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. (Gal 2:20)
Twenty five years in to walking with Jesus I still catch myself with these types of thoughts:
Man, I need a LOT of work! Surely there is a future version of myself that exists that would live to wholeheartedly please the Father! The renovation process of this hard heart sure does take a LOT longer that I ever thought! So… if I remember to starve the flesh and feed the Spirit, eventually I’ll pass as a mature Christian; a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord.
And if you are like me, you can get caught in this never ending cycle rooted in a false understanding of sanctification. The cycle that looks like a little bit of progress, followed by spiritual pride and laziness, followed by failure, followed by guilt and shame, followed by progress, followed by spiritual pride and laziness followed by guilt and shame… It’s this dance of one step forward and two steps back. One step forward and two steps back.. Am I ever going to make progress here? Am I ever going to look like the person that I want to be?
I am convinced that this cycle is rooted in a wrong view of the Gospel. Particularly as the Gospel is applied to the process of sanctification. And if you haven’t grown up in the church, or you are just beginning this dance with God, sanctification is a biblical word for growing in your relationship with Christ. If you have a wrong idea of how to go about doing this, I can tell you first hand, it will reek havoc on your spiritual growth, And you will find yourself treading water for years in that same cycle of shame.
Let us then return to the book of Galatians to do a little REMIX of how we think of how we are to do the hard work of growing in our walk with Jesus.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
C.S. Lewis had some brilliant commentary on this thought when he said, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came make dead people alive. We do not come to God as bad people trying to become good people (aka religion), we come as rebels to lay down our arms.”
When God, in His kindness, seeks us and saves us, He isn’t making us better, he is making us NEW. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). The Bible distinguishes our ‘old’ self, the one that has been crucified with Christ, as “the old man.” From the moment God saves us, He has NO dealings with “the old man.” NO! The old Shane has been crucified with Christ and is no longer on the throne of this beating heart! There is a NEW life! “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.”
This NEW life has a NEW identity. Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27) My new identity is Christ! And now the hard work isn’t doing something, but rather believing Who He is and who He has made me to be (John 6:29).
The ‘old’ Shane, though he has been dethroned, has a strong tendency to rear his ugly head. The way to defeat the ‘old’ rebel Shane is not to renovate him, but to MAKE WAR on his siren voice that wants to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil just as his father did in the garden. To ignore his lusts and passions by calling upon, abiding with, and clinging to the better fruit of the Spirit of Christ that lives in me.
So sanctification looks less like trying and more like surrender. It looks less like pulling up your moral boot straps and more like admitting that these ‘straps’ don’t exist. And the moment that you think you have “successfully” pulled the proverbial boot straps up, you are now officially taking a walk with self righteousness and are in desperate need of more boot straps! Sanctification looks less like saying, “I’m going to do better,” and more like praying, “Jesus, be my life. I surrender.” It’s Gospel informed sanctification. If I grow, it is Christ in me to the glory of God!
Brother, sister, pray as I do that
All I am
My life defined by:
I’ve been crucified with Christ
The life I live
I live by faith
In Jesus Christ Who lives in me