I am crucified with Christ

Life Changes

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~Romans 7:25a, NIV

Life changes.

Somehow that phrase always seems to have a negative bent. You know, you’re reading along and suddenly something happens to a character, and life changes. We know it can’t be good. Life was good before. And then it changed, and we’ve got trouble.

But what if it wasn’t. Trouble, that is. What if it were different, positive – life CHANGING! Take a man, for example whose zeal was red-hot while his heart was stone cold. What a contradiction; passion pouring out of a lifeless soul. How does that happen? The need to be right? A desire for significance? Maybe a misguided intent; an arrow, sharp and deadly, fired into the blackness of night. It slices what it cannot see, destroys what it does not know.

Such a man condones unmerciful violence – murder in the name of righteousness. “Leave your coat at my feet,” he says. “The blood of this rebel, this blasphemer will not taint your spotless robe of self-righteousness.”

“But his words are true!” One may dare to argue with the man of stone. “His claim comes from the prophets, from the mouth of God. How can you ignore the truth?”

He cannot hear. His ears have been stopped. He cannot see. He has not vision. Only passion, coupled with arrogance. And so the innocent is crushed, with our heartless legalist looking on with approval. Nodding grimly. Counting… one down, so many more to go.

So many more to go. And he goes.

Until Truth blinds him. Until light casts him into darkness and he cannot see his way to persecute.

“Who are you, Lord?”

“It is I, the Christ. The one you are persecuting.”

And suddenly life changes. The heart of stone is melted into one of flesh. Blindness gives sight to that which cannot be seen, and new vision births purpose. Purpose is joined with passion. Saul is no longer, Paul has been born again.

Praise God, life changes.

I am crucified with Christ

Tounge Tied and Crucified

When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom.  For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. I Cor. 2:1-5

The little girls in tattered dresses held their bellies and guffawed behind the African hut.  One of them was putting on quite a performance to entertain her friends.  “Good morning,” she hooted through her nose, distorting the words, screwing up her face in concentration.  “Did you sleep well?” The other fell against each other in fits of giggles.

That was the phrase I had been practicing that morning in their language — their blasted, twisted, tonal, impossible language.  And I’d obviously said it quite wrong.  Jesus said to love the little children, but at that moment, I found it rather difficult.

I had to learn two African languages during my 12 ½ years in West Africa, and both times I achieved what some would label “fluency.”  Could I share the gospel in those languages?  Certainly.  Could I do it eloquently? Nope.  My accent was thick and my phrasing awkward.  Yes, Paul, I exactly understand what it is like to open my mouth without “brilliance of speech or wisdom.”

Yet, hundreds of West Africans came to Christ while my team, our U.S. partnership churches, and I labored among them.  Why?  Most definitely not because of my stellar language skills or cultural knowledge.  It was entirely because of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The power of that story – the story of a God who loved them so much that He died for them – arrested them.  It didn’t matter that the story was told haltingly with grammar blunders.  It was the God of the story, not the story-teller, who drew people to Himself.

For me, it was a new take on being “crucified with Christ.”  The day those girls mocked me, and hundreds of other times while I lived in Africa, my pride was absolutely crucified. It was painfully obvious that the birth of West African churches had nothing to do with me or my skill or expertise.  It seemed all that was required of me was my attendance.  I just showed up, made mistakes, and watched God work miracles.

Now that I am back in the States, my focus should be the same.  But here, I am competent.  I speak and write well.  I get the culture.  I’m not socially awkward.  It’s tempting to take a little credit for myself.  Tempting, but erroneous, for even in my native land, I am crucified with Christ. Any good that I do comes from His giftings, His empowerment, and most of all, from His grace.

Praise the God of the cross, and may He always obscure me.

I am crucified with Christ

I have been Crucified With Christ: A Joint Post

We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners” know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.  And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified.  For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God.  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. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:15-20

From Susan

“Do you know for certain that if you died tonight you’d go to Heaven?” This is the question Evangelism Explosion uses to open a presentation of the gospel.  It’s pretty hard hitting, but sometimes, when the time is right and the conversation fertile, I use it.  Most often, I get a response similar to this:

“Well… I hope so.  I mean, I want to.  I’ve tried really hard to be good.”

Salvation by works. It’s not just Americans who fall prey to this deception.  The types of works may vary by culture. Americans volunteer at soup kitchens and try not to speed. Some West Africans try to do the right animal sacrifices. Ancient Jewish people?  They measured the number of steps they took on the Sabbath. But the sentiment is the same: Maybe God will accept me if I’ve done enough good deeds.

Paul tells us here that we’ve got to nail that mindset to the cross.  It’s humbling to realize I can never please God. But when I admit that my best efforts fall short, when I accept that the only hope I have is His sacrifice for me, then I’ve crucified myself and my pride.

Crucifixion is execution.  I’m dead, but Christ lives in me.  What does that mean?

From Jen

Christ in [me]—the hope of glory.[1] Words penned by the same man—a man who understood what it was like to forever be working, trying to establish a wisp of a hope for God’s acceptance. To the Philippians, Paul listed his ‘good works’ resume. A Hebrew of the Hebrews, a coveted Pharisee, marked by his zeal, flawless in his version of the law . . .[2]

And after his encounter with Christ, Paul considered it worthless. Because he’d been crucified with Christ. No longer was he Paul, the man working for the approving smile of God. He’d been raised with Jesus, a new creation. Holy, accepted and pure.

In Philippians, Paul bursts into this statement of purpose: I want to know Christ—yes to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him . . .[3]

Christ lives in me. Sitting here, pondering life—feeling like mine is forever on pause—I’m soaking in these words. As I continue reading, I’m realizing that once again my gaze has fallen from God to myself. From heaven to the ground. From hope to frustration.

Christ in me, the hope of glory. Lift your eyes and see. Open your ears and hear. Truth shines in Him, and He is in me. Life eternal—life right now. I am crucified with Christ, and now I truly live.

[1] Colossians 1:27

[2] Philippians 3:5

[3] Philippians 3:10