The apostle Paul said he no longer lived.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The old Paul was dead. Gone. Crucified.
We might ask what it means to live as a Christian. The apostle Paul answered that question by saying the first step in living as a Christian is to die. If you are going to live as a Christian, the “you” part of you must no longer live. That part must be put to death.
It takes some pondering to understand what this means. Certainly, it does not mean I subject my body to physical death. It does not mean suicide.
But it does mean there is something that is intrinsic to me that must stop living. Is it my personality? No. It is not possible to change that, and besides, I hope that there is more to me than my personality. Is it my emotional nature? No. Again, I am made up of more than my emotions and, again, it is not possible to change emotions entirely.
Then what is it? What is put to death? What is crucified?
I think I would answer that question by saying the thing that’s crucified is the one thing we do have complete control over, and that is our human will. We can control what we do. We can control what we seek after. We can control what we prioritize. We can control who we spend time with and where we go. We can control what we value.
And that part of us – our human will – must be put to death. It must be crucified with Christ. Jesus prayed to his Father, in going to the cross, “not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus surrendered his will as he was crucified. At the very minimum, so must we.
And so if our human and personal wills have been crucified, a very powerful thing happens in our lives. We are left open. We are left open to someone else. That is, someone else is elevated just as my will is surrendered. That someone else is Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ.” We stop living according to our own will, and we start living according to Christ’s.
According to my own will, I would tend to live a certain way. I would tend to be self-centered. I would want to seek the good of myself over the good of others. And if I did happen to seek the good of others, I would do that with a careful eye on the fact that helping someone else would benefit me in some way. If nothing else, it would make me happy. So even in that, I’m seeking the good of myself.
According to my own will, I would seek the path of least resistance in this world. Paul called it “the present evil age.” It’s an age with its rules and norms. It will persecute those who oppose it. Life will become more difficult for those who don’t follow along. According to my own will, I would tend to follow along.
According to my own will, I would prefer to be able to change my mind. I would want to follow a certain path but be able to change course if the circumstances seemed easier by going another way. I would not want to be locked in. I wouldn’t want to be committed long term. After all, who knows what the future might hold.
But, Paul said, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
My own human will has been surrendered to Christ. He now calls the shots. I no longer live according to my own will, but according to Christ – “who loved me and gave himself for me.”
There’s a battle that occurs in the life of every believer as we live this out. Our will doesn’t die easily. There is much we still need to learn. We can take steps backward. We can languish. The troubles in Galatia are proof of this, with their separate tables for Jewish and Gentile Christians, with the weak wills of the “pillars” of the church like Peter, and the mistaken wills of those of the circumcision party.
But the answer for us is Christ and a continual life of saying, “not as I will, but as you will.”
Our focus will begin to change. And the change is predictable. We will stop being so focused on ourselves and more focused on the needs of others. We will stop carrying on with the ways of the world and pay more attention to what God’s Word would have us to do. We will stop holding back and, instead, we will commit – not only to Christ but to his people.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but 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.”
The question for each of us is whether we can commit again today to surrender our will to Christ’s.