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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Day 20: I Am Crucified With Christ

Art by www.wallandheart.com

"I have been crucified with Christ; I no longer live, but Christ who lives within me. The life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 

This week I told my friend I suffer from "perpetual discouragement." I think what I mean by this is that I often feel as though my life is inadequate; I long for significance, for validation, for some kind of evidence that my life has some kind of worth.

I think this is one of the reasons why I loved both the podcast S-TOWN, and the novel it was inspired by: Stoner. Both tell stories of 'the unobserved life.' Both battle with questions about its seemingly unrelenting futility, and both explore the angsty search for meaning in a world that's heavy with sorrow.

But I think my discouragement comes from an awareness that my life 'should' be something better: should be more loving, more generous, more Christ exalting. And it can feel devastating when I realise the extent to which it isn't these things.

One way that "I am crucified with Christ" is a comfort is as a reminder that my sins are forgiven: I am united to Jesus in his death; the death he dies is the death I should die. The cross makes abundantly clear that I am not sufficient, or effective for achieving salvation. My own efforts to justify my existence are just not good enough. But hallelujah, God is merciful- and I am forgiven. The debt for the inadequacies of my life, and the corruption in its abortive attempts to produce goodness has been paid.

But "I am crucified with Christ", and the following verses (and in fact all of Galatians) is more than a beautiful reminder of sins forgiven. It is also a much needed testament to the fact that my identity was tied up with Christ at the most profound moment of the universe: I am crucified with Christ.

The big argument of Paul in Galatians is this: you are justified by faith.

Justified by faith! The gospel in three explosive words. The gospel that goes beyond forgiveness, to crediting us with righteousness, with a record that says: A LIFE WELL LIVED.

Staggeringly, these verses in Galatians show that the death of Jesus goes beyond providing forgiveness, and beyond paying my debt- as glorious as those things are in and of themselves!

The glory of this verse is that Jesus has a) paid the penalty for the inadequacy of my own life AND b) has given me his record, his life, his very self for me. As Paul phrases it elsewhere: he is our righteousness!

This is mind-blowing news to someone used to weighing the significance of my own life and finding it wanting. I might say,

"The life I live, I live constantly striving in the hope that I will achieve something fundamentally worthwhile."
"The life I live, I live in perpetual disappointment." 
"The life I live, I live under a weight of fearful condemnation that I will never be enough."
"The life I live, I live in desperate hope that someone will love me and vindicate my worth."
"The life I live, I live examining my character and my record for some shred of evidence that I've done something good and this leads me to live in perpetual disappointment."
"The life I live, I live by disciplined self-reliance because that's all I've got."
"The life I live, I live by banking on my own strength, my own sufficiency, my own righteousness."

But Paul's argument in Galatians offers a better way to finish that sentence.

He says, "the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

The life I live, I live in joyful confidence in Jesus! I live in full assurance that I am loved. I live looking out to Jesus whose perfect record of love, sacrifice, righteousness, life-bringing, meaningful existence is mine (!), because He gave himself for me.

He gave himself, not just for my forgiveness, but for my justification.

Justification! He gave himself to validate my existence! He didn't just pay the debt for my sins, but he crowned me with his righteousness.

And in being crucified with him, I am dead to the law as my means of justification. The law did not work for bringing that, and it still can't. I can no longer look to anywhere other than to Jesus for righteousness.

This is why Paul confronted Peter (the story he tells in Chapter 2): Peter is living like someone who can make his life acceptable to God by fulfilling the law. But Paul opposes Peter to his face.

"Peter!" he cries, "Stop acting as though it makes the slightest bit of difference who you eat with! You were with Christ when he died! You know you had to be 'with' him in his death because your inability to fulfil the law led you there! The law can't make you right with God so stop acting like it can. In the same way that you live, having died, by faith in Jesus who gave you his righteousness that's how ALL are to live. All have fallen short. All are justified freely. As a gift. Come on son! Live in accordance with the truth of this glorious gospel!"

I cannot tell you what a relief this news is to me.

My life is not rendered meaningful in my behaviour, or in who I eat with, or in my reputation, or in my witness, or in my skill, or in the thanks I get, or in validation, or in productivity, or in relationships, or in anything else!

My life is rendered meaningful in Christ, and in God crediting his righteousness to me.

I am crucified with Christ, and Christ lives in me.

The life I live, I live looking away from myself, and looking to Jesus- who LOVED me, and gave himself for both my forgiveness and my justification.

"But now, a righteousness from God has appeared, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last."
Romans 1:17

"To the one who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven..." Romans 4: 5-7 

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