“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.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
At first read, this is a pretty far-out there claim for Paul to make. I mean, as far as an objective fact goes it is totally false. He was not crucified with Christ. As far as we know, he was not anywhere nearby when Jesus was crucified. More than that, given where he was theologically then, he would have been part of the crowd cheering on the event. He would likely have been glad to have been able to drive the nails into His hands and feet himself. So what does he mean?
Well, obviously, he’s speaking metaphorically. Thank you, Captain Obvious, right? Contextually, Paul is talking about faith in Christ and the powerlessness of the Law to accomplish salvation in us. What he’s saying is that when we place our faith in Jesus and let Him become Lord of our life, our lives become so identified with Him that in a sense, we share in His death. And, because we share in His death, we also share in His life. But, instead of it being us living our old life again, we now have Jesus–the one who is alive forever–living His new life through us.
In other words, we willingly cede our entire lives over to Him to become what He would have them be. Every choice we make is now filtered through the lens of what He would do if He were in our shoes. The old “what would Jesus do” has certainly been clichéd to the point that it’s mostly lost its meaning for most folks, but that doesn’t mean it was any less wise a question for people to be asking in the first place.
So then, if you would say you are a follower of Jesus, how are you doing with this? Yeah, I’m not hitting it so well as I’d like to be hitting it all the time either. Does that mean we’re all frauds? No, but it does help us understand just how overwhelmingly amazing grace is. It also gives us a picture of how far we are living apart from reality at times.
See, for a follower of Jesus, living like Paul describes here is reality. Everything else isn’t. To say, “I’m a follower of Jesus,” and then not submit every passing thought and desire to Him is to either lie, or to try and live in a fantasy world where such a claim-action pair makes any rational sense. In the real world it doesn’t.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been crucified with Him. He died the death that was meant for you because of sin. You joined Him in spirit, and now the life you are living is really Him living out His eternal life through you. Let Him. It will always be better than the alternative, even if it seems harder in the moment. Live as one crucified who is now alive. That’s where the abundant life is found.