Contributed by Clark Tanner on Nov 8, 2000 (message contributor)
Summary: Are Paul’s three crosses also yours?
“BUT MAY IT NEVER BE THAT I SHOULD BOAST, EXCEPT IN THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THROUGH WHICH THE WORLD HAS BEEN CRUCIFIED TO ME, AND I TO THE WORLD.”
When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Galatia, it was in reaction to their having gone back, from receiving the grace of God, to once again wear the fetters of the Mosaic Law.
Judaizers, those who followed after Paul, accusing him of license and saying that to be a Christian one must believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but also that they must keep the Law, had confused the Galatians and through what our modern vernacular would term a ‘guilt-trip’, convinced them that in order to be saved they must be circumcised and keep the various feasts and ordinances of the Jewish faith.
Paul had once boasted in these things. He had once bragged that he was a Jew among Jews. A Pharisee. Of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, a keeper and teacher of the Law.
But something happened to Paul that needs to happen to each one of us. He died.
Now there are various kinds of death, but only one kind is beneficial to the one who dies; only one leads to resurrection life. It is crucifixion with Christ.
Believer in Christ, have you died the death that Paul died? Let’s look at three crosses, and you let the Holy Spirit minister to your heart.
Paul said, “...the world has been crucified to me...”
Through the cross of Christ and its effect on Paul, this world and its pleasures and treasures had lost their appeal to him. More than that, the world system had lost its power over him, to guide his thinking, restrict his speech, control his movements, rule his life.
It had become a dead thing to him; rotting, stinking, a thing to walk away from.
Now that is not to say that Paul walked through life with his nose in the air, harboring a feeling of superiority above others. That was the old Paul. That was the attitude of the Judaizers; in fact, that is the attitude of all of the religious of any age, who have put their trust for righteousness in the keeping of their religiosity.
The spirit of this world does not only demonstrate itself in licentiousness and greed and envy and hatred and bigotry. It is expressed also in the legalism of church members who point the finger at anyone not living up to their special brand of Christianity and demand that that person step up to their standard.
We see this worldly spirit in churches that push divorcees to the back pew, or give a cold shoulder to those whose styles of hair or dress do not fit the norm of that congregation. We see it leaking even out of pulpits in the guise of exhortations to stop this or start that, or be here or be there, in a condemning tone that beats the weaker vessel down and drives the mature believer to discontent.
This was the spirit of the world that Paul battled in his epistles, and very pointedly right here in Galatians.
The world was dead to Paul, because he died in Christ, and the life he was raised back to so transcended the so-called life of this world, he was now able to see that fixing the problems was useless. Have you ever noticed that? Most Christians today, in the pulpit and out, would argue that we as Christians should have a voice in the world, in speaking out against political and moral wrongs; and of course the aim is always described as representing Christ to the world, taking up for the downtrodden, offering a Christlike influence in areas of our society where that influence is otherwise missing. But the only way to truly represent Christ to a Godless society, is to present the gospel message. It is God’s power for salvation, and until they have His kind of life, spending our time and resources fixing social problems is like putting mascara on a corpse.
Paul knew better, and besides, he had a better mission.
On the road to Damascus the risen Christ did not tell him to boycott businesses that sold meat sacrificed to idols. Jesus didn’t tell him to write letters to Roman officials blasting their worship of idols or decrying their politics in occupied provinces. He gave Paul this simple commission:
“I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only of the things which you have seen, but also the things in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me”