When we, by God’s grace, confess our sinfulness, believe in Jesus, and accept him to be our Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and lives inside of us.
Saint Paul put it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
The life of a Christian is a life united with Christ. And union with Christ means union with God. It also means union with Christ on the cross. Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).
In our everyday life, we’re constantly called to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus. In an argument with my wife, God tells me, “Deny yourself and forgive her and lover her first.” In my struggle with my parents in my journey into adulthood, Jesus tells me, “Die to yourself and affirm them as loving parents before they affirm you as their child.” To those who believe the worst in me, the Holy Spirit whispers to me, “Believe the best in them and give them the undeserved trust as a gift.”
How can we possibly do these things? It sounds impossible. It is costly.
Though it is indeed impossible to die to ourselves with our own strength, it can be done when we remember that Jesus did it for us. He died on the cross for our wrongs. He forgave us and loved us first before we loved him. And it cost him. He died…
And he rose again!
When we take up our cross, we’re united with Jesus who took up the ultimate cross for us. And we can die to ourselves because we know that, united with Christ, we will also rise again!
We can willingly die for the sake of others because we will live again. The path to eternal life is through death in union with Jesus. O the sweet joy of being united with Jesus on the cross! Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is costly. Yet, the inner joy in your heart will grow ever richly, and nothing can take it away. And you will taste the eternal life here and now. Through the death on your little cross, life will bloom in others around you and flourish even more within you.
Live in union with Christ, united with him both in death and in resurrection. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. You will begin to experience eternal life now.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:5-11).