Sometimes, Christians think that living as God desires is just too difficult. Can you relate to this? Are there times in your life when it seems like you are failing more than succeeding at obeying the Lord? None of us will ever be totally free from sin, but shouldn’t we at least have some victory over our wrong desires and bad habits?
There is a concept in the Scripture that offers us hope. In fact, it’s found in one of the most popular verses—one that you may have even memorized, at least in part. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This is an amazing description of our union with Jesus.
Before we can appreciate what Christ has done for us, we must realize that because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, every human being enters this world with a sin nature. That’s why babies, who seem so innocent, quickly learn the word that most often characterizes humanity’s reaction to God’s demand for obedience—No! Jesus is the only one who can remedy this situation.
The first aspect of our union with Christ is that we have been crucified with Him. Our sins were placed on Jesus as He hung on the cross, bearing the penalty we deserved. It was as if we too were nailed to the cross and died along with Him even though we weren’t born yet. Paul described it this way: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). Through Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we have been declared righteous.
Our sins were placed on Jesus as He hung on the cross, bearing the penalty we deserved.
However, even though our guilt has been removed, we still battle sin. That’s why we sometimes feel like failures when it comes to the Christian life. We know we’re saved, but we still disobey God even though we truly desire to live righteously. The problem is that although the Holy Spirit now indwells us, we still live in these human bodies, which are prone to sin. Paul calls it our flesh, saying, “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal. 5:17). Thankfully, Jesus has not left us to flounder helplessly.
The second benefit of our union with Christ is that our old self was crucified with Him so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6). We now have Christ’s power to overcome our fleshly sinful desires because we have been given a new nature. Our baptism into His death is followed by being raised with Him to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
Did you know you have a new self that has been created in the likeness of God to be holy and righteous (Eph. 4:24)? You will never be the person you were before salvation. Your old self has been crucified with Christ, and God has given you a new nature. That’s why He says that you are a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). It’s not that your body is new. All you have to do is look in a mirror to see that you are still aging. Only at resurrection will your body become perfect and holy. Until then, you have a new self living in a preexisting body. And that’s why there is always an internal conflict. But even in this Jesus gives us the victory.
The third aspect of our union with Christ is His life in us. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). This doesn’t mean that we cease being ourselves, but that Jesus’ spiritual life flows through us like sap through a branch (John 15:5). He gives us new thoughts and desires in alignment with His will and empowers us with His supernatural strength to obey Him.
When we finally realize that the Christian life is not about self-effort but self-replacement, we’ll begin to experience victory over the sins that have dogged our steps for so long. The key is found in the last part of Galatians 2:20, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” We were saved by faith in Christ, and it’s by faith in Him that we are able to put to death the deeds of the flesh and live in newness of life.
Considering all that Christ has done for us, how can we turn from Him to live for ourselves? He’s provided everything we need to live a holy life if we’ll believe and act on what He’s said in His Word. The Christian life is a response of gratitude and obedience to the love exhibited in the death of Christ for us. That’s why we trust and obey Him and follow gladly wherever He leads.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I’m so grateful for your partnership, which allows us to continue serving the Lord by spreading the gospel and encouraging believers with teaching from God’s Word. I hope the enclosed bookmark will remind you that as you walk in your new nature and rely on Jesus’ strength within, you will find victory over spiritual challenges and grow daily in grace and holiness.