Saturday, May 28, 2011

Crucified with Christ

I have two tattoos.  I may get more.  I wanted each of them to be something I wanted permanently etched on my body, something I am not ashamed of, something that signifies things that will endure long after the skin it is inked on is turned to dust.

For my first tattoo, I was unsure what exactly I wanted.  Then the phrase struck me, "Crucified with Christ."  It comes from Galatians 2:20.  That and the verse that follows are two of my favorite verses, and favorite truths, in all of Scripture.  It was my prayer that I would understand more deeply what it meant to be "crucified with Christ" more and more as I grew and aged.

Immediately after that, I fell into probably the hardest time of my life.  I remember thinking to myself, "Is this what it means?  It means that I suffer with Christ in this world, overcoming with Him and like Him and by Him through my own 'death' to self and to this world?"  There is truth to that, but I don't think that is what it means.

I think it means this.  When I look at all of my efforts, all of my supposed "goodness," all of the things I muster up to try and say, "I'm doing a good job," all of my failures, all of my weaknesses, all of my sins, and even all of my strengths -basically everything that is "me"- and I add it all up, I am as good as dead.  I fall short no matter what angle I look at it.  I'm condemnable, spiritually dead, poor, hopeless before God, alienated from Him, lost, ignorant, foolish, and unable.

But with Christ, through my union with Him in my spiritual poverty, that me is dead with Him.  It was nailed to the cross because He was nailed to the cross.  His sacrifice, His crucifixion and all the justifying, sin-covering power of it, becomes mine as that "me" died there.  Good as dead, condemned, and now dead and buried.  But now the life of the risen Christ lives in me.  His resurrection power brings new life in me.

I really appreciate the way the author of the Gospel Coalition tract, "What is the Gospel?", puts it:

"After he concludes that no amount of doing good can justify a person before a holy God, the apostle Paul adds, 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live" (Gal 2:20).  As horrible as these words sound, they are the obvious conclusion of what it means to stand before God on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice rather than our saintliness.  What he did rather than what we do is our hope."  (Gospel Coalition tract, "What is the Gospel", page 17 in the nook edition).

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