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 in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Paul, Galatians 2:20
Paul speaks of being crucified with Christ. This happens when we identify with the death of Jesus in baptism. We learn this from Romans 6:3, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? But there’s more than that. In baptism, not only do we identify with the death of Jesus; we also identify with His resurrected life. Life in the flesh is now lived by faith — trusting in Jesus, the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you. Life on the other side of baptism is the life of a new creation. It is a cross-shaped life — lived sacrificially to the point that it’s no longer you or me but Jesus who is living in us.
Does Jesus live in you?
All of this is Paul’s way of expanding on what Jesus originally said: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.
A couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a church in another town. They put us up in a hotel on Saturday night and the lady behind the counter who was checking us in asked, “Are you here on business?” I said, “Well, I guess you could say that. I’m a preacher and I’m going to be preaching at so-and-so church tomorrow. You ought to come and join us.” And she said, “Well, I might do that. What are you going to be talking about?” Well, they had assigned me some verses out of 1 Corinthians where Paul talks about the power of the cross, so I said, “I’ll be talking about the cross.” And she laughed and said, “Well, that ought to be easy!”
And she’s right. It is so easy to talk about the cross — especially on a Sunday morning in church with good people. Talking about the cross is pretty easy because there are plenty of verses to read and study. We’ve spent several months working through some of those verses here on my blog. But it’s so much more difficult to do what Jesus tells us to do — to live out the cross. To deny ourselves and to follow Him.
But that’s the ultimate aim of all this “cross talk.” We’re not simply talking about the cross as some kind of abstract “atonement theory.” All of this talk about the cross is supposed to change the way we live. Jesus says the cross is to be a daily part of your life. Take up your cross daily. That makes the cross the most practical thing in the world.
What does this look like in the flesh? There are so many examples:
- It looks like driving a friend to their chemo treatment.
- It looks like doing the hard work of apologizing to someone when you know you’re in the wrong.
- It looks like bringing your tools over to your neighbor’s house to help him with a project.
- It looks like embracing a member of the homeless community at 2820 or a soup kitchen.
- It looks like bearing the fruit of the Spirit while driving — driving with a spirit of patience, kindness, and self-control.
- It looks like parenting — basically everything a good parent does for a child from providing for them to feeding them and changing their diapers when they’re little to disciplining and mentoring them as they grow older. Parenting a child is one of the most selfless, sacrificial things anyone can ever do.
- It looks like the caregiver who is by the bedside all hours of the night, sleeping in a chair just in case their loved one needs something.
- It looks like friendship — being there when your friend receives the worst news of her life.
- It looks like taking your whole family on a mission trip or to serve across town.
- It looks like a simple text message checking in on your friend who is dealing with depression and anxiety.
- It looks like a group of Christians who give financially and come together to assemble buckets to help people of Ukraine.
- It looks like inviting a friend to come to church or join you for Bible study.
You could probably think of dozens of other ways to take up your cross daily — because many of you are doing this already. And that’s the point. The cross is the most practical thing in the world because Jesus calls us to live cross-shaped lives.
And the greatest example of this is Jesus, the One we remember and call our Lord and Savior.