For anyone to either receive or live in the full measure of the Gospel, they must first be drawn by Christ. He draws them when He is lifted up. Our purpose is to lift Christ up in every aspect of our lives and reveal His fullness – suffering Saviour, risen Lord, and conquering King. We cannot lift a ‘half Christ’ and expect anyone to discover the Way that God has made for us to share eternity with Him.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. (John 12:32)
As true followers of Jesus, our purpose is to continue His purpose among mankind. Believers all too easily assign this role to that of preaching to the unsaved. It covers this, of course. Jesus’ final command to His disciples and to all those who follow after is to go and preach the Gospel. But it also applies to the church. We are to testify to Christ in our lives to both believers and non-believers. For the latter, it’s to bring them into the kingdom. For the former, it’s to keep them in the kingdom and share in their growth and maturity as they do in ours. Many people in our churches do not yet live in the full measure of life, liberty, and abundance which defines the cross. This is because Jesus is not continually lifted up. The Gospel has become only about bringing in lost souls.
Jesus is lifted up to reveal the way.
In John 6:44, we read: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. This is a particularly powerful verse which explains why so many of our prayers for others seem to be fruitless. We need to grasp up-front that unless God initiates, undertakes, and completes the work, none can enter the kingdom of heaven. Thankfully, His desire is that all men would be saved, so we can stand in the faith that He will draw them. The key, though, is how the Way in which He draws them – through Christ. Remember the Gadarene demoniac who was compelled by his demons to withdraw and hide. When Jesus stepped onto the island, the man had to emerge and come to Christ. Jesus is the way that must continually be lifted up.
The practical relevance of this lies in the simple fact of visibility. For others to enter salvation, they must see the way. They must see Jesus, and He is only visible when He is lifted up. Unless we do that, the way will not be clear. This doesn’t negate the power of prayer which is critical and God-given and directed. Our intercession for others should never be ignored or devalued. But faith must also be made visible – not ‘my’ faith but the one in whom we can and do have faith. Without the cross, both faith and prayer are meaningless. We must constantly lift Jesus up to reveal the way to both unbelievers and those within the church. Every believer is a ‘work in progress’ and needs to see Jesus continually. We must see the Way at all times if we are to learn to live the complete Gospel.
Jesus lifted up on the cross.
There are three powerful ways in which Jesus was lifted up. When we lift Him up through testimony and witness, all three must be included. The first lifting up took place at the cross. This accomplished three things. First, it revealed to us the terrible, sinful nature of mankind. It is the evidence of what we are and what will happen to us without His sacrifice. In this, it also revealed the total love and commitment of God, who sent His own Son to take our place. This second aspect of the cross reveals the exchange made there. We see Jesus taking on our sin, our sinful natures, and our punishment in exchange for a full remission of sins. He took ours so He could give us His. The third thing is that it revealed complete identification and perfect – He with us so we could identify with Him.
The lifted up of the cross is our starting point. Comfortable Christianity preaches ‘unconditional love’ which skirts the terrible beauty of the cross. It promises miracles and financial prosperity in a way that neatly side-steps the enormity of suffering and the very real truth that our faith includes walking in His way. For a sinner to truly be saved – and a believer to remain saved – Jesus must be lifted up. We must confront the full measure of what we were and would be without Him and the magnitude of what He accomplished through His suffering, death, broken body, and blood. Salvation that is not based on the complete, undiluted truth of Calvary is not salvation. It is a semblance of it that makes for shaky faith. To lift Him up is to reveal both ourselves and the incredible gifts of identification and exchange through which God made the way.
Lifted up from death.
Too many ‘gospels’ preach the cross and go no further. They take us to the cross and leave us there, and the completeness of the Gospel is lost. As a result, non-believers see the suffering and punishment and not the resurrection life. Too many believers are still trapped at Calvary or in the tomb Christ has long since vacated. When Jesus was lifted up in the resurrection, it was to reveal the way forward, the way beyond the apparent finality of the cross. We speak blithely of ‘crucifying self’ – which is essential – but it must include the ‘after’ which is the new creation. The resurrection is our visible evidence of the eternal nature of salvation. It is as much a part of the Cross as Jesus’ death and cannot be left out. If we do, both believers and non-believers see an incomplete Gospel.
We mustn’t preach full identification and exchange and leave out the resurrection. Yes, Jesus first must be lifted up on the cross. But stopping there leaves us at the point of death. It leaves us in the tomb, which is an incomplete salvation. The way is first to the cross then through the cross. The visibility of His resurrection is testimony that the exchange and identification is complete. We die with Him and are raised with Him. He died so we could be raised to new life. God is not looking for a bunch of dead sinners crowding a long-abandoned tomb. He is looking for saints who rise up in the full life of Christ and live His purpose in abundance – all we will ever need to live righteously and live His purposes in our lives. If non-believers still see ‘unresurrected’ believers, why would they be drawn to Jesus?
Jesus lifted up to glory.
This is the final part of the way of the cross and is as critical as the first two. We must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus has been lifted up, back to His rightful place in glory. He is no longer simply the suffering Servant but the conquering King. He lives and reigns and has dominion over all. This is a critical truth that is often overlooked or tacked on where it seems appropriate. Yet it is central to the entire message of the cross. God’s purpose in and through the cross is to restore us to our original place – a relationship of worship, surrender, obedience, and intimacy, as well as to a position of authority in Christ. This final part of the Calvary message is that we are lifted up with Jesus and share His inheritance. God’s Way has a destination and a purpose.
Jesus, as the Way, is a definitive journey. It’s not a vague spiritual ‘road trip’ with no ultimate destination. He is the way of restoration of what was lost in the fall and the way to live the new creation life in the spirit rather than remaining in the flesh. Unbelievers must see this powerful truth. We must see Jesus lifted up as the King of Glory who will return in triumph and majesty. He must be lifted up in His full divinity and power. We must see the end of the journey, the purpose of the death and resurrection. Too many are raised with Christ but hang around outside the tomb. They don’t step out into the new life or live in the supernatural grace and power of God. Jesus was lifted up to glory so that we could live in Him to reveal that glory to mankind.
The Way ultimately leads us to our destination – heaven in Christ – to live as sons of God in eternal worship at His throne. This is a critical truth for believers and non-believers. We must show the complete picture. A limited picture of salvation diminishes the cross. As important is the truth of His sovereignty. Jesus must be lifted up as Lord and King. His rule and reign is absolute, and new life in Him is a willing surrender and obedience to this truth. When preaching the Gospel to unbelievers, it needs to include the very real and powerful choice – to live for self or to live a new, supernatural life in absolute surrender and obedience. It must include counting the cost as well as the reward. For believers, when Jesus is lifted up as Lord, it reminds us that He has dominion over all, the ultimate victory.
Jesus must be lifted up in all things.
God intends that our lives are a living, daily manifestation of Jesus. We must reveal the way in our words and through our actions. To be lifted up is to be made higher, which means over and above the things of the natural world. It’s not something we do but the way we should live – giving Him glory in all circumstances, good or bad. In our interactions with those around us, Jesus must be lifted up in His full glory and victory of the cross – from death to the grave to resurrection to ascension. Conviction of sin is the critical first step. From there, our lives must reveal His lordship, His love, His mercy, and His grace. Lifting Jesus up is not something we can do by half measures. It’s all or nothing, just as He allowed Himself to be lifted up without holding anything back.
Glorious Saviour, thank You for giving all and that Your Way is perfect and complete. Help us to walk in manner that lifts you up daily. Give us wisdom and grace to reveal all the ways in which You were lifted up so that You can draw all men to You. We know, Lord, that You are sovereign. Help us to reveal Your reign and power alongside Your great love, mercy, and grace, so that others will see You as You really are.