The Crucifixion of Me

The Crucifixion of Me

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

How many of us can say this? This is Christianity. We must crucify our life so that Christ can live in us by the Holy Spirit. If we are not living faithfully in Christ, then we are living our own life and religion. Our religion will not get us into Heaven even if we call it “Christianity”.

If we do not crucify ourselves, Jesus is not in control. And He is not our Lord nor our Savior.

Jesus asked in Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Our survival instincts recoil at the crucifixion of me. We want salvation without a cross. When we are encouraged to crucify ourselves so that Jesus can live through us, we reject the message because we are scared to die to self, to yield to the Holy Spirit, and give Him control. Our fear of not being in control causes us to reject Jesus as Lord. We prefer a religion, where we are fans of Jesus. He can be our savior, but we remain lord of our lives!

However, our lordship often has disastrous results. Most of our problems are the result of our lordship and we end up broken. Yet, there is hope in brokenness. Whether it is in a prison cell from breaking the law, homeless from a broken home, a broken relationship, a moral break-down, broke-down health, a broken spirit from the loss of a job or a loved one, or brokenness from being our own god—at the point of brokenness, God offers us Himself and real life has an opportunity to begin. It usually doesn’t feel that way, though. In fact, it never feels that way. It seems like your life is over. But in God’s kingdom, it’s the place where eternal life begins. When you become broken and you are ready to cease being your own lord, you are in a position to begin experiencing real life that is found in Jesus Christ.

We see it over and over again in the Gospels. When anyone encounters Jesus, the things they think are most important are challenged. And if they are ready to really begin living, they have to lose those things, their life, and take up a cross of crucifixion.

Mark 8:34-35 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he [Jesus] said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Jesus turns what we think about life around. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus starts His most famous sermon with statements called The Beatitudes. They each start with a blessing that we don’t normally consider blessings.

Matthew 5:3-12 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

These Beatitudes give us a glimpse into some of the core values of Jesus’ kingdom and they all have to do with the crucifixion of me. The first thing Jesus says is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This statement seems flat out wrong and foolish. To give the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are poor in spirit doesn’t seem logical to us. The poor in spirit would be those who seem like they don’t have anything to offer, don’t have any major influence, and don’t have anything worth noticing. These are people are broken and helpless. A paraphrase version of the Bible put it this way: “Blessed are you when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule in your life.”

When Jesus calls us to pick up a cross, He offers life from Himself. Anything we give up in our life, to gain more of Christ and His Kingdom, will result in something far better than anything we had before. However, we won’t realize this truth until we do it.

Only those willing to give up their life can be born again of the Spirit and enter His Kingdom. Jesus takes broken people, people at the end of their rope, and gives them a new life when they die to this life. The Holy Spirit transforms them into the image of Jesus. It is a life-long process that progresses as long as we continue to pick up our cross and follow Him.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:9-13, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Before Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, they had time consider what He was all about, ask their questions, and begin hearing His teaching. But at some point, Jesus called them to leave their jobs, their families, and their reputations to follow Him. It was their choice. They could follow Jesus or they could follow their own life plan. The result:

John 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

In order to follow Jesus, the disciples had to come to the end of themselves—to let go of pride, familiarity, relationships, careers, dreams—and learn to trust Jesus for everything. Then the process of transformation began. As the disciples followed Jesus, they continued to confront things in themselves that needed to die. They literally came to the end of one identity and the beginning of another. When Jesus officially changed Simon’s name to Peter and began calling him by that name all the time, it was the outward reflection of the change Jesus was making in Peter all along.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The disciples eventually became the people through whom the Church was founded, because they crucified themselves, and the power of God, the Holy Spirit, took over. They gave up their lives to gain the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth and for eternity.

After Jesus ascends into Heaven and the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, life takes another scary, painful turn when persecution begins. Since they are like Jesus, they get treated like Him, but they find it is a blessing, just like Jesus said in the Beatitudes. In those moments when life is hard, painful, unjust, and we are following Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us, comforts us, and shows us that true blessings in life come from trusting and obeying Him.

When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”, the disciples didn’t know what He was saying at the time. Mourning is not a blessing. Mourning is suffering, it’s loss, it’s pain, it’s regret, it’s tears. We can lose our health, loved ones, or a job. Those things aren’t minor. So how is mourning a blessing?

It becomes true when we crucify ourselves, our desires, and earnestly seek God. God will show up in the midst of our mourning and give us what we truly need—His presence. That presence becomes more precious to us than anything else in the world, and we are comforted. Through the experience, we learn to rely on Him and not on ourselves nor what is happening to us. What we’ll find in time—when we’re willing to trust Him—is that God’s plan for us is far better than the plan we had in mind.

Sometimes what causes us to mourn is our sin. King David mourned over his sin after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. We also see the Prodigal Son, in Jesus’ famous parable, return to his father in a state of mourning and repentance over his sin.

Mourning is the appropriate response to sin, and it prepares us to receive God’s grace because pride has been torn down. When we crucify our pride, God will forgive and restore us.

Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. But, before we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must be emptied of “me”. If we are full of ourselves, we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit. Being emptied of ourselves happens one of two ways: Either we get emptied, or we choose to empty ourselves. When we are empty, there can be a filling by God. God desires to fill us up, change our life, and send us out for the purpose He created us.

For example, Saul was a prominent Jew who was systematically destroying Christians. He was doing everything in his power to stop this new faith in Jesus. Little did he know that, one day, while he was on his way to continue his brutal work, he would meet Jesus.

Acts 9:1-9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Your encounter with Jesus may not be as dramatic as Saul’s, but at some point, you will come face to face with Jesus—whether you literally see and hear Him or not. However you encounter Him, an encounter with Jesus is the beginning of the “crucifixion of me”. You must decide to either die to your life and receive real life, or to continue to walk in darkness, being your own lord, and end in eternal death?

Notice what Saul, who changed his name to Paul, said later, Philippians 3:8-9 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

After he encountered Jesus, Paul had a change of perspective. All the things that used to fill him up were rubbish compared to being filled with Jesus.

However, this message is not about Paul nor the disciples. It is about you and me. What are the things that fill you? What are the things you’re the most proud of? What are the things that compete with Jesus for your attention, time, energy, and affection?

Sacrificing that rubbish is crucial if you want God to fill you with His presence and power, the Holy Spirit, who will give you a new perspective and a new purpose.

Jesus is offering to fill us with living water that will refresh, restore, revive, and redeem us. Don’t settle for a cheap substitute. The statement we often hear, “Make a decision for Jesus,” places the emphasis on something our Lord never requested. He never asks us to decide for Him, to become a fan of His, but to follow Him—something very different. To follow Jesus requires a crucifixion of me, my way, my rights, and my lordship. A crucifixion of me begins by following Jesus in baptism. Notice I said it “begins”, not ends, with baptism.

I cannot enter His kingdom by virtue of my righteousness—I can only enter it as an absolute pauper, broken, and poor in spirit. The crucifixion of me requires a sense of unworthiness and helplessness. Until that moment comes, I will never know what being filled with the Holy Spirit means.

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

When I realize that I am absolutely helpless, that I am really poor in spirit, and that I am totally sinful, that I have nothing to offer Jesus, that is when I realize I need His grace to believe, repent, and obey. I need His life, His Holy Spirit, and His lordship, and I am willing to crucify my life to gain His life.

Do you realize this, or do you compare yourself to other “Christians” and consider yourself to be pretty good? Do you think you have something to offer Jesus—some talent or money? Do you feel you have a right to some things in this life? Jesus cannot come and do His work in you as long as you attempt some independence and control of anything, whether it is something good or bad. The reason God, the Holy Spirit, cannot fill you is that you are still full of me!

The baptism of the Holy Spirit—that is God coming into our life—is not a one-time experience, but a continual filling performed by Jesus Christ as we continually deny self and follow Him obediently—seeking Him with our whole heart, will, mind, and strength.

John the Baptist realized this. He had a popular ministry and a big following. But he did not tell people to follow him, but to follow the One who would come after him, Jesus Christ. John the Baptist said, John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

That is true for each of us. Jesus must increase in us and we must decrease until we can say as Paul said, again in Galatians 2:20 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.

 

Some of you are aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. He is convicting you and you are more aware of your sinfulness. You repent often. You are more aware of the sin around you and it causes you to pray for others. You weep more easily for joy and over the comfort of His Word. You wonder if you are losing your mind, but you are just experiencing the crucifixion of me and experiencing more of Jesus through His presence, His Spirit, His Word, and His love.

Some of you are battling demons of addiction, anger, lust, pride, gluttony, and fear that have had their way with you until now. You ask God to take it away, but He offers you His grace instead. As you turn from the demonic temptations and focus on Jesus and His Word, you are finding that His grace is sufficient and perfect in your weakness. As you crucify yourself, denying the temptation, the power of Jesus rests upon you and defeats the demons. Paul experienced this, too.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Some of you are not sure what is going on, but you sense there must be more to life than what you have experienced. You are weary of being your own lord. Jesus is saying to you, “Come unto me, you who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Come, seek me with all your heart, and follow me. Have an intimate relationship with me instead of a lukewarm religion.”

The choice is ours to make. Will we pick up a cross daily, upon which to die, and follow Jesus, or will we try to save our life and determine our own way? Will we deny self or deny Jesus?

2 Timothy 2:11-13 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful.

When we get to the “crucifixion of me”, where we can do nothing, Jesus does everything and fills us with Himself. Therefore, give up your life and control. Ask Jesus to take control and live through you. Seek Him with all your heart. Begin following Jesus, by making a public confession of your faith in Him and submit to a death of me in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit and then you will experience real life.