"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20-21).
The Call that Christ gives us:
These words simply mean that I choose to break away from my way of doing things, to focus on and embrace God's ways. These words mean the break up of my independence, the surrendering of my life to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. So that He is God and the "Lead" in my life and nothing else is in His way. Still confused? This means that I am not the focus of my life; it is not about me, since I am in Christ. I am not the center where everything evolves and revolves around me; rather I bow down to Him. This is the classic understanding of a "self-directed" life verses a "Christ directed" life. It is not about you, it is about Him. And yes, this goes against our natural mindsets and inclinations as well as our plans and desires. But the great news is that His ways are better than ours!
How does this happen? Do I just sit in a pew and wait, or will someone lead me? The answer is that, no one can do this for you, no parent or pastor, no friend or mentor; you must do this yourself. This is called the walk of faith or the devotional life. You are responsible for your personal spiritual growth! You must take the step to go up to the plate, if you are going to play in the game. You have to get onto the field, put on the glove and pay attention to participate. You cannot just watch others play, or watch your friends, family, or parents, rely on your family history, or read it in a book; you must go out there yourself.
Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is not something that can just be observed; it has to be engaged! You have to take up the bat of life and play the game for our Lord, and the score belongs to Him. He is your coach, and God. He will direct you! We cannot just go out and do what we want and play like little kids, just as if we were on a softball team and decided to just go out and do what we want. If we did, there would be chaos and pandemonium. Then we would lose the game and miss out on the fun and opportunities we could have had. And, in life we would miss what He has for us.
Questions to Ponder:
- How is the Christian life like a ball game?
- What holds you back from releasing your will?
- Why can no one do this for you?
Not Missing out on what He gives:
God may bring you up to the plate of opportunity all year long, but He will not push you through it; He will pitch, you must swing. You have to give up your self-centered independence from God, and take ownership of what He has done for you. You have to embrace oneness with Him; that is not following your own ideas, but choosing absolute loyalty to Jesus. It may even mean going against your Christian friends, who may have God so wrapped up in a neat box that they keep Him at a safe distance. Because, if they dared open up His gift, they think they will lose their precious independence. So, they stay in their selfish ambitions and fail to notice the wonder of His gifts and call.
Most people do not want to surrender themselves, but, unless you do, you cannot grow in Christ, you cannot mature in faith. If you think you can wait and do this later in life, you will be very wrong! It is much, much, much, harder to do it then. The sooner you start the stronger you will grow! Did you know that over 90 per cent of people who come to be Christians are in Junior High and High School? It is very rare to do it as an adult, because you have had a lifetime of independence and rationalization living away from God. This can even be true if you still go to a church. And, if you did make the transition from the sinful life to the Christian life saved by His grace, if you still hold onto your will, you will not grow. Your determination will be in the way of His. This will keep you in bondage to sin and you will not be able to hold onto Him as your LORD! You will stay in the self-directed life and miss out on the Christ centered life. Saved perhaps, but as James tells us, what good would it be? You will be directing your life and not God. He is still sovereign, but He just may let you have your free will, when you could have had Christ.
Questions to Ponder:
- What does it mean to live a self-centered, independent life away from God?
- What does it mean to live a Christ centered, dependent life?
- Why would a Christian desire to stay in the self-directed life?
Discovering His loyalty:
Once you come to that point of total loyalty to the Lord, there is no possibility of mistake that you belong to Him, and not to yourself. We cannot know anything about loyalty to Christ unless we understand what He meant when He said, For My sake, and, Because of me (look up the phrase of "of me" in Matthew using a concordance). This is what committed Christianity looks like, we will fail, and we must retry, because with grace and the Holy Spirit we will succeed in Him when we allow Him to work and we be that bondservant (Matthew 5:11; 10:22-38)! Your identity of who you are is because of what Christ has done. Not just knowing about it, not just going to church, not just wearing Christian t-shirts, but letting that knowledge travel eighteen inches down into your heart. This is what makes a strong Christian that God can truly use.
Has that break-up of your independence come yet? Is there anything in the way of God in your life? Anything else is being a religious, pious fraud, a hypocrite. The main point to decide in your life is not what to do with your life, but how to be used by God. Too often we are so preoccupied with what College we will go to, or what career to seek, promotion to strive for, or house to buy, we miss out on what is really important-relationships--with God and others, and being used by God in those relationships. We have to ask, "What will I give up that is in the way of God working in me? Will I surrender to Jesus Christ, making Him Lord of my life, placing no conditions whatsoever as to how the destruction of my will may come?"
Once you have broken away from your own understanding of yourself, once you reach that point, immediately the reality of the cross will hit you. You will be forever supernaturally identified with Jesus Christ as your Lord. Then the reality of this passage, the meaning of life, and the best plan there is for you will all unfold before you. And, the witness of the Spirit of God will be living in you. I have been crucified with Christ!
Questions to Ponder:
1. Has that break-up of your independence come yet?
2. If so, how? If not, what is in the way?
3. How is your loyalty with Christ?
The passion of Christianity:
The passion of Christianity comes from deliberately signing away your own rights and becoming a bondservant of Jesus Christ. That was the lowest level of a slave in Paul's time. That means your life will no longer belong to you. Until you do that, you will not begin to be a growing Christian, one that God can use. You will just grow up to be bitter and fall away from the Church; if you stay, you will just occupy a place in the pew. You will be critical, cynical, and condescending to those around you, and a stench in the face of the Lord! God does not desire this for your life; He loves you and wants your best.
Your sole value for existence is for God to help Himself to you, and use you in the lives of people around you. Will you allow Him to help Himself to you, or are you more concerned with your own ideas of what you are going to be? He already has given His best for you! Will you give back your best to Him?
One of the main reasons why Christians "go bad" in their motives and behaviors is that they forget who they are. Too many people who go to a church do not have a clue what it is all about. The noise and busyness of life takes over the time slot that was originally reserved for God. So, our time and excitement of church becomes clouded, preventing us from remembering what it is supposed to be about. So, we forget who we are in Christ, and what we are called to do.
Thus, week by week, we hurry ourselves and drag the family to go to church, through the tyranny of the daily grind, sit in our pews, trying to recover from the exhaustion, hoping our struggle is not in vain. Thus, we give little effort to what the words mean when we worship or sing a hymn, or what the pastor is talking about at the pulpit, or the beauty of the liturgy and the power and conviction of the words. We are just playing a part in a play without allowing the character to become who we are. Church becomes just a routine and not the church that Christ created for us to be. Then the passion of Christianity will mutate to the daily grind of life as our Will remains in control and our eyes remain upon ourselves.
Questions to Ponder:
- Have you experienced Christians who are critical, cynical, and condescending to those around them? Why are they that way?
- What is the tyranny of the daily grind in your life? How does it get in the way of His plan?
- How is your passion toward Christ and His Church?
It is our call as Christians to be discipled, so that you can realize who you are in Christ, and to get out of your "comfort zone" and into "His Love zone." You can then start to challenge others to do so too, by your example. Then the church will not fall into a rut, into "pew sitting," becoming Christians who just come to church and never do anything with their faith.
This means for our church that we can come tighter together to be better, to grow in faith and maturity. Then, we can seize the gifts and call, and mobilize ourselves into the action He beckons us to. We do this by surrendering to the leading of His Word and the Holy Spirit. That we know God will bring us up to the plate of opportunities all year long and we can confidently do them. We must remember that He will not push us through it; He will pitch, we must still swing!
The sad fact is that most people do not want to surrender themselves, which is why few will become Christians. Even of those who do, many will not grow beyond a simple knowledge. But, unless they give up their Will over to His, they cannot grow effectively in Christ; they cannot mature in faith. But, once you have broken away from your own understanding of yourself, and when you reach that point, immediately the reality of the cross will hit! Then the real growth and discipleship in Christ begins!
The passion of Christianity comes from deliberately signing away our own rights and becoming a bondservant of Jesus Christ. This can only happen with your part, just as a pastor preaching an incredible sermon; we have to hear it and apply it to make it incredible. We can do this together as a faith community, first by the members, then by the church in the community, and world.
Questions to Ponder:
- What do you think of Christians who just come to church and never do anything with their faith? What does God think?
- Are you confident that you cannot grow effectively in Christ, nor mature in faith unless you follow this passage in Galatians? Still not sure? Then check out Philippians 3:7-15!
- What will be your response to the call of surrendering your Will?