“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
This is one of the most misunderstood concepts of the Christian life.
Because it is usually taught as some self-imposed pain or burden that the Christian is to put upon himself. Or some regimen of duty and responsibility we must undertake to follow the Lord.
Instead, this is about a growing understanding that a Christian must learn about himself and his relation to sin. It is all about what the Lord has already accomplished for him.
No Value From the Natural Man
Years ago, I read one of Miles Stanford’s papers about Donald Grey Barnhouse and the rise of New Evangelicalism under Billy Graham. I cannot recall the exact title here. But similar thoughts can be found in many of Mr. Stanford’s books and papers.
The message that stuck with me from his paper was how any one of us, having achieved some level of fame, recognition, or reputation in this Christian life, can miss what the Lord really intended for us. Because we failed to apply the cross of Christ to our life.
We must each reach that place where we place everything of ourselves at the foot of the cross. Where all must be “crucified” with Christ.
That place has to do with understanding our relationship to sin as a believer. And understanding our total lack of ability to become like Christ in our own strength.
Each of use has gifts. Some of those talents are natural; which we come by with little effort. Others are talents that can be applied to make money, bring fame, or many other things.
Other gifts come through a great deal of study, practice and effort. Which may then bring us the same benefits.
The problem with all these talents is that they are of little use to the Lord. Because they come from that old man or natural man which the Lord will not use.
Much of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism takes advantage of those who have become celebrities due to their talents and gifts. And seeks to lift these people up as examples of how great people may trust the Lord. Or as examples of how real men or real women will become Christians.
The Lord has no use for this kind of evangelism or promotion. Because it is based on the talents and characteristics of the natural man.
And not upon that which is produced by the Spirit of God.
The Source of the Gift
So, the basic point is that the Lord will not deal with a Christian that is unwilling to place all that he has or that he can do at the foot of the cross.
To put it another way, the Lord wants us to understand that, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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.” (Galatians 2:20)
This means that all that we have and possess within ourselves is of no value in a spiritual way.
Yes, it may have some value in our getting through this world and making a living.
But, it is of no value in producing spiritual fruit or in accomplishing the work of God.
Because the source of those gifts is not the Spirit of God. And the glory is not truly for the Lord but for ourselves. Regardless of the testimonies for God’s glory that we may give for our successes.
Each of us must come to the point of seeing that all that we are has been crucified. And that the life we now live is not us. It is the Lord within us.
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18) I am dead to the law and dead to sin. And now I live by the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
By this, we may see that the gist of carrying the cross of Christ is all about resting in our new identity. So that all that we are and all that we do will be based upon the work of the cross. By putting to death all the value we think we can rely upon that comes from within ourselves.
We must see that our value is totally in Jesus Christ. We are led by the Lord to a point of understanding, day by day, how the Lord alone is sufficient. That He is our strength, our wisdom, our sanctification and salvation.
And that everything about our new identity is because of who He is. And not based upon who we are, what we can do, or what we have done.
We carry our cross daily as we intentionally live in the reality of a new identity. Which is seeing ourselves as both crucified and risen again. Resting in what He has declared to be true based upon the finished work of His Son.
And not on our own sense of value.
Trusting in the Spirit of God to do His work, in His way, and in His time within us.