"If any man would follow Me, let him take up his cross.".........."When Christ calls a man, He bids Him come and die." Dietrich Bonhoeffer...."The cross of which Jesus spoke had nothing of beauty in it. It was an instrument of death. Slaying men was its only function. Men did not wear that cross, but that cross wore men.....The cross has been the end of a life and the beginning of a life." A.W. Tozer
In the ancient world, or in any world, there may be no more horrible way to die than upon a cross. It could take days of unrelenting agony. As one put it, you stayed upon that cross until every part of you was dead. It's purpose, as Tozer states, was to slay. To slay completely.
I remember as early as the 1980's, it being said that if we truly wished to reach a lost world we needed to get away from the "negative" message of sin and it's effects and concentrate on the positive one of His great love. This always struck me as strange, because where is the love of God shown more powerfully than in His giving of Christ to die, on a cross, for our sin and sins?
Moving into the 90's, we began to hear that it if we wanted to reach the lost, we needed to stop prominently displaying the cross in our churches. The unchurched found it offensive they said. This also seemed strange; hiding the very illustration of His hatred of sin and it's devastating effect on the human race He so loves. More, as Paul wrote, the cross will always be offensive, a stumbling block to our flesh. Our flesh hates it because it knows that the cross of Christ has as its purpose destroying the power of sin through our flesh, in our lives. The result of these two "movements" has been to produce a tame, powerless, pseudo gospel that can be very attractive to our flesh, but has no power to reach and change our hearts, and transform our lives. Lives don't become completely new in Him. People may become moderately better behaved. Improvements may have taken place, we may be "better" than we were, but the root problem of our spiritual waywardness remains. What was lost in the Garden has yet to be found.
This is not a call to hurl brimstone from the pulpit. Just a heart yearning to hear proclaimed the Word that points to Christ. Christ as He is, and as we might wish Him to be. Christ who conquered sin...on the cross. Who rose because He could not be held captive by it. Who lives and so offers to us that same fullness of His Life that He Himself walks in. But to have it, we must take up our cross, His cross, and climb the hill to Calvary....and die there. Though we enter into His risen life, we do not leave the cross there. We carry it throughout our journey here. Dying more to ourselves each day, and living more and more in Him as well.
We can attempt to hide His cross, or bring it out a few times a year, especially at Easter, but it will go nowhere. It remains the gateway into the fullness of His life through the death of our old life. The giving of His Life cost the Father everything. He offers His Life to us freely, but to have it in all its fullness will cost us everything. How deep do we desire it?
If Tozer's words written two generations ago stung then, how much more now? He said, "Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved, but we insist that Christ do all the dying." We all know that what he speaks is true. The question is, how true is it in us? Where are we insisting that He die...for us....so that we may continue to live..... also for us?