Lately, I’ve been reading two books: The Crucified Life (A. W. Tozer) and The Cross of Christ (John R. W. Scott). Tozer dealt specifically with what it means to live the crucified life and Scott dealt with how the Cross, on which our Lord was crucified, impacts our lives daily. As I have read, I have become keenly aware that we tend not to focus on the call of Jesus to come and die.
If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. –Jesus in Mark 8.34 (CSB)
Notice, Jesus told us that the goal is to follow him. But, how do we do that? Well, he gave us the instruction manual: We must deny ourselves, take up [our] cross, and then follow him. For his audience, they clearly understood what he meant, as crucifixion was a regular part of living in the Roman Empire. Their minds would have jumped to any one of the crucifixions that they may have seen. They understood that Jesus was calling them to die. And not only that, but that Jesus was going to lead them there. He showed us how it is to be done…he didn’t just tell us, but he also demonstrated.
In the interest of honesty, the call to come and die is a tough one. At other points, those around Jesus would echo the exact same thing when they heard other teachings (John 6.60). Truth be told, this is hard for us, too. I know it’s hard for me; it’s actually discomforting. However, my discomfort does not negate the call of the Lord Jesus.
You may be thinking: “So, does Jesus call me to physically die for my faith in him?” Well…yes and no. Your life may be required of you and it may not be. There have been many Saints who have not had to give up their physical life for their faith. Likewise, there have been many throughout the centuries and even today that have given their life for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (and have done so joyfully).
Regardless of whether we must give up our physical life for the Lord Jesus, there is a call to a daily death. A daily death to the habits and tendencies of the old nature that remain (Rom. 12.1-12), though the old nature has been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2.20). We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice…but that is never convenient. Tozer wrote that he never knew a man who found it convenient to die. Frankly, neither have I, nor do I find it convenient.
But why the call to die? I’ve been walking through the “I AM” statements in John with my students. Last night, we were dealing with John 10.1-10. As I got to verse 10 (A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance), I was reminded that we must first die to the flesh and the things of the world before we can have life and life abundant. But why must we die first? Simple. The flesh must be dealt with and it is only dealt with when we identify with the Lord Jesus and recognize that, in Christ, we have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2.20).
Yes. This is a hard thing to grasp and even harder to do. I’ve often heard that “the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the alter.” Yet, we are called to place ourselves there. We are to go humbly and obediently to whatever cross the Holy Spirit has chosen for us. We are to trust his wisdom and judgement. In the words of Tozer:
The only cure for our worldliness is the cross. We cannot put ourselves on the cross. We cannot choose the cross on which we will be crucified….[There are] various kinds of crosses—gold, silver, brass, wood, paper. The only thing they have in common is that they crucify. How the cross will be used in your life is at the discretion of the Holy Spirit….Our responsibility is to yield to His wisdom and allow Him to do the work without any advice from us (“The Crucified Life”, pg. 143-144).
I simply argue that the cross be raised again