Not I, but Christ who Lives in me

Years ago, a woman asked to meet with me for some advice. She was dating a man, but wasn’t sure about his faith and walk with Christ. She asked me if I would meet with them together, and I agreed.

A couple of days after the meeting, she called me to ask what I thought about his faith. She also shared that she had come out of a bad relationship and didn’t want to make the same mistake. I shared, “I’m not God, but from what I could discern, it didn’t appear to me that he was a follower of Jesus.” I also encouraged her to get closer to Jesus herself and let Him meet the deepest needs of her heart before considering getting into a relationship. Soon after our conversation, she disappeared. I learned later that they moved in together.

Some time ago, I ran into her again. Keep in mind, I hadn’t seen her for serval years. After I greeted her, the first words that she uttered to me was, “Pastor, I should have listened to you. The last two years of my life have been a living nightmare.”

Some people say, “It’s hard to live the Christian life.” But it's actually hard not to. I’m not implying that if you’re living the Christian life, you’ll never experience any trouble. Jesus said that in this world, His disciples will have tribulation. (John 16:33)

But the reason you may feel like it’s hard to live the Christian life is because you’ve been trying to live it in your own strength. Living the Christian life is not about trying hard, it’s about trusting Him.

In fact, it’s impossible to live the Christian life. Only one person ever lived the Christian life and His name is Jesus.

Christ’s death sets us free from the legal penalty of our sin.

Regarding his identification with Christ, the Apostle Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ…” Jesus was crucified on a cross to pay our sin debt so that we could be free from the legal penalty of violating God’s law. As Paul also explained in Galatians 2:16, we cannot be justified, or made righteous before God by keeping the law. We all fall short. Therefore, the law declares us legally guilty before God and deserving of God’s justifiable punishment. But God in His grace and mercy made a way for guilty sinners to be forgiven of their sin. Christ died as our substitute. (1 Peter 3:18)

So when we recognize that we are guilty sinners before a Holy God and place our faith in Jesus, who paid our sin debt, He saves us. To be saved from our sin means more than escaping the penalty of sin. It means that we who were dead in sin and separated from God, are made alive unto God, are brought near to God, and are reconciled to God the Father so that we could enjoy a relationship with Him.

This happens because when we place our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, we are joined to Christ through the Spirit and appropriate the spiritual benefits of both the death of Christ and His resurrection.

Christ’s resurrection sets us free to live in the power of the Spirit.

In addition to his identification with the death of Christ, which brought redemption and reconciliation, Paul continues in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” If you’re a believer, Christ, the person of the Holy Spirit, has taken up residence in your body. (Romans 8:9-10)

Again, the Apostle Paul declared, "Christ…lives in me." And if you’re saved, the same is true of you, Christ lives in you. You have been regenerated—made alive by the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, Christ lives in us and we live in Him. (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3-4)

All who have received Jesus by faith as Savior and Lord are identified with Christ in all that He has accomplished. We are joined to Christ in His death and resurrection.

Now it’s important to emphasize here that this vital spiritual union with Christ is not only the basis of our salvation, but also the basis of our sanctification. That is to say, our union with Christ crucified not only saves us from our sin, our union with the risen Christ is the means whereby we walk in the newness of life.

Salvation is more than a ticket to heaven. Salvation is to know, as Paul knew, Christ lives in me. Paul, through the Spirit, was made new on the inside and thus was being changed day by day to live in conformity to the will and ways of Christ. Therefore, when it came to living for God, he declared, “It is no longer I who live…”

Do you know this great salvation? Do you know, like Paul, that you’ve been set free from the penalty of sin and that Christ lives in you? We can know the transforming power and hope of the living Christ not only because of the historical fact of the resurrection, but because He lives in the heart of all who put their trust in Him. He lives in us to make Himself known to us and to live through us.

Christ’s life sets us free from the languishing prison of self.

Having explained that he died with Christ, died to self-effort, died to trying to be right with God in his own strength and that Christ lives in Him to be for him what he could not be, Paul continues in verse 20: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 

When Paul in the previous sentence said, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” he’s not saying that he lived a sinless life or that he’s like a robot that plays no role in his new life in Christ. Paul explains in the next sentence that his new life in Christ is lived in the flesh, which is our body, and also that it’s lived by faith. Although we’ve been given a new life in Christ with new affections, with new perspective, and with new motivations, we are still in our fleshly bodies. As such, we have a new battle because although the old self has been crucified with Christ, we still live in these earthly bodies. (Romans 6:6)

To be crucified with Christ doesn’t mean that our mortal body ceases to exist, but that our mortal body with its sinful desires, is no longer our master (Romans 6:14). We have a new King, a new Master—a new Person, Jesus, at work in us. He’s at work in us so that we would yield ourselves to Him and depend on Him to put to death our sinful desires so that His life shines through us. (Galatians 5:16-17)

Do you know this internal battle that Paul is speaking of between the flesh and the Spirit? Years ago, a friend of mine, who had recently come to faith in Christ, met up with me for counseling. He shared with me that since coming to faith in Christ he’s been experiencing a battle of contrary desires that he didn’t have before. And then he asked, "does this struggle that I have now mean that I didn’t really come to saving faith in Jesus?" I replied, "on the contrary. If you didn’t have that struggle, that new battle, I would be worried. The struggle is affirmation that Christ lives in you." Sam Allberry put it this way: “The sign that the Spirit is powerfully at work in you is not that there’s no battle with sin, but a huge battle with sin.”

Notice again that Paul explains: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  When Paul said in the previous sentence that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, he’s not saying that we have no role to play in living the Christian life.

As Will Pound explained, “Paul would not give us the idea that Christ operates automatically in a believer’s life. He is not a robot. The Christian life is a matter of living the new life "by faith in the Son of God." It is then faith and not works or legal compliance that releases God’s [resurrection] power to live a Christian life.”

When you receive Christ by faith as Savior and Lord, you are united with Him through the Spirit. Christ lives in you and you live in Him. Consequently, you can know the power of the risen Christ to walk in newness of life as you live a life of faith, a life of trusting in, yielding to, and depending on the Son of God who loves you and gave Himself for you.

Do you feel it’s hard to live the Christian life? The reason you may find it hard could be that you’ve not come to saving faith in Jesus. You’re trying to earn salvation by works, instead of receiving the salvation that Christ provided on the cross by grace through faith.

Or perhaps you have placed your faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, but when it comes to living the Christian life you’ve been leaning on self instead of on Jesus. You’ve been trying hard instead of trusting Him.

Remember, we are not only saved by faith, we are also transformed by faith, through a process of lifetime growth and struggle, to be more like Christ.

How do we grow in faith so that we learn to trust the risen Christ in us to live His life through us? Over the years I found Adrian Roger’s outline very helpful, which I briefly expound on.

  • First of all, the origin of faith is the word of God; therefore we must make time to hear God’s word, read God’s word and get it in our hearts. 
  • Secondly, the object of faith is God. Therefore, know Him. Faith is as good as its object. Don’t just read the bible to gain head knowledge. Read it and pray it to encounter the living Christ.  
  • Thirdly, the objective of faith is the will of God. Therefore, obey Him. Christ’s resurrection power and presence will be manifested in you to fulfill His will for your life for your good and His glory. When we have a strong faith in God we not only trust His will for our lives but we will pray persistently for the strength to fulfill it. If you pray only when you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble.
  • Lastly, the operation of faith is the work of God. Therefore, yield to the Spirit at work in you. Where God guides, He will provide. God is calling you. Step out in faith and obedience for God to use you to serve the cause of Christ. He promised that when you do, He will be with you and work in you with resurrection power to bless others through you.   

The Christian life is nothing less than the risen Christ living His life through our surrendered lives. May you grow in faith and in the love of Jesus so that you would die to self-reliance and testify daily from experience, Not I, but Christ lives in me and the life that I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.

In His service,
Pastor Marco