Let's look at the way this powerful principal applies to us as Christ-followers.
And it's way more than just a principle. It's the most powerful force behind a successful Christian life!
The Apostle Paul took up this theme:
“Moreover, if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)
It’s also about our daily relationship with God.
It’s not only coming alive again after we physically die, it’s coming alive now!
I merely existed before I encountered Him. But when I realized how much of a mess I was, (a painful experience, that realisation – I felt like I was dying!) I cried out to him, and He came through with a radically new life – a new me!
It wasn’t a new religion (I’d already tried that) it was an experience of a kind of death, followed by a resurrected life.
We speak metaphorically of “kneeling at the foot of the cross.”
That’s how it was with me: Acknowledgement of my need for a saviour, “dying” to my own pride and pitiful efforts at self-improvement, crying out to Jesus to take what’s left of me – for what it’s worth.
That’s why Jesus said to Nicodemus “You must be born again.”
BTW: It’s not reincarnation, it’s total transformation.
Then He (Jesus) said to them all,
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
(Luke 9:23-24 NKJV)
Losing our life – to save it??
It’s one of those amazing paradoxes that empowers the Christian life.
Taking up our cross daily?
No, I don’t believe He’s talking about putting up with a nagging, annoying mother-in-law or anything like that.
What’s some everyday examples of this principle, this experience?
- Giving up on trying to please God by our own efforts, and accepting the realisation that it’s not only impossible, it’s unnecessary. God already accepts us anyway.
- Approaching our “ministry” as service to God and to people, rather than fulfilling an ambition.
- Giving up a bit of our precious spare time to do what God’s asking us to do. (There’s balance in this, of course.)
- “Taking it on the chin” when we get abused and misunderstood, especially when there’s no chance to redress it.
- Giving away that money we put aside for our second pleasure cruise to bless a struggling third-world family.
- Deciding not to road-rage on that stupid driver who cut in front of you, choosing to pray for him instead.
Here’s something else that Paul said about this experience:
“……Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection…..” (Romans 6:5,6 NKJV)
No, we’re not talking disrespectfully about your dad here!
I believe Paul is referring to the old habits and attitudes that still hang on to us, much like the leaves of a poisoned weed in our garden. The root is dead, but (unlike weeds) we still must decide to shed those harmful old things, whether we are motivated to do so or not. And sometimes it’s hard!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. (Romans 12:1 Amp Version)
If you think about it, it’s a logical sequence, a natural progression. Jesus sacrificed Himself for my sake, so I sacrifice myself for His sake. That’s my destiny, my privilege. Makes sense.
Not that I’m really hanging out for martyrdom, but if it ever comes to that, I hope I’m ready.
Meanwhile, there are many other ways in the here-and-now where I need to “die”, so to speak, and watch those areas being transformed to something supernatural by the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.
The Apostle Peter had his own “cross experience” when he realized he had denied Jesus three times.
If he hadn’t been through that experience, he would not have risen to be one of the greatest heroes of faith in history.
He was given the privilege of publicly preaching the gospel for the first time ever. No longer the bombastic, over-confident, shoot-from-the-lip disciple that he was when Jesus first called him.
He was totally transformed, equipped to use the keys of the kingdom on the day of Pentecost.
He knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his letter:
"Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time…"
(1 Peter:5,6 NKJV)
There is no crown without a Cross.