The Twenty-Third Day of Advent
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is 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.
Mrs. Wilson wants to use a squirrel as an object lesson for her Sunday School class of boys. She begins: “I’m going to describe something to you, and I want you to raise your hand when you think you know what it is.” Every boy eagerly waits for her to begin. “The thing I’m thinking about lives in trees.” She waits for a hand to go up, but no boy raises his hand. She continues: “It is gray, lives in trees, gathers nuts, and jumps from branch to branch.” After a long pause one boy hesitantly puts up his hand and says: “Well, since it’s Sunday School, I know the answer has to be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”
I admire the little guy’s stab at an answer, and besides, all of life is about Jesus. He is the one in whom we live and find life’s purpose. Jesus is born for us, lives for us, dies for us, and is raised to new life for us. All of this He does in our place, in His vicarious humanity. Through the Incarnation the Son of God makes Himself one with us so that our lives are bound up in His. This the very essence of the Gospel. “The reason the New Testament is so preoccupied with what became of the Son of God is that it knows that something was becoming of us, the human race, in him.” (C. Baxter Kruger, Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)
Thus, in today’s Scripture the apostle Paul can confidently say: “I have been crucified with Christ.” Jesus died for us, in our place, as our substitute, so that we have died to the old life of sin and death. Being one with Him, Jesus takes our sins and imparts to us His life. Martin Luther boldly taught, “Christ may say: ‘I am that big sinner’. His sins and his death are mine, because he is joined to me, and I to him.” (Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians) The old hymnist Horatio Bonar wrote in a hymn, “Upon a Life I have not lived, Upon a Death I did not die, Another’s Life; Another’s Death, I stake my whole eternity.”
Our lives are so inextricably one with Christ that we too can say with Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” By God’s grace we are made one with Christ so that His righteousness is our righteousness, His victory is our victory, His life, our life.
We now seek to live out this new identity of oneness with Christ. God calls us to live in the new life Christ has won for us. All the strain and burden are gone as we live out Jesus’ very life: “and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
Oswald Chambers captured the essence of today’s Scripture in My Utmost for His Highest:
Paul said, ‘I have been crucified with Christ…’ He did not say, ‘I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,’ or, ‘I will really make an effort to follow Him’ – but – ‘I have been identified with Him in His death.’ Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the Cross is accomplished in me.
All of life is about Jesus! He came down to lift us up to His life and glory. And there’s nothing squirrely about that!
- Take a few moments to think about what you face today. Then think about what it would mean to face today living out your oneness with Christ.
- Have you tended to think of the Gospel as what we do for God, or what God does for us? What do you see God doing for us in today’s Scripture?
- What would it mean for you to truly say with the apostle Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me”?
EMBODIED PRAYER: FACE DOWN
In the Bible we frequently see intense prayer expressed as people fall on their faces before God. It is an outward sign of reverence to lie with face to the ground in God’s presence. By this we acknowledge His complete sovereignty and right to rule in our lives.
When God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham, Abraham “fell on his face” before the Lord (Genesis 17:3). When Joshua faced great enemies he “fell on his face” in God’s presence until the evening (Joshua 7:6). When a leper desperately seeking healing came to Jesus “he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him” (Luke 5:12). In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus “threw himself on the ground and prayed” (Matthew 26:39). Heaven’s angels fall on their faces before God’s throne and worship Him (Revelation 7:11). Praying face down before God is a Biblical expression of reverence to God and submission to His omnipotence and wisdom.
Today and every day of the fourth week of Advent pray the Lord’s Prayer with your face to the ground in God’s presence.