Today I am compelled to bring into focus one verse of scripture taken from the April 11th reading in our devotional Bible. It states the following:
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, NASB)
These words were spoken by Jesus and fall into a category one might label as easy to recite, hard to live. How often I’ve heard within Christian circles these words quoted; indeed, how numerous the occasions they have exited my own mouth. Yet, regrettably, how rarely I’ve seen them exemplified from either place!
A. W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God, gets at this very topic by comparing the self-life (self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, etc.) to a veil in our hearts. A veil similar to the one in the temple, separating the Holy of Holies (representing the presence of God) from the rest of the world; the veil that was split from top to bottom following Jesus death on the cross. The self-life blocks out the presence of God from us. With that in mind Tozer surmises, “…when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.” (pg. 47)
Tozer continues, “The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the living God.” (pg. 48)
The Apostle Paul reflected, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NASB)
Paul’s words are immensely instructive. He reminds the reader the “crucified life in the flesh” is accomplished by faith. The same saving faith that brought me into relationship with the Son of God will also keep me in that relationship! Jesus words above remind us that this should be a daily consideration. By faith I must see my flesh, my self-life, as it truly is; dead to the world and alive to Christ. In this is freedom! In this is victory! I pray we all practice the “taking up of our crosses daily” as we lay aside the encumbrances and sins that so easily entangle us (Hebrews 12:1).