Life on Death Row

Bible Book: Galatians  2 : 20
Subject: Life, The Exchanged; Life, New; Crucified with Christ

One of the greatest discoveries that I have ever made is that of the Christian life. I have found that the Christian life is nothing more, nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself. It is not denomination. It is not affiliation. It is not participation. It is Jesus Christ Himself. It is all what Christ has done for us, to us, and in us. It is a life that originates with Christ. It is a life that permeates with Christ. It is a life that consummates with Christ. It is Christ who comes into us that it may be Christ who comes out through us.

As Stephen Olford said, “The Christian life is nothing less that the Outliving of the Indwelling Christ!” Through my discovery of the Christian life, I came to realize that God expects nothing more, and nothing less of me that utter, complete and total Failure! He doesn’t expect me to succeed, but to sink. He doesn’t expect me to climb, but to crash. He doesn’t expect me to flourish, but to flounder. In fact, He expects absolutely Nothing of Steve Wagers.

So many people imagine that the Christian life is THEIR attempt to live as Christians for Christ. It Can't Be Done! We can’t keep the Ten Commandments. We can’t keep the Sermon on the Mount. We can’t keep the principles, precepts, admonitions, or absolutes of the Word of God. Many have tried, but ALL have failed. It’s not that it won’t be done, or it hasn’t been done; It Can't Be Done! “Without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15: 5)

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. [6]For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. [7]Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. [8]So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8: 5-8)

There is only one Person who ever did it! It was not because He was a Christian; it is because He was Christ. There is only Person who ever pleased God, and that was because He was God!

On the banks of the Jordan River, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3: 17)

On the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matt. 17: 5)

He pleased God in His Private Life. He pleased God in His Public Life. He Is The Only One Who Ever Did It.

The 1995 film, “Dead Man Walking,” based on the book of the same name, tells the story of Sister Helen Rejean, played by Susan Sarandon, who establishes a special relationship with Matthew Poncelet, a prisoner on death row, played by Sean Penn. The title comes from the traditional call in America of "Dead man walking, dead man walking here!" from a prison guard as a condemned prisoner is led onto Death Row. The phrase originated from the 1909 poem by Thomas Hardy titled, The Dead Man Walking:

“They hail me as one living, But don’t they know

That I have died of late years, Untombed although?

I am but a shape that stands here, A pulseless mold,

A pale past picture, Ashes gone cold.

And when my Love’s heart kindled in hate of me,

Wherefore I knew not, died I one more degree.

And if when I died fully I cannot say,

And changed into the corpse-thing I am to-day.

Yet is it that, though whiling the time somehow

In walking, talking, smiling, I live not now.”

If Jesus is the only One who ever lived the Christian life, and there is no way that I can live the Christian life. What’s the answer? The answer is Galatians 2: 20! Spend the rest of your life on death row.

I. What Does It Mean

Before Paul arrived at the truth of Galatians 2: 20, he endured the struggle with the moral, physical and spiritual reality. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. [19]For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7: 18-19, 24) Paul says, “I cannot blame the law. The law is good. Thus, the problem is not the law, the problem is Me!”

Contrary to the philosophy of Maude in the 70’s, “The devil didn’t make us do it.” We are to blame. We are the guilty party. The problem is us.

We don’t want to:

Lose our tempers

Lash out with our tongues

Lust in our thoughts

But, we do it constantly, continuously, and consistently.

Apparently, Paul found the secret by the time he wrote Galatians 2: 20, but what did he mean, “I am crucified with Christ?”

A. A Past Event Of Cancellation

“I am crucified:” Perfect tense—Completed Action “I Have Been Crucified”

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6: 6)

The judicial or positional crucifixion of our sinful flesh took place more than 2000 years ago. And, at the moment of our salvation, We Died With Christ On The Cross. It is not a fable, folly or a farce…It Is A Fact!

He died for sin; we died with Him To Sin! It is not that we should die to sin; we Have Died To Sin! It Is Done! It Is Accomplished! It Is Finished! It Is Final!

When Adam sinned, The Human Race Sinned and When Christ died, The Human Race Died!

He Died As A Man For All Men.

It may not be appropriated by all men, but it was Demonstrated for all men

The day we accepted His substitutionary atonement for our sins, and confessed Him as our Savior, we were positionally placed upon the Cross. Our “old man” died with Jesus, once and for all. R. Kent Hughes writes, “Our spiritual history began at the cross. We were there in the sense that in God’s sight we were joined to Him who actually suffered on it. The time element should not disturb us, because if we sinned in Adam, it is equally possible to have died to sin with Christ.” [1]

The penalty/power of sin was dealt with once and for all at Calvary. Because we died with Him at salvation, we share in His death; thus, we share in the release from the dominion of sin.

When Jesus died, I Died! Thus, I am forgiven, I am favored, and I am free, because I am “dead to sin,” once and for all. However, that is not all Paul has in mind in the statement, “I am crucified with Christ.” It also speaks of:

B. A Present Experience Of Crucifixion

The verb is in the perfect tense, which not only speaks of a completed action; but, of a completed action with continuing effects. What happened in Past History Story now is to happen in Present Victory! I have been crucified with Christ; thus, I must continue to be crucified with Christ. Just as He died for my sin; I am to continuously die TO my sin.

Positionally, I am completely dead Progressively, I am to continually die.

Lloyd John Ogilvie said, "Today's personal Calvary, death to self, makes way for resurrection living tomorrow."

Calvary is to be a Daily Experience.

Watchman Nee said, "What is lacking most in lives of Christians today is not a better way of living, but a better way of dying. We need to die a thorough death."

God doesn’t crucify what He hasn’t Condemned; and, our sinful flesh was, and forever will be, condemned. Thus, because God has condemned it, in “His flesh,” it is to be crucified in “our flesh.” Our sinful flesh cannot be: Curbed, Controlled, Counteracted, Cleaned, Coddled, Consoled, or Cured - It has been condemned! It must be crucified!

Paul doesn’t say that “God crucified me with Christ;” or, “The church/religion crucified me with Christ.” But, “I Am Crucified With Christ!" This is something that cannot be done For us, but must be done By us. You cannot crucify yourself, because your flesh is too powerful. This is one death that cannot be self-inflicted; it cannot only be Spirit-Induced! However, we must be willing to be crucified daily.

As F. B. Meyer writes, “The curse of the Christian is that self is our pivot. It is because Satan made self his pivot that he became the devil. Take Heaven from its center in God, and try to center it in self, and you transform Heaven into hell. The cross for justification is the putting away of sin; but, the cross for sanctification is the cross standing between me and my past, between me and the world, between me and myself.” [2]

The problem with this is, in the words of Martin Luther, “The old man dies hard!” We don’t want to die. We don’t want to forfeit control. We don’t want to give up our rights. We don’t want to watch what we say, what we do, what we think, or how we live. We don’t want to vacate the throne. We don’t want anyone else calling the shots. We don’t want to give up, give out, or give in.

Jesus never said:

Take up your Electric Chair and follow me. Take up your Gas Chamber and follow me. Take up your Lethal Injection and follow me. Take up your Firing Squad and follow me. Those are Instantaneous deaths. Jesus said, “Take up your CROSS and follow me.” Why? Crucifixion is not Immediate or Instantaneous. It is a slow, agonizing, torturing, resigning death. On the cross, we can’t Come Down, Get Off, or Turn Around!

The execution was recorded the moment the victim was nailed to the cross, although he might linger for hours or days. As soon as he was nailed to the cross, he was considered dead! So often we talk about being hurt, or offended, or mistreated; but, it is usually the Uncrucified Flesh that resents the hurt, offense, or mistreatment; and, the un-crucified flesh Must Die. It must be Nailed To The Tree where it belongs! Whether it is the cross of shame, the cross of suffering, the cross of sacrifice, or the cross of surrender, it all belongs on the cross of Self.

What God has Condemned, We must Crucify. What God condemns, he crucifies. What God crucifies, he buries. What God buries, we aren’t to dig up!

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die…” (Romans 8: 13) Everything we Do dies

Everything we Touch dies. Everything we Say dies. Everything we Produce dies. Everything we Desire dies.

Oswald Chambers writes, “I must be crucified until all that is left is the life of Christ in my flesh and blood.” [3]

II. What Does It Matter

Does it really matter if we, as Christians, die to sin and self? Does it really matter if I give up my right, my ideas, my opinions, my thoughts, my attitudes, my likes and dislikes? Does it really matter?

It doesn’t matter if one desires to be a discouraged, defeated, disgraced Christian? But, it does matter if we are to discover the secret of the Christian life. The greatest pastor, preacher, missionary, teacher, apostle, and writer seems to say it matters.

What happens when self is taken to the only place it belongs, on the cross and crucified?

A. A Momentous Identification

“I am crucified With Christ.”

Not “to Christ” or “in Christ,” but “With Christ.” In other words, Paul identifies not only his appropriation, but his Association. He identifies His death progressively with the death of Christ eternally.

Paul was a man with a most impressive resume. He had been “Circumcised…of the stock of Israel…a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee … touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Phil. 3: 5-6)

But, there was a day when Paul died to Paul. All of those things meant nothing when compared to the reality of what Christ had done for Him, and who Christ was to Him. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Phil. 3: 10) Paul realized that if I am going to know Him, then I must be willing to die With Him.

Leonard Ravenhill writes, "Paul had no reputation, and so he had nothing to fight about. He had no possessions, so he had nothing to worry about. He had no rights, so he had nothing to defend. He was already broken, so no one could break him. He was dead, so no one could kill him. He had lost everything, so no one could defraud him. He had nothing, but he needed nothing, because Christ, the all-in-all, was everything to him, for him, in him and through him."

Every Christian rejoices in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus; but, if we are not willing to accept our crucifixion with Christ, how could we ever accept our resurrection in Christ?

Do you want to know Him? Do you desire to become more like Him? Then, you must be willing to be identified with Him in death.

B. A Mysterious Revelation

“I am crucified with Christ; Nevertheless I live.”

This is one of the great paradoxes of Scripture. A man who has just confessed that he was dead is alive. He is a Dead Man Living! He was not a Living man in the land of the Dying He was a Dead man in the land of the Living. How is that possible? How can a man be dead and alive at the same time? Let me suffice it to say that It’s Not Possible!

But, that was only half of the story….now For The Rest Of The Story! “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet Not I, But Christ Liveth In Me.”

Paul has been willing to identify with Christ in death. As a result, of his identification with Christ there took place a revelation of Christ. In other words, Christ was not only real to Paul, Christ was real In Paul.

“Resurrection power, Fill me this hour. Jesus, be Jesus in me.”

I used to pray, “Lord, reveal yourself to me.” Then, after a few years, I began to pray, “Lord reveal yourself around me.” But, I have come to the place where now I pray, “Lord, reveal yourself in me.”

In that one comprehensive statement is gathered up life From Christ, life With Christ, life In Christ, life For Christ, all summed up that living IS Christ. It is Christ that Liveth In Me!

Alan Redpath tells of a wealthy man in South Africa who bought a Rolls Royce. He looked the car over, took it for a test drive, and was satisfied with its overall performance. He had never driven anything like this classic, the ultimate in automobile performance. As he was about to hand over the check, it dawned on him that the salesman hadn’t told him anything about the car’s horsepower, and he insisted on having that information. The salesman replied, “Sir, I don’t have that information handy, but I’ll try my best to get it for you as soon as possible.” He then wired the London office, inquiring about the horsepower, and by return telegram came this message, consisting of only 2 words: ‘Horsepower Adequate’!

Paul is admitting that there was nothing he could do to win the battle over sin, self, sorrow, suffering, or struggles, but what He could not do, Jesus Was Adequate!

We can’t live it; but, He has lived it, He can live it, and He will live it, if we quit trying to live it. Jesus IS Adequate!

We can’t overcome habits, hang-ups, handicaps, and hurts. Willpower is not adequate, but Word Power is Adequate!

C. A Marvelous Appropriation

What is the key to Christ living the Christian life In me so that He can live it For me Through me? Once we die in identification, and Christ comes alive through revelation, we must then settle the matter through appropriation.

“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.”

Paul admits that we live this life “by faith,” but it is not even our faith; it is the “the faith of the Son of God.” In other words, this is not faith IN God, but it is the faith OF God IN us.

Let me explain it this way. Let’s say that you have a problem with your temper, your tongue, or your thoughts. You are saved and have died with Jesus positionally, and seek to be crucified with Christ progressively every day. But, all of the sudden something happens and you feel your blood pressure starting to rise, or your mouth start to open, or your mind start to wander. There are 2 choices: Flesh or Faith. We all know what the flesh will do, but what does the “faith of the Son of God do?” The faith of the Son of God says, “Holy Spirit, nail it quick and nail it hard.”

At that moment, self goes back to the Cross, and Jesus comes alive through your personality, in all of the glory of His person, presence and power. All of the sudden, we have same the same old engine, but we have received a New Transmission. Thus, because we are “crucified with Christ,” He Shifts To A New Gear, We Never Had Before!

So, basically, all that I have to do is Nothing! It cannot be my flesh. It should not be my feelings. And, it is not my faith. It’s only my Funeral! The moment I take, Christ Undertakes! The moment I die, Christ Does!

Charles Trumbull wrote, “Christ does not want to be our helper, He wants to be our life. He does not want us to work for Him; He wants to do His work through us. Just as we use a pencil to write with, Christ wants to use us as the fingers of His hand.” [4]


One of highlights of my life was having the privilege of seeing, visiting and touring Buckingham Palace in London. Just the layout of the grounds and the dedication of the guards are breathtaking.

The first time that we visited, the gates were opened, and we were allowed to walk around, take pictures, and do the normal tourist thing. The day before we left London, I wanted to go back and see things that I had missed the first time in all of the pomp and circumstance. However, this time, we were forbidden. The gates were closed and the guards securely manned their posts.

I walked up to one of the ‘bobbies’ (British guards) and asked him why we were not allowed to go inside this time. He pointed to the flagpole on top of Buckingham Palace and informed me that the first time we came, had we noticed, the flag was at half-mast, however, on this day, the flag was flying high.

Then, he said, “When the flag is lowered, the Queen is absent; but, when the flag is flying high, the Queen of England is on her throne.”

So it is with the Christian life. As long as we are on the throne, the flag of life flies low with discouragement, defeat, and doubt. But, we abdicate the throne and die, Jesus vacates the throne to rule and reign, and the flag of our lives flies high.

Let me compare the 2 lives and you decide which one sounds more appealing.

Flesh on the Throne which produces: Anger, bitterness, hostility, impatience, unkindness, rudeness, fear, pride, unrestraint or Flesh in the Tomb which produces: Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

Which one sounds better to you? I believe I know the answer, but it’s only made possible as we live on death row.


1 “Romans-Righteousness from Heaven,” R. Kent Hughes, pg. 124. 2 “Not I, but Christ,” Stephen F. Olford, ppg.32-33.

3 My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers. 4 IBID, Olford, pg. 41.