“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:3-5).
Most people, unfortunately this includes believers, live a totally self-centred life. This means that at the root of their everyday life is sin, pleasure and ingratitude. As followers of Christ we are meant to live a cross-centred life that puts God first and focus upon what was accomplished on our behalf on Calvary’s cross. Looking to self will always bring failure, but “looking unto Jesus” instead brings the blessings God has made available to us by faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Crucified with Christ
Paul deals with the question of self in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” In this one verse he makes mention of himself eight times, not to glorify self but to show that self must die before the true Christian life can be experienced. He opens and closes the text with the cross of Christ, thus making it the central theme. Notice that believers will not be crucified at some future date, but are already crucified with Christ when He died on the cross. “Crucified” is in the perfect tense, which proves that the act was completed in the past and that the benefits of it can be enjoyed in the present. The apostle uses “I” and “me” to reveal the need to be identified with Christ to be saved. This means that simply believing a person named Jesus lived and later died on the cross is not enough. Even acknowledging that everything in Scripture is true is not enough to be saved. Paul is stating that the believer’s life must be totally wrapped up in Christ, that when He died, our old life perished too, and that self is no longer the dominating factor of our existence. This is what Jesus was referring to when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Those who do not actually follow Christ, and live the cross-centred life, seek to deny self through asceticism and depriving the flesh as a means to please God. How many deny their flesh but do not deny self? In every religious act there is found the selfishness of the sinner, for he believes his act makes him right with God. Such an approach is a denial of the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. So when Jesus died, our old life died too. Everything we did up until the moment we accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour is passed away, buried with Christ. “I” or self no longer lives in the born again, Spirit-led child of God. The old sin nature no longer dominates, for its power has been broken.
Centred in Christ
When we exercise faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross as the only means of salvation, the Holy Spirit places us completely in Christ. “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). Here is one of the believer’s biggest problems, for the majority do not understand or even accept that the old self-life has been totally dealt with by Christ on the cross. Because we give self such a lofty position in our lives, it becomes the centre of everything we do. The devil of course wants us thinking that the old life of self still exists. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He wants us to look inward at self-effort instead of upward to the cross. The fact is, the self problem, which is the sin problem, was dealt with the moment we said yes to Jesus. So, we can either put our faith in self and seek our own sanctification, or we can put faith in Christ and accept that we are sanctified in Him.
We believe that Jesus died to save us from sin, but what about salvation from self? Think about it, self makes sin happen! Therefore the only way to save us from sin is to deal with self. If Jesus alone is the focus, the centre of our lives, then victorious Christian living is an absolute reality. Take our eyes off Him and our lives will be self-centred. All that is required is for us to keep our faith firmly fixed in what Jesus did for us on Calvary. For self to remain hidden in Christ, our faith must remain in His finished work on the cross.
To be “in Christ” simply means that we are united with Him by faith. His death is our death. His resurrection is our resurrection. His ascension is our ascension. All this might sound strange, but Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:5-6, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus).” All this took place in the past, that is, when Christ was crucified. To put it simpler, the moment Jesus died on the cross, we entered into His death, thus the old life was put to death, thereby freeing us from sin’s dominion and slavery. By faith we accept Christ’s death as our own and that our sin nature has been broken. The Holy Spirit now dwells within. We are saved by what Christ did rather than through whatever we could possibly do. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are called to live a cross-centred life and through it be victorious in Christ.