Tomorrow is the first of March and Easter is at the end—the last day. As we march toward the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday, I am reflecting on the order. First comes the cross, then the empty tomb where corpse filled with life and broke free. First comes the nailing, then the releasing. Life does not come without death in the realm of the spirit.
It’s easy to turn our gaze away from the work of the cross—the work Christ did there—the work that must be done in us there. We have bunnies and eggs and jelly beans and the new life of spring coming to celebrate. Why think about the cross when we don’t have to?
Because I have to.
I have to think about what Christ did on the cross because I’ve never had anyone else look me straight in the eye while nails were driven through already shredded living tissue and say, “This is my body, broken for you.” I’ve never experienced love like that before and never will again. I’ve never been issued so great an invitation to follow into heavenly territory as an heir, a daughter, a friend even while I’m broken and sullied and completely undeserving. And He promised to take me as I am, wash me and heal me, and clothe me in wedding adornments, His chosen bride-to-be.
So why do I keep getting the muck of life all over me and in me and take all that highest priced wedding cloth and keep dipping it, dying it—thread by thread—in the ways of the world? Because I don’t go to the cross. I don’t go there enough. I don’t realize that, to follow Christ—to be a true disciple—requires that I go to the cross daily, even moment-by-moment. How do I forget that? Why do I forget that?
Because the way of the cross is a death wish. Do I really want to die? Do I really WANT to have every fiber of my sin nature nailed there to suffocate and bleed and drown in its own fluid? Or would I just rather not go that far? Would I rather just take the warm and fuzzy stuff of God—the love and the forgiveness and the free justification—and conveniently disregard the cross call? When something costs and hurts, who signs up for that?
How many of us look over God’s plan like some menu of dinner options? We don’t have the appetite for all the courses, so we pick and choose according to our liking. And no one really WANTS the cross course, do we?
But does God give us options? Does He allow us to pick and choose which dishes we’ll take and which we’ll pass up?
We know the answer but we try and deny and live like it doesn’t matter—every single day.
And what does God think about our smorgasbord approach to living life as a Christian? What does Christ think about us turning away from His cross—our crosses—saying “no thanks” politely but firmly?
We’re so grateful that Christ died on our behalf—that HE got the nails and the spear—that HE bled out and couldn’t breathe in. We’re so grateful.
How grateful am I really? So grateful that I refuse the cross call on my self-sins?
God calls us to the cross as a participant because crucifixion is not meant for spectators.
We are called to the cross not just to reflect on the holy Son of God who came to die for our sins—for our rebellion against our Maker and His ways.
We are called to be nailed there ourselves. Christ showed us how and why we must participate.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
Deny my . . . self. Take up my crosses. Follow Him. Daily.
Anything less is superficial lip service.
What is this self we must deny—we must have God crucify?
A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God calls it “an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress.” The sins of the human spirit must be repudiated and crucified. He rattles them off in rapid fire succession like bullets shot straight at the heart from a semi-automatic:
Self-rightousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love.
And what a helpless lot we are! Tozer says that these sins “dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.” The hyphenated-sins of the human spirit “are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.”
All the sins of self must be nailed firmly to the cross and left to hang till they’re dead. And it’s the crosses that God causes or allows in this life that are the very place where we will find resurrection and freedom after death. But it’s not easy and it’s not painless. How beautifully, how honestly Tozer writes of the cross we must bear if we want to follow Christ:
The cross is rough and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the presence of the living God.
How could a loving God allow such suffering?
How could a loving God not?
For all the crosses He calls us to bear are our pathways to freedom if we follow Him there.
I know this to be true. I have been crucified with Christ over and over and will continue on this path till I see my Lord and Savior face to face and am finally perfected, finally—completely—set free from the chains of all self-sins. I have tasted the freedom of resurrection after crucifixion. I never like the cross but I’m at the point where I trust the necessity and, by God’s grace, I can endure until its work is finished. One self-sin at a time.Wedding dress photograph courtesy of Flickr Creative Commonshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/dmboom/5383503957/sizes/z/in/photostream/