Archive for the ‘Galatians 2:15-21’ Category

Crucified With Christ!

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“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.” [Gal. 2:20]

These Words from our text are perhaps the best news you could ever hear.  They’re the Words you were first given in your baptism, and they are the Word’s you hear each time you listen to the Holy Absolution… You are forgiven!  Another way to say this is that these words are God’s reset button in your life.  When I bought my first computerized phone I accidentally downloaded a virus.  The phone completely shut down.  I thought I had fried it, and I didn’t even have insurance.  I took it to the store where I had just purchased it and the tech fooled around with it for a while.  He scratched his head and then stuck a pen in a small hole in the side of the phone he called the reset button.  In a few moments the screen began to twinkle and then “ta-dah” it was working again!  “Oh I’m sorry to have to tell you this” he said, “but you lost all of the data on your phone.  You’ll have to reload all of your programs.  Just try not to load the virus again!”

In our Epistle lesson this morning, St. Paul is showing us so to speak where our spiritual reset button is.  We’ve been crucified with Christ!  It’s no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you.  And oh yes, you know the life you are now living in this fleshy body?  Well you are actually living it by faith in the Son of God… Jesus Christ, who proved that He loves you by giving Himself for you in death; death upon the cross!

St. Paul first communicated this message in order to fix false doctrine, from a false teacher.  And who do you think that false teacher was?  It was St. Peter!  I know that may come as a shock to some of you but it is true.  You see Paul and Peter were in a Greek city named Antioch, and they were ministering to a group of non-Jewish Christians.  They ate with them, worked with them they… lived with them as one of them!  No big deal you say?  Well for Jew it was a huge deal.  They were taught since childhood to avoid all contact with anyone who was not a Jew.  But God had continuously revealed to both of them that there was now NO separation between Jew or gentile.  He revealed that they were all under a new Law, the Law of Grace!

So what happened?  Well it seems some of the Jewish Christians came down from Jerusalem to pay Paul and Peter a little visit (that’s code for… they came to spy)!  They came to kill the freedom that this little church had in Christ Jesus, and they intended to do it with the law!  When they saw Peter and Paul living like and with the Greek gentiles they immediately communicated their disdain.  Well that was enough to intimidate Peter.  He immediately separated himself from his Greek brothers and sisters, and began following the Jewish customs again; customs that were supposed to keep him ceremonially clean and separated from sinners.

Paul immediately went into action and rebuked Peter to his face and in front of the other hypocrites.  Well, Peter repented of this false teaching, because he stood condemned (vs. 11), and so he did what any true Christian would do; he turned away from his sin of false doctrin and turned to Christ and His grace!  What did Paul say to Peter?  He reminded him of the most important doctrinal principle ever spoken.  In Christ we are saved by grace alone.  We are justified solely on account of what Jesus has done for us and not what we do for Him!  We have been crucified with Christ!  Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Paul confronted Peter and pushed his spiritual reset button!

Like Peter, we too must be reminded that we can never be pronounced righteous and holy by God because we are trying to follow His law.  Oh we try; we do our best to live a good life and then we tell ourselves that because we’re trying, and because were better than most people, that should count for something in God’s eyes.  But it doesn’t!  It doesn’t gain us any favor with God.  No matter how many good things we try to do, we will always discover within God’s law and our own hearts that it is never enough.   The only way we can ever find peace with God is to fall into His loving arms which are only opened by means of faith in Jesus Christ!  If you come before the judgment seat of God with Jesus Christ, God the Father immediately pronounces you holy and righteous.

“Ah hah” you say!  “I see; I must have faith!”  Yes, but not just any faith.  You can’t simply have faith in your desire to please God by doing good things, as we learned, that will get you nowhere.  Instead, you must have faith in Jesus Christ alone!  Think of faith as a drinking cup.  If I am dying of thirst and you offer me an ice cold cup of bleach, not only will it not satisfy my thirst, it will kill me!  But if there is water in the cup, you would be saving my life! You see, it is the content of faith that justifies and saves us, and never faith alone.  It is Jesus in the faith that saves you and never faith without Him.  So you see, faith in Jesus is the opposite of all good deeds and kind acts.  Good works and faith, in regards to salvation excluded each other.  To be justified… to be saved because of faith in Christ is the complete opposite of being saved because of your good deeds.  In regards to your salvation, the two can never be mixed!

“But what about doing good and not evil?  Are you saying there is no place for that?”  No, not until you’ve been crucified with Christ!  When Paul said that He was crucified with Christ, he was speaking a spiritual reality that each one of us must live out.  What Paul is saying is that you must see yourself as being crucified together with Jesus.  “But how can that be?  Jesus was crucified long ago!”  Yes that’s true, but the amount of time that’s passed is immaterial.  But there is a difference as you suspected.  You see, Christ’s crucifixion was done as a physical sacrifice for you; Paul’s crucifixion and ours if we will live it out is spiritual.  And in this spiritual crucifixion we were allowed to escape the judgment that comes through God’s Holy law and our own sin.  This is the reality, no; this is the gift that God has given to the whole world.  Of course, the next step is to have faith in this crucifixion and enter into a joint life with Jesus. [Romans 6:4]  The ability to do this was given to you in your baptism.  There you were given the living waters of Jesus Christ as the object of your faith.  There in your baptism you were crucified and buried with Him.  You have been crucified with Christ!  You must be crucified with Christ friends, it’s the only way you can escape the punishment of death that your sinful flesh deserves.  If you are crucified in Christ then simply put, you die to the condemnation of God’s Holy law.  You see, your death is the only means of escaping judgment.  If you refuse to die to your old sinful self, then I am afraid that the law will grab you by the throat and destroy you.

But now comes the good news.  You may have died with Christ.  Your old sinful flesh may no longer be alive in the eyes of God, but Christ lives within you.  And the life you are now free to live in the flesh, you are living by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you!  Do you hear this wonderful Word of life?  Do you see what a gift God has given you?  Christ lives in you so that your mind and heart will always respond to Him in your thoughts, words, and actions.  Now you can now do the good that you want to do,  because the work that your heart is leading you to do isn’t interested in saving your own skin, but to please God because you love Him who first loved you!

Dear friends, if your mind is focused on this world and the hunger of your dead sinful flesh then you are choosing to live a life that is hostile to God.  You see, your flesh will never submit  to God’s will or be able to please Him.  But for each one of us who are living for God by faith in Jesus Christ; to each one of us who have faith in the name of Jesus, we have been given the power to become children of God; children who are not born of flesh or of the will of man, but of God! [Jn. 3: 14-16]  Because we see Christ crucified for us; because you see Him high and lifted up for you, God promises that you will not perish but instead you will have eternal life!

If you will hold onto this most important truth of Christianity, the truth that assures you that you are saved by faith in Christ alone, then your relationship with God will remain pure and your salvation sure.  So in times of trouble, when the law and your conscience whispers and accuses you of being outside of God’s love because of your sin, simply answer: So what!  I admit that I am a sinner.  What’s that to me?  Point out my sin all you like!  I admit that I’ve committed so many sins that I can’t even count them.  I also admit that I will most certainly sin again.  That does not affect me at all!  I can’t hear you, so there’s no point in accusing me, because I have died to you.  But if you insist on bothering me about my sins, then go talk to my flesh.  Talk to my hands, feet, and body; teach them to be afraid; hound them and crucify them.  But you can never trouble my spirit, because you see I have died to you, and now I am alive in Christ Jesus.  Friends, let’s never leave God’s gift of grace and go back to the law, because if righteousness came through the law, then Christ died for no purpose!  Instead let’s remember that we’re saved by grace alone and faith in Jesus Christ who has allowed us to be crucified with Him!  In Jesus name… AMEN!