Indeed, Paul clearly believes that we cannot be saved unless we, in some way, participate with Christ in his crucifixion. Paul writes to the Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (2:20). We encounter this same theme in other places in Paul, "We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Romans 6:6). "We are afflicted in every way...always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).
We could continue with the quotations but suffice it to say that, according to Paul, there is a participatory aspect of the cross of Christ. In the process of salvation, we are in some way crucified with Jesus, and if we are not crucified with him, then we cannot be raised with him. Charles Spurgeon said, "There are no crown wearers in heaven who were not cross bearers on earth."
It is an easy thing to view the cross of Jesus Christ from the bottom of the hill called Calvary. To be sure, it may be somewhat distressing to see the person on that cross in pain and agony. We may very well feel badly for him. We may even shed a tear or two; but once it is over and he is dead, we can return home to the routine of life-- the mortgage and the car payment, working 9 to 5, and raising the children. He is dead and life goes on. Yes, it is an effortless act simply to watch the crucifixion from a distance.
But what if we are meant to do more than watch it happening to someone else? What if we are meant to hang there in shame and pain? Yes, I know the Bible says that Christ died in our place, that is true. Christ's death was unique and in one respect not repeatable. Nevertheless, the cross of Christ will not be our salvation until we are willing to put to death all those things in our lives which put Jesus on the cross in the first place. Jesus hangs on the cross because of you and me. Every act of greed and selfishness, every word of boasting and false pride, every sin of racism and sexism, every word of gossip and back-biting, deception and falsehood; everything not pleasing about our lives is what put Jesus Christ upon the cross. We are guilty.
Our culture is not much into guilt. It is supposedly not good for us. It is damaging to our self-esteem, so we are told. "I'm OK, you’re OK." Of course, there is unjustified guilt. People can feel guilt over the wrong things. There is, however, justified guilt. Some guilt is good; for it causes us to reexamine our lives, and, hopefully, make changes.
Who crucified Jesus? We are all guilty as charged. Yet, that act of crucifixion perpetrated by all of us is also our means of escape from the sin that ensnares us; provided we willingly crucify those things that put Jesus on the cross in the first place.
This is not easy. We love our sin. If sin is such a detestable thing for us, why is it such a continual problem? Yet, if we are willing to overcome our sin, God is able to help us. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to us so that we might crucify and bury our sin and raise our self, our image into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
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