The Key to True Success
2 Corinthians 5.16-21
Dr. Jim Denison
We’re talking about true success today. In financial terms, Bill Gates comes to mind first. His personal net worth soared above $100 billion before last year’s economic downturn, when it dropped to a mere $55 billion. He could buy every single major league team in football, baseball, basketball and hockey for only 35% of his net worth—but he still couldn’t buy the Rangers any pitching. Is such wealth the key to true success?
Bill Gross is the highest-paid money manager in the world. But he tells Fortune magazine, “climbing to the top means very little. Getting there doesn’t matter. The ultimate victory is staying there.” Later in the article he says, “My desire isn’t to make money. I have more money than I know what to do with. My desire is to win—and win forever.” Is such business victory the key to true success?
What is success? To some it’s financial, to others vocational. Still others measure success by popularity, or family happiness, or health.
How does God measure success? We need to know, for his is the only judgment which is eternal. And the One who created us knows what kind of success will most fulfill our lives and his purpose for us.
What is his key to our true success? The answer may surprise you.
Know your identity in Christ
To give you God’s answer, I need to unfold some truths this morning, layer upon layer. I’ll need you to work with me. No wandering thoughts. A Sunday school teacher asked her class of children why we are quiet in church; one little girl said, “Because people are sleeping.” Don’t do that. Think with me for a few minutes.
The first step to true success with God is to know our identity in Christ. Paul states this identity clearly: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (v. 17).
How is this possible? We still look the same, and unfortunately many of us still act in the same ways. How can trusting in Christ make us a “new creation”?
At the Passover in Egypt, the people put the lamb’s blood at the top and on the sides of their doorposts. Then God’s angel “passed over” them, because of the blood.
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest brought the blood of sacrifice into the Holy of Holies to present before God. Then God passed over the sins of the people because of the blood.
Now Hebrews 9:12 says that when Jesus died “he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” for us. His blood paid for our sins and purchased our salvation.
And so Jesus’ shed blood on the cross enables God to “pass over” our sins, to forgive them, to accept us as his holy children. But how does this forgiveness make us a “new creation”? What of our sin nature? We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. This is our very nature. What can change our sin nature into God’s new creation?
Here’s the mystery, the fact most Christians never discover. One of the most important verses in all God’s word is Romans 6:6: “our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”
If you have asked Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord, in that decision God identified you with his Son. He put the person you were before Christ on the cross with him. If I put a piece of paper in my Bible, it is included with it. It goes wherever my Bible goes. When I typed my sermon into my laptop computer, it became part of the laptop. It goes with the laptop.
When you asked Christ into your life, Christ actually brought you into his life. He made you part of himself. The person you were before that decision “died,” and you were “born again” as one with him.
This is why Paul testifies, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
In God’s eyes, you and I do not exist. Our sins have been forgiven because Jesus’ blood covered them. Our sin nature has been replaced with his divine nature. And so we are “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” We are God’s children, with his genetics, his character, his nature as ours.
This is our identity in Christ. The first step to true success with God is understanding it.
Choose the life of Christ
But we still sin, don’t we? Lies white and black, failures small and large, sins private and public. Why? Because we don’t choose the Christ life. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago my Jeep needed some work done, but the mechanic couldn’t fix it until I gave him the keys. So long as I tried to solve the problem myself, he couldn’t. Last week my laptop needed some work, but our church technician couldn’t fix it until I gave it to him. My efforts weren’t solving the problem, and they were only hindering his.
So long as we try to please God in our own ability, to resist sin in our own strength, to grow in faith and serve God in ministry with our own gifts and hard work, we actually prevent his doing his work in and through us.
Instead, we choose the Christ life. Listen to two crucial sentences: “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:11-12).