ONLY THREE WAYS TO DIE
How will you die? Physical death can come in perhaps a thousand or more ways. Spiritual death can come in only 3 ways. I want to prove that to you today from our text. You see, our text states there were 3 crosses on Calvary's hill. On one cross Jesus died for our sin; on another cross the unrepentant thief died in sin, and on the third cross a repentant thief died to sin. Those are the only ways a human has ever died spiritually. Follow as we develop these truths more clearly.
I. JESUS DIED FOR SIN. v 33 - 34 a
It is possible to die for sin. Jesus did that. If one wants to qualify for this kind of spiritual death, they must meet certain prerequisites.
A. This Is A Death of . . Purpose.
One desiring to die for sin will also have known that this was the PURPOSE or mission of their life. Jesus said in John 12:27..."but for this purpose I came to this hour." In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." The Lord Jesus knew from the earliest years His purpose in life. His purpose was to be Savior by dying for sin.
B. This Is A Death of . . Peacemaking.
One dying for sin must be willing to be a PEACEMAKER. They must be agreeable to bring God and Man together. In 1 Tim. 2:5 it says, "For there is one God, and one mediator also
between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." The mediator is the peacemaker, the go-between or liaison between God and man.
C. This Is A Death of . . Perfection.
They must be PERFECT. That is, they must have lived a sinless life. This person will never in their life time break one of the 10 Commandments. They will always keep the instruction of the Lord to do good. They'll never get mad, never fail to do right. They are perfect.
D. This Is A Death of . . Provision.
Who can Provide this kind of death? Let me call your attention to some verses of scripture. Turn to
2 Cor. 5:21, then look at Heb. 4:14-15. Jesus never knew sin as an expression of His personhood. He was tempted but never sinned. He qualifies because he was perfect. Notice verses 34, 38 and 43 as they speak to this idea.
Dr. W. L. Muncy tells the story of preaching in China. He told a gathering of students about the death of Christ. He related that Jesus paid the debt for all of man's sin to be forgiven. After his sermon a young student came up and said, "I have been taught that I must pay my own debts. If I have sin debt, then I must pay it myself." Dr. Muncy then asked the young student what He had to offer God that was perfect. The student realized his problem and after a time of deliberation, gave his life to Christ.
It has been possible for one man to die for sin. He knew this as His purpose. He was willing to be
the peacemaker between God and Man and He lived a perfect life. Obviously no one else qualifies for this kind of spiritual death. We are not perfect. Our purpose in life has not been to die for sin, and therefore we cannot be the peacemaker. But perhaps we can die one of the two remaining spiritual deaths. Notice the second kind of spiritual death.
II. THE UNREPENTANT THIEF DIED--IN SIN. v 39
A. The . . POSITION of One Dying this Death.
The spiritual death of "dying in sin" is possible for every human being. Anyone accountable for their actions who refuses to repent can die this kind of death. In fact, one could simply do nothing but sin and they would die this death. It is the natural position. It is represented for us in verse 39 of the text. The unrepentant thief is a perfect example. He asks only for his physical needs. He sees Christ only as a possible miracle worker.
B. The . . PERSON of One Dying this Death.
The one who is dying this spiritual death is probably sitting right here in our worship experience. You are this person because you have not repented of your sin and acknowledged Christ as your Savior. It may be true that you have done good deeds. You may have a list of accomplishments that you can list on your resume, but you know you have not repented of your sin. This person is immediately offended by the thought that someone as good as they are (although they may not be very good), would not be allowed to go to heaven. Let me call your attention to Matthew 7:21-24. Good works do not salvation make!
C. The . . PLIGHT of One Dying this Death.
The plight of this spiritual death is eternity in hell and no abundant life here on this earth. It is not something that will happen to you later on; it is a "happening" right now. Turn with me to the gospel of John, the 3rd chapter, verses 16-18. You see it says "already condemned." The plight of unrepentant sin is a present reality.
Several years ago as I was visiting a man who had just been told he had blocked ateries. We talked about the fact that he had a test that revealed he had 60% blockage in one of his heart arteries. I made the statement that there are probably a lot of people walking around with clogged arteries who don't even know it. And at that very moment my arteries were more blocked than the patient I was visiting.
APPLICATION: In a similar way some of you today are dying a spiritual
death and you're not aware of it. Let me be the theological doctor who
diagnoses your case and tells you you need to repent and trust Christ.
Your plight is "you're not ready to live or die. Today you need to respond
to the offer of salvation. Now notice the third kind of spiritual death
a person might die.
III. THE REPENTANT THIEF DIED--TO SIN. v 40 - 42
A. This . . POSITION
The position of dying to sin is possible for all who are willing and able to respond to Christ. If you hear the gospel message and respond, it will mean you are willing to die to sin. It means you are willing to turn from the sin in your life and seek a relationship with the Savior. Verses 40-43 record the repentant thief's example of this kind of spiritual death. You see, he turned away from self toward Christ. He recognized his sin, and his rightful penalty.
A. This . . PERSON.
The PERSON who dies this kind of spiritual death realizes their sin and repents of it. They understand their position and that it is something like the thief on the cross. They are helpless to save themselves. Good works, good morals, etc. can't save; they must turn to Christ. It is never too late to make this decision for this thief made it in the last moments of his life. You could make this decision today.
C. This . . PROMISE.
The PROMISE to the person making a decision to trust Christ is found in verse 43, "you shall be with me in paradise." Imagine that! A thief going to the same place as Christ. Christ died for sin and when you die to your sin and trust Him, His death for sin will atone for the sins you have
committed. It is His promise. Turn to the following scripture verses--John 3:16, 5:24, 6:38-40. The promise is forgiveness of sin. However, to receive it, you must die to sin.
A fine Christian couple adopted a little girl one day. This particular girl had been terribly mistreated by her parents and had developed a terrible fear of adults. The day they went for the little girl the wife said, "I have come to take you to our home. You will have your own room, your own bed, and your own clothes and playthings. It will be your house and my husband and I are going to be your parents."
The little girl suspiciously asked, "What do I have to do for all this?" The woman, knowing how she had suffered, took her in her arms and said, "My dear, you do not have to do anything. All you have to do is to try to love me and be my child."
What do you have to do to be saved? Jesus Christ says across 1900 years, "You do not have to do anything. You cannot do anything. All you need to do is to place your faith in Jesus love Him and trust Him and He will save you and you shall be a child of God." Without a saving faith, it is impossible to please God. Is your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?
Will you accept the Lord's invitation and die "to sin" so His death "for sin" will pay the debt you owe? You can accept this gift by:
A Admitting that need.
B . Believing Christ can and will meet that need.
C Committing your life to Christ.<>Of course, this includes repentance of you sin which is always a turn to Christ and a turn away from sin.
How will you die? If you're sinless and Christ, you can die "for sin."
If you refuse to repent,
you are dying "in sin." If you have repented and accepted Christ, you have died "to sin." Everyone
present is dying one of these deaths. I hope you die "to sin" and trust Christ.