Are You Crucified With Christ, Or Simply Living On Death Row?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

man behind bars

Paul demonstrates through his own life a model that we are to follow and emulate as followers of Christ. That model is living the crucified life. In Galatians 2:20 he says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." To be followers of Christ requires more than merely believing in him and accepting by faith his sacrifice on the cross for our sins. It requires that we do for him what he did for us--lay our lives down for him. Jesus calls us to live the crucified life in Matthew 10:38-39: "And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." This is the paradox of the Christian faith--if you want to live, you have to die. There is no other way.

Modern-day Christianity has become a quest to find out how close we can come to death without actually dying. We are willing to give up anything and everything except ourselves. This is what I call Death Row Christianity. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there are currently 3,108 inmates on death row in the U.S. awaiting execution. Death row inmates in the U.S. typically spend over a decade awaiting execution. Some prisoners have been on death row for well over 20 years. The average time between sentencing and execution is 14.8 years. That is a long time to live mere steps away from death. I wonder how one can live day after day for over 14 years like that--a dead man living.

Many Christians today are content to merely live on death row. They know they have to die eventually, but are content to live in the confinement of a jail cell of the ways of the flesh, frantically trying to find another way out, hoping to escape death. They wait in vain for a stay of execution to grant them parole for good behavior. It doesn't work that way with God. There is no death row in his justice system. There is no system of appeals, no parole or stay of execution. To follow Christ requires immediate death. We cannot live if we want him to live in us. Only one of us can live. It is either him or us. Paul stated, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." I saw a man crossing a busy intersection a few weeks ago carrying a very large and obviously heavy wooden cross. He looked like he hadn't eaten in several days and certainly hadn't showered either. I watched people in the cars next to me look on in bewilderment, wondering what in the world this man was doing. How many of us are content to merely carry our cross around yet refuse to ever actually die on it? A cross is meaningless unless someone dies on it. They are not meant to be carried around. That is not what Christ calls us to.

Someone asked me recently what it meant to die for Christ. We are obviously not called to literally die in the physical sense. That is what Jesus did in our place on the cross so we wouldn't have to. It simply means that from this day forward, I choose to forever stop living for myself and start living for Him. I choose to give up what I want and live exclusively for what He wants. It means I must lay down my will, my desires, my agenda, my pride and everything in between. It means that I must willingly crawl up on my cross and stay there. I can't come and go. Once we lay down and die we cannot get up. It is a daily process of dying, of putting to death the deeds of our flesh. That old self is like Michael Myers from the movie Halloween. Every time someone kills him, he gets back up. He just won't die. The same is true for us. We crucify our flesh only to find it stalking us the next day so we have to kill it again. It is a daily process of dying to self so that Christ can live in us.

Who are you living for today? If you are living for yourself then you are settling for life on death row. Don't be a Death Row Christian. That is not real life. If you want to live for Christ, you have to die for him first. There is no other way but this way. The only way to find life is to lose it.

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