There really could not be two ways of living that are as diametrically opposed than a person who is a Christian and someone who is not a Christian. It seems that sometimes we play down these differences, perhaps in an effort to convince someone that they need to be a Christian but really would not need to change much.
Paul describes the change we must make as a crucifixion. Speaking of himself, he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NET). Later in the same letter he expressed it this way, talking about the change that we all must make: “Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
Crucified. That is quite an emotive word. It speaks of a very cruel and painful death. It speaks of the death that Jesus went through for each one of us. And it speaks about what we must go through to become a Christian.
To become a Christian we must put to death a way of life that we have grown comfortable with and replace it with a new way of living. In Galatians 5, Paul refers to the two ways of living as being “the flesh” and “the Spirit.” Notice what living for the flesh entails. “However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh…Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!” (Galatians 5:15-21).
Think about these things. Biting and devouring one another. Strife. Jealousy. Outbursts of anger. Factions. Envy. And similar things. I hate to admit it but all too often those are the very things that characterise those I know who are supposed to now be Christians. What has happened? Obviously the crucifixion was not successful in putting the old life to death.
Notice the way we should be living as Christians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25). In fact he summarised this way of life early by simply saying, “For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).
Do we want to inherit God’s kingdom? Then there really is no choice. We must put to death the life in the flesh. Those are part of a past life. We buried them because we put them to death. We now need to live by the Spirit, producing the fruit of the Spirit.
Can you imagine what it would be like if all Christians lived this way?
Bible Reading Schedule
13 April – Galatians 6
14 April – Ephesians 1
15 April – Ephesians 2
16 April – Ephesians 3
17 April – Ephesians 4