Faith Identity

My 365

Maybe you’re like me. You are not opposed to Christianity. In fact, you know that essentially there is no other way to live or to make it to heaven. Jesus paid it all on the cross. Sin is taken care of once for all. The Sunday School answers are there, deep inside you. Problem is they don’t always translate to daily life. Job hassles. Finances. Marriage. Time management. Life bombards, and then there’s Jesus. If you have time for him. How many times has he been an afterthought? The guilt rises for not including Jesus in the daily affairs of life. Why is it we only call on him when life is in crisis? For a while, I try harder. I remember to pray, to read my Bible, to talk about him, until… the proverbial cycle returns and once again I’m at best a secular religionist. I hate it. I’m such a fake!

At least that’s how a lot of my “Christian” life used to be; me trying harder.  Then, something changed. It had a lot to do with this verse. Galatians 2:20 English Standard Version (ESV)
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. 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.

It was like a shock to my entire human existence! A paradigm shift! When I finally understood this verse my entire perspective on living the Christian life shifted. I’m not joking; not stringing you a line. This isn’t mere semantics. It’s a supernatural shift in how I live. Bottom-line, I’m not supposed to be a Christian. You heard me correctly! Yes, God wants to save me. Yes, God wants to change me. Yes, God wants me to be with him for eternity. How that happens is not centered on me but on Him living in me.

You are Not Supposed to Live the Christian Life
Several years ago, I was listening to a guy on the radio, James MacDonald, talk about this verse in Galatians. He said this, “God made no provision for you or me to live the Christian life. He made every provision for the Holy Spirit to live the life of Christ through us.” Nothing in God’s economy puts the ownness of living the Christian life on us. It’s not me trying harder, but me yielding more to Christ. In our empirical age, we have lost sight of the supernatural. Life is measurable, but there are aspects that are not. They are beyond the natural world. God exists outside of creation. That is, his existence is not contingent on the material world. When Christ ascended after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit came. The Spirit, who is fully God, lives in each believer in Jesus Christ. The Spirit’s role is to live the life of Christ through us. Christ living his life through you.

What About Volition?
Merriam-Webster’s definition of volition. 1: the power of choosing or determining: will. 2: an act of making a choice or decision also: a choice or decision made. Volition is my God-given right to decide. It’s what we call free-will. You can cognitively acknowledge Jesus, but whether you choose to yield to him and allow him to live his life through you is still your decision. We’ve all done it. We claim Christ. We make faith moves towards him and see changes in our priorities, character, and attitudes. Life seems to be on a good path. Then, whether it’s due to a streak of personal successes or unexpected circumstances, we hit a low point. Next thing we know we are wallowing in some sort of sin-ridden miry muck. Be what it is, porn, drunkenness, an out of control, raging temper, a rift in what was otherwise a loving relationship, financial plunder. It becomes painfully clear you are not living as God intended and any efforts you try to make things right only worsens the situation.

When Paul wrote what is Galatians 2:20, notice he said, “I have been crucified with Christ.” The biggest problem with me living the Christian life is ME! I get in the way! I choose by my will to force my agenda and my expectations on life instead of learning the value of dying to self. Dying to self is not about a loss of personhood. You are still you. Your personality. Your disposition. Your physical stature. Your gender. You are uniquely created by God and placed in this time of history for a purpose far greater than your idea of what life is about. The fullness of who you are will NEVER be realized so long as you are running the show. Christ in you wants to do a far better, far more eternal job of living through you. Notice that you still live in the flesh (your body). It’s now, you live “by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you.”  I still must eat, sleep, go to work, fix the toilet, pay the bills, I still have relationships to cultivate. In that respect, life continues. The difference is Christ lives his life through me IN those choices.

Walking in the Spirit
After thirty years of marriage, it’s like my wife and I can read each other’s minds. Do I know her or what? Spending time with each other has created a level of human intimacy we don’t have with anyone else on the planet! When you walk in the Spirit, you aren’t levitating in the clouds. You aren’t some holier than thou person. You are still you. The difference is you are more in-tune with what the Spirit wants in certain situations. You might be in a conversation with someone and sense their pain. You might sense the Spirit prompting you to speak a word of encouragement to them in that moment. The question always is, will you yield (submit, obey, follow, alter your plans) for his? One time, as I was driving back from the YMCA, I sensed the Lord telling me to pray for a young man, in that moment. I did. Later, I texted him. “Hey, dude! Not sure what’s up, but the Lord prompted me to pray for you. Hope all is well. Anything going on?”  To which, I received a text-reply that he was about to look at porn and my text stopped him!  “This is a bit freaky!” he replied “But, God got my attention! Thank you!”  

The more I thought about how the Spirit wants to live his life through me, I kept facing choices and decisions that I realized I needed His wisdom on. So, I decided to read Galatians 2:20 every day for an entire year. When you read something 365 times it starts to sink in. Have I lived this year totally led by the Spirit? No. Have I grown in my appreciation for the Spirit and how he can do a far better job of living Christ through me? Absolutely! Is it a daily, even moment by moment surrender to the Spirit? Yes. As Francis Chan says the Holy Spirit is the forgotten God. We fear him because we don’t know him. We don’t know him because we are too busy trying to live the Christian life on our own power. With all respect, if that is you, repent. Start yielding to him. There is a direct correlation between a person who is submitting to the Word of God and who lives by the Spirit. No Word, No Spirit. If you are supposedly living by the Spirit, but are not in the Word, you are not Spirit-filled.

My Challenge
Go 365 with the Spirit. Start with reading Galatians 2:20 every day for an entire year. Jot down one new truth you glean from that verse every day about yourself, God, Jesus Christ, the Spirit and what it means to live by the Spirit. I can tell you that after a year of that, you will find yourself in a far better place with God and with the Spirit, who wants to live the life of Christ through you.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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