Years ago in college, we would use a small pamphlet when witnessing to students. It was called The Four Spiritual Laws. The first law was, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Years later I heard a brother say, “Yes, God has a wonderful plan for your life…a cross.” What a thing to say!! What did he mean by this? The answer is very simple, and may be stated by using the title of a book written by William Penn: “No Cross, No Crown.”
In our day and time, we do not hear much teaching or preaching on The Cross. And yet, Jesus very plainly said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:24) Why does He say this? It is because God’s ways are NOT our ways, and His thoughts are NOT our thoughts. If we are to know the blessing of God, see the kingdom of God come and His will be done, then we must come by His way. Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 5, we read that God justifies us, giving us the very righteousness of Christ, making us acceptable to Him, and this by faith. But then, when we move to chapter 6, in this progressive unveiling of the saving work of Christ, we discover that God “planted” us IN CHRIST, making us one with Him, in his Work and also His life. The moment He did this, He put us upon a road (Isaiah calls it a highway….), of learning His ways. “All things have become new…,” so that, from that moment onward, God’s ways take precedence over all else. And one of the first things that we discover is that “we” (ref. to the ‘old man, that man of old…all that represents our life outside of Christ and in Adam), DIED in Christ, and were buried with Him, and raised to walk in NEWNESS of life, even by the very life of Christ. So then, a death has to occur…it was first the death of Christ, and now, it is ours in Him. For though we still live physically, that life of old with its principles, desires, and “resources” are dead and buried in the eyes of God. The cross has become in essence a signpost declaring obsolete, destructive, and worthless, the wide path that was travelled before. But that cross is also a gateway to life, a means, a way to KNOW God. And if I have understood it aright, it means that I embrace the fact that “…we have died, and our lives are hid with Christ in God.” It means that I embrace the reality in Paul’s declaration, “I AM crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet, not I but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20)
The Cross of Christ, and His experience on that cross, cannot be grasped by our little minds and hearts. Nor could we ever endure what He did, in the measure that He endured. It is for this reason that He suffered for us, and has in essence, made us partakers of a work that He has already finished. His call to us is, “…take up thy cross and follow Me.” We are called upon to embrace that cross, and die to our lives in this world, to live unto Him. It is only the one who has died to sin, self, the world and the devil, who is free to follow the Savior.
A cross is not an easy thing to take up. It can be like barbed wire, which if grasped gingerly, will result in cutting our hands. But if the wire is taken firmly, then there is mastery of it, and it does very little damage. To take the cross “daily” is to take our stand IN the work of Christ, believing that we have indeed died to our old life, ourselves (present tense), and sin. It is in that moment of freedom that we look beyond the ways and means of men to the living Christ, who IS our life.
“…Dead to the world and all of its toys…it’s idle pomp and fading joys; Jesus my glory be.”