Crucified with Christ? My walk with the Lord took a fascinating downturn on Sunday when I heard Him say, “I want you to lie down like a dead man in the midst of that situation.” When you are in a situation that is “killing” you, when everything you try to do by prayer and obedience seems to fail, perhaps it’s time to die more completely to self. In truth, I had been trying to say “not my will, but Thine be done” (and mean it) for a long time now. Mercifully, Sunday’s encounter put the last nail in the coffin. Now I’m free!
What a topsy-turvy world this is! I’m going to share with you what it’s like “being dead,” but first I have to mention the “neglected gospel.” The undiluted good news is that there are not one, but two crosses that save you. The cross of Christ brings you back to life. The disciple’s cross brings you down to death. We love the first one; hate and fear the second. We need them both. By the way, the best definition I ever heard is that the disciple’s cross is where our will and God’s will, cross. It shows up often in my life. How ’bout yours?
It may be deadly, but for heaven’s sake, don’t try to dodge the disciple’s cross. Jesus made it clear that if you and I try to “save our life” by avoiding the disciple’s cross, we will lose it—lose the quality of life that He calls life. In His own words:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24 ESV
Jesus isn’t alone in making this appeal (though surely the Master’s words should settle the issue). Just consider a few of the many passages in the New Testament that speak of our “death” to self: “You have died, and your new life is hidden with Christ in God”; “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God”; “Put to death what is earthly in you”; and (my favorite) “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” That’s Galatians 2:20 on what it means to live crucified with Christ.
Don’t Tell this to the Newbies!
Funny how this never seems to get preached when we are making “salvation” appeals. Yet, even as Jesus’ cross saves us from sin, the disciple’s cross saves us from ourselves, specifically from a life ruled over by self, rather than yielded to Jesus. Naturally enough, we would all love to follow Jesus if these streets down here were paved with gold, rather than with troubles and temptations. Our flesh would love a pampered life!
That’s why it “kills” us at times to “hang in there” with Jesus, feeling crucified as the desire to go the wrong way or have our own way, dies its slow death. But, the truth is that if you and I don’t put temptation to death, the sin it represents will put us to death. That’s why we have to deny self,and take up the cross by surrendering fully to God in situations we would rather run from. Otherwise, we would never be able to follow Jesus–the third thing He mentioned.
Now notice this: When we follow Jesus this way, the path may sometimes look (and feel) like death. But it always leads to life. It brings us into a greater resurrection on the other side of the disciple’s cross. It is resurrection that we are after!
Reflections of a Recently Dead Man
Having recently “died to self” (in the midst of a painful, unchanging situation) I can tell you that it’s heavenly. As they say, “Dead men tell no lies, so you can believe me. Dead men also feel no pain. Why do you think everyone in heaven is so happy? They are no longer striving to see that their will is done. They have finally and fully died to self. Whatever life they are going to get will have to come directly from God, or not at all. Has the world and all its problems disappeared? No, they are simply trusting God with their loved ones down here (at last!) and since they can’t get their hands on anything, their only hope is that God will supply all their needs (where it should have been all along).
Being dead in the midst of life definitely has its advantages. For one thing it really takes the pressure off. I no longer have to be anyone’s savior, least of all my own. I’m dead—what can I do? As it turns out, I can only do what Jesus wants me to do, which is never enough to resolve all issues and relieve all worries. On the other hand, that’s His problem isn’t it?
Dying to self clarifies so many issues. Now that “my life” is over (in this situation), all that matters is Jesus having His way in me and with me. That’s the way eternity will be! And it begins now, whenever we pass through the disciple’s cross from death to life. Now, if only I can get all of the other issues in my life crucified with Christ…
For more on this second cross that saves us, see “The Disciple’s Cross” at our website for healing, healingstreamsusa.org.