March 28: Union With Christ is Founded Upon Co-crucifixion With Christ.

Galatians 2:19. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live [zoe] to God. 

The law cannot bring life, therefore it is not the compelling force in my life. It cannot animate or motivate my love. Again, as we said yesterday, it can reveal the sin and self justification in my life, but it cannot cause me in any way to love or trust.

Dying to the law is what allows us to live to God. That is, to image God. To live to God’s glory can never come from living to the law, because living from human merit denigrates the grace of God. Remember that in the Garden, mankind chose law (the Tree of Knowledge) over grace (the Tree of Life). We must die to any system of life that replaces God’s grace with our own merit.

But how is living to God even possible apart from merit? Aren’t we still left in need of a system for living to God? A checklist? A how-to? A formula? Aren’t we supposed to figure out how to live to God and then put into the place the best principles and practices for making it happen?

Paul’s answer comes in Galatians 2:20- a fundamental scripture for this blog and the entire “to live is Christ” theme.

Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live [zoe], but Christ who lives [zoe] in me. And the life I now live [zoe] in the flesh I live [zoe] by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Let’s look at the first half of this verse:

I have been crucified with Christ.

On the day Jesus died on the cross, you died with him. You were literally, yet spiritually crucified along with Christ. This is a glorious and foundational truth for the Christian life- we have died with Christ. This is union with Christ. This is living for God. And yet this is one of the hardest truths for Christians to appropriate. We must stop seeking the crucified life. You have already been crucified. You are not daily crucified or “dying daily to sin.” You have already died to sin once for all time.  Daily dying to sin is law keeping- not faith in your co-crucifixion.

 

Does “dying with Christ” make me the source of my own salvation? No, only Christ alone could be the vicarious substitute and atonement for our sins. He died alone and only he could die in our place. Christ died FOR me frees me from the penalty of sin. But Christ died WITH me frees me from the power of sin. Through union with Christ, we share in the benefits of the crucifixion. My crucifixion with Christ frees me from the power of the Law and thus the power of sin. The law tried and condemned Jesus and you on the cross. His and your death means that the law no longer has any power over you. And if the law has lost its power, then so has sin.

Apart from this union with Christ’s death, we would never experience the benefits of that death. His victory first is our victory second.

It is no longer I who live

This is the key to daily victory- knowing that I have died and no longer live. The sinful flesh inside of us will only yield to our co-crucifixion. All of your daily resolutions and self-crucifixion will never work. Only co-crucifixion with Christ works. The self has been dealt with completely. The Old Man is no longer a problem. There is no other way to deny the self and deal with the Old Man. We must by faith accept that “it is no longer I who live.”

but Christ who lives in me

This is the historic, crucified Christ (the one in the Bible). He is now living his life out spiritually through us, through our bodies and the Body (Church). If Christ who satisfied the Law lives in us, why would we believe that we must still satisfy the Old Testament law’s demands- or any law’s demands for that matter. This truth of Christ living out his life through our lives is the key to everything we have said in this blog so far this year- YES IT’S THAT IMPORTANT!

“To live is Christ” and “Christ lives in me” are the same thing. I guess the next question is “do you believe this?” And that’s the second half of the verse, that we will explore tomorrow.

 

March 27: The Law Destroys, But Christ’s Life Rebuilds.

John 1:17. The Law was given by Moses, but grace came through Jesus Christ.

That’s pretty much Paul’s thesis in Galatians. Learning to distinguish between law and gospel, that is between death and life, is the essence of the Christian life. Those of us who want to do “to live is Christ” must be experts on distinguishing law from gospel. The Law is putting us to death, while the gospel is bringing us to life.  That is the primary purpose of the law- to destroy.

And the primary purpose of Christ is to rebuild us into his image.

You cannot have law without gospel and you cannot have gospel without law. We are not rejecting one for the other. We are learning to distinguish them, not extinguish law. We need the law- it is right, and good, and holy in its ministry of destruction. By it we see our glaring sins of self-righteouness and their futility.

We also must never confuse law and gospel. Law can never save us. It can only condemn. Only gospel can save. Only grace can change our hearts. Only love freely given and received without merit can produce love in a dead heart.

If it is worded as “do X to get Y” – that’s law. If it is worded as “this amazing thing is going to happen to you in spite of what you do” – that’s gospel. In Galatia the wording might have been “you have X now do Y to keep it.” That’s also law. Law for Christians. Many Christians believe that they are saved by grace, but now they live the Christian life by law keeping- NOPE.

As we will see as we move forward, living from Christ’s life has become the new source of our strength and power in our weakness. The law no longer motivates our faith and obedience. Christ’s life and love do.

Galatians 2:19. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Isn’t living for God and living for the law the same thing? NOPE. Now that I’m saved, doesn’t God empower me to obey the law? NOPE. To live is law? NOPE. To live is Christ.

March 26: The Law Leaves Us Far From To Live Is Christ.

We’ve seen in Galatians the importance of both the substitution of Christ and our union with Christ’s life. You can’t have one with out the other. Paul is developing this important connection very early on. We see it here again in chapter 2 as Paul defends his own apostleship and the gospel itself.

Galatians 2:15-16. We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Here is the gospel in all of its brilliance: Justification comes by faith in Jesus Christ, apart from the Law. No one is justified by works of the Law.

The Old Testament Law of Moses was given to Israel so that by it they might live. Live life to the fullest as God intended in the Garden. But here’s the problem: just like in the Garden, to live by the Law means you have to keep all of it perfectly. So the very thing that was meant to bring life brings death because of our inability to fully obey.

Unlike Christ, the Law works death into our lives, here’s how: first it is a measure, then it becomes an accusation, then it controls you, and then it brings death.

Law as measure.

We are all looking for a standard to follow. “Just tell me what to do.” “How do I measure up?” God’s law has provided this measure for us in a perfect form. But we also are constantly measured by the culture around us- get good grades, be beautiful, make the team, have a clean house, be happy.

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Law as accusation. 

Because the Law continually places us under these standards and these standards become absolutes (especially God’s), soon, the Law only serves to accuse us. Our “is” never lives up to our “ought.” It’s the perpetual carrot and stick.

Law as control.

So even though we hate the accusation of the Law, we love to be in control of our life. And Law offers us this control. So back to the Law we run over and over again. OR we reject one law for another. Maybe we reject God’s law for our own law, but still you are under the accusing watch of Law.

Law as death.

Because we fail over and over to live up to the measure, and we dread the accusation, we try harder and harder to control our own lives. Our failures condemn us, so we work to self justify. But this controlling of our own lives, serves only to destroy love in our lives. Control and love cannot co-exist (love requires liberty).

And so here we are, far from “to live is Christ,” and far from the righteousness/justification of God. The Law has left us with a glaring problem, but only Christ’s indwelling life can offer a solution. More on that tomorrow.

 

 

 

March 25: Christ Has Been Revealed IN Us Not Just TO Us.

Galatians 1:15-17. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son IN me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Paul is recounting his apostolic calling. Now, this blog is not about the life of Paul, so we will not get into all of the details and history here, but it is about “to live is Christ,” and Paul’s developing theology of our union with Christ. And here in verse 16 we get a little peak- “God was pleased to reveal his Son IN me.” This is a really cool early statement by Paul concerning his belief that Christ lives in him (see also 2:20).

But here’s the thought for us. What makes God happy? What pleases him? What pleases him is to reveal Christ IN us (not just TO us). His zoe manifest in our life, his Spirit connected to our spirit, his Son’s life lived out by his other sons and daughters- that pleases God.

What else pleases God? Faith.

Hebrews 11:6. And without faith it is impossible to please him

Do you see the connection? God is pleased to reveal Christ IN us. God is also pleased when we, by faith, trust in the revelation of Christ IN us (not just TO us).

Here’s the thing, you may be living a life that you think is pleasing God, but actually is far from it, because it is far from faith in the indwelling life of Christ IN you, and rather just a reaction to the revelation of Christ TO you. How can you know the difference? One is grace and the other law. One is faith the other works. One is rest the other exhaustion.

Many Christians are asking God to reveal himself to them. just do a quick google search of that phrase and you will find all kinds of spiritual platitudes and advice on how to experience the revealing of God. Well, the truth is, he has done even better- he has revealed himself IN you. “To live is Christ” is to live from the revelation of Christ IN us not just TO us. Faith in this inner spiritual revelation is what pleases God.

 

March 24: Union With Christ Delivers Us From This Present Evil Age.

Before we jump into Galatians a reminder: your New Testament is not organized in the order in which it was written. Galatians is one of the first scriptures to be written, and so Paul’s theology is still young, and in the process of being developed. In fact, Paul’s first two letters, 1-2 Thessalonians, deal very little with our union with Christ. It is in Galatians that we begin to see union with Christ, as a theology, developed. Also, keep in mind that Paul didn’t just make this theology up on his own. First, as we have tried to show in past blog posts, it is a theology rooted in Jesus’ own teaching about the sharing of the divine life (zoe) with mankind. Second, we believe that Paul was guided by the Spirit of God in his writings.

Galatians 1:1-4. Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age (v.4). Wow, that’s a big statement to open up the letter. Notice first that Paul is using the language of substitution- “for our sins.” Jesus died for us, in our place. This will be a major pillar in Paul’s theology moving forward, even in this letter (see Galatians 2:20 and 3:13). And of course we love and cherish this doctrine. Jesus the just, took my place- by grace I am saved!

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But it is union with Christ that allows us to experience the benefits of Christ’s substitutionary death. These two truths (substitution and union) work together in our salvation to secure for us all of Christ’s blessings. And these blessings are so secure that Paul can use this language in verse 4- “to deliver us from the present evil age.”

What is the “present evil age?” And how does the death of a man 2000 years ago deliver me from it?

The word “age” is the Greek word aeon. It can also be translated as “world.” Sometimes it refers to a specific length of time, but not always. In Jewish thought, there were two ages: this present evil age, and the age to come (the one where God restores everything to Israel). Paul is telling us that as Christians we are living in the “present evil age,” but we are not controlled by it any longer. We are already delivered from it.

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But how can that be? In essence Paul is claiming that we are living in both the present and the future simultaneously. How is that possible? Because “to live is Christ.”

Our union with Christ, although not expressly noted here in Galatians, is the reason that we are no longer in bondage to the very aeon in which we live. This age or world which is our physical home is not our controlling destiny. A few years down the road Paul will write these words:

2 Corinthians 5:17. If anyone is in Christ he is the new creation. The old has gone the new has come. 

How do I know that there is a new day coming that will change everything? Because it has already happened inside of me. Through the indwelling Christ, I am already living eternally, righteously, and gloriously. I am no longer a slave to this evil age and its trappings of time and temporary pleasure.

Are you living trapped as a victim of this age? Is all of your meaning, purpose, identity, and happiness wrapped up in this world? This aeon? What would it change for you to get past living FOR this age, and rather to live IN this age as an invader FROM the next?

March 23: Union With Christ Is What Human Existence Is Supposed To Be.

We have covered a lot of ground together so far this year in our journey to understand “to live is Christ.” We began in the beginning, looking at the big ideas of life in the earliest writings of the Bible, like Genesis and Exodus. Then we spent a lot of time in John’s gospel wrapping our minds around Jesus as the source of zoe life.

Moving forward, we will begin to explore many of the writings of the Apostle Paul in chronological order, starting with Galatians. Paul’s first missionary journey took him into the region of Galatia where he proclaimed the gospel. Paul’s writings will open our eyes to the truths of our union with Christ. We cannot overstate how important it is to understand his theology of union with Christ. To miss it is to miss much of our faith.

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What Paul will show us is that the Jesus of the past is the Jesus of the present. Jesus doesn’t just influence our present by the “ripple effect” of his life. He enters into union with each one of us intimately and personally. We are “in Christ,” and Christ is “in us.” We are joined to the universe shaking events of Jesus’ historic life- we died with him, were buried with him, raised with him, seated with him, all while receiving his righteous life.

And here’s the thing, this isn’t supposed to be just some deep theology that only seminary students and pastors figure out. It is the normal Christian life, and even more so it is what all human existence is supposed to be. It is the foundation of eternal life, resurrection, meaning, and hope. It is the outworking of God’s redemptive plan to save the world. The incarnation is the central miracle of Christianity (C.S.Lewis). By the incarnation God rescued all of creation. Union with Christ is the continuation of incarnation. It is what allows God to continue to be our familiar, everyday God, who still bears our sorrows in OUR bodies.

Is your Christian experience void of union with Christ? are you just chasing behavior change? Is Jesus only an example to you? Well, we hope to change all that over the next months. Won’t you stay with me as we dive into Paul’s union with Christ theology, and discover how it can bring the greatest of all joys, peace, and love into your heart?

Song of Songs 2:16. My beloved is mine and I am his.

March 22: Faith In Christ’s Indwelling Life Becomes Our New Instinct.

Faith is the habit of the soul. Over time, learning to trust in your union with Christ can be your new natural instinct; an almost effortless spiritual impulse that is not even aware of its own existence. Faith becomes our natural response to all situations. Faith opens up our spiritual eyes and perceptions.

This is not faith that manipulates God into doing something (ie: If I believe God will make it happen, then God will make it happen).

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Rather, look at how Paul describes the life of faith in Galatians 2:20.

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, I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Faith allows us to depend completely on God while obeying God completely. Faith is the link between the Holy spirit and our souls. It is what keeps God from violating your humanity– He won’t control you to get what He wants. Instead he created us to respond to all of life instinctually by this faith.

scared get out GIF by Get Out Movie

In salvation, we choose to let his life indwell ours, and therefore we begin to live from his life and love. But this life of faith in the life and love of Christ continues for us, as each day we still live from the same dependency and connection that Jesus himself lived from.

Hebrews 11:6. Without faith it is impossible to please God.

What satisfies God is seeing you walk by faith in your union with Christ in every situation of life, recognizing your dependence upon Him, and resting in Him, while obeying Him.