THE CROSS OF CHRIST, PART 8

Fellowship of the Cross

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)

We sing hymns and worship choruses with phrases just like Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ,” but rarely do we stop to consider what those words really mean and what their implications may be. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, was potentially the crucifixion of the human race because all humanity is represented in Him, just as all humanity is represented in the first Adam. The unredeemed name Adam as their head, but the redeemed name Christ as theirs. It is a profound discovery when a Christian discovers Galatians 2:20 and realizes it applies as much to them as it did to Paul. It’s a profound, life changing thought—a true “lightbulb-over-the-head” moment—when you discover that you have already been crucified for your sins on the Cross of Christ.

How is this possible? you may ask. Jesus was crucified two thousands years ago; how could I have been crucified with Him? In the case of the apostle Paul, his conversion occurred over year after Jesus was crucified, yet he made the startling discovery that he had been crucified with Christ. It was a done deal before he became a believer—while he was yet a sinner! Paul, arguably the greatest thinker of all time, made the discovery that His Savior, Jesus Christ, had so identified Himself with him and his sins that he, Paul, had been put to death for them with Christ. That’s why he could now say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The man that Paul used to be—the man who persecuted Christians—died with Christ on His Cross. When Paul named Jesus as His Lord and appropriated the work of the Cross, the moment he accepted by faith what Jesus did for him, Paul’s old self died and he became born again! The man he used to be was dead and gone!

What we should note is that Paul did not write that he crucified himself; nobody can do that! Nobody could drive the nails through his own hands. But we are commanded to crucify the flesh and put to death the sinful desires and lusts that are part of the old human nature. That command puts every Christian in quandary; how can you do something that’s impossible? Paul faced this impossibly and wrote about it Romans 7:24, 25—

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

That’s Paul’s “lightbulb-over-the-head” moment: By the death of the Jesus Christ, Paul became dead to sin.

The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:10, 11)

“Count yourselves dead to sin,” wrote Paul. In other words, you are to consider yourselves already dead, as far as sin is concerned. After all, if Christ lives in you, should you expose Him to your old, sinful desires? IF you are a Christian, then Christ lives in you. IF you have been crucified with Christ, then you must consider your old, sinful self as already judged by God in His Son on the Cross in your place. What an incredible paradox: dead, yet alive! What a deep mystery: Christ living in us!

...don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (Romans 6:3—5)

Of course, we reckon all this has happened by faith; it takes faith to believe all this had occurred two thousand years ago!

Let’s look closer at what happened all those generations ago:

1. The world was crucified, Galatians 6:14

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We don’t often make the connection Paul made in this verse: the world was crucified on the Cross. As far as Paul was concerned, the world had been stripped naked of all of its outward trappings of beauty and power and nailed to the Cross, helpless and shameful. The world was exposed that day on the Cross in all of its hideous, wicked glory. To Paul, the world had become a pathetic, withered up and dying thing, devoid of any power to tempt him in any way. The glory of the grace of God manifested in Christ on the Cross so blinded Paul to the things of this world that they began to appear to him as rotting, dead zombie-like corpses. The power of God on the Cross put the world in its proper light and forever put to death the notion that things of this world are beautiful and helpful to man. The light of God’s glory showed the exact opposite, in fact. To view the world through the prism of the Cross is to see the world for what it really is. And whatever else the world is, it is not a pretty sight.

It wasn’t just Paul that came to this conclusion, John also found this truth:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

How could you love a stinking, rotten zombie husk? The world is supposed to be dead to you, assuming you are a Christian. What a nasty thing it is for a Christian to love something so rotten; what does that say about his estimation of Christ?

2. Self was crucified, Romans 6:6

For we know that 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…

The death of Christ not only separated the world from you, but it also separated you from the world. The mighty, glorious Cross of Christ now stands between you and the world, and has crucified it to you and you to it. The “old self” that loved the world and lusted after the things of the world is now dead. In fact, it died two thousand years ago.

The one who has paid the penalty for his sin is now free from that sin. Sin no longer has a claim on him. That person is you, if you have come to Christ and by faith claimed what He did for you. Thanks to the Cross of Christ, you have NO obligation left owing to sin. If you owe sin nothing, why would you want to go back to it? If you know Christ is living in you, why would you want to expose Him to it? It’s a profound truth that carries a profound responsibility: you are dead to sin, the world has been crucified, Christ lives in you, so now live like you believe all that to be true! That is what “living by faith” is all about.

Once when Paul had grown exasperated with the worldly attitude of his Corinthian friends, he wrote this:

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:3)

To act “worldly” is to act like a mere man. In other words, Christians are NOT mere men, any longer! A Christian is more than a “mere man.” Or he’s supposed to. As we look around at the state of the Church, it is glaringly apparent that there are a whole of “mere men” sitting in the pews, living life far, far below where they could be.

You, if you call yourself a Christian, have been set free from the old way. You have been given a second chance to live a full life; a life full of satisfaction and peace and joy. Why in the world would any believer choose to live like a “mere man” when they are so much more? If only we could latch on to the truth of 1 Peter 1:4—

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (NLT)

Do you understand the profundity of that verse? As Christians, it is our right and privilege to share in God’s essential nature—we are able to somehow take on His attitudes towards things; to share His thoughts and opinions towards the things of this world. How is this possible? Paul gave us a clue:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

We become more and more like God—we take on more and more of His characteristics—as our minds are transformed through the work of His Spirit in us. It is Christ in us, which Paul once referred to as “the glorious riches” and “the hope of glory” who remakes us into the person HE wants us to become.

3. A new life of power

Returning to Galatians 2:20, Paul concluded that: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” What does that mean? In Romans 6:5, the apostle sheds some light on this deep mystery:

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Like they say, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” If we died with Christ, then we must surely rise with Christ; what happened to Him must happen to us.

If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of his Spirit in you. (Romans 8:11)

This is not referring to the eventual resurrection of your bodies, which will happen some time in the future. It is referring to the here and now. Thanks to the work of Christ on the Cross, you are guaranteed entrance into heaven—which is a great thing! But the real marvel of the Cross is that you don’t have to wait until you’re dead to start reaping the benefits of what Christ did for you! According to what Paul wrote—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, mind you—you are already full of the same power that raised Christ from the dead. That same Spirit is in YOU right now, and will give life to your mortal body now. Imagine this: the life of Jesus Christ is being manifested in YOU right now!

At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:10, GNT)

What a powerful verse! People in the world—mere men—can’t see the Jesus we serve. But, they do see us. The question becomes: Do they see Jesus in us?

You’re the only Jesus some will ever see,
You’re the only words of life some will ever hear,
So let them see in you the One in whom there’s all they’ll ever need,
You’re the only Jesus some will ever see.

The Cross of Christ changed everything; it changed YOU. Let’s start living like the new creations we are. When some see the Cross, they see a horrible thing. Others see the Cross for what it is: a second chance to get life right. Take the chance that leads to life.

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