Paul said this of his life in Galatians 2:20: “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
When I analyze this verse, I am reminded that life can be lived in one of two ways: It can be lived in the flesh or it can be lived by faith. It can be a self-centered existence or a cross-centered existence. One way involves the pursuit of self-satisfaction. The other way involves the choice of self-denial. One way seems easier but leads to hardship and pain. The other way is hard but leads to contentment and peace. One way is in response to our sinful desires. The other way is chosen in response to the loving sacrifice of Jesus.
Paul chose the second way. He chose the life of faith in the Son of God. He chose the life that is cross-centered. He chose the road of self-denial. He chose the way that involved submission to Christ over his own desires. And though it may sound difficult or complicated, Paul chose the crucified life, the best life. He chose the high and holy road. He chose the most fulfilling life. He got his spiritual life right and as a result, he got his earthly life right. I guess you could say Paul “nailed it.”
Paul nailed it because he allowed himself to be crucified with Christ. As Jesus was nailed to the cross to pay the price for the sins of the world, Paul said, “I’ll willingly acknowledge that my sins were included. I’ll confess that my sin was the reason Jesus had to suffer and hang on the cross. I’ll acknowledge that I am unrighteous. I’ll admit that I am broken and cannot live a life that is pleasing to a holy God on my own. I will not try to hide behind religion or good works or any spiritual pedigree or zealous behavior. I will be open about the fact that I fall short of the glory of God, and I will allow what Jesus has done for me in extravagant love to become my motivation to die to sin and to allow the righteousness of Christ to be deposited into my heart and to transform the way I live. I’ll die with Christ so that He will live in me.” Well, Paul didn’t say all of that, but he meant to. Trust me. He meant to. It’s what is implied when he said he was crucified with Christ.
Listen, if you are going to live by faith in the Son of God you will have to choose to crucify the flesh. You cannot walk in faith and live to satisfy the flesh. Jesus was crucified to pay the price of your sin, but you have to choose to crucify the flesh so that you live to sin no more. You see, Jesus didn’t pay the price for our sin so that we could go on sinning and just sort of access some cheap grace whenever we need it, but He died as an invitation for us to understand how sin grieves the heart of God, so that we can acknowledge what our sin cost our Heavenly Father, and so that we could be moved to desire to sin no more. Like, if we learn to appreciate how painful our sin is to God and how much it required of Him to remove it from us, we wouldn’t want to engage in any activity that could minimize or trivialize the weight of the cross Jesus had to bear.
Sin separates us from God. Jesus died so that our sin would no longer separate us from God. To choose the flesh would be to choose that which separates us from God.
Paul was deliberate about his choice. He wanted the fullness of Christ to dwell in Him.
In Galatians 5:24 he said, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” You don’t just sort of float through life and hope for the best if you are a Christian. No, if you are a Christ-follower, you expend some effort to put to death anything that prohibits the life of Christ from being fully manifested in your life. The resurrected life flows into the life of the one who chooses to put sin to death. Many of you are hunters. You understand you have to be cunning and calculated to put something to death. You have to zero in on a target. You have to be patient and committed. You have to be diligent and focused.
Jesus came to give you abundant life, but before you can have an abundant life you have to have an intentional death which is a death to the flesh. Can we be real this morning? The flesh is never satisfied. If you don’t crucify it, it will rule you. You will want to drink more. You will want to smoke more. You will want to gamble more. You will want to see more and watch more. You will want more of the perversion that you thought you could just try to see what it was like. What thrilled you yesterday won’t thrill you tomorrow. Sin has hooks. Sin has claws. It will take you captive. Before you know it, you will be neck-deep in consequences, shame and regret. Paul said, in order to avoid all of that, a Christ-follower has to crucify the flesh.
Paul found the way to liberation was through the cross, by personally laying his sin nature at the cross. 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.
Something about keeping the cross at the center of his life allowed him to have a constant reminder that he could make a choice to identify with Jesus instead of following his flesh. The goal of life with Jesus is to allow His life to be lived out through ours. The flesh and faith in Christ aren’t compatible. You will never fully experience the resurrected life if you are focused on entertaining the flesh. One is the high life. One is a low life. I’ll let you decide which is which.
How about Romans 6? What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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. 5 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. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
You will never be free from the pull of sin as long as you constantly feed the flesh.
Romans 6:11-“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Count yourself dead to sin. Consider yourself dead to sin. Sinful behavior is no longer an option for the believer. We are to turn away and go in the other direction. When I was growing up, we sang a song that went, “Dead to every worldly pleasure, dead indeed to sin am I, but alive to Christ my Savior, daily to Him, I’m drawing nigh.” You can’t be fully alive to Christ and fully alive to the flesh at the same time. One will crowd out the other.
The allure of sin is that it is fun, but my friends the after affects aren’t fun. The addictions and strongholds that result, aren’t fun. The relationships it destroys aren’t fun. Following the flesh changes us. We become manipulative. We lie and deceive. We lack confidence. We can’t focus. We have shame and regret. We isolate ourselves from people we once loved to be around. Sin does not transform us into better people. Sin does not offer us a better future.
Following the cross, changes us, too. We become lovers of people, peaceful, righteous, compassionate, filled with hope and the power to overcome. We gain courage and confidence in the face of adversity. We are solid even when life is chaotic. We have supernatural wisdom in order to deal with life’s problems. We have a sense of well-being and a purpose for living.
You have two choices. Either choice will result in your transformation. Who do you want to be? If you live for the flesh you will be shaped into a self-absorbed, never-satisfied person, but if you live for the cross you will become a generous and fulfilled person. Paul made the choice to crucify the flesh and to live by faith in the Son of God.
Romans 6:13 says, Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Jesus offered Himself to the Father. He lived and died and rose to the will of the Father. If you have accepted Jesus, you have been brought from death to life in order that you would live in and display the righteousness of Christ. Maybe this will help crystalize things for you: The righteousness of Christ was on display on the cross. Yes, our sin put Him there…Yes, our sin was visible on the cross…The weight of what Jesus was enduring was obviously seen, but the righteousness of Christ is what qualified Him to be hanging there. If He had been a sinner like you or me, He couldn’t have been the One to suffer physical crucifixion, so you see not only what sin does and what sin results in, which is death, but you also see the righteousness of Jesus as He hangs on the cross.
The faultless life that enabled Jesus to be used of God, the one He displayed on the cross, is the kind of life that is supposed to be displayed in our lives every day. That is what it means to live a crucified life. To carry your cross daily, something the Word of God instructs us to do, is to allow the righteousness of Christ to be seen because you have put sin to death.
II Corinthians 5:21 says, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
How do you become the righteousness of God? You do it by faith. You choose faith every day. Faith in Christ means that you live convinced that God’s way is the best way. What is faith? Faith is more than belief. Faith is more than sincerity. Faith is more than church affiliation. Faith is a strategic attachment to the person of Jesus Christ with the daily goal of following Him.
Think of it in terms of a wedding. When you marry someone, the goal is to be committed solely to that person to share life together, to do life together, to spend time investing in your relationship. I have been a student of my husband since we said, “I do,” and I have changed as a person as a result of being committed to him. When we say “yes” to Christ, there is a oneness, there is a giving of our life to Him that results in a transformation of who we are. My life in Christ is more than simply accepting something He has done for me, but it becomes my life WITH Him. I am not just the recipient of salvation, but I become the container, the vessel, the carrier of His life as I learn to do life WITH Him.
II Timothy 1:12 says, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
Paul said, “I know Jesus.” His life proved that he did. When you say you fully “know” someone, you are saying you know what kind of person they are. You know what they would do in a given situation. You know how they spend their time. You know what is important to them. You know what makes them tick. You know what they are thinking. That is the way Paul knew Jesus. I love the strong words in this verse…“believed,” “convinced,” and “entrusted.” Because Paul believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, because Paul was convinced that the crucified life was the strongest and most protected kind of life, he was able to entrust his soul, his very life to the Lord Jesus in faith that Jesus would keep him and welcome him into Heaven one day. That meant that Paul let Jesus set Paul’s agenda. It meant that Paul leaned on the wisdom and power of Jesus to accomplish what Paul was able to accomplish. Paul knew Jesus so well that Paul could access Jesus’ power for daily life.
How well do you know Jesus? Are you fully convinced that your soul has been entrusted to His care? Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Heaven will be your eternal home? Do you hear the voice of God leading your life? Are you spending time reading the Word of God so that you can follow Jesus as closely as possible? Is Jesus your “go-to” when you need to talk, when your soul is weary, when life is weighing you down? Do you see evidence that God is transforming your way of thinking and your character into the mind and character of Jesus? So, faith is belief in THE person who can transform your person and it is receptivity and pursuit of that transformation.
Lots of people choose the flesh over faith because they don’t want to change. They don’t want to follow and be accountable to truth. They want to chart their course. They want to be their own source. They don’t want to be under anyone’s authority. They don’t want to submit to anyone’s counsel and lead. A life of faith can only be lived as ego is crucified, as self-will is laid down, as control is handed over to the Lord.
So, faith involves a commitment to and connection with the Person of Jesus Christ, and faith also involves a willingness to execute the plans of God.
James 2:18 says, “You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
James goes on later in verse 26 to say that faith without works is dead. Faith comes alive and grows stronger when you exercise it. When Peter was in a storm in the boat and Jesus invited him to come to him, Peter had a measure of faith that he could do it, but that faith did not come alive until Peter stepped out of the boat. We need some water-walking Christians to put their feet where their faith is! Church, it is time to activate your faith, to elevate your faith, to resuscitate your faith! Stand up and step out.
What we believe is one aspect of faith; Living out those beliefs is the weightier matter. Ephesians 2:8-10 tell us we are saved by grace through faith so that we can do the good things God has prepared for us to do. If our faith doesn’t impact the way we live, our faith is dead.
Think of where we would be today if Christians in previous centuries hadn’t been instrumental in opening hospitals, in establishing educational centers, in feeding the poor, in adopting and fostering children, in taking up many social causes to bring reforms and a better quality of life to people. My faith in Christ tells me my life is about more than my life. I am here to positively impact the lives of others. If we truly walk by faith, then we will be at work for Jesus’ sake.
Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
You could easily translate this verse to say, “Let your faith shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” There is no real faith without good works that stand as evidence that our faith is more than belief.
If my husband said he loved me but never showed me, his words would be empty, meaningless. There would be no life in our relationship, no energy to foster our relationship. How could we grow together without works, without evidence of that commitment?
Jesus said that to serve others was to serve Him. If you accept that, then you could also conclude that not serving others is to not serve Him. How can we call Jesus Master and Lord and do nothing to share His love?
Paul chose to crucify the flesh and to live by faith, demonstrating that he was giving his life in exchange for Christ’s life. Paul nailed it. Have you been flirting with the flesh? Does it have you on a leash now? Are you forced to follow it? Are you a slave to your desires? Perhaps it is time to take a trip to the cross, to the place of crucifixion where you renounce the flesh and ask God to help you live the crucified life, the one that produces fruit, the one that grows and reveals your faith to the world around you. Don’t let the good works that you were supposed to do go undone. Let’s choose faith over the flesh.