Does everything in your life shout from the rooftops that you are a crucified believer in Christ? Do your choices reflect a life of complete surrender? This is not meant to be a condemnatory question, but perhaps a wake-up call to an American church that is ridden with scandal, conflict, confusion, anger, and doubt. The answer is that if we peel away all other factors, all traditions and ‘good ideas’ and fix our eyes squarely upon Jesus, our faith will be strong, our lives will reflect his glory, and our decisions will make little sense to those who are not in the faith.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20
This beautiful verse is among the most popular in the New Testament, but do we fully accept it? This verse lays out the groundwork of self-denial, faith, and trust in the saving work of Christ alone. As Christians, we proclaim that we are crucified with Christ and that Jesus is alive in us, and this is theologically accurate. The question is not whether it is true, but whether it is represented in how we actually live.
The Catastrophe of Comfort
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. - James 1:22
As American Christians, we live in a comfortable society. Most of us have a place to live, a church to attend, money for groceries, time for leisure, and are not in fear that we may be dragged out and fed to lions or murdered in the streets because of our faith. We have it pretty good. Or do we? Comfort in and of itself is not a bad thing. Yet the earliest believers were constantly at odds with everyone around them, not because they believed in Jesus, but because they believed only in Jesus. The Roman world was filled with many gods and they were all legal. Believing in your own god was not an issue. The issue was that one had to also state that whatever god you followed, Caesar was also a god and worthy of worship and sacrifice. As believers, they found this to be impossible, and so many were persecuted and killed.
For many Christians around the world, this continues to be the case. Many know that at any moment they could be called to lose all they have for their faith. They put their families, their jobs, their possessions, and their very lives in jeopardy by being believers. I do not live like that. I live expecting to do what I want, go where I want, say what I want, and be fully protected by the laws of the land. Which is, honestly, a pretty comfortable way to live. So, do I wish that I could be persecuted more? No. I like the idea of not being persecuted. What I want for myself is to live in such a way that doing whatever I want lines up exactly with what a life of faith looks like. That if the time came where choosing faith meant giving up everything else, up to and including my freedom and my very life, I would have no issues choosing faith because I already I “consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
Take Up Your Cross, and Die to Live
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. - Matthew 16:24
Jesus is setting up a strong requirement for his disciples. He does not tell them to ‘go to church.’ He does not tell them to follow a ritual, do some nice things sometimes, or to make sure you watch a Christian movie every now and then in-between worldly movies. When Jesus tells his disciples that they need to take up their cross, he is telling them that they must be willing to die for his sake. Many of them did.
As a disciple of Jesus, our wants and passions that exist outside of Christ must die. The sinful nature within us must be crucified. This does not mean that we lose our personality, interests, skills, and give up doing anything enjoyable. What it means is that the entire focus of our life is shifted and pointed in a different direction. Like a fish swimming upstream, we go against the flow of culture, not because we are ‘anti-culture, but because our eyes are fixed elsewhere, and we are chasing after something else. As culture chases the next social trend, the next thing that will maybe give them a few minutes of happiness, we are chasing after a cross and the joy and peace that comes only from knowing Christ. We find eternal comfort, peace, and joy there and there alone, no matter what our external circumstances may be. This is why Paul was able to say that he had learned to be content in all circumstances.
Is This What Jesus Really Meant?
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. - Matthew 16:25
Jesus often spoke in parables and gave metaphors and stories to describe what it means to live a life of faith. One example is when he told Nicodemus that he ‘must be born again’, or when he talked about people having planks in their eyes. These were clearly metaphors that represented a larger point. Yet in this instance, what Jesus said in verse 24 is confirmed by what he says in verse 25. We can only find our life when we lose it. We are called to daily surrender anything that is not honoring to God. So that we may become more like Jesus.
When we are crucified with Christ, it appears in our decisions, in our relationships, in how we interact at work and at home, how we lead our friends and family. It appears in how we rejoice, how we mourn, how we celebrate, and how we relax. Daily time in prayer and in the Word and requesting that God make us more like him go a long way toward living a life that is truly crucified with Christ, and will bring us more joy than we can imagine.
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Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.