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The Key to Everything
by David A. DePra
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. (Mat 16:13-20)
From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for you savor not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt. 16:21-25)
There are many passages in the Bible that state foundational Truths. Some of these passages directly teach doctrine. Other passages record conversations that provide great revelation. The above is an example of the latter. In this exchange that occurred between Peter and Jesus Christ, Jesus gives to Peter, and to us, one of the most foundational Truths, if not THE most foundational Truth, of God’s purpose for saved people. Not only does Jesus tell us what this purpose IS, He also tells us the MEANS by which this purpose is accomplished. Indeed, in this one exchange, Jesus draws a line. He divides Truth from error; He actually divides the true gospel of Jesus Christ from the gospel of Satan.
The magnitude of the Truth contained in this conversation becomes clear once we note the point of contention: The Cross. Could there be anything more important? Has there ever been anything that Satan has, with all his power, sought to distort, deny, and neglect?
The Cross of Jesus Christ is not only the dividing line in history, but it is the dividing line of all things. It is the dividing line FOR ME. What I believe about the Cross, and more importantly, what I do about it, is going to determine everything for me – yes, regarding salvation. But what I do about the Cross is going to determine the extent to which I realize God’s purpose for me AFTER I AM SAVED.
Read what Paul said about this matter of the Cross:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Gal 6:14)
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Phil 3:18-19)
For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2)
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (Gal 3:1)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Gal 5:24)
Most of these passages are speaking about SAVED people to one degree or another. But does it sound like that is any possibility that I can remain neutral about the Cross? No. I cannot remain neutral about the Cross of Jesus Christ – neither over the fact of His death, or neutral over the necessity of carrying MY CROSS. The Cross remains CENTRAL.
Read again the account from Matthew 16. Jesus brings the essential of His going to His Cross right down and makes it perfectly clear that if we are to truly follow Him we must pick up OUR cross. Indeed, the two are as one – Jesus died on the Cross FOR US, but it is precisely because He did, that we must now pick up OUR cross in order for what He accomplished to be worked out IN US. Jesus said, "IF any man will follow Me, let him deny himself and pick up his cross…."
Paul found this Truth. Indeed, he experienced it. That is why he said:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Paul obviously knew that Christ died FOR HIM. But knowing that fact and essential, he nevertheless says, "I am crucified WITH Christ." This is a reality for NOW. And it determines everything for us in the plan and purpose of God for this life.
The Cross is the issue, not only in this passage from Matthew 16, but the Cross is the offense and point of controversy when it comes to all the things of God. Man is readily willing to embrace a nice religion. He is quick to grab the blessings of God. He is quick to follow Christ for what he can get out of it. But put a cross across his path and tell him that it is only by picking up his cross and being crucified with Christ that any of these things can come to pass – well, then we are not as quick to rejoice. The fact is, today the Cross is past being controversial. Rather, it is either outright denied as necessary, or completely neglected. Either way, the results are seen all around us. The flesh and the natural govern the Body of Christ. And really, that is quite an understatement.
Jesus and Peter
Before moving forward, let’s get a bit of background for the Matthew 16 passage. That will enable us to understand what was going on in the mind of Peter, and will explain why Jesus spoke to him as harshly as He did. This will, in turn, show how this passage applies to us.
We must remember that the disciples of Jesus Christ, of whom Peter was representative, did not grasp the purpose for which Christ came. The disciples had been taught that when the Messiah would come that He would usher in a physical kingdom. To them, this meant that the Messiah would overthrow the Roman occupation, and begin to reign and rule from the temple in Jerusalem. That is the ONLY concept of the kingdom of God they had – and so they interpreted all the teaching of Jesus Christ along that line, and unto that end. Indeed, this was the only concept of the kingdom of God that the nation of Israel held as their expectation.
Thus, when Jesus called them to Himself, and began to teach, and do miracles, and speak of the kingdom of God, it was only natural that they interpreted Him in accordance with traditional teaching. Furthermore, they viewed their own calling as an appointment to authority in this kingdom. They expected great blessings and great benefits because they were called by this Messiah to reign at His side. Eventually, of course, all of this went to their head. They became prideful. Sure. They had yet to face or carry their personal cross. They experienced nothing that would crucify their flesh and make them able to walk in Spirit and in Truth. So the flesh and the natural governed them. Indeed, if WE try to possess the calling and blessing of God WITHOUT THE CROSS, pride, entitlement, and self-righteousness will govern us. It is the only possible outcome.
It is here that we see a huge key to everything in the Christian walk. Have you ever wondered why it seems so difficult to realize the promises of God for your life? God makes all kinds of promises for provision, and for many other things, and yet these so often seem remote. Why? Because despite the fact that the promises are real and they are certain – we cannot realize their fullness until WE are brought into a relationship with Jesus Christ that makes this possible.
Simply put: All of the promises of God find their yes and amen in Christ. The promises are not given OUTSIDE of Christ, but they are given IN HIM. Thus, you cannot have the promises aside from Christ. We must come into a relationship and fellowship with HIM – and then the promises can come to pass as a byproduct. Sure, for His own purposes, God might do some things here and there in order to bring us into a knowledge of His Son. But primarily, until Jesus is our Lord, and we are rightly related to Him, many of the promises cannot fully come to pass. And the CROSS is the way in which God makes this possible.
We have to see this. God never changes. God is ALWAYS faithful and true. Neither do His promises ever change. But if we were able to enter into those promises, without being rightly related to God, we would, in our pride and in our flesh, use the things of God for our own purposes – even if those purposes were nothing more than to boost our self-esteem. Thus, WE must change. We must be brought to the place where we can receive the blessings of God the way He intends us to receive them. God must, if you will, be able to trust us with blessing – He must be able to trust us with His possessions.
In order for Jesus to be our personal Lord, we must relinquish ownership over ourselves. In order for the kingdom of God to govern us, our kingdom must be torn down. This is the work of the Cross. There must come a DEATH to our natural selves in order for the resurrection life of Jesus to find fullness and release.
The parallel to this Truth is found in the experience of the disciples. They wanted to reign and rule with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God. But they were not fit to be able to do that! They were ignorant, prideful, and spiritually immature. If they had been given such authority and power, it not only would have proved destructive for those under them, but it would have destroyed the disciples themselves.
We see this all through the gospels. Remember how the apostles argued among themselves as to who was the greatest. It is why the mother of James and John came to Jesus requesting that her sons sit on His right hand and His left hand – she wasn’t talking about heaven, or the millennium. She assumed Jesus would soon reign from the temple, and wanted to secure for her sons the highest positions. And then there was the time when John wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume some people who had not received his message. Thus, not only were the expectations and the hopes of the disciples on the wrong level – the kingdom was NOT to be physical THEN. But they did not know God. They had yet to truly REPENT. They had not picked up their personal Cross. They were not yet brought into a relationship with Jesus that would make them safe for His authority and for His Truth.
It is in this atmosphere of expectation and misinterpretation that the events of Matthew 16 unfold. Peter and the disciples had been just confessed that Jesus was the Christ. But to them, that meant something OTHER than the real Truth. They knew that they were called by Christ and they had heard Him continually speak of the kingdom of God. So they expected that this kingdom was imminent. Thus, when Jesus said He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified, it was completely contrary to everything they expected. They had NO frame of reference for such a thing. They knew nothing of a Lamb of God who would be crucified for the sin of the world.
You can almost hear their thoughts and protest. They probably said, "How is it possible that He can go to Jerusalem and die? The Messiah cannot be crucified. He is going to set up a kingdom. That is why we are called. What is going on here?"
This protest is what is behind the words of Peter. Jesus said, "You have seen that I am the Messiah. But you also need to see what this means – it means that I must go to Jerusalem and be crucified, and be raised from the dead." Peter answered, "No way! God would never let this happen to the Messiah. Jesus, you are the Messiah. This means You are destined to reign and rule – You are not destined to die."
Today many are preaching this very error. They either deny the need for the personal Cross, or they simply neglect it altogether – they talk only of the death of Jesus FOR US, but ignore the words of Jesus to the effect that we must pick up our cross to follow Him. This is spiritual disaster.
Jesus replied to Peter by saying, "Get behind Me, SATAN!" Get that. Satan himself was trying to get at Jesus through Peter. Thus, what we have here is not merely the ignorance of honest men vs. the purpose of God. No. The stakes here are much higher. Satan was involved. Indeed, we have the purpose of Satan vs. the purpose of God. Indeed, we have, embodied in this one conversation, the false gospel of Satan vs. the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, let’s cut to the root of this thing. What was the point of contention between Peter – who was, at that point, being used of Satan – and Jesus Christ? The point of contention was NOT the kingdom. NO. There would BE a kingdom. Rather, the point of contention, and the issue upon which this entire thing turns, is the MEANS by which God would bring to pass His purpose, and the MEANS by which God would establish His kingdom. Peter, in ignorance, wanted Jesus to bring to pass the kingdom WITHOUT the Cross. Jesus said that the kingdom could come to pass only THROUGH THE CROSS. Thus, when everything is said and done, the issue here is THE CROSS -- whether the Cross is the means by which God will accomplish His purpose.
The Cross is the means by which God’s kingdom is established. It was the ONLY way in which Jesus could bring to pass the very kingdom sought by these disciples. Indeed, for us today, the Cross remains that means – the finished work of HIS CROSS stands as the means by which all that is of God’s kingdom IN US is brought to pass. But it is by picking up OUR CROSS that a work is done IN US that makes it possible for the kingdom of God to actually be established in us.
The kingdom of God is nothing other than CHRIST IN US as Lord. Jesus Christ as Lord over us is equal to the kingdom of God in us. But do we actually think that this can be real unless there is a CHANGE IN US? Our flesh, our pride, our unbelief, and our self-will do not go away just because we are saved. Rather, the work of the Cross must crucify us WITH Christ, so that OUR kingdom can be brought down, while His kingdom in us is built up. In other words, Jesus Christ must become our personal Lord – not in theory, not as a doctrine, and not as a hope – but really.
Of course, we don’t have a clue as to exactly what this means, or what it will take. We really don’t. What we are talking about here when we talk about the work of the Cross is the crucifying with Christ of what normally makes a human being born in Adam TICK. We are talking about the loss of everything about ourselves that we might otherwise use to commend ourselves to God. We are talking about, yes, the crucifixion of sin and the flesh. But included in that, is the crucifixion of the NATURAL STRENGTH – everything we used to rely upon about ourselves before the Lord will have to go.
Now, while this sounds awful, it is really what is necessary for us to be able to fully realize all of the promises of God, and the fullness of the Spirit. When Jesus is truly my personal Lord, the Spirit is released, and I can experience much. This is really what "the anointing," means. It means to be apprehended by God as one in whom Jesus must be Lord.
But you see, today many are offering Christians the blessings of God – on many different levels – without the Cross. They PROCLAIM that Jesus is Lord, but deny the ONLY means by which He can become Lord of a human being – they deny the work of the Cross. Instead, they preach that we need to, "just believe and confess." The Word of Faith heresy, with Kenneth Copeland and friends, is the primary culprit today of these kinds of false teaching.
Again – go back to the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Peter wanted the kingdom, but not the Cross. Jesus said, "Get behind Me, Satan." Thus, the CROSS is the pivot point here. Satan offers all that God promises WITHOUT THE CROSS – remember that he offered all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus in the wilderness temptation – WITHOUT the Cross. But God says, "The Cross is the ONLY means by which the kingdom of God can come to pass, because the Cross will first crucify the kingdoms of this world – the flesh, the pride of life, and the natural. Only then can there be real resurrection life."
This cannot be underemphasized: The issue of the CROSS is so vital, and so central, that the suggestion that Jesus did not need to go to the Cross is said to be OF SATAN. Get that. Jesus reply to Peter proves this. Peter said, "Jesus, You don’t need to go to the Cross." Jesus replied, "Get behind Me, SATAN, thou art an offence unto me: for you value not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
Get that. To deny the need for the Cross is to value the things of man. Why? Because the Cross will cut off the things of man. And yet this will make it possible for the things of God. When will we learn that there is NO middle ground? It is either all God or none of God – in the end it will come down to that. The Cross is the dividing line between that which is of man and that which is of God.
I submit that what we have here is a clear description of the false gospel of Satan vs. the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Satan offers man all of the things of God – indeed, the kingdom of God – but WITHOUT the Cross. The true gospel offers man all of the things of God but ONLY THROUGH THE CROSS. What could be more important of a distinction?
All Things in Christ
Jesus is making it clear to Peter that the things of God are only possible through the Cross. But Satan offers us the blessings of God to the disregard of the Cross. Yet we must ask: Why are the things of God possible only through the Cross? Simply because without the Cross you have a human race that is alienated from God. There is no relationship with God. Without the Cross, the human race is not in Christ, but in Adam. There is NOTHING possible in Adam. The only solution for Adam is death.
The Cross puts our Adam to death, and ushers in a NEW creation in Christ. THEN the things of God can come to pass THROUGH Christ in us. But don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that if we are in Christ that God can then give us THINGS in addition to Christ. No. Rather, I’m saying that in Christ are ALL THINGS. In other words, come into a measure of Christ, and IN HIM you will find the working out and coming to pass all of the promises of God.
Herein we find the answer to so much confusion in the Christian life. So often we ask God to do things, or give us things, to the disregard of our relationship with Christ. In His mercy, He might do some things, and provide for us. But ultimately, this is not God’s highest. Indeed, most often God will simply be silent to us. Why? Because all of the promises of God do not operate independent of Christ. Rather, all of the promises of God find their YES and AMEN – IN CHRIST. You cannot come to possess the blessings of God unless God possesses YOU. You can come to experience the things of God and the blessings of God ONLY IF YOU come to experience CHRIST HIMSELF.
I don’t think many Christians realize what a KEY this Truth is to everything. I would say that if we would realize this, it would not only answer so many questions about the ways of the Lord, but it would certainly put us on the right track. God does NOT give us THINGS in addition to Christ – no. What God does is give us CHRIST. But IN CHRIST are all things! In the Person of Jesus Christ is everything that God has for us.
EVERYTHING that God has for a Christian person is wrapped up in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the constant teaching of the NT:
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:10)
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (1 Cor 8:6)
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Eph 4:15)
What this means from a practical standpoint is that instead of seeking God for THINGS, we need to seek Jesus Christ Himself. This is much better. Indeed, this is the way in which God works – He is seeking to reveal in us Jesus Christ, and then we will be rightly related to Him, and be able to live in the THINGS He has for us. But again, what is required for this is a CHANGE IN US so that we can walk and fellowship with Christ. That change cannot happen without the work of the Cross.
I can testify to this Truth in my own life. How often I used to ask God for this and that – and I would base my requests on the Word of God. Sure. But God didn’t often answer me! I eventually discovered that instead of seeking the Christ IN WHOM are all things – in Whom are all the promises of God – I was seeking THINGS. Thank God He was faithful despite my ignorance. He wanted to reveal Christ IN ME, and thus, rightly relate Himself to me in Spirit and Truth – and it was through this that the things of God and the promises of God are best experienced in their fullness.
Actually, this Truth was right there in the Bible the whole time. For example, Jesus said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33) That is clear as a bell. In other words, He was saying, "I want to give you the fullness of my will and purpose. But I cannot unless I am your personal Lord. Seek that. Seek ME. Seek to know ME. Seek the Truth at all cost. If you do, you will find Me. You will find true life. And then I will be able to give you the things that go along with my plan and purpose for you."
In this, we find the exact same Truth that Jesus gave to Peter in Mathew 16. He said, "Whoever tries to save His life will lose it. Whoever loses His life for My sake will find it." If I am going to seek first the kingdom, I am going to encounter my personal cross – because this is the instrument by which MY KINGDOM must be brought down. But if the work of the Cross is accomplished in me, then Jesus will be my personal Lord, and because He is, I will find true life in Him – included in which are all things that God desires in my life.
Thus, the blessings of God can only be experienced as we grow to know and experience the Person of Jesus. If you try to create a separation between the blessings of God and His Son, and try to possess those blessings to the neglect of your relationship with Christ, to the neglect of losing your life, you will end in disaster. And Jesus said that any suggestion that makes this acceptable is the gospel of Satan.
But how many churches, or ministries, actually focus on the Person of Jesus Christ? How many teach people that they must LEARN CHRIST – and grow to KNOW Him? Instead, we are taught how to get stuff from Him. We are taught how to HOLD CHURCH for Him. Rarely are people taught the reality of CHRIST IN THEM, or exhorted to allow God to have His way with them.
But here again we have the TWO gospels – the term, "gospel," meaning the fullness of our Christian teaching, not only for salvation, but for the spiritual walk after salvation. One the one hand, we have a gospel that is divorced from the reality of Christ in us, and tries to bring God’s blessing to pass through a means other than the Cross, and through a means other than knowing Jesus. These other gospels usually center on how we can get God to get on board OUR life – we are taught how to get God to bless us and prosper us. For example, even if those exact words or thoughts aren’t used, so many assume that if they start a ministry, or start a church, or do anything in the NAME of Jesus – many assume that God is obligated to get on board that and bless it. People assume that just because they are professing Christians that God is WITH THEM in everything they are doing. This is NOT the Truth. In fact, it may be that God wants us to LOSE that entire mentality and motivation – lose it all into His hands – that we may find Him. Yet most of the time, this isn’t even considered.
Of course, there is nothing like success. If a person, ministry, or church is growing numerically, or financially, people assume that it is a sure sign that God is blessing. But this is a HUGE mistake. Don’t we realize that cults say the same thing? No. Anyone can grow a church or ministry under the power of religious flesh, or even through a doctored message. Rather, the PROOF that ministry is of God, and is in the Truth, and is being blessed by God, is NOT growth numerically. The proof is found in the measure of Christ that is produced in the individual lives involved. To the extent that Christ is being seen and experienced by those involved – this is a sure sign that God’s anointing is upon such a ministry. This is what the HOLY SPIRIT DOES – it is ALL the Spirit of God does. The Holy Spirit ministers CHRIST.
So on the one hand we have a gospel that tries to usher in the things of God by neglecting the Cross, and by divorcing those blessings from the Person who is the Source of them all. Related to this error is what I would call, "the gospel of apathy and indifference." Thousands of professing Christians today go to church every week and never seem to come to any inner consciousness of their need, or of the Truth in Christ. At best, they just accept it all theologically and academically. But it really does NOT change them. This is also a false gospel. It neglects the work of the Cross – indeed, most of these people don’t even KNOW they are blind. They have settled for a Christianity that is little more than a dead religion.
You know, it is one thing to be blind and KNOW you are blind. If that is the case, you can cry out to God for the Truth. But it is quite another thing to be blind and NOT KNOW you are blind – you have no consciousness or frame of reference for anything outside of your present understanding. This is in great part the fault of ministry. When the Truth is taught, it will at least wake people up to their need TO SEE.
But we need not settled for any gospel that neglects or denies the Cross, or divorces the blessings of God from the Person of Jesus. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit of God would come and that the entire ministry for which the Holy Spirit is sent would be to TEACH PEOPLE CHRIST. The true work of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus real TO us, IN us, and THROUGH us – to make Jesus personal LORD OF US. This is the PRIMARY purpose of the Holy Spirit. It is what God is doing. Thus, it ought to be what WE are doing. This is the TRUE GOSPEL.
So instead of trying to get God on board what we are doing, and instead of assuming that whatever we decide to do FOR God He must bless, the real Truth is that we must surrender all of that and get on board what GOD IS DOING. And what God is doing is CHRIST. God wants to form Christ in us. He wants to teach us Christ. Then FROM CHRIST, all of the purposes and blessings of God will flow.
All of God’s blessings are found IN the Person of Jesus Christ. But these other gospels and hybrid versions of Christianity try to divorce the blessings of God FROM the Person of Christ. You cannot do that if you see the Truth.
Paul said, "I am crucified WITH Christ, but nevertheless I live – YET NOT I, BUT CHRIST lives in me." Can we see that Christianity is CHRIST IN US – but that it is more than a legal position, or a religion we adopt? Rather, Christian is a dynamic on-going fellowship with the Son of God. To be crucified WITH CHRIST is the means by which we LOSE our lives. But the result is that Christ lives in and through us. That is a description of FINDING our life in Him. This is about the Person of Christ IN US. There is simply no other Christianity.
His Cross and Our Cross
Peter did not want Jesus to go to His Cross. He did not want Jesus to have to die, indeed, he objected to the very thought that Jesus must die as absurd. "God would never require this of You, Jesus! You are the Son of God!" Sure. But notice how Jesus takes Peter’s objection in hand and brings it right down to personal application. Not only does Jesus reject his objection and continue on course towards His Cross, but He begins to talk, not about HIS Cross, but about OUR cross. It is as if Jesus is saying, "You object to ME going to the Cross? Not only am I going to the Cross, but everything that MY Cross means is going to be made personal and real in YOUR life – it is going to be made real and personal through YOUR cross." He says:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up HIS cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Here we see the IMPACT of the Cross of Jesus being gathered up and embodied in OUR cross. The death of Jesus on His Cross is an historical fact, and it is the foundation upon which everything else is built. But in order for it to MEAN anything, the work of the Cross must be made manifest IN those who embrace it. In other words, if we pick up OUR cross, all that Jesus did through HIS Cross will be made manifest IN US.
I am not here talking about salvation. I’m talking about that which salvation HOLDS. Of course we must be saved by first coming to the Cross of Jesus Christ. We must embrace His death as our substitute on the Cross. But does this MEAN anything as far as IMPACT? Does the death of Jesus Christ do nothing more than provide me with a LEGAL standing before the Lord? Is salvation merely a new legal classification?
No. Despite the legal Truth embodied in the Redemption of Jesus Christ – the Redemption MUST be legal if it is moral – despite those necessary legal issues, the Cross of Jesus Christ did more than just save me LEGALLY. Sure. The Redemption of Jesus Christ saved me REALLY. In other words, not only do I have a new legal classification before the Lord, but I have NEW LIFE in Jesus Christ. And the Cross makes this possible by crucifying my OLD life.
What I am saying is this: Jesus Christ died FOR me. He died a death I will never have to die as my substitute – as the substitute for the entire human race. But He died precisely so that I could DIE IN HIM and BE RAISED IN HIM to newness of life. Everything that Jesus Christ did on the Cross FOR US is supposed to be taken and made real IN US. Or, to put it another way, what He did on HIS CROSS is to be taken and worked out in us through OUR CROSS.
Again, this is exactly what Jesus said to Peter:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up HIS cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Jesus is saying, "I am going to die FOR YOU. But I am going to die FOR YOU so that you can die IN ME – everything I do through MY Cross can be worked out in your experience if you will pick up YOUR cross." Paul the apostle knew this Truth. That accounts for his many statements regarding the personal experience of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Paul knew that Christ died FOR HIM. Paul knew about every single thing that Jesus did FOR HIM. But in this verse Paul is talking about what Jesus made possible through His death FOR HIM – he says, "I am crucified WITH Christ."
Paul is saying that Jesus died FOR HIM, but that this has an impact – Paul is now able to be crucified WITH Christ. What Jesus did on the Cross is given to us free of charge, and fundamental to this is that we can be crucified WITH CHRIST. The work of HIS Cross is able to be worked out in our experience in power – we can be crucified WITH Christ.
Jesus said, "If anyone will follow Me, let him deny himself and pick up his cross and follow me." Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ." It is the SAME Truth. Through OUR cross God works out in our experience everything that was made possible through HIS Cross. Once saved, we have to have worked out in our experience everything that salvation holds.
In Romans 6, Paul gives a more lengthy description of the same Truth:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:1-11)
Paul is here describing all of the finished realities of the Redemption of Jesus Christ. He is telling us how this out to play out and be worked out in our experience. But it doesn’t happen by magic. It is worked out over the course of time IF we pick up our cross. Then everything that Jesus did by His death will be made manifest IN US.
Of course, many Christians are either blind to these possibilities, or don’t care, or don’t know to care. Others object to the notion that there is the necessity of picking up their cross. They claim that they are saved and that there should be nothing more. But we are not here talking about a progressive salvation, or something we must DO to get to heaven. No. We are talking about what it means to follow Jesus, and to come into the fullness of what He has done. Jesus Christ has set us free from the old creation and birthed us anew as a new creation. Do we want to experience that or not?
Again, here is what Jesus Himself said on this matter:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up HIS cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
The power of HIS Cross is worked out through OUR cross. Do we want to experience the fullness of the life of Jesus Christ? Then we must pick up our cross and LOSE our life. There is no other way. It is not a matter of getting saved all over again, nor a matter of progressive salvation. Rather, it is a matter of being crucified WITH Christ so that the Christ within us might be seen and glorified.
The Working of the Cross
Now, we have laid some ground regarding the work of the Cross in the personal life. Jesus died on His Cross for you and I, and that is finished. But WE are NOT finished experiencing and benefitting from what He has done. Our salvation is once for all, but the working out of all that salvation holds is progressive. In order for that to happen, we have to pick up OUR cross and follow Him. Now that Jesus has died FOR us, we have the means by which we can die IN HIM.
The result is FREEDOM from sin. That should be obvious. But the result is MORE than just freedom from what we would easily recognize as SIN. If we once again go back to our quote above from the passage in Matthew 16, you will see that the greater result is that we are going to LOSE OUR LIVES. And parallel to that, we will FIND LIFE. This goes beyond the matter of SINS.
Can we see that at issue here is OUR LIFE? Not just OUR SIN. But our life – i.e., OURSELVES. What we have to lose is OURSELVES, or if you will, we have to lose our ownership over ourselves into the hands of Jesus Christ. And in case you haven’t noticed, this would make Jesus Christ LORD of us.
This is accomplished through the work of the Cross – it is HOW we lose our lives – we pick up our cross and follow Him. Read the passage from Matthew 16 once again. This is exactly what Jesus is teaching. Jesus said, "Do you want to come after Me? If you do, you must deny SELF, and pick up your cross and follow Me – FOR if anyone wants to save HIS LIFE he will lose it. If anyone loses HIS LIFE into My hands he will find it." The entire issue here is OUR LIVES – OURSELVES – our ownership over ourselves.
To, "deny oneself," is not a matter of denying yourself fun or enjoyment. This is not a call to become a monk. No. To, "deny oneself," means to relinquish your self-ownership to God. It means to actually experience and live out the fact that you no longer belong to yourself. If I pick up the cross it will absolutely take my life out of my hands. All self-ownership will be cut off.
But don’t misunderstand what this means. It goes much deeper than things I DO. It is one thing to make Jesus Lord over what I DO. But it is entirely another thing to make Jesus Lord over ME. The work of the Cross will absolutely crucify my inner constitution, and will break the back of the continual desire to have a say so over my life.
Now, all of this sounds quite scary and negative. But this is only the death side. By the time the work of the Cross is complete, I will not WANT to have a say so over my life, because I will be so rightly related to Christ, and will trust Him to the point where the whole issue is no longer a debate. For again, Jesus did not merely say that we must LOSE our lives. He also promised that if we did lose them that we would FIND our life IN HIM. This isn’t a dead end. Our crucifixion is the segway to something better, indeed, to what it really means to be raised with Christ, and to walk in Him.
When we think of self-ownership, we often think of rebellion. But self-ownership need not be rebellious at all. It can be nice, and frankly, quite religious. For example, there are people who have taken the things of God and have used the things of God, and the name of Christ, to make themselves wonderful in their own eyes, and in the eyes of others. They might even live according to Bible principles. But beneath it all, self is very much in control. They have determine who they are in Christ, what they ought to be doing, and how they do it. THEY have decided this through preference, pride, and perhaps unbelief. But because they are blind to the possibilities of their own heart, they think they are doing just fine in Christ.
The work of the Cross will absolutely expose this – it will need to be brought out into the open before the Lord. It will need to be confessed, and if you will, LOST into the hands of the Lord. I must lose every right I thought I had over myself. ALL of it must pass through the Cross.
A number of years ago, God made me realize something that, at the time, seemed like it could not be possible. He basically said, "Nothing you believe about yourself is the Truth." Then, over the course of some years, I began to see that this was a fact. I began to see that so much of who we are, and what we are, and what we do, is built out of materials that belong to the self and the natural. Even after we are born again, we drag this into the spiritual realm. Much of who we are as personalities was built upon error that we believed, and out of the fear and darkness that used to govern us. I’m not talking here about doctrines, but about the inner workings of a person’s thinking, motives, and emotional makeup. I’m getting at the real nature that constitutes the flesh. All of that is something we are so used to – it is all we know, or know TO know – that is just operates without us giving a second thought to it. But once God introduces LIGHT and Truth into that situation, it begins to break us apart. We might feel like we are coming apart at the seams. This is the work of the Cross. We need to simply let God bring it all out into the open. We need to LOSE IT ALL – we need to let God do whatever is necessary to establish the Truth in us. If we will pick up that Cross, and relinquish even what we thought were the GOOD things about us, God will reconstitute us according to His Son. We will find real life in HIM.
The work of the Cross will set us free from sin, and it will set us free from SELF. But there is even yet more. The work of the Cross will cut off NATURAL MAN. So many of us try to give God what we think He wants, and through our own religious working, we try to enter into the reality of the things of God. We cannot. The work of the Cross will crucify those attempts, and bring us to a rest in Christ alone.
One of the most important crisis points for any Christian is to come to the place where we SEE that through our own natural, religious working, we can never take possession of what God has for us. Indeed, it is a HUGE step to even come to see that that is what we have BEEN trying to do! Trying to live the spiritual life thorough natural man is something that comes so, "natural," for us, that most of us will never question it unless God brings a Cross.
So God wants to absolutely cripple us as to our natural man. He wants to completely dislodge us from sitting on the throne of our own lives. Do we really believe that this can be accomplished if we merely start believing the right teaching? No. It is one thing to believe the words of Jesus – to the effect that we must lose our lives in order to find them. But it is another thing to actually pick up our cross and ACTUALLY LOSE THEM. And yet Jesus states outright that this is exactly what we must do if we want to follow Him.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:1-11)
Paul said that he, "suffered the loss of all things." This was obviously the outcome of Paul carrying his cross. It was clearly the result of Paul being, "crucified with Christ." But you will likewise note exactly what it was that Paul LOST. He doesn’t mention material possessions. He doesn’t even mention SIN. Rather, Paul says that he lost those things which would have given him cause, "to trust in the flesh."
THOSE THINGS, Paul says, could have been, "gain to him." Gain, how? All of those things that Paul lost were those things which he could have used to establish himself before God. These are the things that we gather together about ourselves in order to make ourselves presentable, worthy, and of some merit. The Bible calls this, "self-righteousness." The term means what it says. "Self-righteousness," is a condition that is created by me when I take that which is OF MYSELF – and I use it to establish my own righteousness. Included could be good works, but even a self-made FAITH. We could use what we think are our good attitudes, our supposedly good motives. In short, we present to God anything we can find in ourselves that we think is righteous.
Many Christians literally LIVE in their self-made righteousness. Their creation of this condition is so natural, and so automatic, that most don’t even realize what they are doing. They have NOT learned Christ. They have not seen the Truth. So they are those who remain blind, thinking that they can see.
Paul was such a one. He admits that. But then he met Jesus Christ. And you will note what he says happened. He says, "I suffered the loss of all things – that I may WIN CHRIST, and be found in Him." He then describes what he discovered when he was found in Christ, "I discovered that I had NO righteousness of my own, but only that which is by faith in Jesus Christ." Thus, we see the LOSS of one’s own righteousness is fundamental to LOSING yourself into the hands of God. It is foundational to the work of the Cross.
The work of the Cross will bring us to the place where we will see what God has said was always a fact: There is NO TRUTH in us. There is NO righteousness in us. Paul says in another place, "Don’t you know that except Christ is in you, you are a reprobate?" Sure. The Cross will bring us to the place where everything about us that we might have otherwise used to be righteous before God is exposed for what it is. But this is not bad news. It is good news. It is at that point that we will begin to realize what it means to LOSE our lives, and be FOUND IN HIM.
Most people don’t realize that to fashion one’s own righteousness out of the materials found in ourselves is not merely deception. It is that. But it is also SIN. It is a denial of Christ. It is a neglecting of the Cross that would crucify all of that. It is, if we are not careful, the very gospel of Satan – for in the end, it is us on the throne of our religious self. It is equal to us saving OUR life, to the forfeiting of His life.
No. God wants us to LOSE all of ourselves into His hands – including even what we might have thought were the GOOD things. If you want to walk with Christ, and learn Christ, this is the ONLY path. You must LOSE YOUR LIFE – the life you have fashioned, and the supposedly righteous person who have constructed. ALL OF THAT must be exposed and crucified with Christ. And if you face this Truth you will be left with NOTHING about yourself you can present to God – you will have LOST ALL of that. But you will also be left WITH CHRIST. You will find Him, and be found in HIM.
Jesus means exactly what He said – and Paul experienced it. Paul LOST his life – he lost everything about himself – but because he did, he FOUND Christ. Indeed, he was found IN CHRIST. He came into the reality of what it means to, yes, to have NO righteousness of his own, but likewise, he came into the freedom of the righteousness of Christ. Paul gave the further results, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings." He said, "I have been formed together with Christ in His death – through the Cross – but all of this has made me able to live in His resurrection." Paul lost his life but found new life in Christ.
Life and Death
Jesus Christ died on the Cross for you and I. He died for every single sin ever committed by every single human being – He died for ALL sins except one: Jesus could pay for the sin of refusing His death AS payment for sin. That only makes sense. If Jesus had died for the refusal of His death, His death was meaningless. But that aside, the depth of what the Cross redeemed equals the depth of what sin destroyed.
It is here that we need to understand the Truth about SIN. This will be necessary in order to understand what Jesus did on the Cross, and enable us to understand the work of His Cross IN US. Have you ever wondered why Jesus said, "You must lose your life in order to find it? But if you try to save your life you will lose it?" The answer to that question is found right here. We have to understand what sin is, and what Jesus did on the Cross.
Actually, we might divide sin into two dimensions. Acts of sin – SINS – are those acts which violate the moral law of God. Jesus died for all these ACTS OF SIN, and obtained forgiveness for them. But there is more to sin than ACTS of sin. There is the heredity of sin. Indeed, all acts of sin are the result of the heredity of sin being lived out. Jesus primarily died to redeem us from the heredity of sin.
But what is the heredity of sin? The heredity of sin is that nature which is at enmity against God – and it is based in self-rule and self-ownership. By nature, man wants to own and rule himself. But not just in sinful ways -- also in supposedly good ways. The fact is, if I own myself even in what appears to be a good way, this is SIN. Self-ownership is THE SIN. It is the ultimate unbelief. In that case, Jesus Christ is NOT my personal Lord. I am therefore living in sin and unbelief.
This takes us right back to the words of Jesus to Peter in Matthew16. It tells us what Jesus was getting at. Jesus was saying, "You must pick up our Cross and LOSE EVERYTHING about yourself – your sin, yourself, and your natural man – you must LOSE YOUR LIFE into my hands. Only then can you find real life." In short, Jesus was talking about how to escape the bondage of the old creation, and how to enter into the reality of Jesus Christ in the new creation. He was talking about how to be delivered from THE SIN. His FINISHED work makes that possible. But now we have to enter into it by picking up our cross.
So all of this Truth stands behind the words of Jesus. Thus, His teaching actually embodies what Christianity is, and how it is to be experienced by those who want to follow Christ. That is why we can rightly say that His teaching is the true gospel. And it is why any denial of the necessity of the personal cross is really the gospel of Satan. It is a denial of the very means by which God accomplishes everything He has for us in the life of the individual.
All of Grace
Many Christians think that if they give assent to Jesus as Savior, and begin trying to live a Christian life, that they are saved, and that this is all there is to life in Christ. Oh, some add that once they are saved that they should serve God in some capacity. To them, THIS is Christianity. Indeed, some object to the need for the personal cross because they think it is contrary to grace. "It is all free," they would say. "Therefore just take possession. Just believe. Just receive."
In one sense of the word, this is true. It is all free. And we do have to take possession by believing and receiving. But the trouble is – we CANNOT. Oh, we try. We absolutely try. Thus, we barge right into the things of God, and claim the promises, and proclaim God’s grace – but we usually do so by completely bypassing the very means by which we would be made fit for the blessings of God. We bypass the Cross, and we turn the blessings of God into THINGS, and forget the One in Whom are all things!
There is nothing worse than someone who is trying to reign and rule with Christ in His kingdom who does not have Christ reigning and ruling IN THEM. There is nothing more than someone who grabs a hold of the things of God, but who has not learned Christ, and who has not been formed together with Christ. There is nothing worse than someone who is trying to live in the Promised Land on the wrong side of the Jordan. There is nothing worse than someone who is trying to live in resurrection life who has never met his personal cross – the very means by which that resurrection life would be released.
Here is the point – and it is exactly the SAME one that Jesus was stating in Matthew 16: It is one thing to be saved solely by the grace of God. But it is another to be reduced and adjusted to where we value grace, and can live in it to the glory of God. It is one thing to be born again into the kingdom. But it is another to be able to live in that kingdom. While salvation is a one-time, all at once event, coming to experience all that salvation holds is another thing. Grace is free. But are we ready to LIVE in grace? For that, we must be changed. We must LEARN CHRIST. We must LOSE our lives in order to find them IN HIM.
Now, if we really understood it, we would see that the CROSS is God’s instrument by which we are set free and made able to fully experience and live in all that Christ holds. The Cross is NOT a negative thing – although our flesh and natural mind will think so! The Cross is the gateway to resurrection life in Christ. The Cross reduces us down to where we are small enough to contain an eternally BIG Christ.
This is all of grace. The notion that a human being – even a saved one – could possibly be fit, or even willing, to fully experience the grace of God, is utter nonsense. We would trample it under foot. Why do we think Israel had to spend forty years in the wilderness? It was so that they could enter the Promised Land by faith, and live there by that same faith in victory. They had to be adjusted and formed together with Christ in order to enter into the fullness of God. So do we. The Cross is the means, and there is NO other means.
As I have said, the Cross of Jesus Christ is a dividing line. Before (or without) the Cross is the OLD creation in Adam. After the Cross is the NEW creation in Jesus Christ.
Can we see that there are TWO, and ONLY TWO, creations? In fact, we might say that there are only TWO MEN. There is Adam, in whom all die. And there is Christ, in whom all are made alive. (see I Cor. 15:22) Every human being on this planet is either in Adam, or in Christ.
Now, the way in which you escape Adam and are found in Christ starts with the new birth. I must renounce my old life in Adam, and repent of sin. I am then planted into the death of Christ – crucified with Him. My old man in Adam takes his place in the Cross. Then, through faith, I give myself to Christ. I am then planted into the into the resurrection of Christ, He becomes my life. This is the new birth.
It is here that we must understand how we are saved. We are saved because Jesus Christ, through His Spirit, comes to dwell in our spirit. He becomes spiritually one with us. Then we are alive in Christ in Spirit. But initially, there isn’t much else that reflects salvation. For that to happen, we must continually lose our life. Only then can we learn Christ and find true life in Him.
If you examine what is happening here, you will see that when we are saved we enter into Christ. We are born again into a new realm. But from that point forward, we have to be invaded by this new life from above. Our minds must be renewed. Our body, emotions, and soul life must come under the government of Jesus as Lord. In short, everything that Jesus did FOR US must become real and experienced IN US.
God will not force His will upon us. He could never develop true character in us if He did. Thus, we may have relinquished our lives to Christ at salvation, and we may have really meant it. But now we must do it, step by step, in life. As Jesus said, if we want to follow Him, we have to deny ourselves the right to own ourselves, and pick up our cross. We have to lose self-ownership – both outwardly and inwardly. If we do, there will come a great release of everything that is already in us through Christ.
It is folly to think that the life of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, can flow through us to God’s glory if we still own ourselves. If we are still seeking to save our lives for ourselves, then at some point, we will channel what God is doing in that direction. We will use the things of God for our own ends. We won’t call it that – we might even call what we are doing, "God’s will." But it will be for our glory, and we will be so deceived we won’t know the difference.
The Holy Spirit
It is on this very point that the modern doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit errs. Most charismatics believe that when you are saved that Jesus Christ comes to dwell in you through the Holy Spirit. So far, so good. But then they say that this is not enough. They say that although Christ is in you, that you are NOT complete in Him, which is a contradiction to Col. 2:9-10. Instead, they demand that you must go on to receive a second blessing – an additional overflow of the Holy Spirit, which they say is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Only THIS will truly complete you. Receiving this second blessing, they insist, is the key to power, the spiritual gifts, and the key to entering into the fullness of God’s purpose. If you do not receive this additional blessing, in their eyes, you lack the very thing that carries most of what God has for you.
This is error for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the Bible DOES NOT TEACH IT. I am well aware of all of the supposed proof texts used to try to say that the Bible does teach it. I used to be what is called a charismatic – at least I thought I was. But on this matter the scripture is so clear and so fundamental, that it is amazing that anyone could be deceived. Indeed, if we really understood the error in this doctrine, we would see that it actually denies the Cross. It denies that the personal Cross is the means by which resurrection life is released. Instead, it substitutes a second blessing through which you can get it all in an experience, instead of through the work of the Cross.
Jesus said, "Pick up your cross. For whoever seeks to save his life for himself will lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." He did not say, "You will find true life if you receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in addition to Christ."
We have already covered ground that shows conclusively that all that God has for us is found in His Son. How could anyone doubt that? Yet note what this means: It means that the moment you have Christ in you, you have all that God has for you. There is nothing to add. Therefore, what you need is not an additional blessing, but to LEARN CHRIST and to come under a process whereby all that He is can be released and realized IN YOU. This process is that of the Cross, and the release of His resurrection life. It isn’t a second blessing. It is a coming into the fullness of what is in Christ, who IS the one and only blessing of God for each of us.
Yet the moment I begin to share this Truth, I make enemies. There are people who will classify you as a heretic if you dare question the charismatic doctrine of the second blessing. They will say that you have fallen away from a cardinal Truth of Christianity. They will not hear a word you say otherwise, and they will not even consider the Truth. They will point to some experience they had and will say their experience PROVES that they received a second blessing. No, it doesn’t. If the experience WAS of God, it doesn’t prove that, because the Bible doesn’t teach that. God touches people many times and in many ways. It is quite possible to misinterpret what He does according to false teaching. This doesn’t negate His touch. It simply misunderstands it.
There has perhaps been no modern spiritual movement that has been responsible for more error in the Body of Christ than the charismatic movement. Yet these are the folks who claim to have the fullness of the Spirit – the Spirit which Jesus calls, "the Spirit of Truth." Read John 14-16. There Jesus tells us what the Spirit does. Is this what we find in the charismatic movement – in a way that we find no where else? No. Indeed, much of it we don’t find at all. We find the opposite.
Do you want to know the proof of the work of the Holy Spirit? I’m talking about the evidence that the Holy Spirit has done a work in a PERSON. It is Jesus as Lord over that person. Not just in word, but in reality. That person is governed by Jesus Christ, indeed, that person is obsessed with Him. That person is learning Christ and coming under the power and freedom of the TRUTH. The evidence of the Spirit of God is not displays and emotions and people jumping up and down. The evidence is Christ. The Holy Spirit has come to make Jesus Lord of each of us. And again – this takes us right back to Matthew 16 and to the words of Jesus!
The release of the fullness of Christ, and the release of true power in the Spirit, is not obtained through a second blessing. It is obtained only by picking up your cross. Then the resurrection power of Christ – in whom is ALL POWER – can be released IN YOU. All power is in Christ. Christ IS the power of God.
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:24)
Paul knew that Christ was the power of God – He knew that in CHRIST, who is IN US, is all power. But he also knew that in order for this power to be released and experienced, the flesh had to be crucified out of the way:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
Here we see again the SAME Truth – that through losing ourselves we find true life. It is stated here another way – that through weakness in ourselves we experience true power. In other words, Christ can increase only if we decrease.
A New Creation
Paul said, "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new." (II Cor. 5:17) He says, "In Adam all die, but in Christ, all are made alive." (I Cor. 15:22) The old creation in Adam is where the power of Satan is vested. It is HIS GROUND. But the new creation in Christ is where the power of God resides. This is the power of resurrection life.
Most Christians are ignorant of the fact that the power of the enemy is vested in the natural man, and in the natural realm. But the fact is, Satan is the god of this world, and of the natural realm. That is the ground that fell into his hands when Adam sinned. Thus, to the extent that we continue living on that ground, we are going to be defeated.
For example, I have found that in this is the key to overcoming sin. Christians continually struggle to overcome this sin and that sin. We do this despite the fact that Christ has already won our victory over it. So why is it so hard? It is so hard because we are not going back to the root. We try to improve our conduct and works. We try to stop doing certain things. But the root of our sin is not found in those things – they are only the fruit of the real root. The real root is self-ownership. To the extent that we continue to want to save ourselves FOR ourselves, sins will have power over us – for we are in that case in the wrong realm. We are trying to overcome sin on Satan’s territory. We cannot.
For example, let’s say I have a problem with anger. Most of us will try to STOP being angry. But altering our reactions or conduct won’t deal with the root – even if we manage to get that far. For most, we will just enter the cycle of the law of sin and death. We will try and fail, and repent, and try, and fail. There is no way out of this cycle as long as we are living in self-ownership – for as long as we do so, we are denying the very means by which everything that ails us was defeated: The Cross.
Relinquish yourself to Christ – pick up your cross and refuse to any longer try to save yourself for yourself in any way. LOSE yourself to Him. Ask God to do whatever it takes to bring this Truth home to you. Settle for nothing less than your total death to yourself. If you do that, you are undercutting all the ground of the enemy. You are absolutely lining up with the victory of Christ over the enemy and all sin. You are entering upon resurrection ground. You are entering into total victory.
But don’t we have total victory in Christ at salvation? Sure. But we are just like the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. The land WAS theirs, and victory was assured. Yet they had to TAKE POSSESSION by driving out the enemy. This process formed them according to the will of God and rightly related them to Him. Thus, what was theirs in fact became theirs in experience. God will not settle for less in our case.
What we see from this is that Christianity is all or nothing. In the end, it is that if we want the fullness of Christ. We have to give ALL of ourselves to Him. Only then will we be found in Him and will be able to experience ALL of Him. That is relationship. It is
The key to taking possession of all that God has for us in Christ is to LOSE all that we have in ourselves. I have to leave the old creation – everything about myself in Adam – where God leaves it: In the death of Christ. I can then move on into resurrection life.
Can we see that all of this is UNTO the fullness of Christ? We tend to think of LOSING our lives as a negative terrible thing – because what we must lose is, at that point, all that we know AS life. But on the other side of the Cross is resurrection. We find real life in HIM – indeed, we win Christ and are, "found in Him." You cannot know anything about that until you first LOSE.
The key to everything in the purpose of God is the Cross – for the work of the Cross will crucify us WITH Christ and make us conformable to His death. It will tear down our kingdom, our self-ownership, and dismantle everything about us that we might otherwise use to commend ourselves to God. The work of the Cross will make us utterly weak – we will no longer be able to function in the natural realm, nor will we want to. But all of this is nothing more than the death side – there is a life side. Jesus said if we lose our lives for His sake, we would find them. And what we find, really, is HIM. He is our life.
All of this is Christianity. It is what happens when a human being is indwelt with the Living Christ. The old cannot stand. The new must be established. This is what must happen IF we want to follow Jesus Christ.
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