This is a post that I wrote in 2013, and I feel led to bring it back this morning. When I wrote “Angered by the Gospel” three years ago, I had no idea how pervasive this struggle was. I thought that I was one of a small group that wrestled with saving “me” and “my life”—even when I hated “me” and “my life”! I know a little more now that this is a daily Cross in one way or another, for all of us. After reading it, I was again encouraged by the wonder that I am rewarded with and the peace that God gives me every time I lay “me” down in the grave where I belong. Hoping it encourages you, too!
Reading John’s post yesterday, I was reminded of all the times that I used to get angry whenever I heard or read anything that touched on the indwelling life of Christ. I mean, if it’s Christ’s life, then what happens to me? Do I just disappear? And if so, why in the world would I want to do that?
The Incredible Gospel of ‘Christ is All’
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
Galatians 2:20a ESV
That’s pretty straightforward – and utterly nonsensical to my rational, adult mind. It just really made me mad. If you’ve had this reaction to any part of the Gospel, or are currently in the throes of it, you’re not alone and it won’t last forever, so don’t despair. I can’t tell you when exactly I ceased to have such an angry response to this gospel truth. All I can tell you some of what that journey looked like.
The Cross came over and over to smash my self-love. I did NOT want to cease to be. It seemed a fate worse than death to become some vacuous shell merely wandering around. Would I be a Stepford wife? A zombie? A burnt-out cult groupie? If I could just understand exactly what that verse meant, then I wouldn’t be so angry! That’s what I told myself anyway, because my preeminent stronghold is my mind. Knowing is everything to my pride. So if I could just KNOW what this meant for my life, then I wouldn’t mind surrendering to it. Well, God refused to tell me. Every one of those early Cross encounters required my unconditional surrender – in complete ignorance.
The Child and the Gospel
Have you ever told a small child something fantastic and unbelievable and watched them move from wonder to acceptance in very short order? When my eldest nephew was 3 or 4, my sister took him to Piedmont Park and they walked up a big hill. At the top of the hill, they stopped to look at all the people and dogs and kids on bikes down below. My nephew looked down and didn’t grasp the concept of depth perception. He saw the world in a new way and said, “I want to go down where the little people are!” He believed that there was a whole world full of tiny people and dogs and trees and whatnot. And he wanted to visit that world.
I am far removed from those days of natural and easy acceptance of the fantastic. The Cross comes to me again and again to kill the self-consciousness at war with the innocent lack of self-awareness that is innate to small children. I’ve been brought to the bottom line, kicking and screaming, over and over: “Will you surrender your objections and say ‘yes’ to Me even if I never tell you why, or what it means?”
The Gift of the Gospel
One day I noticed that I was no longer angry at the very thought that it was no longer I that lived, “but Christ who lives in me.” I was beginning to understand what He meant when He said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it” (Mt. 10:39 NLT). The more I embrace the Cross that comes to kill my knowledge-worshipping adult-self, the more I experience the great mystery of the Gospel in my actual, daily life. It is a paradox, a tangled web, an impossibility. The less I demand to know, the more God teaches me.
From Biblical Psychology by Oswald Chambers:
“As long as we are flippant and stupid and shallow and think that we know ourselves, we shall never give ourselves over to Jesus Christ; but when once we become conscious that we are infinitely more than we can fathom, and infinitely greater in possibility either for good or bad than we can know, we shall be only too glad to hand ourselves over to Him.”