I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 KJV)
This is a case where the King James Version really got it right. The life found in Christ is also sustained by the faith of Jesus in the believer. It is not a self-sustaining life, rather a Jesus-dependent life. His faith, his hope, his love imparted to us, are moving us closer to being more like him.
Compared to our lives, Paul’s life seems spectacular. Yet Paul eagerly wants us to know that Jesus is just as real to us as he was to him.
It was Jesus who found Saul and transformed him into Paul, who became the prolific apostle. Let me suggest it is always Jesus who finds us. It his goodness and kindness that leads us to repentance, not human-engineered goodness (Romans 2:4).
It is important to note that Paul never forgot where he came from and what his former life was like.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Paul saw himself as the chief of all sinners. In this personal letter to Timothy, he is assuring Timothy that the focused purpose of Jesus is to save sinners (all of us). And, if Paul himself could be saved, everybody else is salvageable too. This brings us back to the “Not I, but Christ theme.”
As I continue to read through Paul’s writings, I am continually reminded just how Christ-centric Paul is. Consider how many times Paul uses the phrase, “in Christ.”
Being in Christ may seem like something beyond our physical comprehension. The Bible speaks to this concept in several descriptive ways. Jesus tells Nicodemus you must be born again (John 3:3, 5). Paul speaks to becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Then in his letter to the Ephesians he talks about being redeemed and adopted as sons and daughters.
When Christ saves us, by the Spirit, he places us within his own sphere and joins us to him. We belong to him. As the praise song says, “I am yours, and you are mine.” There is a closeness and a union that is not fragile nor dependent on our daily emotions or good works. We are united with him because of him. We are “in Christ.” Hallelujah!
During this month when we show our appreciation to our pastors, it is fitting to conclude with Paul’s words, “Follow me, as I follow Jesus.” And it is his good pleasure to be doing his good work in us. This gives assurance beyond assurance.
Lord, be with the pastors around the world. Give them peace, resting on the truth that Christ is alive in us. Bless them with wisdom and discernment as they follow you, Jesus. In your strong name, you are our assurance. Amen!