“Come and Die with Me” (Part 3)
(Luke 9:23-24) “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his soul (life) will lose it, but whoever loses his soul (life) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
Living and preaching Christ crucified and ourselves crucified with Him is the true mark of Biblical Apostolicity or what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught about the work of the cross and its eternal truth that has been passed on down through their writings to succeeding generations of New Covenant believers to be finally gathered together in the complete Canon of the New Testament.
Biblical Apostolicity can be defined in this way as the maintaining of the doctrines as taught by our Lord Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament and affirmed in the Old Testament, both Testaments being the final authority in all matters pertaining to faith, doctrine, living the Christian life and pursuing godliness and that holiness without which no man shall see God (Hebrews 12:14). It also consists of New Covenant believers individually and in community, being united in the Spirit of truth, governed and directed by the apostle’s doctrine in the continuance of their apostolic authority set forth in the New Testament, and manifested in the ascension gifts of leadership in the Body of the Messiah. (Ephesians 4:11-13).
How then does Biblical Apostolicity relate to the work of the cross in our lives as New Covenant believers?
1. Biblical Apostolicity understands the centrality of the cross.
(1 Corinthians 1:17-18) “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Today we have no end of fancy trendily dressed preachers who are past masters at playing to the crowd and in many ways seek to mimic those successful secular speakers and self-motivational gurus who massage peoples egos emotionally to get them to release their self-potential which when pursued releases that soul power by which they will be motivated to change. Many modern sermons reflect this mentality and it has nothing to do with the power of the Holy Spirit. For Paul even the outward form of baptism, as necessary as it is, was no substitute for the deep spiritual work of the Holy Spirit deep down on the inside wrought by preaching the message of the cross. Only by preaching the cross could this work of God be accomplished. To those who are spiritually perishing and on the downward path to hell, having taken the wide road, the preaching and embracing of the cross of Christ in their lives is foolishness to them. However, to those who are being saved out of this present evil age the cross and all that it implies is the very power of God to accomplish this rescue!
2. Biblical Apostolicity preaches the centrality of the cross.
(Acts 2:23) “…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of lawless men and put Him to death.”
(Acts 2:36) “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
(Acts 4:10) “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man stands here before you in good health.”
The centrality of the cross was the benchmark and the main emphasis of the apostles preaching and teaching. When confronted by those who had taken part in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, Peter bravely challenged them and did not mince his words unlike many popular preachers today who avoid preaching about Christ crucified and the absolute necessity of being crucified with Christ and all that entails for a New Covenant believer.
It was not a popularity contest for the apostles but a dire situation they faced wherever they went to preach even at the risk of their very lives and livelihood. They preached the cross and the absolute lordship of the Messiah our Lord Jesus without compromise. Also they emphasised the resurrection of Christ and His coming Messianic Davidic Kingdom which He will establish after He has come back to earth. This is the unchanging Gospel of the Kingdom that was preached in the first century and that will be preached just before the Lord Jesus comes back (Matthew 24:14).
Spiritually speaking, unless we are crucified with Christ to the world and the world crucified to us can we say that we are truly saved? Crucifixion and the burial of the soul-life must come first if there is to be a spiritual resurrection. Paul desired to know the Lord Jesus and the power of his resurrection but also to know the fellowship of His suffering and to be identified with Him in His suffering and death. As he writes; “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
The apostle Paul encountered those Jewish religious leaders infiltrating the Galatian assembly and insisting that faith was not sufficient for salvation and that believers had to be physically circumcised if they were to be truly saved. These religious legalists were not persecuted because they avoided the message of the cross which Satan hates because he was defeated and his works exposed by the work of the cross (Colossians 2:15). However, these religious leaders were preaching another gospel and Satan was not even concerned about them. Paul writes; “But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished“(Galatians 5:11).
The undiluted message of the cross cuts across man-made religiosity and all the trappings that accompany it and deals with the deceptive power of the soul which unchecked can do great harm in any assembly. The preaching of the cross is in fact a stumbling block to those who would seek to avoid it and there are many preachers and pastors today who are doing just that. They may be eloquent in speech and filled with Biblical knowledge and apt to preach on many Biblical subjects but circumnavigate the cross and the demands it makes for Biblical discipleship. Quite frankly Purpose Driven and Alpha courses do not cut it!
Within wider Christendom today miracles signs and wonders are all the rage. Unsaved Jews seek for a sign or some supernatural manifestation to convince them of the reality of God because of the signs God did through Moses and the prophets. The Gentile world emphasises human wisdom and the philosophies of man. Paul writes; “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). We see counterfeit miracles signs and wonders being done today in the name of Jesus. We see so called wisdom from God being propagated as prophecy but there is no preaching of the cross and Christ crucified and one who is inviting us to die with Him.
We have numerous self-motivational speaking pastors scratching the itching ears of their flocks and telling them what they want to hear while avoiding the message of the cross which cuts across the work of the soul power being generated by these preachers even if they are doing it unwittingly. The preaching of the cross and being crucified with Christ is a stumbling block to those who seek to be saved by a works based righteousness such as the Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles who know nothing about the righteousness that comes by faith. Only in the Messiah our Lord Jesus is God’s power and wisdom to be found. Once again the Holy Spirt bypasses the human power of the soul when doing His convicting and converting work through a New Covenant believer.
3. Biblical Apostolicity adheres to the centrality of the cross.
(1 Corinthians 2:2) “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (Galatians 6:14) “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 2:20) “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 gave Himself up for me.”
When we read these statements by the apostle Paul it is clear that in all of his preaching and teaching that the centrality of Christ crucified and ourselves crucified with Him permeates all of Paul’s writing. Paul’s determination was to know nothing else other than Christ and Him crucified. The cross of the Lord Jesus is the plumb line and the central focus for the body of the Messiah and Paul knew this. There are many various subjects addressed in the Word of God and none is without its worth because the whole bible is God’s Spirit-breathed Word from cover to cover. However, without the centrality of the cross and the ramifications of living the crucified life undergirding its proclamation there will be no real and lasting salvation of an unbeliever or the sanctification of a believer deep down on the inside. Paul boasted in the cross of Christ because he knew it was the foundation stone upon which all other Biblical truth was predicated.
As far as Paul was concerned he had been crucified and buried with Christ and the old man that was sinful Saul had been executed there. Spiritually speaking it was the death stoke that separated him from the world and the world from him. Paul understood that the cross was not just the place where sin was atoned for by the blood of the Messiah but an experience to be received deep down on the inside that crucified the passions and desires of the fallen fleshly nature and of the world and the desires for the things of this world. While we may understand this theologically it is a daily moment by moment experience that must be embraced and cultivated by faith. Because we were crucified with Christ we have an obligation to allow the Holy Spirit to work it out experientially in our life and this is His work (Romans 8:12-13).
We can be engaged in worship, preaching and ministry and involved with the work of the Church but if we are avoiding the sanctifying crucifying work of the cross deep down on the inside of us then our motives, drives and desires, as well intentioned they may be, will do nothing in regards to crucifying our flesh with its passions and desires and we will be spiritually ineffective in God’s work. By allowing the blessed Holy Spirit to do this sanctifying work will enable Him to empower us to identify and to embrace the cross and experience what it really means to be crucified with Christ to the world and the world crucified to us. This is the basis for Biblical discipleship, worship, ministry and service for God. It is a supernatural and sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
Paul also understood that the life that now operated and controlled him deep down on the inside living in his spirit man was the source of his spiritual power and that he was no longer living for himself but God working through the Lord Jesus had crucified Paul’s passions and desires and the God who had rescued Paul from the dominion of darkness and brought him into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, in whom all of us as New Covenant believers have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).
Even though we are living in our flesh and blood bodies and constantly at war with the world, the flesh and the devil, we need continuously to recon on the fact that the spiritual life and power we have down on the inside of us is the life of the one who has become our great High Priest not by a law of succession, but by the power of an indestructible life! (Hebrews 7:16). When we tap into this indestructible life of the Lord Jesus we will more clearly see the deceptiveness of the power of the soul and be able to make the distinction between the power of God generated from the inner spirit from the human power generated out of the soul, not only within ourselves personally but also when in a worship meeting or engaging others in conversation. This ability is totally the work of God and we have nothing to do with it. It is God’s power being generated out of our spiritually reborn spirit and has nothing to do with our soul power.
God’s gift to us is the faith of his dear Son and it is His faith infused into our spirit man that will give us the resilience and power we need to live the crucified life. With man this is impossible of course but with God all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26). Paul was able to sustain endurance because He knew the spiritual reality that he had experienced from the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself up for him. The crucified Christ was never far away from Paul’s thinking and the motivation he had to preach only Christ and Him crucified! He could endure because he had learnt through the years that endurance was only obtained by enduring, and practicing it in very difficult circumstances he had experienced in the past and was still experiencing every day in his life and ministry.
The apostle James speaks about this endurance being connected with the joy of the Lord when he writes; “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). The power to endure takes practice and it takes time but every time we have to endure makes us stronger in enduring and we are told to count it as joy because it will perfect us, strengthen us in our faith and we will find that we will lack nothing we need either in the spiritual or in the natural realm.
4. Biblical Apostolicity exposes the rejection of the cross.
(Philippians3:18-19) “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.”
It is a terrible indictment from God to be designated as an enemy of God. Paul was greatly grieved because there were those obviously within the assembly at Philippi who had once been walking the crucified life but had become enemies of the message of the cross and had rejected the spiritual power that comes from the cross to keep their flesh crucified. There end was destruction, not annihilation, but being cast away and disposed of because they were no longer able to be used for the purpose for which they were created. Their ‘god’ was their sensual fleshly and carnal cravings for the things of this world with its passions, lusts, desires and ambitions that are diametrically opposed to the demands of the cross and living the crucified life that is the distinguishing mark of all disciples of the Lord Jesus. Their mindset was fixed on the things of this life and even though they gloried in these things it was to their shame from God’s perspective.
5. Biblical Apostolicity recognizes the effect of the cross.
a) (1 Corinthians 2:6-8) “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;.”
If we embrace the crucified life with Christ we will undoubtedly have the wisdom of God which is not the wisdom of this age. If the wisdom of this age was so clever then Satan and his cohorts from hell would never had attempted to crucify the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus breathed His final breath undoubtedly at that moment the principalities in the unseen spiritual realm thought they had won. However, three day later they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had been outwitted by God’s pre-ordained wisdom having already predestined the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus from all of eternity (Acts 2:12). This fact was a mystery in the Old Testament and the writers of the Old Testament only saw things dimly as it were through a dark glass. However, Gods eternal wisdom was revealed in the person of His one and only eternal and begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, who is Himself the very power and wisdom of God manifest in the flesh (1 Corinthians 1:24). In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
b) (Ephesians 2:13-18) “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”
It is the blood of the Messiah that unites all New Covenant believers. Through His substitutionary death at the cross believing Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to become one family in Him. At the cross the enmity between them was abolished and through the cross the demands of the law were fully and forever satisfied in the Messiah. Having the laws and commandments of God written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit unity between Jew and Gentile has been established. Through the cross both believing Jews and gentiles become one new man in the Messiah.
As a result those Gentiles who were afar off and not members of Israel and those Jews who were near having in their possession the law share the same peace through a common faith in the Messiah and both have access in One Spirit to God the Father. Knowing this should encourage us to stay near to the Lord Jesus, to embrace the crucifixion of the flesh through the power of the Spirit and keep our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus fresh moment by moment of every day despite the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil to get us to give into temptation and to commit sin.
It is only the atoning, cleansing and sanctifying power of the Messiah’s blood that we can be protected from giving into temptation and those weights and sins that so easily beset us and that will preserve us in the day of God’s wrath when the destroying angel passes through the Egypt of this world (Romans 5:9). Every time we take communion before the activities of the day begin let us avail ourselves of the power of the blood to protect and keep us from the malicious traps and temptations of Satan that will inevitably assault our souls and try to get us to move into the flesh that will consequently lead us into sin if our flesh is not held in check by the Spirit.
c) “(Philippians 2:8) “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The hardest thing for the Lord Jesus to do was to embrace the cross. He had been in fellowship with His father from all of eternity and now He was faced with being separated from fellowship with His Father. While the Lord Jesus never ceased to be God at any time even during His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection He was separated from His fellowship with God the Father who cannot look upon sin. Through His unswerving obedience in going to the cross, as painful as it was for Him, the Lord Jesus did this for the joy that was set before Him in seeing many souls saved and reconciled to God His Father through His sacrifice (Hebrews 2:10).
In this He is also inviting us to come and die with Him, to know Him more deeply, to experience the righteousness He imparts, and to share in the fellowship of His suffering that we might also share in the fellowship of His resurrection. To identify with the Lord Jesus in His suffering is to be marginalised, criticised, rejected, and persecuted by those in the world, by loved ones and by those within wider Christendom who are opposed to the crucified life having their hopes rooted in this present life and in the things this world offers or even in their religious traditions and denominational structures and doctrines.
As the apostle Paul writes; “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:7-14).
d) (Colossians 2:13-15) “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (the cross).”
We who were dead in sin and spiritual corpses that were unable to respond to God received spiritual life because of the substitutionary death of the Messiah in our place and for our sin, nor His own, because He was without sin. Our dead inner spirit alienating us from the life and presence of God was spiritually regenerated and made alive to God by the operation of the Holy Spirit fusing with our human inner spirit the moment we were spiritually reborn from above. As it is written; “But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).
Added to this the decree concerning all of our sins and offences against God and His law and their death sentence were nailed to the cross. The sentence of death hostile to us was removed through the Messiah’s blood that fully atoned for our sin and blotted out the whole list of our spiritual debt we owed to God. Added to this through hid death and atoning blood He disarmed the rulers and authorities in the unseen spiritual realm, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through the cross (Colossians 2:15).
To Die Daily
As we close this final study in this series of studies let us reflect on what it means for us to die daily with the Lord Jesus. He is inviting every one of us who names the name of the Lord to take up our cross every day as we tend to drop our cross at times and need to pick them up again. It will mean hostility and rejection by the world and being marginalised and finding ourselves aliens, strangers and pilgrims whose ultimate hope and home is not in this age or in this present world but in the age to come! It will also mean crucifying those inappropriate fleshly sinful desires that are constantly at war with the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us.
The Lord Jesus does not compel us to take up our cross but lovingly invites us to do this if we love Him and want to spend eternity with Him. We cannot identify with the worlds way of looking at life and be pre-occupied with the things of this life while at the same time living a crucified life. Whatever draws us away from our relationship with the Triune God must be nailed to the cross experientially at it will be as painful as having an arm cut off or having an eye plucked out. It will mean denying our soul life with its passions and desires and taking up the life of the Spirit.
How then can we take up our cross daily to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus the Messiah?
Firstly; we need take communion every morning before the activities of the day begin. This will anchor our minds to the complete and final efficacy of the cross and keep our focus on the one who has shed His blood to atone for our sin and to cleanse us and to keep us from giving into temptation to sin.
Secondly; we are to pray continuously in the Holy Spirit, not primarily focusing on our own needs although it is important, but focusing on the character of God and worshipping and praising Him using the Psalms as the catalyst for our prayers and then for our petitions. By praying in the Holy Spirit we will build ourselves up spiritually in our most holy faith (Jude 1:20).
Thirdly; we need to declare to the unseen spiritual realm verbally what the Bible says the blood of the Messiah does for us. This is how to overcome Satan, his demons, his evil intent and malevolency towards us, and to deflect his temptations which will be constant during the day and especially at night or when we are not feeling physically well or feeling tired or even feeling frustrated by our circumstances.
Fourthly; we are to put on the whole armour of God piece by piece and to pray without ceasing in the Holy Spirit moment by moment much like breathing in and out with a thankful and grateful heart for God’s mercy and faithfulness which are new every morning. In this way we will begin to grow spiritually.
Also we will be given the capability to distinguish between what comes out of our souls with what comes out of our spiritually reborn spirit. In our flesh, or the life of the soul wherein lies the intellect, the emotions and the will, there is nothing good and whatever comes out from the soul if not kept in check by the Spirit, will lead us into sin and licence the devil to infiltrate out daily affairs and church activities.
However, as we keep developing our personal relationship with the Lord every day we will become stronger spiritually and come to know what is from the soul from what is from the Spirit, not only in our own lives but in the lives of others especially when we are at worship. In these days we need to discern and if necessary expose the unfruitful works of darkness generated by spiritual deception and we need to be able to discern the difference.
As the author of Hebrews also writes; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
May God’s enabling grace by the power of the blessed Holy Spirit enable and empower us every day to take up the Lord Jesus’’ invitation which He invites us to accept; “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his soul (life) will lose it, but whoever loses his soul (life) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
And His invitation still stands, “Come and Die With Me” Selah.