“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” Gal 2:20-21 NLT
Galatians 2:20 has become one of my favorite verses. I like to tell myself this verse over and over. I memorized it back in college, but I wasn’t grasping its truth. I limited it. I thought it was just about our sin nature. But it is so much more than that.
Here is what The Bible Knowledge Commentary has to say about this verse. Paul could therefore write, I have been, “crucified with Christ” (lit., “I have been and am now crucified with Christ”). This brought death to the Law. It also brought a change in regard to one’s self: and I no longer live. The self-righteous, self-centered Saul died. Further, the death with Christ ended Paul’s enthronement of self; he yielded the throne of his life to Another, to Christ. But it was not in his own strength that Paul was able to live the Christian life; the living Christ himself took up his abode in Paul’s heart: Christ lives in me. Yet Christ does not operate automatically in a believer’s life; it is a matter of living the new life by faith in the Son of God. It is then faith and not works or legal obedience that releases divine power to live a Christian life. This faith, stated by Paul, builds on the sacrifice of Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us. In essence Paul affirmed, “If He loved me enough to give Himself for me, then He loves me enough to live out His life in me.”
Wow that is a lot to take in, but let’s break it down. First, when I become a believer I am united with Christ according to Romans 6:3,4 “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him is his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (NLT) It is hard to grasp this concept, but from God’s perspective I am completely united with his Son. So when Jesus died on the cross, I did too. When Jesus rose again, I did too. I rose to a new life, not just free from my old sin nature, but with Christ’s presence in me. I can’t be separated from him now. When God sees me, he see Jesus. That alone is amazing!
In the past, I thought God looked at me alone. I knew Jesus stood in my place so I could go to heaven, but then I was left to myself. Therefore, my performance became a big deal in my mind. I needed to please God with my obedience and my good works. I would get anxious sometimes thinking I wasn’t doing enough for God. I wasn’t sharing the gospel enough, or helping others or being a good wife and mother, etc. I mentioned in my first post, I began to load up bags of guilt and carried them around. Unconsciously, my Christian walk became a burden. I didn’t always sense the burden, but it was lying there quietly underneath. Satan would periodically point it out to me. I would hear a sermon on doing this or that for God and I would feel guilty because I wasn’t doing this or that.
When I experienced my first symptoms of fibromyalgia in 1999, I was thrown into a tail spin. I couldn’t perform any longer at the same pace. I had always felt good about myself because I was able to get a lot done. I felt I had to be a super Mom and Christian woman. The more I could get done in a day the better. The more I was involved at church the better. I had a hard time saying no. Can you say over-committed? My fibromyalgia suddenly brought all of that to a halt. I remember lying in bed exhausted and crying because I couldn’t clean my house without experiencing pain and tiredness. I had to say no more than I wanted to. I felt worthless.
Then the guilt would set in because I couldn’t get things done. I would worry about what my husband would think when he came home from work and I hadn’t done anything around the house. Not that he ever said anything. But my biggest worry was what did God think of me now? Did he understand or did he think I should just push myself harder? I had to cut back on serving at church and doing Bible Study. Was he displeased with me?
So you can see how my lack of understanding about my union with Christ led to guilt and shame. That is totally contrary to what the gospel message proclaims. The gospel is supposed to take away my guilt and shame. I thought it had. I knew the truth of that statement. But I kept looking at it in regard to sin only. I had forgiveness and I was set free from the power of sin. But not grasping the truth of Romans 6:3,4 kept me locked in guilt and shame (feeling worthless) even though I wasn’t sinning. I just wasn’t able to perform.
Once I grasped the truth that God sees Jesus who lived a perfect life when he looks at me; I was set free from trying to earn God’s favor. I realize now God doesn’t want my performance. He wants my undivided devotion. He wants my determined dependence on him. He wants my undying faith in his promises. It has been so wonderful to unload those heavy bags of guilt and shame off my back. Several years back, God showed me a glimpse of my walk with him. I was walking up a hill bent over with the weight of those bags on my back and barely making it. Now I have a new picture. I am dancing in a field of wild flowers, twirling round and round with my hands lifted high. If I look closely enough, I almost see his smile on my face and his nail scars on my wrists as I dance with joy before the Father. I hope that you are dancing with Jesus. If not, let him lift those heavy bags of guilt and shame off your back.
Next time, we will discuss more truths from this passage, but for now I think that is enough. Please feel free to comment! Catch you on Thursday!