“All God’s plans have the mark of the cross on them, and all His plans have death to self in them.” E. M Bounds
“Christ is Lord and can make any demands upon us that He chooses, even to the point of requiring that we deny ourselves and bear the cross daily. The mighty anointing of the Holy Spirit that follows will restore to the soul infinitely more than has been taken away. It is a hard way, but a glorious one. Those who have known the sweetness of it will never complain about what they have lost. They will be too well pleased with what they have gained.” A.W. Tozer
The crucified life, this emptying ourselves of our self-will, self-service, self-determination, and self-fulfillment is a long-term commitment to daily action. As we live that commitment daily, more and more of what we need to lay aside is revealed to us by our God. We go back to our cross again and again as new things to which we need to die are revealed.
We may flag in our commitment to being emptied because our natural self continually seeks to retake control. Our God in His mercy and grace will take us to these things and strengthen us by His Spirit as we surrender them. If we are serious, He will be relentless in pursuing what must die. As we surrender to His control He brings order to our living by His Holy Spirit, but not the order we are expecting. Our expectations come from our old nature, our false self, and if left alone they will harm us. The goal of our redemption is for us to no longer live our old and false lives, but for the Spirit of Christ to live His life in us.
Paul wrote in Galatians 2:19-20: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The crucified life creates the opportunity for the Spirit of Christ to live His life in us. We must die to self if we are to live to our God. Jesus makes this crucified life imperative because the “Christian Life” as our God describes it in the Bible is developed in us only through living the crucified life. There is no Christian life apart from the way of the cross.
We must be wary of ourselves in this, for our old nature will try to maintain control over our living and convince us of all kinds of “reasonable alternatives” to walking in the way of the cross. The most common alternative is trying to live a holy life in our own strength and by our own devices, while avoiding true crucified living. To turn the Christian life into a cognitive process, to sit in classes and listen to podcasts where we learn principles for holy living, facts about God, and strategies for faithfulness. To go forth on our own to try to live these out in our own strength. John Eldredge refers to this approach as the “Gospel of Sin Abatement” and correctly identifies this as a false gospel. Our goal seems righteous, for we define “holiness” as having less and less sin.
The gospel of the kingdom of our Savior is not about having less sin in our lives. The Gospel of the kingdom requires us to have less of us in our lives. It is about putting to death our old nature, our self-reliance and self-direction, for these are the root cause of sin. Our God is after the root. Only He can kill it and only in those who daily yield to the crucified life. Trying to be more holy by our strength and devices will fail, because the source of our sin cannot kill that sin.
Without yielding control to God we will be managing our Christian living on our own, and it is our control that is the problem. We must yield all control to allow Christ to live His life in us, which is the only path to true holiness. Thus, the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
“Salvation is not some felicitous state to which we can lift ourselves by our own bootstraps after the contemplation of sufficiently good examples. It is an utterly new creation into which we are brought by our death in Jesus’ death and our resurrection in his. It comes not out of our own best efforts, however well-inspired or successfully pursued, but out of the shipwreck of all human efforts whatsoever.” Robert Farrer Capon
More on the Crucified Life in future posts.