Have you been crucified with Christ? Have you let your old self die to live a new life as a follower of Jesus? Was your transition complete and permanent?
A couple of years ago I was about twenty pounds heavier than I am today. I liked to eat at fast food restaurants. I probably had French fries at least five times a week and I never passed up an opportunity to eat a handful of cookies, slice of pie, or bowl of ice cream. I think you can probably see where the extra weight was coming from. Those excess pounds were also causing my cholesterol and blood pressure to climb into dangerous territory. What did I do? I changed my diet and lost the weight. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels came right back down to normal and because I changed my diet, I’ve managed to keep the weight off and maintain my good health. I didn’t go on a diet – I changed my diet. I changed the way I eat permanently. I’ve failed at this several times before. My weight has gone up and down for many years. The difference this time is I didn’t go on a temporary diet – I changed my diet permanently.
Before I became a Christian I was on a secular diet of worldly morals pointed in the opposite direction of Christ. I was living the selfish life of an unbeliever. I was going my own way. I was indulging in all the high calorie extravagance that life separated from God offers. When I found Jesus, I had to make a choice to change my path in life altogether. I had to decide to leave my old ways behind and permanently follow Jesus.
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35 (NIV)
Jesus commands us to take up our cross, which means we need to be ready to be crucified with Christ. Jesus tells us that by leaving our old life behind, a life that is destined for death, we can move forward with Him into a new eternal life in the kingdom of God.
It’s not always easy to leave old habits behind, especially when you are constantly tempted by a world that celebrates going in the other direction. We can all probably make a long list of ways we’ve strayed from our walk with Jesus. But rather than focus on the negative, it’s likely far more productive to focus on that which will empower and invigorate our new life with Jesus.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
The best way for us to develop our relationship with God is through service to others. When we step away from our selfish desires and humble ourselves in service to others, we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Our old sinful nature will be with us until Jesus returns, so we are in a constant battle to suppress our old self and live for Him. By focusing our lives on serving others we overwhelm any of our negative tendencies with a flood of excellent and praiseworthy loving services to God. You have been crucified with Christ when you have transformed your life in this way.
In order to maintain my current weight I count my calories every day. This sounds extreme to some but I use a computer program that makes it easy. Honestly, I’m a little obsessed with staying healthy. So I’m willing to go the extra mile to keep things in check. The world we live in is constantly offering us an extra helping of all the things the devil wants us to embrace. I don’t know of a computer program designed to keep our walk with the Lord in check. Consistently leaning on the Word of God is the closest thing we have to a calorie counter. We also have something no calorie counter can offer – God’s grace. I had to work for my weight loss but my new life with Jesus was an underserved gift from God. Saved by faith I can move forward permanently forgiven and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to protect me from the endless temptation of the enemy.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NASB)