Dying With Christ

“9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)” Eph. 4:9-10

The key phrase in this particular scripture is “he also descended first”.

I remember a brother who used to say, “You cannot deal with No.2 before dealing with No. 1. First is first.” The brother’s words stuck to my mind, they were so graphic.

Now here the Bible says that before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus first descended into the lower parts of the earth. That ought to grab our attention.

In other words, before we deal with Jesus’s ascent, we will need to consider His descent first.

Actually, it is so humbling that the Lord of all the earth would need to descend! But He did.

Many believers, when they read this scripture, idolize the notion that Christ crashed physically into hell, Rambo-like, and grabbed the keys from the devil as the latter stood quaking with fear at the sight of Jesus’ rippling muscles.

But no, it did not work like that. In fact, Jesus did not have Rambo’s muscles for the precise reason that they were not needed in this particular warfare. Actually, it was in weakness that Jesus won the victory. Ephesians 4:9-10 provides us with the details of exactly how things worked out on that day. The Bible says that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. ‘Descending’ here does not talk of something physical that Jesus did, like crashing bodily into hell, or going down into the depths of the earth the way one goes down a mine shaft. On the contrary, ‘descending’ here talks of losing. It was after He lost something in the flesh that Jesus gained the ascendancy over the devil in the spirit. Notice the Bible says, “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens”. Christ was willing to lose, and it was in losing that He ‘crashed’, if you will, into hell and took all power from the devil.

Philippians 2:7-8 says, “7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

In other words, Jesus sank and sank. He kept on sinking until He became nothing.

Too many of us need to lose. In particular, we need to lose our pride. Our pride is that old self, the flesh. It is that thing in us that does not like being touched, or talked back to, or criticised or belittled in any way. That is the old man, and it is he whom we need to lose.

The new man that is made after the image of Christ allows himself to be insulted, to lose what is rightfully theirs. This new man will even gladly surrender their life for the sake of Christ.

The Apostle Paul says, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…” (Col. 3:5). It is through the cross alone that we can crucify these lusts of the flesh.

There are many interpretations about what victory in Christ means… or what obedience to God means. But true victory and true obedience simply have to do with losing with Christ – losing the flesh and its lusts – that we might gain with Him.

[Below: Jesus had to go down first before He would go up!]



It could well be that our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, some 2,000 years ago. That, after all, is the basis of our celebrating Christmas. But, important as it is that Jesus was born on whatever day it was that He was born (and for sanity’s sake let’s just presume it was the 25th of December), I believe the fact of His crucifixion far supersedes that of His birth. If we are to celebrate days, we therefore ought to be celebrating the day of Christ’s crucifixion more than the day of His birth.

I do not wish to dampen anyone’s spirits here, but I believe the church must begin to move away from the frivolousness into which churchdom has been cast. Celebrating Christmas is all right, and indeed I believe that for the believer every infinitesimal second in their lives should be a moment of celebration. We have so much to celebrate! And celebrating our salvation even physically is no sin at all.

But we should be celebrating with a sense of maturity in our hearts.

When we look at the scriptures we realize that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus – for what? It was so Jesus could become the sacrificial Lamb. It was so He could die for our sins. Jesus did not come to earth to open bottles of champagne, no. He came specifically to die, to die for our sins.

The death of Jesus, therefore, is of far greater importance than His birth. Had Jesus been born and not died on that cross, nothing would have changed in our relationship with God. To date we would still be sinners in God’s sight. Had Jesus not come to the right decision at Gethsemane, believe me, things would be a whole lot different for us today.

But thank God that Jesus – worthy is He! – made the decision to accept the Father’s will. It was God’s will that Jesus be tortured and killed for our sins (Isaiah 53), and that was exactly what happened because Jesus accepted that responsibility, although He knew it would cost Him dearly. That is why He is worthy of all praise and glory.

Today, through believing in the sacrifice of Christ on that cross we stand righteous in God’s sight. Praise and glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ! So much worthy is He!

And now God in His incredible love for us calls upon us to not only believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, but to identify our lives with Christ’s in His sufferings and death so that we may experience and share in His glory and power. He wants us to be victorious over the flesh and sin, just as Christ was victorious. If we are to have a taste of Christ’s glory in our lives, then we need to realize that we have to lose in this life, just as Jesus lost. But this loss is temporal.

If we are not willing to walk in this identification with Christ, we stand to experience the real loss. The real loss for the believer is when we are only content with evading the fire of hell. Here we will lose in eternity. When we live a lifestyle that simply wants to stay saved but holding onto our lives, we will lose heavily in the Kingdom to come. Better we lose our lives now.

“13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Cor. 3:13-15

The “work” that Paul is talking of here is the work of identifying our lives with Christ’s by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. Here Paul was addressing a carnal church, the Corinthian church. When the Corinthians first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ they cast off the flesh and all its works. But lately they had begun to cuddle the flesh once again!

That is why God calls on us to not only receive Jesus into our lives, but to also have a revelation of Christ’s sufferings, death and resurrection in our hearts. Only then can we gladly identify our lives fully with Christ’s death on the cross – and with His resurrection life.

Then and only then can we celebrate any aspect of our salvation in truth and in the spirit. And we are called upon to celebrate every second of our lives!!

[Below: Late evening, cross-country buses begin arriving in Dar es Salaam. Some will arrive as late as 10 p.m. depending on the distance they have had to travel]