THE EXCHANGED LIFE
I want to share the truth of this verse today: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
The words “I am crucified” (sustauroo) is in the Textus Receptus (the text from which our King James Bible is translated) the translation of a perfect passive indicative verb. The word “crucified” speaks of Christ’s death on the cross. The perfect tense represents completed action in the past, that completed action having present results. The passive voice means Paul is declaring something that happened to him, i.e., he didn’t crucify himself. The words “with Christ” means Paul is speaking here of his identification with Christ in His crucifixion and is representing it as having taken place in the past with the result that he remains crucified in the present. When Paul was put in Christ at his salvation, he shared His past as well as His future. Jesus died for sin and paid its penalty in full. Paul, in the person of Christ, is a saved sinner paid up in full for his sins as he stands before a holy God. It happened in the past. It is history. So Paul is saying “Having been crucified with Christ.”
The words “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:” present a great mystery according to Paul in Colossians chapter 1 verses 25-29. I’ll let you turn and read that for the sake of space. Christianity is different from all other religions in that we have a founder that is not dead. He is alive forever more. That would be absolutely tremendous if we stopped right there. But we do not stop there. Jesus is not only alive from the grave. He lives in the lives of His children. It is not the same way one would say, “My loved one is dead but he lives on in our memories.” Jesus is not just alive in our memories. He is alive in our bodies. 1 Cor. 6:19-20: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” He is there in reality. He is not just a memory.
The words “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” speaks of Paul’s life at the time of this writing. Paul is living an exchanged life. It is no long I, Paul says. It is Christ. Ian Thomas says that the Christian life is the life that Jesus lived on earth being lived now by Him in us. I believe this verse teaches this truth. The life is lived by the faith of Christ. It is not my faith which is a human faith. It is His faith reproduced in me with my submissive cooperation. It is the Vine and the branch working in harmony with God’s purpose. My part is simply abiding.
The story of Hudson Taylor’s experience of this truth will be good right here. “Taylor desperately desired to grow in holiness. But he also knew the frustrations of aborted attempts of living the abundant life. He prayed. He fasted often. But the summer of 1869, his spiritual condition had reached the critical state.
“Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if only I could abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I began the day with prayer, determined not to take my mind off of Him for a moment; but pressure of duties sometimes very trying, constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, often caused me to forget Him. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I found not.’ But as Taylor sought the Lord, an answer came in the form of a letter from a friend, John McCarthy.
McCarthy wrote: ‘I seem to have got to the edge only, but of a sea which is boundless; to have sipped only but of that which fully satisfies. Christ literally all seems to me now the power, and the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy.’
‘How then to have our faith increased? Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity.’ As Taylor laid McCarthy’s letter down, his spiritual eyes were opened and his heart was warmed by the reality of his oneness and identity with Christ. In a letter to his sister some days later, Taylor jubilantly declared his discovery of the exchanged life.
‘As I read [McCarthy’s letter] I saw it all! If we believe not, he abideth faithful. I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) That He had said, ‘I will never leave you.’ ‘Ah, there is rest!’ I thought. ‘I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me - never to leave me, never to fail me? And, dearie, He never will.’
‘The sweetest part is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this: for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.’
‘So, if God places me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. All this springs from the believer’s oneness with Christ.’”
My greatest problem in applying this truth was struggling to apply this truth. I strove to abide. I struggled to exercise faith. The truth was before me but I did not have the peace that is promised. The branch does not struggle to be a branch. He is made a branch by the Lord. The Father prunes Him. What is left for the branch to do. Just abide. There is no struggle to bear fruit. Have you ever seen a branch struggling to bear fruit? Fruit is the natural effortless product of a healthy plant. Abiding is simply being as a branch what God in Christ made me. Expending no effort to be something else. This takes me out of competition with others. It means enjoying Him. Enjoying His Word. Trusting Him to work everything out in my life that has to do with His will. I do not have to make things happen. I can rest in Him and trust Him completely for the outcome.
What a Saviour, what grace and what love surrounds us! May God bless these words to our hearts.