"And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:38,39)
It is the nature of flesh to be repelled by the thought of the cross. We do not like to think of Jesus hanging on the cross, the picture is repulsive to us. And the thought of applying the cross to our own lives is just as repugnant. We simply do not like to dwell on the cross.
We are basically sensual, we function primarily according to our five senses, and nothing about the cross appeals to our senses. We hear the words of Jesus about taking up our cross, but we miss the Gospel message that is an integral part of it.
When Jesus speaks of the cross, we hear only that we must sacrifice. Sacrifice is a dirty word to our senses, so we sweep His words under the carpet and hope He won't notice.
We forget that he came so we might have life more abundantly (John 10:10). In the same verse we are told that Satan came to steal, kill and destroy. It's amazing that we read these verses and miss the Gospel message.
We should embrace the cross. The cross is where we are set free from our sensual state. It enables us to step out of the carnal, into the spiritual.
When we search the Gospels, we find that Jesus never once mentioned the cross and His forthcoming crucifixion without including His resurrection. The Gospel message is that crucifixion and resurrection are inseparable.
This means the crucifixion of our flesh is inseparable from the resurrection of our spirit! We take up our cross by submitting our will to Jesus. This is a form of dying to self.
We give Him access to the throne of our heart, and let Him become King over our lives. He then strengthens us spiritually. Spiritual resurrection takes place, and we experience His abundant life. The death of our flesh permits life in our spirit!
Consider Peter, and the crucifixion of his flesh. It occurred at the time of his denial of Christ. Until that moment, he didn't realize the power of his sensuality and its unwillingness to die. When his flesh was threatened, it thrashed for survival. It lied, cursed and stormed out of the danger area (Matthew 26:69-75).
The Good News is that the humiliating death of his flesh (in the form of his ego, or pride), initiated the resurrection of his spirit. With the flesh out of the way, he was used on the day of Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit spoke through him to the masses.
In Luke 22:31,32, Jesus refers to this type crucifixion of the flesh as conversion. A similar type conversion, or crucifixion of the flesh occurred with Saul of Tarsus who, after his conversion, became the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-19). Had Saul of Tarsus not been crucified, Apostle Paul could never have been resurrected.
Even with Jesus, it wasn't until His flesh was actually crucified, that His spiritual potency multiplied. Fortunately, we don't have to undergo physical crucifixion for our spirit to be released from the bondage of our flesh.
The flesh, itself, doesn't have to go, but the power of the flesh must. When we understand this truth about crucifixion of our flesh, our reflex action is to immediately set about to crucify it. We do everything within our ability to suppress our flesh, so our spirit can be released to hear and obey God.
The deception in this is that to fight our flesh, we must take our eyes off God and put them on ourselves. Satan has a heyday with this. He hangs condemnation all over our flesh, and we feel as worthy as a worm.
John the Baptist understood this dilemma. The key is in his statement in John 3:30. When we read it closely, we see that the increase comes before the decrease. Because we are performance oriented, we get it backward. We feel that we must decrease so the Spirit of Christ can increase within us. The opposite is true.
We may be successful to a degree and for a brief period, but the nature of our flesh eventually dominates, and we return to our old sinful way. Remember, there is nothing permanent in flesh; therefore, the flesh is capable of nothing permanent.
When flesh fights flesh, flesh wins and flesh loses. The key lies in our focus. When we focus on our flesh, we lose. When we focus on the Lord, we win.
The increase must come first. This is accomplished when we discipline ourselves to focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we filter our lives through Jesus, we grow spiritually (the increase), and our flesh plays less of a part in our decisions and our reactions (the decrease). In the process, our flesh is crucified and our spirit is resurrected.
Jesus made taking up our cross very simple. The problem is always the same: it is too simple for our intellect to accept.
If we remember that the increase comes before the decrease, we will be all right. It is impossible to improve ourselves by trying to improve ourselves. We must release everything to Jesus and allow Him to crucify our flesh His way.
When we accept this, we will embrace the cross.
Jesus is King!
P.S. What are you doing of eternal value?
Question for today: How do I feel about crucifixion of the flesh?