Monday, January 18, 2016

Crucified with Christ

In conjunction with chapter one, we discovered a little about Paul.  As we take on this second chapter, let’s learn something of the Galatians.

We know that Galatia was in Asia Minor, probably in present day Turkey.  The Galatians, however, were transplants.  They were Celts that had come to this part of the world mostly as mercenaries, perhaps 20,000 of them about three centuries before Paul wrote to them.

They occupied land and perhaps expanded their territory somewhat over the centuries.  When the Romans became the dominant power, the Galatians initially opposed them, but later decided there were benefits to supporting the empire.

These Celts—the same tribes that for a time dominated France and Britain—came to be called Gauls as they were mostly associated with what is now France, and hence the term Galatians.

Their government changed from tribal representation to kingship and perhaps even to a totalitarian form over the centuries. 

This account is sometimes disputed.  Some historians believe that the Galatians were just a diverse consortium of various ethnicities in Asia Minor.  History is not always an exact science and is sometimes subject to revision.
What is not subject to revision is the gospel. 

Some of these people called Galatians had come to believe in Christ and Paul’s letter revolved around two concepts that we must grasp today:  freedom and unity in Christ.

Paul explained to the Galatians that the gospel was not up for negotiation, regardless of anyone’s standing or perceived standing in the church.  Peter, James, and John had all walked with Jesus and were already pillars of this new faith; but Paul drove home the point that God doesn’t care what your rank or title or status among men is.

Paul recounts a run-in that he had with Peter over being hypocritical in his conduct when Jews were present.  Paul said, “I called him out on it.”

You can almost chuckle through this part of the letter.  The big boys were getting a little worldly having to defend their turf, which wasn’t their turf at all.  Of course, Paul also recounts what is essentially an endorsement by Peter and James.

In Paul’s perspective of the world that the Lord has set his apostles upon, Peter was to work mainly with the Jews and Paul was to go unto the gentiles.  Now we know that Peter also went to the gentiles and Paul typically visited the Jews first in whatever part of the gentile world he happened to be in at the time.

We need to understand that we get a little first person, historical narrative from Paul mixed in with the theology of this emerging faith.  These are the early days of the church.  There is no Bible with 66 books.  There is no curriculum to order from Standard Publishing.  There were no Standard Operating Procedures, Policies and Procedures, or even Rules of Engagement.  These followers of the resurrected Jesus didn’t even have a Facebook page.

This was led by the Spirit go be the salt of the earth evangelism.  This is dive in headfirst ministry.  And sometimes, the apostles bumped heads. 

We get Paul’s account of this head bumping and with good reason.  Peter, James, and even John had acquired some distinction among believers but perhaps none of the apostles was more tuned in to ministering to the gentile world than was Paul.  The man who had spent his entire life learning to be a Jew among Jews was now the chief advocate for the gospel that was for all men.

It’s a little ironic, don’t you think.  The men from Galilee—not Jerusalem Central—but these quasi outcasts now that they obtained some status as apostles were becoming a little dogmatic.  All the while, this Zealous Pharisee who surely thought that he could obtain righteousness by upholding the law, was now pleading the case for the gentile world.

For the law or the sign in the flesh to be essential to salvation was to say that Christ died in vain.  Paul presents a basic dichotomy that every believer must reconcile.

Either the blood of Jesus was powerful enough to cover all of our sin or it was not.

There is no middle ground.  There is no option C or hybrid model for the gospel.

And so we come to this wonderful word—faith.  It has a variety of meanings even within Paul’s writings.  Jesus used the word often.  The author of Hebrews said: 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

Here is another translation, this one from The Message.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 

Paul said that he had been crucified with Christ.  We know this to be a metaphor.  Paul was not on a fourth cross just behind the other three.  He is saying that his faith in the one gospel is so solid it is as if he were on a cross next to Jesus.

Paul tells us that he put all of his eggs in one basket—the gospel of truth.  He did not hedge his bet in any way.  This gospel of peace and love and salvation was in Christ alone and his faith in it was such that it was if he had truly died in everything that he was before.

The law, men of distinction, rules, protocols, signs in the flesh, and anything else that men held in the highest regard could never come before his relationship with Christ.

To add anything to the gospel was absurd.  This is from the man who if righteousness could have been obtained by the law would have been there long ago.  Saul would have been the only name that we ever knew this man by and would have never written a book in the Bible.  He would have ordered the Tee Shirt that said:  RIGHTEOUSNESS – BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, GOT HE TEE SHIRT!

The race that Paul ran as a Pharisee enslaved by the law was like trying to run a marathon on a treadmill.  You just don’t get anywhere. You can log in 26 plus miles but you don’t get anywhere.

But in Christ, we truly run a race of faith, and we get traction and progress and even a wrong turn here and there, but know that we resume our race because of God’s grace not because of some external action that does what the blood of Jesus couldn’t handle.

Our faith is in Christ alone.  We die to the world, we die with Christ, and we trade in our every contingency plan and put our faith in Christ alone. 
Christ lives in us!

This is the message that we should take from this part of Paul’s letter.  We begin with assurance of our salvation through Christ alone.  There is no other gospel and we turn away from the world by faith in God’s grace that we know in Christ.

Our faith is real even though it is one of those intangible quantities that’s hard to see or feel or taste or measure.  We are people who like to count and measure but faith does not subscribe to metrics.  But we know our faith to be so real that it is as if we had died with Christ.  It is as if we were one of the thieves on the crosses that flanked Jesus.

We have come to the point where we can say:  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

We proclaim the good news that we know in John 3:16 every Sunday and on several other days as well.  God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

That’s quite a promise.  Our part is to accept this incredible gift by faith.    We believe and in so doing die to the world.

Sometimes we struggle because we still live in the world.  We have died to the world but we still live in the world.

We still need to keep our job, but our job must not become our God.

We still need to go to school, but it must not supplant Christ.

We still need to eat and drink but what we eat and drink and when we do it must not come before Christ.

We very much need to heed the words of Jesus as we study Paul’s letter.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

While theologically we might try to separate our salvation and our discipleship, the former should take us seamlessly to the latter.  Faith in this gospel of salvation should empty us of the world and fill us with Christ.

Many of us want to say that Christ lives in me, but we have a hard time loving our neighbor; don’t even think about asking me to love my enemy.

We want to say that we died with Christ, but we might just have some old habits or thinking that doesn’t want to die.

We would like to get to the point where we can say, “I am crucified with Christ,” but we just have some “stuff” that we won’t let go of.  That stuff is not going to the cross with us.

It seems like that we may never get to the point where we can say, “it is not me but Christ who lives in me.”  This seems like a bridge too far.  It seems like a state which we can never reach.

And I would say that we have put the cart before the horse.  For the generations that don’t use that literary analogy any more—we are doing it all backwards.  We have made our own law to enslave us.  We look to our behavior and performance and conduct to see if we are ready for Christ to live in us even though we have professed him as Lord and Savior.

We need to change our thinking!  Our thinking is enslaving us even though the gift of God that we know in Christ Jesus liberated us.

Christ made us whole.  He redeemed us.  He made us right with God.  He justified us.  So why is it such a big leap to say, “Christ lives in me?”

Why?  It is because we have made our own law that says, “I’m still getting ready for him to live in me.  I’ve still got some work to do before he can move in.”

We need to change our self talk because the world has corrupted our thinking.  The world says, “You might be saved, but you sure aren’t good enough for Christ to live in you.”

Our thinking would have us believe that Christ isn’t quite living in us yet.  Oh, sure, we get moments every now and then, but he’s not a permanent resident.

Here is the theological term that addresses that sort of thinking:  Horsehockey—and that’s not an equine sport played by horses with no teeth.  Rubbish.  Here is one that you don’t have to explain to the kids:  Stinkin’ Thinkin’.

We need to defend the freedom that we know in the gospel.  We got that from the first chapter.  We also need to defend everything that we have been given in the gospel.

Christ does live in us!

It is not salvation plus get your life in order and then Christ will live in us.  Christ lives in us.

We have listened to the junk that the world has been offering us for too long. Christians have been repeating this junk for too long. We have died to the world and Christ lives in us. 

We need to resolve this cognitive dissonance in favor of the truth.  Christ lives in us.

Our self talk needs to sound like this:
I am crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.

We don’t contend with contingencies that are pressuring us to live by the 10 Commandments or specific sections of Leviticus or anything else that could roughly be categorized as the law. We contend with thinking that tells us we are not good enough for Christ to live in us and too often it is our own thinking  that gets in our way.

Christ lives in us not because of what we have done but because of what he has done.  Christ lives in us.

Christ lives in us!

Do people see any evidence of this?  Not if we believe that we are not good enough for him to take up residence in our lives.

We need to stop listening to the world.  We don’t owe the naysayers an audience so they can present their opinions of the truth.  We know the Truth.  His name is Jesus Christ and he lives in us.

If we want to see manifestations of his presence in us, we had better resolve any dissonance we have that he is there, belongs there, or anything else that the world is feeding us that happens to be a bunch of horsehockey.

I have been crucified with Christ.
Christ lives in me.

If we venture to John’s first letter we are reminded:  You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 

This makes no sense unless we believe that Christ lives in us.

Here is our charge for the week ahead.  Begin each day just saying:

I have been crucified with Christ.
Christ lives in me.


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