19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 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.
A popular children’s story from my growing up years was the Little Red Hen. The premise of the story is a hen who does all of the work on the farm. She asks the other animals if they are willing to help with different things, but each time the response is “’Not I,’ said the cat. ‘Not I,’ said the dog. ‘Not I,’ said the mouse.” So she would complete the task, and each time it yielded great results. When it was time to benefit from the results, the cat, dog and mouse were more than willing to partake, but the hen was unwilling to let them since she had done all of the work. This taught the animals to help when they are asked, and parents hoped the story will teach their kids to be helpers.
While this is a great parenting principle, it is a terrible spiritual one. Because we preach responsibility and a good work ethic to our kids, it is easy to believe that the same applies to our spiritual lives. Most of us understand that we can’t do anything to become justified in God’s sight, but then we fall into the trap of believing that how we live now is by trying our best to follow a set of rules and guidelines. This is a recipe for failure and was never God’s plan for us under the New Covenant. We “died” to that kind of “Law”-living, so that we could live to God.
Galatians 2:20 is my favorite verse in all of scripture because it very succinctly teaches a truth that has transformed how I live my life as a follower of Christ. The context of it is summed up in verse 19. In order for me to live to God, I must recognize that the rule of law is dead to me. Trying to approach my life by following rules, even God’s rules, is going to ultimately end in defeat and failure. Thank God that His Son has paid the price for every one of my failures, but God’s plan is not failure for us, but victory!
How? How can we have victory over life’s daily struggles, trials and temptations? By saying, “Not I” and by shirking the responsibility on someone else. You see God’s plan is not us trying to live the Christian life, but Christ living and loving through us. What’s my role? Faith…living moment by moment trusting Christ to live through me. This takes humility in recognizing that I cannot be the husband, father, pastor, etc. that I should be. My best will just not do it because I am insufficient for the task by myself (“in the flesh”). Yet, He is completely sufficient.
It is like trying to drive my truck without an engine. I can put it in drive, turn the wheel and press on the gas, but I’m not going anywhere without the power that the engine supplies. I am completely incapable of getting my truck to 70 on the I-5 without the engine. I’m just too weak. I am completely incapable of producing the resurrection life that we were made for. I'm just too weak. Only Christ living within me can.
On the other hand, once I recognize that I’m going nowhere without the engine, I turn the ignition. That is me saying I need help, and I trust in that purring diesel engine to do the work. Do I still have to put it in drive, turn the wheel, and press on the gas? Yes, but it is only the help of the engine that makes any of those things work.
We came to Christ recognizing that we couldn't do anything about our sinful condition, but we trust in what He did on the cross to address our sin. We need to similarly recognize that we can’t do anything to live and love like Christ (which is our calling) but we can ask Him to live through us. And the great thing is…He will! The great thing about this plan is that, when He does, He gets the glory that He so greatly deserves.
May we choose today and every day to say by faith, “Not I, but Christ within me.”