Friday, July 12, 2019

Not I but Christ

It is common in some Christian circles for believers to have a “life verse,” a biblical verse that sums up one’s personal faith. For many years mine has been Galatians 2:20 “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 central thought in this verse is this: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” That is the core of my Christian identity. The “I” mentioned in the verse is the ego, persona, personal identity, psyche, egocentric self, or simply the self. It really doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you can identify it.

It is what we normally understand ourselves to be - our individualistic identity, our personality, our unique combination of physical characteristics, intellect, thoughts, emotions, intuition, memories, skills, reputation, social connections, professional accomplishments, etc.  In other words everything that could go into a well-crafted eulogy delivered at our funeral.

That is who dies when our body quits. That is who our loved ones mourn when we are buried. That is who is missed by friends and acquaintances after we are gone. This self is born, develops, matures, ages, and eventually dies. We give this self a name. The name of my self is Marshall Davis.

That “I” no longer lives. “It is no longer I who live.” The old self is dead. “I have been crucified with Christ.” That “I” died with Christ on the Cross. That means it was dead long before I was born. Which means it never really was. Spiritually speaking that dead self is an illusory self which is no longer real, and never really was real.

The spiritual meaning of the Cross – at least part of it - is the death of the self. The archetypal death of Jesus’ self and the death of our self. The Cross is self-sacrifice. The Resurrection is the eternity of the True Self, which is not born and cannot die.

So “I” am dead. Oh, that pesky “I” (what Paul elsewhere call the “old man” or “the flesh”) still hangs around this life as a poltergeist causing me endless problems. But when it seeks to reclaim its position in my life, I reckon it as dead and gone. (“Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11)

In the place of my self is Christ, who lives in me. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  “Me” meaning this body/mind that people call Marshall Davis. But the false self, that old imposter who identified itself as the lord of this body-life is dead and gone. Good riddance!  I do not mourn its passing.

Christ lives in me. Christ is my True Self. The resurrection is more than a theological doctrine; it is the spiritual reality of my life. As the song says, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.” By “heart” I mean my inner being. Christ lives, and I don’t. That’s my reality.

“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.” This third part of my life verse communicates two important dimensions of the Christian life. Faith and love. “Faith in the Son of God” is not about mouthing the right doctrines about Jesus. It is trusting the living Christ to live through this old body.

This life is lived in the context of unconditional divine love, a “God who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is self-sacrificial love, as demonstrated by Jesus. Once again this is not about the theological doctrine of atonement. This the experiential spiritual reality in which one knows the self-sacrificial love of the indwelling Christ, and responds in faith by self-sacrificial love toward God and others.

The core of this new reality is the True Self, who is Christ. In reality Christ was always our True Self. All it takes is the death of our illusory self to reveal the Presence of the Living Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

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