November 3, 2011

Old life > New live

When I first became interested I quilting, I ran into a new acquaintance in a book store in the quilting section. We looked together at several books, then she asked me, “Are you a real quilter or just one of those people who buys quilting books?” That pointed question cinched it — she became a dear friend.

Since then, I’ve grown to love those who are straightforward. I always know where I stand with friends like her, and where I fail. I thought of her this morning when I read this verse.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life 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)
This is a favorite verse, but it raises pointed questions. Am I really crucified with Christ? Or do I just like the idea of being pious, being dedicated to serving Him? Do I actually know what it means to have Christ live in me? Is my life lived in total dependance upon Him? Or am I deceiving myself?

I also remember that being a Christian is something like being a soldier. Once enlisted, a soldier is a real soldier, but it takes boot camp and training before that person thinks and acts like what he has become. It is the same for those who believe in Christ. We become, but then we have lots to learn.

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. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:6–11)
I have enlisted. I know that positionally I have been crucified with Christ. This “death” is not physical, nor is it spiritual. Instead, it is about being dead to sin. I have made some progress. Sin that once held me captive no longer has any power over me. I am dead to it, not interested, make no response.

But there are weak spots in my affirmations. Being alive to God covers more than overcoming old sinful habits. I once fought things more blatant, but now struggle with choices between what is good and what is godly, what is allowed and what is effective for the advance of His kingdom, what pleases me and what edifies others. The battle is less about evil and more about the old nature that still wants to rule my life.

God shows me that being dead to sin only can lead to prudish pride. Even non-Christians can say no to evil without replacing it with godliness. Living this way would make me self-righteous and still living in the strength of my own will. Instead of being genuinely crucified with Christ and dead to sin, “I” still lives.

Godliness goes beyond my ability to say no. Being alive to Him means just as that verse in Galatians says; it is no longer I but Christ. My life is to be under new management. This is similar to what John the Baptist said about Jesus. 

I am not the Christ. . . . He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. (John 3:28–31)
Some say living in the power of Jesus Christ is a decision put squarely in the believer’s lap. I do not agree. If I could make that decision and so live for God, then I would not need the saving power of Jesus Christ. As John said, I am of the earth — but He who comes from heaven is above all. He is the Savior; I am not. 

Dear and faithful Lord, each day brings opportunities to live for You — or for myself. Each hour I must consider myself dead to sin and self-rule because You say it is already a reality. I AM dead to sin and alive to God, crucified with Christ so that the life I now live is by faith in Him. Positionally, it is so. Faith calls me to believe that I am what You say I am. Yet in my experience, I’m still learning to listen to Your call and follow You with all my heart. As I battle with my selfish I-wants, I also depend on You to live out Your life in me, making me the person that You say I already am.

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