By WALTER ALBRITTON
When the Apostle Paul said he had been “crucified with Christ,” he did not mean that he had died on a cross. It was his way of explaining that he understood the paradoxical words of Jesus in Luke 9:23-24 — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
So, Paul could share with his friends in Galatia, “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). He used the phrase “crucified with Christ” to symbolize his death to himself. Paul had “died” to the law and the ways of the world so he could live for Christ. He had become by faith a “new” man.
Authentic discipleship is only possible through this death that leads to life. Paul David Tripp explains that “coming to Jesus” is not a negotiation, an agreement or a contract. It is, he says, “a death — your death. He died so that you may live. Now he asks you to lose your life so that you may find life in him.” In his book, “New Morning Mercies,” Tripp helps us understand what Jesus means by asking us to die:
“Jesus is giving you eternal life the only way it can be given. He has to call you to die because you are in the way of you having life. It is our pride, our rebellion, our independence, our foolishness, and our denial that stand in the way of his offer of life. We tell ourselves that we are okay. We act as if we are smarter than God. We like our little kingdoms more than we love his. We think our rules are better than his. We tell ourselves that present pleasure is better than eternal gain. If someone doesn’t rescue us from our delusions about our lives, we will lose our lives. Yes, we must die if we are ever going to live.”
Tripp’s entire book is about God’s grace; he constantly reminds us of the truth proclaimed by Paul, that “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). To drive home his point that death really is the portal to life, Tripp writes: “So grace is out to kill us. But in presiding over our deaths, grace gives us life — real, abundant, and eternal life. Don’t fight the death of your old life; instead, celebrate the new life that is yours by grace and grace alone. And remember that your Savior will continue to call you to die; it is the way of life.”
So, if you have not done so, this is a funeral for yourself that you can plan and celebrate before your body dies — and it is truly the gate to real life, in Christ!