Galatians 2.15-21; Luke 9:21-27; Romans 6:6-7; Galatians 5.24; Galatians 6.14
A kind of hopeful burying has been going on around the manse and around a certain house in First Avenue in Dargaville. We’ve been getting our hands and knees dirt-encrusted and a bit creaky in the process of lovingly burying bulbs in the soil. We’re looking forward to the cheery, colourful, surprise of spring flowers.
However if we don’t bury the bulbs, recognising a kind of death, we can’t expect the glorious emergence of daffodils, freesias, and crocuses when spring comes around.
It’s a kind of miracle – because when I pull the bulbs at the end of summer they die – and stay that way in the box in the laundry. No growth, no life, nothing – just a collection of dry, flaky little bulbs waiting out their destiny. And as the season of dying plants comes, Autumn, the bulbs are taken to their burial in the soil – in the borders of gardens, under trees, even in corners of the lawn – arranged to surprise and delight come Spring, the season of new life.
So is a daffodil a bulb lying dead in the box in the laundry? Or is it the triumphant, glorious,
transcendent golden bloom promising the halcyon days of summer?
Finding our identity in a death and more than that. It raises the question of who I am –
really. In Galatians Paul is persuading his hearers who they truly they are, and how they got there. He’s talking about justification (being validated in being put right with God). He is somewhat forcefully reminding them that justification is not something they achieved by status or by bowing to the demand of the Law, that they are not anymore defined by either shame or achievement or religious background. It has nothing to do with any kind of conformity, being made right with God can only take place through grace-enacted faith – faith in Jesus the Messiah. But what is it in Jesus that makes us right with God, that so markedly transforms our identity, what is it about Jesus that saves us? It’s His death, His crucifixion – on our behalf, in our place, paying the price we could never afford, freeing us from the accusatory power of the Law. So instead of trying to prove ourselves as worthy through legalistically conforming behaviour – instead of that we put our faith in the dying and rising Christ.
But what does this mean, what does this faith look like? How do we stay free of the nagging need to achieve and earn our place with God, and the dreadful urge to impress God and others with our “holiness”? Die! – again and again! to the domination and demands of performance based perfectionism. We are set free from sin (Rom 6.7) and from the passions and desires of the flesh or body. (Gal. 5.24) Realise that this is no longer us. In faith, we have died with Christ. If you die to something it has no life for you, no point, no influence, no rights – you’re beyond its reach. (What we are alive to, we’ll discuss in greater detail next week.) And even dying to the Law and sin is not something we do, it’s in Jesus’ crucifixion that we find our own death; that which brings emancipation from the rule of the Law of sin and of death. So having thus died, we now truly live, but its not our life anymore since its Christ who lives in each of us.(v.20) So now living is about Christ’s presence and power driving (and accompanying) us forward in His purposes, enabling, moderating, shaping our lives in transformation rather insisting upon conformity.
So how do we go on living with these demanding bodies and insistent psyches? By faith in the Son of God – that’s Paul’s answer. We live out of our new identity, out of a relationship of obedient and adventurous trust in the One who loved us enough to give up His own life that our lives might mean something worthwhile; His love gives our lives a transcendent value and dimension that neither sin nor even death can destroy.
Live out your new identity by taking up your cross daily, in acts of denying self is what Jesus calls us to do (Luke 9.23) – deliberately, intentionally, following Jesus of Nazareth. Yes -both crucified and risen. What Jesus invites us to is the crucified self, where my choices, and my fluctuating passions and desires no longer determine the way for me – but rather I follow where Jesus leads, what Jesus teaches and encourages and commands. If Jesus is the new environment, the transforming motivation for our lives, there are things, relationships, attitudes that we die to in order to live with and for Him. What are these for you? What does it mean for you to die to self, to take up your cross and follow the Lord? The disciples had to leave behind a whole series of defining roles, acquisitions and relationships to follow Jesus. What does your new identity look like? What are you having to leave behind, to deny? However what do you stand again in this new crucified and resurrected self?
Practising a living relationship with the Lord, the Lover of your soul, which involves prayer of all kinds, and careful reading of the Bible. During that you should always be open to the above questions and issues – we are being constantly put to death and raised to God’s realm and reality, dying to self and rising afresh to life in Christ, in the power of his Spirit.
How does that look for you? Give yourself time to think about it, meditate on it, discuss it with the Spirit of truth.