Dan Stone uses the analogy of passing through various ‘gates’ as we walk the path of a Christian life. First, is the gate of salvation. We don’t even make it that far until we admit that we have a sin problem that we can’t solve. We try to pass through by our own strength, our good deeds, our ‘religious’ behavior, our generosity, or by being a ‘good’ person. But none of this works. We only pass through the gate of salvation by surrendering all that we are and trusting in Jesus.
As we continue our journey through life, we begin to explore the meaning of life. Beyond the forgiveness of our sins (which we might forget is such a very huge deal!), we try to live a ‘good’ Christian life still in our power. We read the bible, we pray, we attend church and give money for good causes. We exhaust ourselves trying to ‘be good.’ And then we come across a second gate where we really experience “God with us.” We pass through this gate, realizing that Jesus really does want to help us through the battles of life. It’s a weight off our shoulders to know that we’re not alone in our struggles. So we continue our journey of trying to live the Christian life…with God.
Now there is a third gate that remains undiscovered by many. It only appears when we realize that we can’t live the Christian life. We pass through this gate when we acknowledge that Jesus doesn’t merely help us live our life, Jesus IS our life. “Christ is in you and HE will live the life.” Instead of viewing life from our perspective, we are able to experience life and its purpose through the viewpoint of Jesus living in us. As we pass through this third gate we realize what the inscription means:
“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.” (Galatians 2:20)
Many of us understand why we have to pass through the first gate. We realize there is no other way to escape our sin problem, no forgiveness of sin at all, without the saving grace of Jesus. And as we devote ourselves to knowing our Heavenly Father we eagerly pass through the second gate, inviting God to help us on our journey. But we hesitate at the third gate, if in fact we think about it at all. Because this part of the journey requires total surrender into God’s hands of all we hold dear: our belongings, our career, our family, in fact our very identity. It requires dying to self, letting self be “crucified with Christ”. We think maybe we could just try harder to live the Christian life in our own power. But it’s both futile and exhausting to attempt it.
We don’t walk the Christian life. Jesus-in-us IS the life. Living with Him is not enough. The abundant life is only found by letting HIM live our life – in us. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6