Let us contemplate the cross in its practical relation to our actual Christian life…
5. Fellowship with His Cross
Much of our life contains suffering and trial and the shadow of the cross is also here. Looking upon our trials as unmeaning accidents, the blow of fate, the luck of evil fortune, or the cruel wrongs of men and women is so different from taking them from our Father’s hand as the cup of His loving discipline and as the fellowship of our Savior’s cross! How we have striven sometimes with some tremendous sorrow, and have refused to bow our head as it grew darker and more dreadful and as the iron of despair entered our nerveless soul. Then at last a sweet message from the heart of God the Comforter has breathed the prayer of faith and submission, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” How the clouds melted away, and like a benediction there have fallen upon our hearts the precious words, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And again the echo has fallen upon our ears, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (2 Peter 4:12,13).
Ah, but you say, “People caused my sufferings.” Well, did not people cause His? And that is the very thing which makes your fellowship with His cross complete. But again I hear you say, “Yes, but I am innocent of the things they say; I am misrepresented, lied about and persecuted.” Was not that the very glory of His cross? Are you going to throw back on Him the burden which He has left for you to share? Yes, it is true that we may “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ… for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). You can never share the wrath of God for sin; that He bore alone. But He has left for you to carry with Him, “the fellowship of His sufferings.” An old legend tells us that when He met Simon Peter fleeing from Rome to escape the fiery wrath of Nero, He asked him, “Whither goest thou?” Peter frankly answered and told of his flight, and then asked in turn, “Lord, whither goest Thou?” The answer came, “I am going to Rome to be crucified a second time, because My disciple Peter has run away from his cross.” It is no wonder that Peter turned back from his flight and hastened with downward head to follow his dying Lord. Let us also return and follow the Crucified.
“Must Jesus bear the cross alone?
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for every one,
And there’s a cross for me.”
But it will cease to be a cross when we are sweetly conscious that He is bearing the other end, and that we are suffering with Him now and shall yet be glorified together [Rom. 8:17].
Beloved, surely we may say, as we think of all these things, “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).
“The cross, it takes our guilt away,
It holds the fainting spirit up;
It cheers with hope the gloomy day
And sweetens every bitter cup.
The balm of life, the cure of woe,
The measure and the pledge of love,
The sinner’s refuge here below,
The angels’ theme in heaven above.”
6. Our Attitude to Others through the Cross
The cross is also practical and powerful in its influence upon our ministry for others, our relation to the world and our work for God. How differently we would think, speak and judge concerning our fellow Christians if we lived more under the shadow of the cross. A Christian lady once asked, “How can I be delivered from the spirit of censorious judging and sever speaking of the faults of others?” In that moment came to me a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ bearing the sins of others and taking them upon Himself. For us then to put our hands upon them is really to crucify Him afresh and demand that He should suffer again for the things that He has already borne. The revelation was so unspeakably vivid that it came almost like a shock and whatever effect this truth may have had upon the heart and life of the friend in question, the writer will never forget the awful light in which it seemed to place the sin of uncharitableness, censoriousness and evil speaking. Is not this covered by such texts as this, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?” [Rom.14:4] “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?… Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” [Rom. 8:33,34]. Beloved, let us think and speak and love henceforth under the shadow of the cross.
7. Our Attitude to the World through the Cross
The apostle declares that through the cross he has been crucified unto the world and the world unto him. Is this true of us? Do we look upon this world as the enemy that murdered our Lord? Can we join hands with it in its Christless pleasures and godless ambitions any more than a sister could dance with the ruffian that had murdered her brother? The world crucified our Christ and to us henceforth it must be recognized as our foe. Indeed, by the death of Christ we have died to the world and are counted as men that have passed out of it and then come back to it in a second life as God’s sent ones, commissioned to represent the Master here. We cannot do this if we stoop to the world’s level. It is from our heavenly place of identity with Him that we may expect to lift it to the higher level.
The cross in the market place! Oh, what a difference it would make if the cross of Calvary dominated all our business dealings, all our social amusements, all our pleasures and all our plans! Avarice would not dare claim its graft. Pleasure would blush in its mad revel before that vision of Him who came not to seek enjoyment or gain, but rather to lay down His rights and give up His very life, not only as an example of righteousness, but as a sacrifice of love.
8. The Cross–the Inspiration of Zeal and Sacrifice
And oh, how poor our sacrifices and services for our Master and our fellowmen appear under the shadow of the cross! “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). The cross is the only inspiration of true benevolence, sacrifice and zeal for the salvation of men and the salvation of the world. If its mark has been placed upon us, then we are not our own; we are bought with a price, and all we are and have belongs to Him, and the great sacrifice is little to give to Him.
A contemporary journal stated that during the last winter of the war in Manchuria the Japanese emperor, learning of the sufferings of his soldiers from the awful rigors of the Russian winter, was so distressed that he refused to allow the fires to be lighted in his palace and he spent that winter in fellowship with the sufferings of his heroic army. Such was the spirit of Jesus when our race was in peril. Heaven could be to Him no longer heaven, but down from the seats of glory He hastened to share our sin and save our world. Oh, surely, we might watch with Him one hour, and count it joy to share the fellowship of His love by sacrifice and service for the salvation of men! Are we doing this? Has the cross put its mark upon our ministry, upon our gifts, upon our personal labors for Him and for the perishing around us and the heathen in more distant lands? Well may we cry when we think of such love:
Oh, for a passionate passion for souls!
Oh, for the pity that yearns!
Oh, for the love that loves unto death!
Oh, for the fire that burns!
9. No Cross, No Crown
What significance will the cross have in connection with the crown? Beloved, if anything is true, this is true, that there will be nothing in heaven that does not have the mark of the cross upon it and has not passed through death and resurrection. Even the very earth and heavens must pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth emerge. There shall be no joy, there shall be no glory, there shall be no crown for us there that did not come from some surrender, some sacrifice, some renunciation, some crucifixion here. God help us, therefore, to stamp upon all our life below and our crown above [with] the passion sign of the cross.
Part 2 of 2
From A. B. Simpson’s book, The Cross of Christ
“A. B. Simpson was born in Canada of Scottish parents. He became a Presbyterian minister and pastored several churches in Ontario. Later he accepted the call to serve as pastor of the Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. It was there that his life and ministry were completely changed–during a revival meeting he experienced the fullness of the Spirit. He continued in the Presbyterian Church until 1881, when he founded an independent Gospel Tabernacle in New York. There he published The Alliance Weekly and wrote seventy books on Christian living. He organized two missionary societies which later merged to become The Christian and Missionary Alliance.” God especially used in Simpson’s personal “revival” W. E. Boardman book, The Higher Christian Life.” (Biographical quote from: http://www.cantonbaptist.org/halloffame)