NO LONGER I (GALATIANS 2:20)
A most incredible story appeared in New York Times. Every working day for the past 20 years in the city of Chandigarh, India, government employees have been sitting on the same battered wooden chair, an object, a civil engineer admits, that had “no beauty,” but “for office use, very comfortable.” The chairs were each worth an estimated 400 rupees, or about $10, at a junkyard. Few of the city’s employees gave the furniture a second glance. Gradually, as the furniture fell into disrepair, it was thrown into government storerooms and occasionally auctioned “for peanuts.”
One day in 1999, a handful of antique dealers from around the world became regular visitors to the government junkyards in this city about 150 miles north of New Delhi, a modernist city conceived by the architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. There they go about the business of buying up disused stocks of furniture.
Rajnish Wattas, principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, was stunned when he saw the catalog for a sale of the chairs at Christie’s in New York, on sale at the auction house for $8,000 to $12,000 – 1,000 times its worth. The city woke up to the knowledge that the chairs were specially designed by famed designer Pierre Jeanneret and created by Corbusier’s colleagues. “We found out that we were sitting on a pot of gold, quite literally.” (“A City That Sat on Its Treasures, but Didn’t See Them,” New York Times, 3/19/08)
The greatest event and transformation in history turned Paul’s life around. He met his Maker, his Master and his match. The religious zealot who persecuted Christians wherever they were bound and wherever they were found discovered that Christianity is not about religious creeds, moral codes or ethical conduct. Christianity is not bound in a philosophy, but in a person: Jesus Christ, who is not a historical footnote or a fictional character, but the living God. The strength of a believer lies in a powerful, personal and present relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ is our identity, our intercessor and inspiration. A Christian is, therefore, one who believes in Christ, who belongs to Him and is beloved by Him.
Who is Jesus Christ to you? What kind of relationship do you have with Christ? How are you to live?
You are Identified with Christ
20 I have been crucified with Christ
A minister was talking to a professing Christian and asked him if he was active in a local church. The man responded, “No, but the dying thief on the cross wasn’t active in any church and yet he was still accepted.”
The minister then asked if he was baptized. The man responded, “The dying thief on the cross was not baptized and he still made it to heaven.”
The minister then asked if he had partaken of the Lord’s Table. The man responded, “No, but the dying thief didn’t either, and Christ still received him.”
The minister then commented: “The only difference between you and the dying thief is that he was dying in his belief, and you are dead in yours.”
What does it mean to be crucified? A.W. Tozer says, “To be crucified means, first, the man on the cross is faced only one direction; second, he is not going back; and third, he has no further plans of his own.”
The Greek text says “With Christ I have been crucified.” The Greek word “crucified with” (sustauroo) occurs merely five times in the Bible (v 20, Rom 6:6, John 19:32, Mark 15:32, Matt 27:44). In the gospels, all the three references to “with Christ” relate to the robbers who were crucified with Jesus (Matt 27:44, John 19:32, Mark 15:32). Frankly speaking, they had no choice. The crucifixion in this passage, however, is volunteered, initiated and orchestrated. No one binds and drags you screaming, kicking and fussing to the cross.
The crucifixion experience is always “with Christ,” and not “in Christ” or “like Christ,” with the latter two words amounting to losing one’s individuality, personality and reality. Further, no one suffers on the cross the same way as Jesus. The Bible tells us we died to sin (Rom 6:2) and that we died with Christ (Rom 6:8), but never “died in Christ” or “crucified in Christ.” Crucified with Christ is related to one’s internal motivation, not the external manner or method.
A person “crucified with” Christ does not think of one’s rights, respect and revenge but to share in His suffering, shame and sentence. His suffering is a lonesome, cumbersome and gruesome death. He does not want you to die for Him that way. It is not a physical crucifixion or a mental torture, so no one needs to enter a monastery, seek a cave or escape the world. It is identifying with Christ, not imitating His experience or internalizing His pain. The crucifixion is not painful but peaceful; not pitiful but purposeful, not paralyzing but profitable. It is not to deaden yourself to the world, but to deliver yourself to Christ. This relationship is rational and not irrational, realistic and not religious, relational and not romantic.