Embracing the Cross
as we Look for His Appearing
"Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the
glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave
Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless
deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession,
zealous for good deeds" Titus 2:13-14.
World events have caused many Christians to review Bible
prophecies concerning the end times and the return of our
Lord Jesus. One such prophecy was given by Jesus Himself:
"And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in
the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then
shall the end come" Matt 24:14. Never before in history
has the Gospel experienced the open door hat it has today.
As a result, the Body of Christ is devoting more of its efforts
to complete the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).
I praise the Lord for the multiplication of the Gospel, and
pray for a harvest of souls among the nations. However, if
we truly desire to fulfill the Great Commission and prepare
the way for our Lord's return, we must proclaim His Gospel
according to the Scriptures. Otherwise, our harvest will not
produce lasting fruit, and much of our labor will have been
What is the Gospel? It is simply, but powerfully, "The
Word of the Cross." "For Christ did not send me
to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, not in cleverness of
speech, that the Cross of Christ should not be made void.
For the Word of the Cross is to those who are perishing foolishness,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God"
1 Cor 1:17,18.
In the cross of Christ is reconciliation. "For it was
the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in
Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself having
made peace through the blood of His cross" Col1:19-20a.
This message of reconciliation is being widely preached during
our generation. "Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling
the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against
them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were
entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be
reconciled to God" II Cor 5:19-20. However, if we re-read
Matthew 28:19-20,we see that our Lord's charge to us is not
only to baptize new believers, but to make disciples who will
follow all His commands. It is this part of the Gospel of
the Kingdom that we have neglected.
Instead of serious discipleship, the message which is popular
among many Christians today is "How to get saved and
achieve success." This reduces the Gospel to no more
than a self-improvement seminar, or a winning souls sweepstake.
This is not the Gospel of Jesus. "If anyone wishes to
come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
daily, and follow Me" Luke 9:23. Receiving the Gospel
is not just a one-time event, after which we go on living
as we were, or as though something positive was added to our
lives, like sugar on top of cereal.
"And he who does not take his cross and follow after
Me is not worthy of Me" Matt 10:38. The cross represents
not only reconciliation, but separation; not only life but
death as well. The Gospel of the Kingdom is not only "Be
reconciled to God," but also "Die to self."
The two go hand in hand. "Whoever does not carry his
own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" Luke
14:27. The cross is not just Christ crucified, but ourselves
as well. Once saved, we cannot say that Jesus is our Lord
and that we are His disciples unless we are daily dying to
The "mind of Christ" is the cross. Jesus said,
"For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads
to life, and few are those who find it" Matt 7:14. When
the Gospel is proclaimed without death to self, the gate is
made so wide that anyone can seemingly be "saved"
without true repentance and a real change within taking place.
The Gospel, without a call to true discipleship, presents
"the way" as being so broad that all of humanity
can trample it underfoot and still claim to be Christian.
The Gospel without the cross is void of power. This is not
the Gospel that Paul preached. "Now those who belong
to Christ Jesus have CRUCIFIED the flesh with its passions
and desires" Gal 5:24. True Christians are those who
are dying to self. To be "led of the Spirit" is
to go to the cross daily. "For if you are living according
to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are PUTTING
TO DEATH the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who
are led by the Spirit of God these are the sons of God"
What does it mean to take up your cross and die to self?
"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting
holiness in the fear of God" II Cor 7:1. God desires
for us to be separated from the world, not only in outward
behavior but in the inner man as well. Most Christians are
concerned with forsaking outward manifestations of sin, but
few realize how the Lord desires to separate our spirit from
soulish attitudes and natural strengths (Heb 4:12). The goal
of the Gospel is to produce within us a far deeper change
than just replacing our sinner's lifestyle for a religious
one; or substituting our career goals for ministry goals.
Jesus said, "For whoever wishes to save his LIFE shall
lose it; and whoever loses his LIFE for My sake and the Gospel's
shall save it" Mark 8:35. "He who loves his LIFE
loses it; and he who hates his LIFE in this world shall keep
it to life eternal" John 12:25. The Greek word for "life"
here is "psuche" which means "soul-life"
and from which we get "psyche" or "soul,"
and "psychology," the study of soulish or human
attitudes and attributes. The Gospel is a sentence of death
to our self-life, so that we will not trust in ourselves but
in God (II Cor 1:9). If we desire to follow Christ, we must
die to all confidence in our human strengths and abilities.
This is the exact opposite of what the world teaches and
admires. The world puts great stock in developing the power
of one's soulish personality, even calling such individuals
"charismatic." Unfortunately, this type of "charisma"
is not from God. The display of self-confidence which the
world so admires in business, military, and government affairs
is not transferable into the Kingdom of God. What the world
values is not what is esteemed by God. If you re-read Isaiah
53:1-3, you will see that Jesus did not possess any charisma
of this world. Rather, the power of God was revealed through
Jesus forsaking His own strength (Phil 2:5-8). Jesus made
Himself totally dependent upon His Father. By this, the Son
of God demonstrated that God helps those who are helpless
Tragically, many Christians today are acting as though "God
helps those whohelp themselves." This is contrary to
both Jesus' example and the Word of God. Most of us realized
that we were helpless when Christ saved us. "For while
we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for
the ungodly" Rom 5:6. What we forget is that we will
always be helpless without Him. Having begun in the Holy Spirit,
we then use our natural strengths and talents to do God's
will. Even the early Church had to be warned of this danger.
"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before
whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: Did you
receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing
with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit,
are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Gal 3:1-3.
The Galatians were deceived by the lie of humanism that enticed
the Church to rely on its human abilities and religious methods.
This is the same lie that is seeking to deceive the Church
today. The natural man can spend a lot of energy working for
God and even see some results. Unfortunately, the work is
soul-powered rather than Spirit-led, and the overall result
is man-centered rather than Christ-centered Christianity.
Relying on our own abilities and talents to serve God is natural
and glorifies man. Going to the cross and dying to self is
unnatural and glorifies God. How rare it is to find the Holy
Spirit replaying the Book of Acts in the Church today.
We seek to fulfill ourselves, and our ministries, instead
of denying ourselves. To take up our cross means not just
to resist external sin, but to die to ourselves. "Always
carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life
of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live
are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake,
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal
flesh" II Cor 4:10-11.
It is one thing to say that we want to see Christ glorified
in our lives; it is another to pay the price of daily dying
to self to experience it. We need not look very far to see
the results of a Pentecost without the "cost" in
it. This is why so much of the Church is concerned with self-improvement
techniques. Many ministries have adopted Madison Avenue marketing
strategies and Hollywood stage mannerisms. These are fruits
of a Gospel without the cross. Sadly, those who have been
seduced by this spirit of the world have become enemies of
the cross of Christ (Phil 3:18-19).
As the Body of Christ, we need to deeply repent of this sin
and change the focus from our abilities, to God's sovereignty.
Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" John
15:5c. Unless this revelation becomes a reality in our lives,
we can do nothing to impart His life. Even Jesus, the Son
of God, could do nothing on His own (John 5:19; 8:28). As
there can be no salvation without the cross, there can be
no spiritual fruit, without dying to self. Jesus said, "Truly,
truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the
earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; for if it dies,
it bears much fruit" John 12:24.
One of the Lord's greatest revelations to the Apostle Paul
is found in II Cor12:9-10. "And He has said to me, 'My
grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in
weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I would rather boast about
my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore,
I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses,
with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for
when I am weak, then I am strong."
Paul had great abilities and training. God was able to greatly
use him, not because of these, but because of his weakness.
"And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much
trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive
words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of
power" I Cor 2:3-4. May the Lord deliver us also from
relying on our talents, the power of our personality, and
the strength of our organizational abilities. Instead, may
we esteem to die daily (I Cor 15:31) and boast only of the
work of the cross in our lives. "But may it never be
that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world" Gal 6:14.
When are we going to come to the end of ourselves and depend
only on the Lord for His direction and life? Perhaps only
persecution can restore the simplicity and purity of the Gospel
and bring about that kind of dependency and fruitfulness in
the Holy Spirit. However, the Body of Christ need not wait
for persecution, suffering, and death to experience purity
in the Spirit and fullness in Christ. Instead, there is a
suffering in the flesh and a death here for the living. It
is found in the cross. "Therefore, since Christ has suffered
in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because
he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as
to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the
lusts of men, but for the will of God" I Peter 4:1-2.
Let us go to the cross daily and die to the lusts of the world
and the pride, reputation, and approval of man (I John 2:15-17).
"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His
death" Phil 3:10. We cannot know Christ and have His
power without going to the cross and sharing in His suffering.
"For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ
also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow
in His steps" I Peter 2:21.
The Lord is calling us to be overtaken by His Gospel. "And
I do all things for the sake of the Gospel, that I may become
a fellow-partaker of it I Cor9:23. If we will respond, He
will wean us from our own wisdom and strength and train us
to rely solely upon Him. This is God's seminary for those
who would enroll in it. The graduates of His "School
of the Spirit" will be weak in the flesh, but strong
in His power. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God,
and not of ourselves" II Cor 4:7.
The cross is the wisdom of God (I Cor 1:17; 2:5). Do we want
to know Christ? Do we desire to see His power manifested in
lives? We cannot possess it unless we take up our cross (Rom
8:17). The way of the cross is not an end in itself. Only
Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Christ and
the cross are inseparable.
In these last days, let us exhort one another to follow Jesus'
example to endure the cross and its humiliation (Heb 12:2-4).
Because the cross is an offense to those who boast in the
flesh (Gal 5:11), we can expect to suffer misunderstanding,
rejection, and persecution (II Tim 3:12; Gal 6:12). To those
called of God, we are the fragrance of Christ's life but to
those who are perishing, our lives will have the smell of
death (II Cor 2:14-16).
"If the world hates you, you know that is has hated
Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world
would love its own; but because you are not of the world,
but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates
you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not
greater than his master.' If they persecute Me, they will
persecute you" John 15:18-20.
The Scriptures promise that these last days will become more
difficult. Let us look forward with expectation to our Lord's
return, and encourage each other to be people of the cross
- unpolluted by the world. "Beloved, now we are the children
of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We
know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because
we shall see Him just as He is.
And everyone who has this
hope fixed on Him, purifies himself, just as He is pure"