Monday, May 29, 2006

YOUR Cross

At 2:00AM this morning, for the third straight night, I was awakened by the Lord and was unable to return to sleep. Each night I have been personally ministered to by the Holy Spirit, much of which has been quite uncomfortable. At approximately 3:00AM I began to write and this is what I received:
Before you read this open your Bible to Gal.6:14.

Gal.6:14 - But 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.
As Paul penned these words he was making a declaration that stood out as foolishness in the midst of an intellectual, self-serving, and religious society. In a world that loved itself, he was saying that the world was dead to him, and to the world he was a dead man.

Listen more closely. Not only was death involved, but the death of the cross. We have grown accustomed to hearing this reference to crucifixion as it is lightly, tastefully, and selectively sprinkled in pulpit oratory. Not to be discussed among us, we have heard it used as a metaphor for "not letting the things of this life bother us". But Paul, under the God-breathed ministry of the Holy Spirit, used it in an infinitely more direct and confrontational way. Just as our Lord was crucified publicly, Paul publicly proclaims he "glories in the cross".

Gal.6:15 - For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision...
The Spirit now teaches us the passing inadequacy of circumcision as it now is overshadowed by the cross. The few drops of blood that spilled as a male foreskin was cut away now just reminds us of the present uselessness of adherence to the law given to Moses in the incredible light of the glory of the shed blood of the Lamb of God! But go further, if you dare. Remember, you will give an account for what you are about to hear(Mk.4:24-25). So do not read any further unless your heart is willing to open its door to the nails, the hammer, the blood, the agony, the shame, and the cross that has YOUR name on it.

O yes, we've been ever so comfortable to gaze, infrequently and sometimes just sentimentally, at our Savior and Lord on the life-giving cross, but are we anxious to arrive at the foot of a cross, complete with all the necessary and gruesome accoutrements, and realize that it has our name on it?

Gal.6:17 - From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
The original word for marks is "stigma". The message of such imagery is obvious. Paul is saying,"don't bother me, I'm dead". Dying to this world, other people, our family, our dreams, our flesh, and the entire cursed universe is no "die in your sleep" proposition. It requires a vicious and bloody death; the death of the cross! It is a writhing of the flesh; a deep groaning of pain; a begging for enough; a ruining of appearance; an indescribable shame; an elongated torture; a daily, moment by moment, excruciating event that Paul says he experienced daily. Like a prisoner arriving at the penitentiary who is commanded to empty his pockets, and then is subjected to the most complete and embarrassing search before entering his place of confinement, the candidate for crucifixion must be stripped of all, and God means ALL, his or her belongings. Far beyond the visible material of this world, the Holy Spirit conducts a complete and embarrassing search of the heart which reveals worldly contraband that are a part of the arsenal of the enemy of God. Greed, unforgiveness, lust, malice, envy, and a host of other offspring of the flesh are laid before us, surrounded by the most disgusting of all - pride.

You have now arrived at a place that most of the church don't even know, or care, exists. Your flesh regrets ever allowing the Spirit to lead you to this place of death. You glance over your shoulder and again see your Lord on the cross, and your heart is filled with love and gratefulness, but the Spirit interrupts your momentary serenity and returns your focus to the decision before you. THIS IS YOUR CROSS! Now you realize that like your Savior, no one can force you upon this cross. You must lay down on this cross willingly. But where is the power you need? More Word, more prayer. More Word, more prayer. More Word, more prayer. Then desire meets power, power meets humility, humility meets repentance, and your knees buckle under the weight of your "body of sin". You fall upon the cross and suddenly you are in a new perspective. For the first time you are looking out from a cross, not just being a cross spectator.

The Spirit takes the first nail, raises the hammer, and you cry out in anticipated pain. You are alone. No husband. No wife. no pastor. No friends. It is just you at death's wooden door and you begin to feel inward and outward pain as the life of this present world is being torn away from the place it has held in your heart. You are dying to this world. Look down at the foot of your cross and listen to the crowd. Listen to those who've never been to Christ's cross as they say,"What is he doing and why? He used to be such a fun and wonderful person, but look now". Listen to your brothers and sisters say,"Now he's gone too far and he's become a fanatic. Our Lord never wanted this, let us leave this offensive place of death and let's go to the empty tomb where we can celebrate without pain." As they leave the devil whispers in your ear,"Is it worth it? Go with your friends and avoid all this. Remember, Jesus died in your place so you could enjoy life like the rest of the world."

Your wife and children call to you,"Come down from there and meet our needs. We don't understand. Please come down, we love you." Somehow the Spirit gives you the grace to go on, and everything becomes dark. Where is your family? Where are your friends? Where are your pleasures? Suddenly you laboriously lift yourself up and draw your last breath. You are now resigned to your fate and void of any strength, you quietly bow your head and lose the living consciousness you have lived with since you were born. Death has finished the work you desired.

At almost the same moment consciousness enters you as you slowly open your eyes. Light gently greets your face and you hear a voice calling from within and without. "Arise, and follow ME!". You get to your feet, aided by a strength you've never known. You follow the light and the voice, and as you emerge from the tomb you experience a new life that is "unspeakable and full of glory". The Same Spirit that helped crucify you is now your teacher and guide. "Come this way", He says, and you joyously follow. Looking down you see footprints that seem to draw every one of your steps. The Spirit puts His hand on your shoulder to steady you, and He whispers,"You are now dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. You are walking in His resurrection power, so keep looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith. You have this treasure in an earthen vessel, that the excellency of the power might be of Him and not you. Lay aside all your weight and your sin and run the race with patience."

"But what if I fall?", I ask.

"Remember", teaches the Spirit, "You have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. He will pick you up and clean you up, and of course I will always be with you. See", He said, "Jesus has left us a trail that you should follow in His steps. Don't trust your eyes, WALK BY FAITH!"

The further I walked, the stronger I got. I felt completely detached from this world. In the distance I saw my family, my friends, my possessions, and all the other things that can be seen. As I approached them I humbly but confidently said, "Henceforth, let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the stigma of the Lord Jesus!!"

PTL-Rick May God help us to lose our lives for Him!!!

5 comments:

Peter said...

Rick,

This is such a powerful, powerful picture of death to self. What a vivid depiction...I really don't know what else to say.

JT333 said...

Yes...Yes...Yes!!! It is finished!
Buried in Him and basking in His glory! If only the church would reacquaint itself with the cross, we would experience true revival. Until then, the church will keep limping lethargically into eternity with eyes blinded by complacency. What a pitiful bride we are...

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Cherie c. said...

"In the distance I saw my family, my friends", and desired that they too would take up their cross.

So undone, so very undone.