David Martin of Abbotsford, WI sent this piece he had written in 2009 about his own journey and testimony in response to a previous article we had published. We appreciate feedback, thoughts and meditations related to topics discussed here on the Kingdom Outpost – email them to admin@kingdomoutpost or contact us on Facebook or Instagram!
Embracing the Cross
We meet Christ at the cross. If we have not felt the sharp pain of the piercing cross into the core of our being, and experienced the disgraceful death that is found there; the dying exposed, before the scorn and scoffing of the whole world; then we have not known Christ. Our acquaintance with Christ is revealed when we cry with Paul, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.”
Furthermore we walk with Him in the shadow of the cross. It goes with us into every experience cutting off the stain of the flesh and the expression of self-will. It enters into every relationship, calling us to love Christ more than Father, Mother, wife, or child. It forms a barrier between us and the World. “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.”
The cross is all pain, cutting off, exposing needs. There is no comfort to be found in the rough surface of the gnarled beams or the agonizing pain of the nails that hold us there. There is only the laborious drawing out of our last breaths, until we die.
Dying is not “fun.” It cannot be sugar-coated. It is the end of all earthly hopes and ambitions. It is having the fullness of the cup of life dashed from our fingers, the bright flower of our dreams withered in our grasp. The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings is only experienced when we with Him, bow our head to the Almighty, and say, “It is finished.” It is known when we give up that which will finally be taken from us. The thieves held out against the inevitable, and suffered the breaking of their bones; Christ yielded of His own will.1
Why should we then embrace the cross? What is to be gained by allowing all the glory of life to be extinguished in us? Because only in death is there freedom. In the fellowship of His sufferings is also found the power of His resurrection. Only after the pain of death has accomplished its grim work in our hearts, and we have loosed our grasp on our self and all its grasping desires are we free to rise with Christ to be “Kings and priests to our God.” Death is all pain, but in the resurrection all is glory.
This is not and cannot be a “once and done” event. We wish it could be, in fact we wish that we could avoid it altogether; but the Word still stands “if we die with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” And having died with Him and known the glory of reigning with Him, and while walking in the freedom of death to self; from time to time there again falls across our path the cold shadow of the cross. We who have walked the way for some time have come to recognize that shadow, and dread its intrusion into our little world; knowing the agony that is to follow.
It would be nice if, when we first feel the chill of that dread shadow, we could just quickly die and get it over with, but that is not how it works. Christ lived his life in the shadow of Golgotha, yet He had to face the agony of Gethsemane. We also must face down the terror of approaching death, with all its shame and defeat, and go through to the bitter end before we can say, “it is finished” and by giving up, win a great victory.
Herein is a spiritual law: when the storm overtakes us, and God’s hand comes heavy upon us, when we wrestle alone in the garden through the blackest of nights, when all that we hoped for and dreamed of are falling in tatters around our feet, right when we think that surely we have borne enough and can take no more. . . things are about to get worse. Why must this be? Because we are not dead yet. You see, all the agony of Gethsemane, and all the wrenching pain of the cross are still expressions of life, not death. Only when we die are we freed from pain. And even as we face these things our whole being cries out against the pain, the injustice, the finality of death.
This is where we walk with Christ in the truth that “though He were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” We have it in our power to accept death, or refuse it. In accepting death in all its heart-rending grief, we find true sonship with God, and fellowship with Jesus Christ. Or we can resist, refuse the cross, defend our life, and demand “justice;” thereby escaping death but also forfeiting the triumph of the resurrection.
The weight of this truth is that while the storm rages, when the cross looms over us, when every instinct of self-preservation cries out for escape, that is when we must cry out for grace to die. Because only in death is the release of our passions and our pain. When we have embraced the pain and the shame and say, “it is finished,” and voluntarily submit to the cross, there it is that the power and the glory of the resurrection are born in us anew. When the weight of suffering is to the point that we feel we can suffer no more, then we are ready to accept death as the end of our suffering.
This is the secret of life in Christ Jesus, life that transcends all earthly hopes and dreams. Life that the world cannot experience, cannot even dream of. Life that even many that claim to know Christ know nothing about, life that is reserved only for the true sons of God. The half-hearted, uncommitted, casual Christian; the self willed or rebellious, all stand on the other side of this door. Here we find the life that says, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”
So as we walk with Christ, even after many years of discipleship, when we feel the cold shadow and see the cross looming over our pathway, may we have the vision and the grace to “Run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
His Cross and Mine
The cross of Christ, I see it there; Cruel instrument of death.
On its rough beams heaven’s glory hangs, The Almighty’s gracious breath.
The greatest Gift that God has given; The best that heaven could share,
By this cruel means, To all our shame, In our deep sin,
We killed him there.
My own Cross, I see it now; Cruel instrument of death.
On its rough beams earth’s glory hangs Crushing my very breath.
The greatest gifts of this world’s store, All that my nature wants;
By this cruel means,
By God’s great grace Is my will cleansed;
(1) 1 Death by crucifixion comes from asphyxiation. The weight of the body hanging on the shoulders hinders the ability to breath, thus as the body weakens, the suffocating process speeds up. It is only natural to resist death, so as long as there in muscle strength to resist the deadly force of gravity, the victim tends to hold out against it. The significance of the broken bones is that, as their feet were nailed it enabled them to bear some weight on their feet, thus prolonging their agony. The Jews, for reasons of their own wanted to hasten the process, so the leg bones were broken, which removed that support, and further weakened their bodies, bringing death sooner. The point is that Christ was already dead. His Life was not taken; “He gave Himself for us.”