Crucified with Christ – Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20 NIV

As Christians, how should we live during our brief sojourn here on earth? For many the options seem to be to enjoy it, or to endure it. And while we should have joy in our life in Christ, that joy is not found in the pleasures of this world. And while we should endure in our faithfulness to him, that is much more than just getting by day after day.

This verse really sums up Paul’s life as a believer. He saw himself as crucified on the cross with Christ; he had died and this world no longer held any attraction to him. And now he lived, not for himself, but for Christ. Paul had given himself over completely to the one who had given himself for Paul. Christ had saved him, and Paul now had a life debt, owed to Christ.

Is this way of life unique to Paul, and maybe a few other especially called people? Or should it be true of all believers? I believe this aligns well with Romans 12:1-2 were we are all called to be living sacrifices, not conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds. We should all see ourselves as crucified with Christ, and living our lives now by faith, serving the one who loved us and gave himself for us.

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I Will Never Fall Away – Matthew 26:33

Peter told him, “Even if everyone falls away because of you, I will never fall away.” – Matthew 26:33 CSB

No one will ever mistake me for Peter, but how many times have I echoed his words, and then followed his example? More times than I care to admit. And invariably it is because I overestimated my own strength and ability to endure, and failed to trust in the strength that God provides. In the quiet of my study, or perched alone alongside a river in the wilderness, it is easy to convince myself that I am finally fully committed to the lordship of Christ. Only to have that commitment challenged when I go back out into the world.

Now to be clear, I have never denied Jesus in the same way that Peter did, but how often do I fail to take a stand for him when the occasion calls for it, just sitting on the sideline instead. And how many times have I opted to satisfy self above Christ? I am weak and fallible, but he is strong and dependable. I am so thankful that he is always ready to restore me, just like he did with Peter (John 21:15-19). He knows my weakness, and still he loves me and choses to use me.

Leaving It All Behind – Matthew 19:29

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. – Matthew 19:29 ESV

What are you willing to give up in order to follow Jesus? The passage preceding this verse answers this question from the perspective of both a wealthy young man and the disciples. The young man, when called on to give everything to the poor and then follow Jesus, went away sorrowful, unwilling to give up his great possessions. The disciples, on the other hand, had given up everything, and were promised thrones in heaven.

Jesus’ promise to us in this verse is that we will ultimately be more than compensated for the things we leave behind for him. Clearly Jesus is not asking us to totally abandon our family relationships; even on the cross he expressed concern about his mother. But he is calling on me to not allow those relationships, or any of my possessions, to come before him. He wants to be Lord, not just in the inner reaches of my heart, but in my relationships with other people, and in my handling of the things of this world.

Is there anything that you are unwilling to surrender to the lordship of Jesus? His promise to us is that if we will give him our all, our eternal reward will be much greater than anything we leave behind for him.

The Lukewarm Church – Rev 3:17

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. – Revelation 3:17 ESV

The church at Laodicea was lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, and Jesus threatened to spit them out of his mouth. There were sources for hot mineral water, suitable for soaking, and cold spring water, suitable for drinking, near Laodicea. But they were like neither. They were just bleah. The problem was that they did not recognize their condition. They were like a church with nice facilities, abundant offering, dynamic preachers and worship teams; everything that they could humanly desire. Yet they were spiritually destitute and badly in need of the true riches that God had to offer them.

Like so many other areas of life, Jesus’ view of the condition of a church is often quite different than ours. The church in Smyrna was afflicted and poor, but Jesus declared them to be rich. The church in Philadelphia had little strength, but Jesus saw them as faithful. The church in Laodicea was well off and strong, but Jesus saw them as weak and poor, pitiable. We need to evaluate churches, especially our own, not on the outward appearances, but on our obedience and faithfulness to Christ as our head. Being a poor, weak church is no guarantee of approval from Christ. Nor is having a large and prosperous body a guarantee of Christ’s disapproval. What counts is our heart and relationship with the head, with Christ.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Loving Human Praise – John 12:43

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. – John 12:42-43 NIV

Most people care what others think of them. We are social creatures and it is only natural that we want to be accepted by the rest of the herd. But Jesus calls us to come out of the herd and to walk with him. For many of us it is a difficult thing to stand out from the crowd; to face ridicule and derision is hard on my self esteem.

Jesus is only days away from the cross when we find that many among the Jewish leadership have believed in him. But they will not publicly acknowledge their belief because their social standing was more important to them than their relationship with God. And that is such a tragedy. In Matthew 10:32 Jesus tells us that if we will acknowledge him before others, he will acknowledge us before the Father. The implication is that if we fail to acknowledge him, he will also not acknowledge us. What a shame to be a secret believer; to know the truth and yet have Jesus deny that he knows you.

Following the Shepherd – John 10:3-4

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” – John 10:2-5 ESV

I have little experience with domesticated sheep, other than watching small flocks walk down the road in Sicily. But all that I have heard is that they are not the brightest bulbs in the animal kingdom and depend on the shepherd for leading them to food and water and protecting them from predators. In this extended passage Jesus identifies himself as a shepherd and his followers as his sheep. And that is an apt example. We are dependent on him for our spiritual nourishment and protection. Psalm 23 paints a familiar picture of our dependence on Jesus as our shepherd.

If my understanding of sheepherding in New Testament Palestine, and this passage, is correct, the local area shepherds would sometimes bring their flocks into a communal holding pen at night for safeguarding. In the morning each shepherd would go to the gate of the enclosure and call out his sheep, who would respond only to him. The shepherd would then lead his sheep out for the day. For each sheep pen there could be multiple shepherds calling sheep and leading them in many directions, but the sheep knew who to follow.

But this account is not just about shepherds and what they do. Look at what Jesus says here about the sheep. His sheep recognize and listen to his voice, and they follow him where he leads. If I follow him, then I am his sheep. But if I follow another shepherd, then I belong to that shepherd. Whose voice do I hear and follow? There are many voices calling to us today. Do we follow Jesus’ voice? Or some other shepherd?

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