To Give Up Self is to Gain Everything

“Abundant life comes to you when the old you ceases to breathe, and the new you comes to life.”

A.W. Tozer, perhaps the greatest Christian thinker and writer of the 20th century, compared the New Testament teachings about the cross we are to carry, which he called the “Old Cross,” with what he called “the new cross” of modern Christianity.  “The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets (the old nature) live without interference. (A person’s) life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies…. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.  The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back…The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it killed all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.”

We have been steeped in a worldview that elevates the idea self-determination and self-actualization, which is at odds with the work of God to replace our self-life with the life of His Son.  This difference points out the sharp divide between the thinking and values of the world and the thinking and values of the children of light.  If we find ourselves agreeing with the world, we should immediately assess if we are at odds with the Kingdom and its King.  Living a crucified life helps us relinquish worldly thinking so that we might allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with the mind of Christ Jesus.

We have also been steeped in a worldview that elevates fun and entertainment as high virtues. That our God intends to replace our self-life, and by implication the fun and entertainment valued in our society, seems to make our God out to be a “cosmic killjoy.” The truth is that our God’s intention that we live a crucified life highlights his mercy for us, for He seeks to relieve us of our worldly attempts to fill our lives with temporal and fleeting happiness through self-fulfillment and entertainment.  He wants to replace these with true and lasting joy, which is an enduring spiritual quality, not a temporary reaction.  He seeks to destroy the power of sin in us, which expresses itself primarily in our self-direction and self-fulfillment.  It is our self-direction, self-fulfillment and the power of sin that interfere with the life of the Holy Spirit in us.

“But having fun and enjoying things isn’t morally wrong!” some would protest.  True enough.  Morality alone is not the highest measure of our activities.  In the Kingdom of God, morality is the lowest denominator of our actions.  As thousands of years of religiosity will attest, moral obedience is possible with no appeal to the life of God in us.  We can be moral in the flesh.  We were made to be under the control of our God in every area of life, totally surrendered and submitted every day.  It was that life for which we were created, and that life which sin interrupted.  Now by our redemption and restoration by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can once again live as those fully submitted to our God’s control. Allowing our God to control us and live His life through us is the highest standard. This is why living the crucified life an imperative command upon us all.

The old nature seeks to retain control over our living, keeping us from so many good things our God would do in us and through us.  We want the blessings of our God, so we contrive various alternatives to try to gain them without the cross.  We modify our theology to accommodate the old nature.  We use religiosity and human effort to try to please our God. Yet we remain hungry for the deeper things of our God, things we do not receive not because He is unwilling to give them but because in our unyielding we cannot receive them.

It is, in a way, like a bone marrow transplant.  The old marrow, with its diseased, cancerous cells that will ultimately kill the patient no matter how much the patient wills it otherwise, is the problem.  The old marrow must be killed, and new marrow put in its place.  That is the only hope, the only path to life.  When that is done, the patient is free of the disease that would kill, filled with the new, life-giving marrow that will be transformational. But the patient must be willing to lie down on that table and let the old be killed.  The fact of the matter is that the patient must ask for the death of the old. If the patient will not ask for the old to die and allow the old die, the new can never take hold and produce that transformation.

“If Jesus preached the same message ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.”  Leonard Ravenhill

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