The Dimensions of the Cross, Part 3

In part two we examined the truths of Romans 6:6-14. Believers are to know that our old man was crucified with Christ, and that we are set free from the authority of sin. Reckoning this spiritual fact as personally true, we have the moral freedom to walk “in newness of life.”

However, some who value these truths may be still missing the experiential blessings of abundant life in Christ (John 10:10). They may have come to learn about the believer’s new identity in Christ and the doctrine of spiritual union with Him, yet the experience of love, joy, peace, holiness, and strength is still illusive. What else is involved in appropriating Christ as Life? (Col. 3:4). [1]

3. THE CROSS IS OUR MEANS OF DISCIPLESHIP

We come to the third dimension of the cross of Christ and its implications for the believer. Christ’s redemptive work on Calvary is not only our means of pardon and our means of renewal; it is also our means of discipleship. This dimension can be symbolized by the “depth” of the cross monument (described at the beginning of this article). The Lord Jesus announced, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me … And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 9:23;14:27). We need to understand the essential meaning of the Cross in discipleship.

To define the take-up-your-cross attitude, we go back to the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ poured out His heart in prayer: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:41-42). Because of the joyful prospect of our salvation, the next day Christ drank that cup of suffering (Heb. 12:2). We find in our Lord’s petition a concise statement of the essence of the Cross: “not my will, but Yours be done.”

The way of the cross (discipleship) is based on the work of the cross (renewal). In renewal, the spirit of the believer is the “new man” and Christ’s life, as the True Vine, is available for supernatural living (Col. 3:10; John 15:5). Then, what hinders this dynamic in personal experience? The flesh, also known as the self-life. And what is the self-life? The self-life is the independent use of our our mind, will, emotions, and affections (the faculties of the soul). James 1:21 exhorts us to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” The soul is delivered from the self-life as we apply the way of the Cross. [1]

Dr. R. A. Torrey understood this way of surrender and faith. The well known Bible school dean walked into a meeting where Dr. A. B. Simpson was preaching. Simpson, occupied with the preaching of his sermon noticed Torrey, but forgot to introduce him at the end of the meeting and ask him to lead in prayer. Later, he wired Dr. Torrey with his apologies for the oversight. Torrey wired him back with the reply, “Dead–didn’t even notice it.”

How does this discipleship commitment relate to the practical experience of the Christ-life? Let’s consider how this application of the daily cross works out practically. The following brief prayers can guide us.

A. The way of the Cross applies to the MIND when we pray, “not my perspective, but may GOD’S PERSPECTIVE determine my thoughts.”

We tend to walk by sight, not by faith, yet the path of discipleship requires just the opposite (2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:6). We need revelation, illumination, and a personal reckoning of our identification with Christ. Consider some basic questions that clarify God’s perspective.

What is your natural perspective concerning GOD’S ATTRIBUTES? Do you perceive Him as harsh and aloof? Instead, believe what Christ reveals about God’s character–God IS LOVE! God is faithful!

What is your natural perspective concerning YOUR IDENTITY? Do you see yourself only as a sinner, struggling to find acceptance with God? Instead, believe what the Scripture teaches about your NEW identity in Christ and live in light of it!

What is your natural perspective concerning your RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST? Do you see yourself as separate from Him, just trying to serve Him? Instead, realize that you are one with Him! “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17). He is the Vine, you are a branch!

What is your natural perspective concerning your FELLOW BELIEVERS? Do you see them “according to the flesh,” determining their value by their performance or status? Instead, see them “in Christ” as fellow members of Christ’s Body (2 Cor. 5:16).[2]

Instead of holding onto your fleshly perspective, accept God’s true perspective by faith.

B. The way of the cross applies to the WILL when we pray, “Not MY will, but YOUR will be done.”

The supernatural life that we are learning about is none other than the life of Christ (1 John 5:11-12). And what was Christ’s attitude toward the Father’s will? In a messianic prophecy we hear Him say, “… Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:7-8). Christ testified during His earthly ministry, “… The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). Therefore, what should our response be to God? Whenever our will is contrary to God’s will, the Cross is applied as we surrender to God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will (Rom. 12:2).

C. The way of the Cross applies to the EMOTIONS when we pray, “Not my resources, but may GOD’S RESOURCES be my source of living.”

This wonderful theme appears repeatedly in 2 Corinthians: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7; 3:4,5; 12:9). When you rely on your own resources, you will feel discouraged, worried, guilty, and frustrated. Instead, respond to Isaiah’s invitation: “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

D. The way of the Cross applies to the AFFECTIONS when we pray, “Not my values, but may GOD’S VALUES motivate me.”

Here some Christians have missed the blessings of the abiding life. If they seek this victorious life only for their own enjoyment, they grieve the Holy Spirit. Divine love must flow through us to others.

We are called to accept the values of God’s Kingdom (of which all true Christians are citizens – Col. 1;13). “… Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). Our possessions become idols if we live for them and depend on them instead of God (Col. 3:5). Instead, we should seek the greatest value of all–the glory of God! “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet 4:11; Cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

International teacher on the overcoming life, Jessie Penn-Lewis, reluctantly faced this discipleship dimension of the Cross as she read a book on this topic:

“I clearly saw the way of the Cross and all that it would mean. At first I flung the book away, and said, ‘No, I will not go that path. I shall lose all my glorious experience.’ But the next day I picked it up again, and the Lord whispered so gently, ‘If you want deeper life and unbroken communion with God, this is the way.’ I thought, ‘Shall I? No!’ And again I put the book away. The third day again I picked it up. Once more the Lord spoke, ‘If you want fruit, this is the path. I will not take the conscious joy from you, you may keep it if you like. But it is either that for yourself, or this and fruit. Which will you have?’ And then, by His grace I said, ‘I choose the path of fruitfulness,’ and every bit of conscious experience closed. I walked for a time in such complete darkness–the darkness of faith–that it seemed almost as if God did not exist. And again, by His grace, I said, ‘Yes, I have only got what I have agreed to,’ and on I went to take some meetings, and then I saw the fruit. From that hour I understood, and knew intelligently, that it was dying, not doing, that produced spiritual fruit. The secret of a fruitful life is, in brief, to pour yourself out to others and want nothing for yourself–to leave yourself utterly in the hands of God and not care what happens to you.” [3]

As fragrance filled the house when Mary broke her flask of costly perfume to anoint Jesus, so the fragrance of Christ’s life will be increasingly evident through you as you yield and trust Christ as your Lord and Life.[4] Embrace the cross as your means of discipleship!

.


Part 3 of 4

Notes

[1] As we read the New Testament, it can be difficult to sort out the many aspects of the Cross in the life of the believer. For example, Paul wrote in the past tense, “I have been crucified with Christ, ” and “you have put off the old man” (“dimension 2”). However, there are a variety of references to a present tense kind of “cross” experience: “I die daily,” “being conformable to His death.” Christ proclaimed: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (1 Cor. 15:31; Phil. 3:10; Luke 9:23, “dimension 3”).

[2] There is a parallel between our salvation from the PENALTY of sin and our deliverance from the daily POWER of sin. Both aspects of deliverance are by GRACE through FAITH. “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6).

[3] From Memoirs of Jessie Penn-Lewis, by M.N. Garrand; quoted in Ultimate Intention, by DeVern Fromke.

[4] This is where “brokenness” relates to discipleship. Brokenness is yielded response to God’s providential pressure on His children that leads them to abandon independent living. His purpose is to displace the self-life in believers (Cf. John 12:1-7). See the article by Bob Phillips.

For an extensive scriptural outline of this dimension of the Cross, see the article, “Taking up Your Cross Daily.”

Copyright 2001 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com. Biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).


Honorable Mention

Our associates, Hans and Elly Timmermans, coach and equip national leaders in Malawi, Africa. God is growing His church there through grace-oriented one-to-one discipleship and multiplying Life Groups. Learn more at https://northernmalawinews.com/

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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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