“Those who seek the deeper Christian life and those who want the riches that are in Christ Jesus the Lord seek no place, no wealth, no things, only Christ.” ― A.W. Tozer
“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
In a meeting of a group followers of Jesus, one stated to this effect, “All of this talk about the crucified life will be discouraging if we do not also talk about what we gain from it.” How right this man is! The imperative of the crucified life is by itself a dark and discouraging concept. Yet when we explore it in the light of the promises that are tied to it, we find that the denial of self and the crucifixion of our living for self every day is a pathway on which we will find a life greater than we can imagine, much less experience on our own.
To be clear, the purpose of our existence is not to be focused on our own crucifixion, the putting to death or laying aside our own plans and goals, our own passions and purposes. There are greater purposes, and with these greater purposes come the greatest of all life experiences. The crucified life is simply the pathway to this greatest life possible. Importantly, it is the only pathway.
Jesus was absolutely clear on this and gave us no “wiggle-room” to squirm out of total surrender of all the self to Him. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” The term, “whoever” eliminates any limits on this requirement. If we will not deny ourselves and take up our crosses of self-crucifixion, we are not following Him. We may be piously religious, but we are following a man-made religion and not Christ.
What are the purposes for which we were created and for which we were redeemed by Christ? First, it is to love our God with all of our being, more than we love ourselves or any other person or thing. Jesus Himself called this the “Greatest Commandment.” He was echoing the Jewish idea that the first and foremost commandment, separate from yet underlying all other commandments was this. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul and strength.” There is no greater purpose than to pursue a deep and abiding love for our God that exceeds and excels all other loves.
It is only right and proper for us to respond to His greatness and preeminence with our total love and commitment. Any response less than this would not befit the priority position of our Creator and God. Any response less than this would violate our created purpose as well, diminishing our experience of living and rendering our lives less meaningful and important.
Second, we were created as a race to experience actual union with our God. Our redemption in Christ restores that union to us, if we are pursuing Him appropriately. To live in union with our God will heighten our experience of Him and of life in general. Jesus, in His final recorded prayer with His team before His crucifixion, prays to His Father for the completion of this union. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”
Many believers talk much of unity among people, but Jesus prayed for our union with Himself and therefore with the Father. He saw that unity among His followers would be built only on a common union between all followers and the Godhead. This union was made possible in us by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, who lives in each true follower. By that indwelling Spirit of Christ we are truly joined into union with the Father and the Son.
This is true union, not simply a sense of fidelity or identification. This is a life-changing reality for those who are fully yielded in self-denial to our Lord. Sadly, most believers lack this full commitment to the pathway of absolute surrender (as Andrew Murray would term it). The unfortunate result is that they do not experience this deep union with the Father and the Son through the Spirit of Christ.
“What you hang on to will weigh you down and hinder you in your pursuit of spiritual perfection.” ― A.W. Tozer
The next post will unpack another great purpose for our existence and will tie these purposes to the requirement for full surrender to our God.