6. Like Christ: Crucified With Him.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. 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. 2:20; 6:14.
Taking up the cross was always spoken of by Christ as the test of discipleship. On three different occasions (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 14:27) we find the words repeated, "If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me." While the Lord was still on His way to the cross, this expression—taking up the cross, was the most appropriate to indicate that conformity to Him to which the disciple is called.
At first sight the Christian who seeks conformity to Jesus is afraid of this truth: he shrinks from the painful suffering and death with which the thought of the cross is connected. As His spiritual discernment becomes clearer, however, this word becomes all his hope and joy, and he glories in the cross, because it makes him a partner in a death and victory that has already been accomplished, and in which the deliverance from the powers of the flesh and of the world has been secured to him. To understand this we must notice carefully the language of Scripture.
"I am crucified with Christ," Paul says; "nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me"! Through faith in Christ we become partakers of Christ’s life. That life is a life that has passed through the death of the cross, and in which the power of that death is always working. When I receive that life, I receive at the same time the full power of the death on the cross working in me in its never-ceasing energy. "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me" (R.V.); the life I now live is not my own life, but the life of the Crucified One, is the life of the cross. The being crucified is a thing past and done: "Knowing this, that our old man was (R.V.) crucified with Him;" "They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh;" "I glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world hath been (R.V.) crucified unto me, and I unto the world." These texts all speak of something that has been done in Christ, and into which I am admitted by faith.
It is of great consequence to understand this, and to give bold utterance to the truth: I have been crucified with Christ; I have crucified the flesh. I thus learn how perfectly I share in the finished work of Christ. If I am crucified and dead with Him, then I am a partner in His life and victory. I learn to understand the position I must take to allow the power of that cross and that death to manifest itself in mortifying or (R.V.) making dead the old man and the flesh, in destroying the body of sin (Rom. 6:6).
For there is still a great work for me to do. But that work is not to crucify myself: I have been crucified; the old man was crucified, so the Scripture speaks. But what I have to do is always to regard and treat it as crucified, and not to suffer it to come down from the cross. I must maintain my crucifixion position; I must keep the flesh in the place of crucifixion. To realize the force of this I must notice an important distinction. I have been crucified and am dead: the old Adam was crucified, but is not yet dead. When I gave myself to my crucified Saviour, sin and flesh and all, He took me wholly; I with my evil nature was taken up with Him in His crucifixion. But here a separation took place. In fellowship with Him I was freed from the life of the flesh; I myself died with Him; in the inmost centre of my being I received new life: Christ lives in me. But the flesh, in which I yet am, the old man that was crucified with Him, remained condemned to an accursed death, but is not yet dead. And now it is my calling, in fellowship with and in the strength of my Lord, to see that the old nature be kept nailed to the cross, until the time comes that it is entirely destroyed. All its desires and affections cry out, "Come down from the cross, save thyself and us." It is my duty to glory in the cross, and with my whole heart to maintain the dominion of the cross, and to set my seal to the sentence that has been pronounced, to make dead every uprising of sin, as already crucified, and so not to suffer it to have dominion. This is what Scripture means when it says, "If ye through the spirit do make to die (R.V.) the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13). "Make dead therefore your members which are upon the earth." Thus I continually and voluntarily acknowledge that in my flesh dwells no good thing; that my Lord is Christ the Crucified One; that I have been crucified and am dead in Him; that the flesh has been crucified and, though not yet dead, has been for ever given over to the death of the cross. And so I live like Christ, in very deed crucified with Him.
In order to enter fully into the meaning and the power of this fellowship of the crucifixion of our Lord, two things are specially necessary to those who are Christ’s followers. The first is the clear consciousness of this their fellowship with the Crucified One through faith. At conversion they became partakers of it without fully understanding it. Many remain in ignorance all their life long through a want of spiritual knowledge. Brother, pray that the Holy Spirit may reveal to you your union to the Crucified One. "I have been crucified with Christ;" "I glory in the cross of Christ, through which I have been crucified to the world." Take such words of Holy Scripture, and by prayer and meditation make them your own, with a heart that expects and asks the Holy Spirit to make them living and effectual within you. Look upon yourself in the light of God as what you really are, "crucified with Christ." Then you will find the grace for the second thing you need to enable you to live as a crucified one, in whom Christ lives. You will be able always to look upon and to treat the flesh and the world as nailed to the cross. The old nature seeks continually to assert itself, and to make you feel as if it is expecting too much that you should always live this crucifixion life. Your only safety is in fellowship with Christ. "Through Him and His cross," says Paul, "I have been crucified to the world." In Him the crucifixion is an accomplished reality; in Him you have died, but also have been made alive: Christ lives in you. With this fellowship of His cross let it be with you, the deeper the better: it brings you into deeper communion with His life and His love. To be crucified with Christ means freed from the power of sin: a redeemed one, a conqueror. Remember that the Holy Spirit has been specially provided to glorify Christ in you, to reveal within you, and make your very own all that is in Christ for you. Do not be satisfied, with so many others, only to know the cross in its power to atone: the glory of the cross is, that it was not only to Jesus, but is to us too, the path to life, but that each moment it can become to us the power that destroys sin and death, and keeps us in the power of the eternal life. Learn from your Saviour the holy art of using it for this. Faith in the power of the cross and its victory will day by day make dead the deeds of the body, the lusts of the flesh. This faith will teach you to count the cross, with its continual death to self. all your glory. Because you regard the cross, not as one who is still on the way to crucifixion, with the prospect of a painful death, but as one to whom the crucifixion is past, who already lives in Christ, and now only bears the cross as the blessed instrument through which the body of sin is done away (Rom. 6:6, R.V.). The banner under which complete victory over sin and the world is to be won is the cross.
Above all, remember what still remains the chief thing, It is Jesus, the living loving Saviour, who
Himself enables you to be like Him in all things. His sweet fellowship, His tender love, His heavenly power, make it a blessedness and joy to be like Him, the Crucified One, make the crucifixion life a life of resurrection—joy and power. In Him the two are inseparably connected. In Him you have the strength to be always singing the triumphant song: God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Precious Saviour, I humbly ask Thee to show me the hidden glory of the fellowship of Thy cross. The cross was my place, the place of death and curse. Thou didst become like us, and hast been crucified with us. And now the cross is Thy place, the place of blessing and life. And Thou callest me to become like Thee, and as one who is crucified with Thee, to experience how entirely the cross has made me free from sin.
Lord, give me to know its full power. It is long since I knew the power of the cross to redeem from the curse. But how long I strove in vain as a redeemed one to overcome the power of sin, and to obey the Father as Thou hast done! I could not break the power of sin. But now I see, this comes only when Thy disciple yields himself entirely to be led by Thy Holy Spirit into the fellowship of Thy cross. There Thou dost give him to see how the cross has broken for ever the power of sin, and has inade him free. There Thou, the Crucified One, dost live in him and impart to him Thine own Spirit of whole-hearted self-sacrifice, in casting out and conquering sin. Oh. my Lord, teach me to understand this better. In this faith I say, "I have been crucified with Christ." Oh, Thou who loveds’t, me to the death, not Thy cross, but Thyself the Crucified One, Thou art He whom I seek, and in whom I hope. Take me, Thou Crucified One, and hold me fast, and teach me from moment to moment to look upon all that is of self as condemned, and only worthy to be crucified. Take me, and hold me, and teach me, from moment to moment, that in Thee I have all I need for a life of holiness and blessing. Amen.
"Jesus hath now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross. He hath many who desire His consolation, few His tribulation; many who are willing to share His table, few His fasting. All are willing to rejoice with Him, few will endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus into the breaking of bread, but few to drink of the cup whereof He drank. Many glory in His miracles, few in the shame of His cross." - From Thomas à Kernpis, Of the Imitation of Christ, 2. 11. That the lovers of the Cross of Jesus are few.
"To many it seems a hard speech, "Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Jesus." But it will be much harder to bear that other word, "Depart from me, ye cursed;" for only they who now hear and follow the word of the cross shall then have no fear of the word of condemnation. For the sign of the cross will be seen in the heaven when the Lord cometh to judgment, and all the servants of the cross, who in their lifetime have been conformed to Christ crucified, will then draw near to Christ their judge with great confidence. Why, then, dost thou fear to take up the cross which fitteth thee for the kingdom? In the cross is life, in the cross is salvation: the cross defends against all enemies: in the cross there is the infusion of all heavenly sweetness; in the cross is strength of mind, joy of spirit; the cross is the height of virtue and the perfection of sanctity. There is no happiness for the soul but in the cross. Take up, therefore, thy cross and follow Jesus, and thou shalt live for ever.
"If thou bear the cross cheerfully, it will bear thee. If thou bear it unwillingly, thou makest for thyself a burden which still thou hast to bear. What saint was there ever who did not bear the cross? Even Christ must needs suffer. How then dost thou seek any other way than this, which is the royal way, the way of the sacred cross?
"He that willingly submits to the cross, to him its whole burden is changed into a sweet assurance of divine comfort. And the more the flesh is broken down by the cross, the more the spirit is strengthened by inward grace. It is not in man by nature, to bear the cross, to love the cross, to deny self, to bring the body into subjection, and willingly to endure suffering. If thou look to thyself, thou canst accomplish nothing of all this. But if thou trust in the Lord, strength shall be given thee from heaven, and the world and the flesh shall be made subject to thy rule. Set thyself, therefore, to bear manfully the cross of thy Lord, who out of love was crucified for thee.
"Know for certain thou oughtest to lead a dying life, for the more any man dieth unto himself, the more he liveth unto God. Surely, if there had been any better thing, and more profitable to man’s salvation, than bearing the cross, Christ would have showed it us by word and example. But now He calleth all who would follow Him plainly to do this one thing, daily to bear the cross." - From Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, 2, 12. Of the Royal Way of the Sacred Cross.