I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
Although 40 percent of Americans report attending a Christian church on any given weekend in the United States, the actual attendance is less than 17 percent. And that number grows smaller each year. It’s no wonder that when we speak collectively to our culture about anything, no one is listening. Churches appear to have all of the same problems as society. Molestations, embezzlements, adulterous affairs, lawsuits, and internet porn wreak as much havoc in the church as anywhere else. We are powerless in the face of sin… and we are not reflecting the life of Christ to anyone.
Our greatest need is to know Him and His life.
Paul writes that Christ “loved me and gave himself up for me.” We preach and teach this, with the result that the best church members will try to be good and worthy of His sacrifice, focused on asking forgiveness when they fail. However, most believers never go past this point. The “good Christian life” becomes all about human efforts and His approval (or disapproval) of me: I do my best and He applauds (or frowns), forgiving me when I fall short. But the message of forgiveness and the eradication of my offenses is only part of the gospel; we need to know how to live now.
Paul’s assertion is stunning: “I have been crucified with Christ.” Christ not only died for me, but I also died with Him. The word crucified describes an event occurring in the past that is complete, but with consequences flowing into the present. For the person who has been born again (John 3:3, 5, 16), trusting in Christ to rescue them from the penalty and the power of sin, Paul is saying that salvation is intensely personal. You were saved, not by a transaction of new life in exchange for your trust in the Gospel, but through a union of His Spirit with your spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). Christ lives in you and you are one with Him (Colossians 1:27). Writing about this in his 1907 Systematic Theology, seminary professor A.H. Strong declared,
“Christ and the believer have the same life. They are not separate persons linked together by some temporary bond of friendship,–– they are united by a tie as close and indissoluble as if the same blood ran in their veins.”
Consequently, what is true of Christ’s relationship to sin, the Law, and the Father has become true of every believer. Sin is no longer your master (Romans 6:6). He is. This truth fuels a new ability to resist temptation, knowing that your spirit is no longer enslaved by sin, but the core of who you are has changed. He is with you. He is your life.
You will never consistently overcome sin habits and addictions in your life by trying to keep the “rules”, but through a moment-by-moment, dependent relationship with the One who rules over all things! Your new life unfolds through an internal conversation and love affair fueled by the presence of the Holy Spirit within you. He speaks. He directs and guides. He strengthens. He unveils His wisdom and releases His power… to you, in you, and through you.
God’s Word (the Bible) becomes alive for the person who has been united with Christ. As the believer reads, reflects, and responds to the God-breathed text (2 Timothy 3:16), the Spirit applies the truth to the believer’s heart, contributing to an ongoing internal transformation into the likeness of Christ. As we look at Him in the Scriptures, we come to know Him, and we become like Him. Our thoughts change. We begin to care about the people and things He cares about. We begin to act like He acts.
But it’s more than the imitation of Christ. It’s the life of Christ being formed and released through the human heart.
Paul puts it like this, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
So, since I trusted Christ to save me in 1978, it’s no longer about me. My short earthly life ended then. I died with Christ. My spirit is united with Christ and hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:1-2). In the realm of the Spirit, my spirit is alive in the Presence of God. The change in my heart cannot be undone (Romans 8:1-4). All of my sins remain forgiven (Hebrews 10:10-13). On this side of heaven, I will still have good days and bad days (and I do), but my union with Christ never changes. His work within me is incessant and will not fail. Not only will He one day express His rule throughout all creation, but He seeks to rule the deepest recesses of my heart. And whatever He starts, He finishes (Philippians 1:6)!
So, my life as a Christ-follower will be misguided and mishapen if I am consumed with me correcting me, or me straightening me out, or me trying to make something out of me. It’s not about me trying to be right or achieve a right standing before God. It’s not about “how am I producing for God?” Jesus produced everything necessary to give me full and eternal acceptance before a holy God — that never changes. I am out of the “production” business for God.
I am called to live simply by “faith in the Son of God.” The One born in Bethlehem launched the Christmas Revolution… in my life! And He is ready to do the same for you.