.

“This is good stuff. By the way, Adam, do you know what God meant by that word-I think it was ‘die.’”

All sinful behavior can be traced back to the death that happened in Eden. To address behavior without addressing death is to perpetuate death. The Pharisees were masters of this and Jesus called them “white-washed tombs.” Many of us Christians are guilty of making this same mistake. We tend to think of the gospel as God’s program to make bad people good, not dead people live. The fact is, Jesus came first to effect a mortal resurrection, not a moral reformation-as his own death and resurrection demonstrate.

Most people think that the human dilemma is that our lives are out of adjustment; we don’t meet God’s expectations. Salvation then becomes a matter of rearranging our priorities and adjusting our life-style to correspond with God’s will. In its crassest form, this error leads people to think they earn their own salvation. More often in today’s evangelical world, the error has a more subtle disguise: armed with forgiveness through Jesus, people are urged to practice the techniques and principles Christ gave to bring their life-style back into line.

It is certainly true that sinful lives are out of adjustment. We are all in need of the Spirit’s sanctifying power. But that comes only after our real problem is solved. Sins are just the symptom; our real dilemma is death.

God warned Adam and Eve that the knowledge of evil came with a high price tag: “. . . when you eat of (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Our first parents wanted to be like God and were willing to pay the price. And we are still paying the price: “the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23); “. . . in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22); “. . . You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1).

The real problem we all face is death. Physical death, to be sure. But ultimately and most horribly, spiritual death-being cut off from God forever. And everyone must die. You can either die alone or die in Jesus.

In his death Jesus Christ swallowed up our death, and rose again triumphantly to take all of the teeth out of the grave. In the promise of the resurrection, death loses its power. When we die with Jesus, we really live! (Senkbeil)

Sanctification consists of the daily realization that in Christ we have died and in Christ we have been raised. Life change happens as the heart daily grasps death and life. Death is the operative device that sets us free in Christ–when we die, we truly live. Daily reformation, therefore, is the fruit of daily resurrection (Romans 6:1-11). To get it the other way around (which we always do by default) is to miss the power and point of the gospel. In his book God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis makes the obvious point that “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.” Behavior (good or bad) is a second thing.

“Life is a web of trials and temptations”, says Robert Capon, “but only one of them can ever be fatal-the temptation to think it is by further, better, and more aggressive living that we can have life.” The truth is, that you can’t live your way to life–you can only “die [your] way there, lose [your] way there…For Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to reward the rewardable, improve the improvable, or correct the correctable; he came simply to be the resurrection and the life of those who will take their stand on a death he can use instead of on a life he cannot.”

Moral renovation, in other words, is to refocus our eyes away from ourselves to that Man’s obedience, to that Man’s cross, to that Man’s blood-to that Man’s death and resurrection!

Learning daily to love the glorious exchange (our sin for his righteousness), to lean on its finishedness, and to live under its banner is what it means to be morally reformed!


  1. well, thank you so much for this. i cannot tell you how important it was for me to read this this morning!

  2. Great article. Thanks for taking the time to share this with us!!

  3. Love it! I need this reminder EVERY DAY.

  4. Pastor
    death magnetic?

  5. I love reading your articles, as they always remind me of the blessing of pure grace! Thanks for your faithfulness and service to our KING!!!

  6. Does any one know were the Capon qoute if from?

  7. Thanks, Pastor Tullian…

    Moral renovation, in other words, is to refocus our eyes away from ourselves to that Man’s obedience, to that Man’s cross, to that Man’s blood-to that Man’s death and resurrection!

    Amen! Born of God, a sinner/saint with a new heart and new right-will who daily looks to Christ’s moral perfection for right standing with God rather than his own moral progress and thus isn’t afraid to own the poverty and imperfection of his moral condition that in this life remains. Not a better me, but a new me in Christ…


  8. “The truth is, that you can’t live your way to life–you can only “die [your] way there, lose [your] way there…For Jesus came to raise the dead.”

    I think he’s onto something there.

    Do you think there is any correlation in that to Romans 6?

  9. Mitchell Hammonds

    I’m almost certain the Capon quote came from his book on the parables of the kingdom grace and judgment. He has a great take on the parables. Well worth the read.

  10. How does one die (to live)?

    (I’m gonna keep at this ’till it kills me)

  11. Steve… “what has a furry tail and collects acorns?”

    Jack… I want to say squirrel, but I’ll answer – Baptism!

  12. Great stuff. Even pagans can be good little moral people, only Christians come alive to God in Christ.

    Anyone interested in this should (in fact, every Christian should) check out this Spiritual Formation course by Biola professor John Coe:

    He spends many hours driving this point home and gives spiritually deep vision of the Christian life.

  13. LOL, Jack! :D


    Here’s a comment I made on another Christian blogsite…referring to this blogsite and the question that I asked there (Internet Monk), “How do we die (while we yet live)?”

    My response to Chaplain Mike’s answer:

    “I think you are exactly right, Chaplain Mike.

    And I think reliving our baptisms brings us face to face to what God has actually done in our Baptism (Romans 6)…and that is to kill us off to sin (“we are baptized into a death like His”)…and then raise us to new life, along with Jesus.

    Death and resurrection. Repentance and forgiveness. A picture of Baptism. Romans 6 says it so well. It’s all right there. And God does it all, for us. That’s the best part, of course.

    I frequent another popular Christian blogsite where grace is highly valued (above much of the co-op Christianism that seems to be the norm)…and they too speak of “dying to the self”, but they just do not want to go to Baptism for that death. They insist on internalizing all of this. They revert to their ‘belief’, first and foremost. It’s like ‘fideism’…’faith in their faith’…instead of ‘faith in God’, and what He has actually done…for us…in real events…in real time.

    Anywho, thanks for your great answer to my question and allowing me space to sound off.”

  14. Thanks, great to think about this morning. It is sad that it is so easy to go back to the default mode of focusing on the fruit not the root. Then trying to make second things first. BUT, then we are reminded of the gospel and that brings us back to the “Great Exchange.” Looking forward to the Liberate Conference.

  15. Extremely encouraging. This is just what I needed to hear this morning. The glorious exchange is so simple an offer and yet, at least for me, so difficult to understand and even accept! Jesus’ righteousness for my wickdeness? Just like that? Everyday, no matter how much I stumble, I’m always loved an accepted? No person on earth, no relationship I have, comes even close to reflecting that depth of true love. And because I don’t see it around me, its even harder to even believe its real.
    But it is. And it warms my heart and takes me to my knees, and even now, at my computer, I feel like putting my head in my hands and just shaking it. He is so good. I can’t even believe it.

  16. Jack & Steve, you beat me to it! As I read the article there is a voice in my head screaming “Baptism”! Death and ressurection. New life in Christ. Not symbolic but real! Not magic water, but water attached to God’s Word (and promise). Thanks for the post Tullian!

  17. [...] Tullian writes about sanctification. What he writes fits perfectly with what we’ve been talking about on Sunday mornings. Sanctification consists of the daily realization that in Christ we have died and in Christ we have been raised. Life change happens as the heart daily grasps death and life. Daily reformation is the fruit of daily resurrection (Romans 6:1-11). To get it the other way around (which we always do by default) is to miss the power and point of the gospel. In his book God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis makes the obvious point that “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.” Behavior (good or bad) is a second thing. Share this:FacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Posted by Mark Filed in Depression Leave a Comment » [...]

  18. Tullian

    Thanks for a blog that stresses our participation in the death of Christ. This is at the heart of all Christian experience. Death and resurrection is the paradigm for Christian living.

    In fact, I would argue that we first ‘live’ (share in Christ’s resurrection life) that we may die (sharing in the power of his resurrection life is the only way we have the strength to take up the cross and accept death). Then, paradoxically, when by the life of the risen Christ we put self to death (give sin, self, Satan etc no space to breathe) we discover life as it ought to be.

    Matt 16:24-25 (ESV)
    Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

  19. Pastor Ed,

    Yes sir…that voice that you have in your head (that screams Baptism)…does a lot of screaming in my head too. :D

    The external, visable Word is SO LIBERATING, and SO ASSURING.

    I do believe that is why our Lord commanded Baptism and His Supper.

    I believe that because everything that I know about the Living God screams that He is not into empty religious symbolism. But that He is a REAL GOD. A God who acts to save His people.

  20. John,

    I do believe that the dying comes first. There’s no new life without the death of the old. That is why Jesus said, “If you would gain your life, you must lose it.”

  21. This is a pretty short one (under 15 minutes):


    The gift of death…for my friends :D

    It’s a good one.


  22. Steve

    Yes. I accept that we die first and then live judicially. My point was simply that in experience it is the life of Jesus within that enables us to accept death. It is by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body. The power we are given in sharing in resurrection life is power to die, or better, to live in the verdict of death. And as we embrace death, we discover life.

    It is the power of his resurrection that enables us to accept the fellowship of his sufferings and be conformed to his death.

  23. John,

    You are right. It is His power. I don’t know about the living judicially part. We all experience a mixed bag in that department…and it isn’t even the point.

  24. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    “Life change happens as the heart daily grasps death and life. Death is the operative device that sets us free in Christ–when we die, we truly live.” (Tullian)

    “My point was simply that in experience it is the life of Jesus within that enables us to accept death.” (John)

    “We all experience a mixed bag in that department…” (Steve)


    In my opinion, every of the above statements – not only the three I mentioned – is completely right.

    It is a very long process of daily experiencing death and life, be that by facing adverse external circumstances or through self-denial, taking up my cross and follow Him. Without Jesus who transforms my self-will, I would never be able to go on such a hard way nor would I, honestly,
    want to stay on this painful path of dying to self.

    We are all on this way but everybody at another point; therefore we are experiencing a mixed bag, and sometimes cannot grasp those Christians who find themselves in big trouble while we are happy (or vice versa) – Christian life simply consists of constantly alternating ups (love, joy, peace, and power) and downs (fear, weakness, grief, and pain).

    I think that the Apostle John described three different successive phases of Christian life (1 Jn 1:12-14):

    (1) little children: sins are forgiven for his name’s sake + knowledge of the Father
    (2) young men: having overcome the evil one + being strong + the word of God abiding in them
    (3) fathers: knowing him who is from the beginning

  25. The Old Covenant, conditional law (what you must do, self righteousness) is gone. Isaiah 28:10-16
    The New Covenant, unconditional grace (what Jesus has done, Christ’s righteousness) has come. Romans 9:30-33
    Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant on our behalf; God in Christ met his own standard of perfect rightness for us, the Only Holy Righteous One took on our sin and clothed us with his robe of righteousness, garments of salvation. Isaiah 61:10 Amen

  26. I forgot to add the most essential part…God in Christ crucified, risen and coming again. Amen and Amen

  27. So true! We must change our heart for any of our sins to subside, we must turn to the Father and focus on Him alone. America has developed a culture with so many distractions, so many comforts, so many idols which have turned the eyes and hearts of the church away from God. We can never be freed from sin so long as our hearts are focused on anything but our Father and creator!

  28. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Just some additional thoughts belonging to the three believer groups I enumerated in my last comment.
    You could also say
    (1) beginners in faith (Heb 5:13)
    (2) advanced or more mature in faith (Phil 3:12)
    (3) mature or perfect in faith (Phil 3:15 and Heb 5:14) and perfected in love (1 Jn 4:18)

    We join the first group when we start to believe in Christ. In order to grow we need primarily God’s grace to push us forward. However, nobody must remain stuck in the first group throughout his whole life. God wants us all to join the third group.

    The good news here is that we can do something to increase our knowledge of God (Col 1:10). I mean knowledge in terms of, “No doubt about it – this is my beloved Lord. He knows me and I know Him – that is we love each other.”

    Of course, it is His mercy that draws us nearer and nearer, but there is an essential means that we should use day by day in order to know God better and better. Though it is good and very important to read and to know the Bible (don’t stop it!), to listen to sermons (ditto), join the Sacraments (ditto again), and read Christian books, yet that’s not enough. Jesus said,

    “And you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (Jn 5:38-40)

    Jesus asks us to come to Him several times in the Bible (Mt 11:28, Jn 6:35, Jn 6:37, Jn 7:37-39, Jn 10:9, Jn 14:6). How can we do that? Seeking Him through our daily prayers by heeding Jesus’ advice (Mt 6:5-8). What Jesus meant here was that we shouldn’t pray for our needs (Mt 6:8) and make a ritual blah blah (Mt 6:7), but only close our eyes (Mt 6:6) and shut our mouth, that is seeking Jesus in our very heart. This prayer is the nascent life by the spirit. In the beginning, maybe, it can be a bit tiring facing our “hamster-wheeling” thoughts, but we mustn’t stop praying as Jesus told us to be like the persisting widow (Lk 18:1-8). You can also talk to Him without opening your mouth, and I am sure, you will hear His voice – sooner or later. But you will – by His grace and for He has promised (Lk 11:10) to open the entrance into the Kingdom of God that is to find “within us” (Lk 17:21 – German Luther Bible Translation of 1912).

  29. Mitchell Hammonds

    Yes yes and yes again! Let’s “change our own hearts” and compel God to come and save us at our requesting. Then and only then will we begin to work at becoming perfect in this life obediently pursuing every perfection and being ostentatiously proud about our progression in becoming more holy and by necessity needing less grace. We beseech you therefore to never enjoy anything in this world ever again. Live as one in a convent… better yet… move to a convent. Abandon all things of comfort in this life for this will make you more holy and more pleasing to God!
    Fine print: If in the event of failure to live up to and fulfill your obligations (and those obligations of the revivalist and pietist persuasion)please read 1Corinthians 15, Romans, Galatians. There is “great news” given to those who know they are sinners and lost.

  30. Mitchell Hammonds

    By the way Tullian… GREAT article!

  31. I think you might be onto something there, Mitchell.

    A brand new Protestant Monastic Movement (with trademark).

  32. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)


    I do know how it feels to read a comment and suddenly being so upset that I think I ought to say this and that. But the more I keep an eye on my own emotions (anger and wrath), I realize that the root of the problem is inside of me. The commenter only triggers my negative emotions which – at first – were put forth by other people in my own religious past.
    I have made a lot of legalistic experiences – as you did as well, hmm? – and I would be the last person to convince somebody to live a holy life on his own. This is and will be a “Mission Impossible” forever.

    But on the other hand, what is the Good News of the Gospel that says “Sinners are bestowed with Jesus’ righteousness” when they claim to be sinners for the rest of their life? Is there any difference between Christians and Non-Christians that can be seen from the outside? Wasn’t it Jesus who said,

    “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.“ (Mt 5:13-16)?

    Knowing God’s grace will change the life of any believer – wouldn’t you agree? What do you think was the motivation for the Apostle John to write this,

    “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 Jn 2:1-6)?

    I would be very interested to hear (read) your own thoughts about it, Mitchell.


  33. A true and saving faith has nothing to do with man. Once we recognize that it has nothing to do with us; that it doesn’t depend on anything we have done, are doing, or will do we are set free from our self righteousness striving to earn it. Titus 3:4-7, Phil. 2:13 We die to self by transferring our trust from ourselves and what we have been doing trying to earn God’s favor and placing it solely on Jesus Christ (who alone has God’s favor) and what He has already accomplished for us on his cross. Romans 8:30 A true and saving faith comes by God’s Sovereign choice of those he chooses to reveal the plan of salvation to. Matthew 11:27, Romans 9:16-23 Like Paul we all will struggle with sin; our old sinful nature warring against the spirit of God within us, till he calls us home where we will be truly free at last from the effects of sin. Romans 7:14-25 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

  34. Mitchell Hammonds

    I’m not upset at all. However, my response is a reaction to what I’m reading. I’m taking a “stab” at what I can only describe as pietism and an over-sincerity about “how sincere we fool ourselves” into being about God.
    What is different about the believer vs. the non-believer? Believers… they believe, confess, receive, are sanctified and glorified. These gifts are already a fact and at the same time ‘not yet’ fully realized. Our true lives are hidden in Him. Can I measure them? No. The sins I struggled with as a teenager may not be there but there are other sins that took their place now at 44 y.o.
    I’m saved completely but I also sin daily. Perpetually. I need grace daily. How much grace? I have no idea.
    In my view only a Pharisee could truly confess that they actually walk as Christ walked. I don’t soften those verses to mean God wants my best effort. I walk as Christ walked by faith in Him… for me.
    Meanwhile I’ll serve my neighbor in my vocations and thank God I live under the banner of “It is finished.” God makes salt salty. It’s inherently so. I don’t increase my “saltiness” by living ascetically; though I have freedom to do so. But I also have freedom to enjoy God’s good gifts without placing my ultimate happiness in them.

  35. Re Susanne and Mitchell

    This is a perennial debate on Tullian’s blog isn’t it. I think some of the heat (though not all) can be taken out if we both see what the other is guarding against.

    Mitchell fears a faith that becomes unreal about the degree of residual sin in our lives. He wishes too to guard against developing a performance/works based faith that ends up with a constant sense of failure or an unreal sense of our sanctification. He is concerned that we put our emphasis on our achievements (or lack of them) rather than God’s grace; he suspects legalism. These, I think, tend to be the concerns of Tullian too and tip his blogs a little (IMO) in the direction of Mitchell.

    Susanne, on the other hand, in this post at least, expresses some of the concerns on the other side of this tipping point. She expresses the concern that we may not place enough emphasis on the change that takes place in a believer. Her caution is against treating grace ‘cheaply’. That we limit it to forgiveness and do not trust it to energize and empower us for holiness. I share Susanne’s concerns here.

    I understand (and Susanne clearly does) Mitchell’s concerns. They are real. Perhaps they are more real in a performance-based culture like the States than they are here in Europe. I certainly think that the main enemy of our souls here is not legalism but lukewarm self-indulgent superficial Christian living. Many professing Christians wish to know they are ‘saved’ and going to heaven but have little desire to deepen in their likeness to Christ and fellowship with Christ. This is spiritual sickness. God calls us to grow in all the dimensions of grace

    Paul’s expresses his passion in life to grow in this grace (a grace-given passion) in the following way

    Phil 3:8-16 (ESV)
    Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

    If we are content to settle for ‘not having a righteousness of my own… faith of Christ’ we have stopped far short of what our calling entails. I have certainly come nowhere near the level of commitment of which Paul speaks here. Residual sin is all too present. Yet, I do know a little of what he speaks, and what little I know makes me crave for more. Paul sees increased passion for knowing Christ as part of maturing in faith (children, young men, fathers).

    He is concerned that some don’t dismiss this growing in grace (if anyone think otherwise…). He knows we are all at different stages even of understanding what the Christian life means (each hold to what he has attained…). We should be consistent at the level we are at and ask God for the ability to take us further into grace and all it means in identifying with and knowing Christ.

    Paul says to the Ephesian elders that he had taught them the ‘whole counsel of God’. We should all aspire to hold the ‘whole counsel’ for in this is balance and biblical maturity.

  36. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Thank you very much for your kind response, Mitch.

    I really do comprehend what you say and I agree. Me, I’m neither an ascetic nor do I live in an unworldly monastery, though monasteries and orders have changed a lot since the Reformation (not all, I know, but many of them have become liberal and devoted to people who suffer and need help).

    In my humble opinion, Luther’s statement “simul iustus et peccator” (righteous and sinner at the same time) was not a proclamation that we are forced to live in our sins until we die, but a clarification that the previous “outward” sinner who lived unter the law (Romans 7) was transformed into a justified saint who now lives by the spirit. Since by the spirit alone, it is possible to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom 8:13). The fact that it was no longer Paul who lived but solely Christ in him (Gal 2:20) meant the very end of sinning:

    “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 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 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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 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. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Rom 6:1-7)

    My main point should have been – sorry, that it didn’t come out this way – that there is a tool that helped me to get in touch with God and to receive His spirit through daily prayer. This is not anything I would add to Christ’s Atonement, but the very way to His heart. There is a proverb – not Biblical, I assume – that says, “Who you are, is who you know”. And what could be better than knowing God?

    We are all on the same way, as I said before. But my personal happiness today lies in Christ alone – He is my life. I did nothing by myself to come to this point – I received everything I have – prayer included, beginning when I was about three or four years old (almost 43 years ago). I did nothing to choose this way and I often struggle with the troubles as a “lonesome rider in the wilderness”. Maybe, my seriousness about God is directly related to the “fear and trembling” before Him – something I am used to live with. Just as I am used to enjoy His overwhelming love – that is the other side of the coin.

    Every Blessing to you, Mitch(ell),

    Susan(ne) ;)

  37. Mitchell Hammonds

    Hey John,
    I think we do understand each other well. I think when folks read or hear from those in the “grace camp” of simply trusting in “Christ’s performance for us” a natural caricature arises in their minds that we feel it’s appropriate to “sin our heads off.” I know of no one who thinks it is a license to be immoral. What I find is many who simply struggle because they actually see sin in their life and accordingly, because of pietistic tendencies in American Christianity, wonder if Christianity even works.
    I wonder if Christ’s work is meant to “fix” us. In other words, Christ redeems us and changes us to be sure but that reality is “hidden in Him”; not totally hidden though as we see that reality shine through momentarily. Simultaneously we are busy with “life” (i.e. our various vocations and hobbies etc).
    Some of those “weak in faith” could be on here attempting to find answers and understand all too clearly that “trying harder” simply misses the mark. They are at the end. Your theology offers them tips on how to “swim imperfectly more efficiently” rather than “Good News” that we are forgiven. If trying harder is the point I don’t see how Christianity is any different than any other religion. All religions want to “please their particular deity” with right living. Christianity stands alone in the fact it claims “No one can please Holy God therefore His wrath must be propitiated” by someone qualified to please Him… “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” This why righteousness must be by faith.

  38. [...] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/02/16/dying-to-live/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in KFD. Bookmark the permalink. ← Does God Punish Gay People for Being Who they Are? [...]

  39. Good stuff…Ahhh Grace… Thanks Darrell

  40. Mitchell

    I’m not back on to argue the faith passive/active issue you’ll be pleased to know. Just a comment on a tangentially related issue: what does it mean to have our life hidden in Christ?

    Your inclination I think is to take it as a justification for our Christian lives not shining through. However, I don’t think that is what Paul means. I think he means that the world does not recognise and see who we as Christians really are. Only in the future will we be ‘revealed’ as sons of God. Just now, although we are sons, the world does not realise this. This is not because of a low level of Christlikeness (though, to our shame, this is all too often the case) but because, like Christ himself in incarnation we are ‘incognito’.

    Christ’s life on earth was a perfect life, perfectly glorifying God, perfectly reflecting him. Yet he was not recognised for who he was. He was ‘hidden’. Only those with faith saw who he really was. It is, I think in this sense that we too are ‘hidden’. Even should we live a high octane Christian life like for example the apostle Paul’s people will place little value on it. The world will give it no recognition or place. It does not look at us and think ‘These people are heirs of everything. They are the children of God. They are the royalty of heaven’. Instead it sees us as insignificant even foolish.

    This, I think, is what is meant by our present lives being ‘hidden’. It is that we live now in rejection and death and our glorious identity is yet to be revealed.

    Col 3:3-4 (ESV)
    For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

  41. Simul eustes et peccator.

    I believe this is what it means for our lives to be hidden in Christ.

    Fully sinful…yet fully righteous. Declared so, by Christ Himself…for His own sake. “It is finished.”

  42. John Thomson,

    I hope you will not take offense at this question. None intended, I am just curious. (if you have told me before…forgive me…I have oldtimer’s disease)

    Are you a Roman Catholic? I have a lot of friends and family who are Roman Catholics and they sound a lot like you when they speak of their faith to me.

    Thanks, John.

  43. Hi Steve

    No offence taken. No, I am not a Roman Catholic. I would consider myself to be a conservative evangelical (moderately reformed and, probably from your persepctive, anabaptist in ecclesiology). I would say my views are mainstream, especially on the areas we tend to cross swords on. My views on these issues are very similar to Piper, Carson, Schreiner and indeed most conservative evangelicals.

  44. John, it seems like you’re trying to define “hidden” as if it had no context in Colosians. This leads you to assume that our hidden-ness is like Christ’s. But the context points in another direction. First, our spiritual “death” and “resurrection” is directly tied to our baptism into Christ (Col 2:11-14). Our baptism into Christ “hides” us in Christ and His righteousness. When Paul talks about being “raised with Christ” in 3:1 he is pointing them back to what he already said about what God did to and for them in their baptism. Then he tells them twice to look up in 3:1 and again in 3:2, to where Christ is seated as to where their hidden-ness is kept. Christ’s appearance will reveal us not because our own glory will be revealed, but because His glory will be revealed. So “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” To be hidden in Christ means to be hidden in what He has done for us and has given to us.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  45. Pastor Ed,

    Amen(!) to your unpacking of “and your life is now hidden with Christ in God…”

    Context here points to the similar emphasis of baptism as Paul points to our identity as those belonging to Christ – found in Romans 6:4-5: “We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”

    It is of God that we are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30) who is now in the heavens. Therefore all that he won through his death and resurrection is now ours through him: “wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” Hidden, yet we “see” and walk by faith.

  46. Ed

    The point I wished to make was that ‘hiddenness’ has nothing to do with ‘hidden because our sins obscure our true identity’. Suppose we live an exceptionally godly life we are still ‘hidden’or better our ‘life is hidden’. ‘Hiddenness’ is no explanation or rationalising of sin. Our life is not ‘hidden’ because of our failure.

    Hiddenness in Colossians is about recognising that we have died with Christ (symbolised in the burial of baptism)as you say. Yet I would argue that the context is not about our ‘righteousness’ but our ‘life’. He does not say our righteousness is hidden with Christ in God but our ‘life’. It is certainly true that our righteousness is in Christ and in Christ risen and vindicated at that but I don’t believe this is Paul’s point. Justification is ‘unto life’ and it is this ‘life’ that Paul is exploring – the result of righteousness but not righteousness itself.

    The context of ‘a life hidden’ is all about how we live. He is combatting false spiritualities and false ways of pursuing godliness (2:16-23). The false ways are false because they assume our life is in this world. OT Law (holiness through many rules and regulations) and asceticism assume man in the flesh, man ‘alive in this world’. The key to godly living is to recognise that we are not ‘alive in this world’. Our life (that is the source of our life, the joy and purpose of our life, the sphere of our life) is Christ. We ‘live’ as we recognise our life (all that fulfils and provides life as it ought to be)is not on earth. Our happiness and raison d’etre is Christ in heaven. We discover ‘life’ as we live with our thoughts and affections set on things in heaven.

    The person who lives merely by earthly rules will never die to self/sin/world. He may implement the rules succesfully but he will resent them, or he will be pleased with himself for his eyes have no focus outside this world. However, the believer whose heart affections are above and who finds himself absorbed by Christ and his glory will find that this gives him power to say no to flesh. It will not be a matter of keeping a few external rules that never really touch his heart. But ‘the expulsive power of a new affection’ will enable him to hate what is sinful and love what is good.

    He will no longer live for family, money, security, status, sport and hobbies, and everything that we value in this world (he may use them wisely when necessary and enjoy them in so doing) but these will not hold his heart and make him tick. What holds his heart is in heaven. It is there his life now and future lies. For this he will live.

    In John’s gospel Christ says he ‘sanctifies himself’ that they (his own) may be that sanctified. He is referring to his ascension. We are ‘sanctified’ (set apart experientially) as we have our eyes fixed on Christ in glory.

    Christ in glory is the great object for Christian faith. As we look at him we live.

    Incidentally, this is why the gospel never sends us back to law. Law cannot sanctify. It is not even the proper revelation of what we ought to be. Christ is this. The gospel keeps our focus on Christ as the one in whom all the secret of godliness (piety not deity) is found. Christ as the source of our life, the reason of our life, the shape of our life etc. All is found in him.

    When Christ who is our life is revealed we will be revealed with him. In terms of the present Christ is hidden (he is merely another misguided messiah)and we as his people are hidden (we are foolish and misguided) but when he appears we shall appear with him in glory. Hiddenness will give way to revealedness.

  47. [...] “This is good stuff. Dying To Live – Tullian Tchividjian [...]

  48. “The context of ‘a life hidden’ is all about how we live.”

    “Incidentally, this is why the gospel never sends us back to law.”

    Does not compute.

  49. Steve

    It does compute. That is, it computes if we understand ‘law’ as Scripture does. ‘Law’ is simply not ‘every command or imperative’. This is a theological construct that is not biblical. ‘Law’, for Paul,is most often the Mosaic Covenant. It is the principle of demand without any enabling grace.

    What separates law and gospel is NOT ‘imperative and indicative’ but command WITHOUT enabling grace and command WITH enabling grace.

    The Mosaic Covenant is one to which the believer has NO obligation whatsoever. He can learn from it, as he learns from all Scripture as it is interpreted in Christ’ but, I repeat, the Law is not for the believer a rule of life. If it were (as the Galatian Judaizers wished) we would all be living as Jews.

    Gospel obligation is to walk as Christ walked and love as Christ has loved. The indwelling Spirit makes such living possible. Romans 8.

  50. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Amen, John.

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