I am crucified with Christ . . . (Galatians 2:20)
Many wonder what Jesus meant when He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) There are countless sermons out there on this topic. And most have nothing to do with the truth of the matter. When we hear a sermon about the cross of Christ, we should be lifted up high above the clouds. But most who hear these words walk away loaded down with heavier burdens than when they first sat down in the pew.
First of all, crucifixion is not a self-inflicted act. We do not crucify ourselves. It is a form of execution of the most brutal and final sort. It is applied by officers of the law upon criminals condemned under the law. Specifically under Roman Law during the time of Christ.
One Sacrifice For All Sins Forever
For the believer, the act of spiritual “crucifixion” occurs at the moment of our conversion to Jesus Christ. It is what the Lord Himself applies to our account. When we place our faith in Christ, we are considered both dead and buried in Him. Just as if we had been there with Him upon that cross 2,000 years ago. This is a one-time act. It does not occur day after day.
Consider how the Catholic Mass teaches that Christ is crucified over and over countless times each day by priests all over the world. Go to the book of Hebrews, toward the end of the New Testament, and see how, after Christ offered Himself ONCE for all, He SAT DOWN on the right hand of God. It was finished! From that time on, all the sacrifices offered under the Jewish law were of no value. Christ was the Lamb of God offered to end the need for any more sacrifice.
“…there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins...” (Hebrews 10:26)
The full penalty and demands of the Law upon us were fulfilled upon that cross. After that act, we were no longer under the Law. The demands of the Law were carried out, according to the processes of the Law, and we were then declared “dead to the Law”.
The Law has nothing more to say to us. We have entered into all the benefits of Christ’s substitution for us by faith in Him alone. By the work which He alone accomplished for us.
A Waste of Perfectly-Good Suffering
Tragically, there are many religious groups that teach some form of self-inflicted pain to pay for sins. The Catholic teachings on Purgatory are based upon the need for additional suffering. Like many religions, they teach that our sufferings are necessary in this life and the next in order to pay for the sins that we have committed. This is absolutely contrary to the scriptures. This is a denial of the sufficiency of all that Jesus has done. We dare not add or subtract from His Perfect work which He accomplished for us.
Christ paid the full price for all our sins upon His cross. There is nothing left to be paid. For the person who believes on Him, it is Finished.
Bearing Our Cross Daily
So, what about the carrying of our own cross daily? What does that mean?
Do you remember when Paul said, “I die daily.” ? (I Corinthians 15:31) What was he talking about? He was speaking of something we might call “the mystery of godliness.”
There is a passage that speaks of how a corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die. Unless it dies, it abides alone. (John 12:24) Each of us are like that seed. Each day, we must learn to walk by faith in Christ’s application of His cross in our lives. Each day, we are brought, point by point, to where we must choose to walk by our own strength or His strength. We must walk by faith in the activity of Christ applying His cross to our life.
For example, Paul speaks of how we “through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body.” (Romans 8:13) Peter says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…(I Peter 1:22)
Do you see a pattern?
It is the Spirit of God applying the supernatural power of the cross to our lives. Paul tells us, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord“. (Romans 6:11) That term, reckon, is an accounting term. It is about relying upon the fact of what has been put to our account. This is not some “maybe” or “I hope so” or “I think so” here. This is about reliance on a FACT that God has declared to be true for us.
God Applying the Cross to Our Lives
All of this is about living life in a new way. We are living in the shadow of the cross. All that we have and can do is about that cross.
“Carrying our cross” is about depending upon His working in us. Not having confidence in ourselves, but in the new life we have as a result of our having been “crucified with Christ.” All our talents, our will power, our skills, our advantages, our resolve, our kindness, personality, money and anything that we think we bring to the table must be brought under the power of the cross. Even every ability that we think God can use and bless must be brought in obedience to Christ.
It is about dying to all that we are in ourselves.
Allowing Him to make us what He wants us to be. To give up our pride in the great “seed” that we think we are and all the great potential we think we have for God and His Kingdom.
God Sanctifying and Cleansing Us By His Word
This is also about a life of obedience to the Word of God. A life about faith in what God has said is true. It is about living in a reality not derived from religious “disciplines” or mystical practices like “contemplative prayer”, counting of beads, chanting, walking labyrinths, looking at idols or icons or putting ourselves through painful ordeals to please God. Nor is it about making a wooden cross and carrying it across the country while dressing and acting like Jesus.
Nor is this about what you must give up. Or about what you must start doing. Or a new list of stuff you must start following. We may very well be giving up all for the Lord. But He will bring us down that path in His time and in His way. We must be willing to go through the pruning process He will bring us through.
Yes, we must read the Word of God. Talk to the Lord. Be faithful to what His Word says. Believe it. Follow Him and not those who will explain away or water-down His Word.
The verse quoted at the start, Mark 8:34, continues on to verse 38 which says, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” The key is His Word. It is our life. It is indispensable.
This is also talking of the “solitary walk”. It is about our willingness to follow the Word of God and defend it. To stand upon His truth while others, including believers, may be teaching error. Being willing to walk alone with Him in the shadows.
He Will Make Us Joyful and Fruitful
It is very much like Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who chose to sit at the Lord’s feet. She had learned to stop and listen. To slow down and let the Lord be in charge.
We are walking right now in eternal life in Christ. By faith in His blood and in His cross we are able to overcome the power over sin in our lives. And now, “being risen with Christ“, we can watch how the Lord actively lives His life through us to affect the world around us.
To hear a tremendous sermon on this topic, check out:
This sermon, A Grain of Wheat, is by Major Ian Thomas. More of his sermons can be found on SermonAudio.com