by Bruce M. Burkett
Galatians 2:20 | January 17, 2018
As we begin this year, God has placed this verse on my heart to give us direction in the days ahead.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Take special notice of the phrase in this verse “yet not I, but Christ.” The theme that God has placed upon my heart to emphasize in every one of our lives this year is simply this, “Not I, But Christ.”
We live in a self-driven world today. The god that Americans worship more than anything else is “self.” The culture in which we live drives us to believe that life is all about “I” (i.e. “what I want to do,” “where I want to go,” etc.). We consume all of our time with our own agendas, and take so little time to concern ourselves with God or with one another.
Someone once said, “The smallest package in the world is a man wrapped up in himself.” Sadly, this seems to describe exactly who we are, even as Christians today. We desperately need to make the choice of “Not I, But Christ” in this day!
To make this choice, however, means that we will have to learn to say “no” to ourselves, and to say “yes” to Jesus — every time. We need to learn the power of living our lives according to this principle — Not I, But Christ. (It’s not about me; it’s all about Him!)
How can each one of us make this choice, “Not I, But Christ”?
Notice with me two ways we each can make the choice, “Not I, But Christ.”
Accept the Fact (v.20a).
First, the Bible tells us, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:” (v.20a). This is something that Paul is not hoping will be true, but it is something that He is stating to be true as a matter of fact. If we are truly going to choose to say “Not I, But Christ,” we need to learn to accept the fact of what this verse is speaking about in our own lives.
When God originally created man, He made man in His image. At that time, Adam, the first man created, had a God-consciousness. There was nothing to separate man from having a relationship with God. But, after Satan came along in the form of a serpent and tempted him to sin, Adam made the choice to disobey the only command God had given to him. God had already told him what would happen if He made this choice.
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
When Adam chose to sin on that day, just as God said it would be, he died. But, he did not die physically; he died spiritually. The word “death” simply means separation. In physical death, the soul is separated from the body; but in spiritual death, the soul is separated from God for all of eternity. Thus, Adam’s choice to sin estranged him from God.
Immediately following this choice, Adam and Eve became “self-conscious” instead of “God-conscious.” What was the result? They tried to cover themselves with fig leaves and hide themselves from the presence of God. (See Genesis 3:8.)
Fast-forward thousands of years, and we find that Adam’s sinful nature — His “self-conscious” nature — has been passed down to us. The Bible says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Every one of us enter into this world with this same self-centered nature of sin. We do not have a God-consciousness; but a self-consciousness (which is why we are so consumed with ourselves and our own sinful desires). And what we deserve for this self-centered, sinful nature is death. As the Scriptures says, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).
Yet, the message of the Gospel is that Jesus died for our sins in our place so that we can once again have our relationship with God restored. The Bible describes how this took place succinctly.
“For [God] hath made [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Corinthians 5:21)
When Jesus died on the Cross, He died in my place; He died for my sins. When Jesus died, He took my “I” (my self-nature), and He nailed it to the Cross. Thus, we see, in a literal sense, when Jesus died, I died. My self-centered, self-conscious nature was put to death on the cross of Christ.
To say “Not I, But Christ” is to recognize the fact that I died with Christ. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, your old sinful self is no longer living. That person was put to death in Christ when He died on the cross.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
But, it does not stop here! For, just as much as our self-nature was put to death with Christ on the Cross, so our new nature was made alive when Christ arose.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
This is what is meant when our text says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” The “old me” was put to death so that Christ could be made alive in me. The old self-centered man has been done away with so that Christ could fill me and flow through me.
To say “Not I, But Christ” is to recognize the fact that I now live in Christ. If we are going to make this choice, it means that we have accept the fact of what Christ did for us on the Cross.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6)
The fact is that I am dead and gone, but now Christ lives in me. Thus, my life is no longer about what “I” think is best or what “I” want; it is all about Christ — His purpose, His plan, His priorities.
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
Have you accepted the fact that you are dead, and that Christ now lives in you?
Have Faith (v.20b).
If I am to truly make this choice (“Not I, But Christ”), then it has to go beyond mentally acknowledging some facts to be true. I have to allow this truth that I recognize to have an impact in my daily life. The only way that is possible is through faith.
This is how our text puts it, “[A]nd the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (v.20). Every day I live believing that I am dead and that Christ lives in me. Every day I live in the reality that it is no longer about me, but about Christ. Every day, I must choose to crucify myself, and to let Christ live in me.
Faith is simply believing God. For me to live by faith according to this principle is for me to daily live believing what God has said — that my old self-nature is dead and that Christ is now living in me.
“Likewise reckon [account] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:11)
Daily, I must account my “self-nature” to be dead, and the Spirit of Christ to be alive within me. This is a decision of faith that must take place every day.
Jesus put it this way, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Paul put it this way, “I die daily” (I Corinthians 15:31).
If we are truly going to choose to say, “Not I, But Christ,” it will require us to daily make the decision by faith to die to self and live unto Christ. This level of commitment is uncommon in most of American Christianity today. Most preachers will never speak on this subject because people do not want to hear it. The reason? It will cost them too much.
Understand something. “In Jesus’ day if a man had taken up his cross, it meant the end. He had already said goodbye to his family and friends. He knew he would not be coming back! The cross meant death.” But, sadly, there is a “new cross” that is being preached about today. It no longer requires a man to come to the end of himself; to forsake all to follow Christ. If you accept this “new cross” you are promised health, wealth, and prosperity. (Which is why people “accept Christ” by the droves while blowing bubbles and telling jokes, because they are only in it for themselves.)
A true believer in Christ will not count His faith in Christ as a license to live however he wants; a true believer’s faith will be something more than a “get-to-heaven-free pass.” A true believer in Christ will, because of His faith in Christ, count himself as dead and sign His life over to Christ who now lives in Him!
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”(Romans 12:1-2)
During a church service, I illustrated what needs to take place in each one of our lives by wheeling out a beautiful casket to the front of the auditorium and opening it up for all to see. Having the casket there illustrated a spiritual point: The thing that each one of us needs to do is die. God is calling each one of us to have our funeral today. Each one of us must daily put our “I” (our self-nature) where it belongs — in the casket! Then, we need to let Christ’s Spirit flow through our lives.
The more that “I” die, the more Christ can truly live in me. I will no longer live for what I want, but for what Christ wants (Galatians 5:24). I will no longer live in my own strength, but in the strength of Christ in me (Philippians 4:13). I will no longer live for myself, but for Christ (Philippians 1:21).
The story is told about a pastor who went to visit Jerusalem with a tour group. When they came to Golgotha, the place where Jesus died, the tour guide noticed that the pastor seemed to be very familiar with the place. So, looking to the pastor, he asked him, “Have you ever been here before?” To which the pastor replied, “Yes, I was here over 2,000 years ago when I died with Christ.”
It is time for all of us, like this Pastor, to go back to the Cross of Christ and realize that we died there — “I” came to my end at the Cross! Then, we can truly rise up from that place fully surrendering ourselves to let Christ live through us in every moment of every day.
What will happen if you made the choice to truly die to self and to let Christ live in you?
How would it impact your life? Your family? This church? Your workplace?
As we enter into this new year, let me encourage you to place your “self-nature” where it belongs — crucified with Christ. And let the Spirit of Christ flow through you every day.