“There was a day when I died; died to self, my opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.” – George Mueller
The cross of Christ is forever a reminder of the death of our Lord and Savior, and the atonement or restoration of oneness with our God we gained by it. Certainly, much was accomplished and much has been gained through the atonement gained by Christ on the cross. We gained the propitiation or righteous satisfaction of our God’s righteous anger and indignation at our sin and rebellion. We gained our redemption from slavery to sin and death, having been set free from this by the power of the blood and the efficacy of the death of Jesus. We gain our justification before our God, meaning the accounting of our sin and its penalty have been justified and settled on our behalf.
Our lives had been irreversibly lost in the sight of our God, marred beyond repair by the indwelling of sin in us. In God’s Kingdom, only by death can life be fully recovered. Our lives could not be fixed, only destroyed and replaced. This was our God’s intent since before we were created. Knowing that we would choose rebellion, the Godhead had determined that our lives would be replaced through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “lamb slain since the foundation of the world.” We are joined into the atoning death of Jesus for us on the cross, and only by the death of Christ could life be recovered for us and restored into us.
The explanation of this is the entire point of the book of Romans, and it finds its keystone in chapter 6. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”
By my inclusion into the death of Christ Jesus on the cross, a completely new life has been delivered into me. I have died in Christ and with Him when He died on the cross. New life has been delivered to me; His life and not my own. Only by our own death can the fullness of life our God intends for us be delivered within us. The new life we have in Christ is not an upgrade to our own living. It is not my life, version 2.0. Neither is it my life with some of Christ’s life added to it, or my life now under the passive influence of the Holy Spirit. No, it is more than that. It is no longer I who live but Christ Jesus who lives in me (see Galatians 2:19-20).
It is important to realize that in this sense, the cross on which Jesus died is a past-tense issue. Christ died for us, and in that sense the cross has no more value to us. His death is done. The cross has long-since disappeared. We were included into that death, but death is not the thing that is the principal definition of our existence. The cross as a symbol of Christ’s death is a powerful reminder of the tremendous cost paid by Him to bring us into His new life.
And it is important for us to realize that if references to the cross or the cross of Christ are not tied specifically to His atoning death, they refer to our own death to self. We are placed into Christ’s death so that we might live as those dead to self, dead to sin, and dead to the world and alive to our Christ Jesus who lives His life in us. The cross of Christ has become the my cross and your cross. It is this fact to which Jesus is referring in Luke 9:23-24. “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
It is this denying of the self and choosing the cross of one’s own death to which George Mueller is appealing in the quote at the top of this post. Because He died on the cross and rose again, new life is now the reality for Jesus. We are placed into that life when we are joined to Him. Our union with Jesus includes newness of life, literally His life lived in us by His Holy Spirit.
The purpose of our God is not to have us focus upon the cross of antiquity on which the Prince of Glory died for us. We remember it, are humbled by it, and are encouraged to pursue Christ because of it. Yet our focus now is on Christ Himself, alive and living in us. Our view of the cross is now to see it as the instrument not only of Christ’s death but of our deaths to self, sin, and the world.
Next post: The Principle of the Cross