(Read Galatians 2)
When we read about well-known Christians who do amazing things in the name of Jesus, we can’t but marvel at their courage, deep faith, and attitudes. It’s not quite as sexy when we consider people in our own lives who do equally impressive things in the eyes of God. A friend I’ve known for almost 50 years is a perfect example. (M) and I knew each other when we were well-behaved and mostly innocent pre-teens. We knew each other when we were rebellious and reckless teenagers. We knew each other as this behavior carried into our twenties. More importantly, we knew each other in our 40s when God finally slapped us upside our heads to allow Him in our hearts. Once a year, we would go away to a nearby town that featured a ton of outlets for our wives to shop and where we could play golf. After golf, (M) and I would spend the rest of the day in our hotel room watching college football and drinking. Over the years, this changed to just watching football and talking. One year, (M) excitedly introduced the timeless hit, “I Can Only Imagine.” It was the beginning of a transformation.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
The message of Galatians 2:20 is as timeless and relevant to Christians now as it was when Paul wrote the letter. The letter was a necessary answer to the dangerous false teaching that led Galatian believers astray by insisting that they must strictly adhere to Jewish practices to be saved. By reminding the Galatians of Christ’s presence in their lives, Paul urged them to live according to this truth, walk in the Spirit, and resist the temptation to turn back to the bondage of legalism and works-based righteousness.
Paul’s letter encourages us to resist the temptation to conform to the world’s ways, which is especially difficult today in a culture that values success, wealth, and popularity above all else. If we get nothing else from Galatians 2:20, we should remember that we have been crucified with Christ and that our old lives have no power over us. We are called to live by the power of the Holy Spirit and live in obedience to God. Christian life is not about living a moral life to earn God’s favor; it is about dying to ourselves and allowing Christ to live in and through us.
What does it look like to die to ourselves and live in Christ?
Another friend (J), a devout believer and a cancer survivor, demonstrates Jesus Christ in all aspects of his life. He loves like Christ, shares the Gospel, and puts others first and himself last. (J) doesn’t talk publicly about his faith. He’s not an evangelist, but his life sure looks like Christ. He went through a horrible ordeal with his cancer surgery and subsequent treatments, although (J)’s biggest concern was never about himself; it was to do anything he could to avoid being a burden to his wife and family. Above all, he remained optimistic and faithful, with eyes on Jesus. If you were a random stranger with a flat tire, (J) would be the first one to stop and offer his help.
Brother Andrew, “God’s Smuggler,” was an emboldened Dutch missionary who faced significant risks and persecution from communist authorities in the Balkans. They viewed his activities as a threat to their power. In the 1980s, he smuggled Bibles and Christian literature into Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro. Eventually arrested and imprisoned by the Serbian authorities for his Christian activities, Brother Andrew was released after international pressure and support from organizations such as Open Doors, which he founded that provides aid and support to persecuted Christians worldwide.
He could have obeyed the authorities. He could have laid low and lived a quiet, peaceful life, instead Brother Andrew obeyed his one true authority and focused his life on a greater peace. He encouraged many Christians to stand firm in their faith, even when facing persecution and opposition. His story is a testament to the power of faith and the courage of those willing to stand up for their beliefs, regardless of the cost.
Pastor and author Steve Smothermon wrote that believers “Have been transformed by Christ and now live by His power.” He added that it’s essential to understand and live in light of this transformation. In a world constantly telling us who we should be and what we should value, it is easy to lose sight of our identity as children of God. Christ lives in us, and we have been given new life in him. We must resist the enemy’s lies that tell us we are worthless, unlovable, or inadequate and instead embrace the truth that we are His, made in His image and called to live for His glory.
Living in Christ brings change and challenges.
The transformation is an ongoing process. (M) and I have continued to mature in our faith over the last 20+ years. We pray together, study the Word, and hold each other accountable for being who God created us. On a visit last year, (M) shared with my wife, (J), and me that he has cancer. It’s serious, but his outlook was/is amazing. His attitude has never reflected his condition. His joy comes from the Lord. Many years ago, (M) died to himself. Christ is living in him through radiation and hormone therapy, through his discomfort and side effects, through the endless and inconvenient appointments, and the cloud hanging over his head. But you would never know. Jesus Christ is alive and working through him.
The night he told us the news, he was understandably choked up. We were too. His faith and determination were inspiring beyond measure. It was as if we could see the glory of God shining through him, illuminating the warm night sky! The Christian life is one of faith. (M) has learned to trust in Christ’s promises, even though he cannot see the complete picture of what God is doing in his life and the world around him. (M) has gained an incredible skill of waiting on God’s timing, surrendering to His plans, and trusting that He is working all things together for his good.
The message of the Gospel has shown it has the power to transform lives, break the chains of sin, and give us new life in Christ. As believers, we are called to share this life-saving message with others and to be living examples of the transforming power of the Gospel.
Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:10-11
With sins and brokenness, our old selves have been crucified with Christ, and we have been given new life in him. No longer defined by our past mistakes or current circumstances, we are defined by our identity in Christ, and we have the power to live out this new identity every single day. My friend (M) was a new creation before the big “C” struck him. Any of his family or friends could see his life’s transformation. (M)’s identity as a child of God is rooted in one person, Jesus Christ, not his status, wealth, achievements, or abilities. As Tim Keller said, “We are not who we were. We are not who we will be. We are who we are in Christ.”
Our transformation has never been about church attendance, giving, being friendly to strangers, or even daily Bible reading.
Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell, who later became a missionary to China, is best known for his refusal to compete on the Sabbath in the 1924 Olympics. The movie Chariots of Fire told his powerful story. Liddell’s faith was central to his life, and he cited his athletic ability as a gift to God, only to be used for His glory. He won a gold medal in the 400-meter dash in the 1924 Olympics, but that is the subplot. As a child of missionary parents growing up in China, he returned to do mission work after the Olympics. Conditions had gone from bad to worse, especially for western Christians. Liddell was taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II and placed in an internment camp. His mission continued, however. Liddell became a leader and organizer at the camp. Liddell served the elderly, taught Bible classes, arranged games, taught the children, set up church services, and helped care for the sick. He was light for people in darkness. Sadly, God called him home in 1945 due to a brain tumor.
So you see, it doesn’t matter if you’re a financial advisor, a CEO, a salesman, an Olympian, a monk, or Mother Theresa. We all fall short of the glory of God. Where we don’t fall, however, is when we ignore the lies about ourselves, die to ourselves, and live for His glory. Christ’s love shines through us like the rays of a majestic sunset.
“We are all missionaries. Wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ, or we repel them from Christ.”
- Read Galatians 2. Does Galatians 2:20, in particular, encourage you to live a more Christ-centered life?
- Pray about ways you can surrender your own desires and follow Christ’s will for your life.
- How can you apply Galatians 2:20 in your daily life? Will your relationship with God change?
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.