Good morning! Our reading for this Thursday, March 21, 2019 is Rom 6:5-11
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
The call to discipleship by Jesus includes accepting self-denial and carrying our personal crosses. The crosses we bear may be the circumstances in life we cannot change. They may include our socio-economic status we were born into or health conditions we may face, mental and emotional states and other limitations too numerous for me to mention. They are often the “givens” to our lives. These are not crosses we choose and many we cannot overcome but must live with or overcome the negative influences they impose.
There are crosses we have imposed upon ourselves by virtue of our choices, some in response to the givens of our lives and others born from what we desire in life. The consequences for negative choices cannot and will not necessarily be removed from us when we surrender our lives to following Christ. We hear of persons who have experienced great miracles which provided healing or “saved” them from the consequences of their choices, but these are a rarity. For most of us we should expect to bear our crosses whether they came to us naturally or by choice and discover the power of God through faith to overcome and make the most of our circumstance.
The choice we have when encountering the call of Christ to follow him is to accept the unchangeable realities of our life and from the point of decision to live by faith positively move forward with Christ. This means we no longer fight with God over why we suffer the curses and limitations of our life; it means we accept the forgiveness of grace in Christ for the destructive thoughts and choices we have made; it means we use who and what we are to become what we possibly can become in Christ.
In other words we intentionally choose to “crucify” our old self, with its attitudes, opinions and values to adopt new ones revealed by Christ. From the point of our decision to live by faith in Christ we reject the destructive patterns we have lived by to live by the positive God oriented patterns pointed to by Christ.
This radical change and transformation of thinking and behavior requires a lot of emotional, mental and spiritual energy which we cannot muster on our own. This is why the word “crucify,” as the apostle Paul uses, is so powerful. As long as we try to cling onto the old ways of thinking and acting we will be imprisoned to our past and be defeated in any effort to change. Only by dying to the old can we be free to be made new.
When we intentionally crucify living on our own terms and under our own steam we then are open to resurrection power of Christ which can transform our lives. Our problem is we cling onto the hope of controlling our own fate which will lead us to defeat every time. I remember my struggle to let go of certain addictions after making Christ the Lord of my life (not at all implying drug addictions). Any sin becomes an addiction which takes radical effort to overcome.
It took me years to overcome the temptations I once allowed to run unrestrained in my life.
I am amazed how far I have come with Christ. The more obvious and outward sins have been overcome, however the more subjective sinful influences of my life remain and are resurrected in new challenges. For each new moral challenge I must fight the battle to “crucify” my flesh and follow Jesus. I accept that “I am weak, but he is strong” as the song “Jesus Loves Me” declares. Any victory I have encountered in the past or expect to have in the future will require “crucifixion” or rejection of its influence with an active imposition of the power of faith to overcome.
Too many persons find the battle too strenuous and resort to accepting grace without pursuing transformation. This only keeps us trapped to our sinful addictions and denies the power of the resurrection possible for us. The more we see the victories of faith the more real Christ becomes because we rely more readily upon his power to live.
Brian Homan, pastor
Liverpool First UM Church