always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10–11)
It’s appropriate that the cross has become the symbol of Christianity, because it is in the cross that every single promise of God is brought to perfect completeness. The cross is the place where death meets life, where condemnation meets transformation, and where every single believer should consistently dwell. It is the only place where it is possible to daily crucify self, because it’s there that we find the power to do so through identification with Jesus and His death and resurrection.
To effectively crucify self, we must take hold of the awesome truth that it has already been done.
It’s absolutely correct to say that we should never restrict our view of the cross to the suffering and death of Jesus. Our spiritual vision must include His glorious resurrection. If it doesn’t, we’re losing the power of the cross – we’re stuck in the place of death. It is the resurrection that validates the cross, because through the resurrection Jesus delivered absolute defeat to the devil and his minions. But we should avoid the temptation to focus only on the resurrection. On its own, the resurrection is meaningless. Something or someone has to be truly dead in order to be resurrection, and the same applies to us. To crucify self is critical if we want to receive and walk in His resurrection life.
Full identification with Jesus is what makes it possible for us to crucify self. On our own, self will quickly revert to its old place of control. We simply don’t have what it takes to deal with self. It’s the voice that shouts loudest, circumvents both logic and our desire to live right, and constantly clamours for gratification. The only way that we will ever manage to crucify self is to live at the cross – in constant identification with Jesus.
This identification is a bi-directional truth. We can identify with Jesus because He first identified with us. It’s critical that we see the cross as it really is and not as a simple, one-dimensional event. The physical is always a reflection of the spiritual. Christ’s suffering and death were the physical manifestation of His spiritual torment and death – torment and death that belongs to the sinner as eternal judgement and punishment. When seeking to crucify self, this is the truth that provides both hope and power. Jesus didn’t simply ‘represent’ our sins and our punishment like an actor on a universal stage. He lived it.
On their own, physical events and actions have no relevance. It is the spiritual counterpart, their foundation in spiritual things that impact us and our lives. Perhaps the most powerful truth we can take hold of is that our sins, our consequences, our judgement, and our punishment were literally, in the spiritual, carried to the cross. When God looked at His Son on the cross He did not see the Son of God. He saw the Son of Man with the entire weight of humanity’s sin from the beginning of the creation to the end of the age. Because of this, and because we believe through grace, we are able to so fully identify with Jesus so that when God looks at us He sees the Son of God.
To understand this a little better, we can look at these two Jesus ‘personas.’ He went to the cross as the Son of Man, steeped in the sin of the world and carrying the full burden for each and every one of us. But He was resurrected as the Son of God, transformed and restored to His rightful glory. Death has been dealt with on a spiritual level. We are able, now, to enter into God’s presence as sons, carrying the identity of Jesus. The willingness to crucify self is critical. Unless we first identify with Christ in His death, we cannot identify with His new life.
Some may argue that the concept of ‘living at the cross’ is a kind of ‘in condemnation’ habit which should be avoided because ‘there’s no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.’ While the principle is sound, the application of is questionable. Jesus certainly saved us once and for all. There’s no need to repeat the process. Salvation, with all its vast variety of blessings, exists in its entirety in the spiritual. It’s done and dusted. It’s finished. And it’s ours for the receiving. And that’s the crux of learning to crucify self. While everything pertaining to salvation is already an established spiritual fact, we have to learn to walk in it. This involves ‘clearing out’ self through an ongoing process of choice and obedience in order to make space for the fullness of life.
To live at the cross means, essentially, to be cognisant of the truth of full and absolute identification. When Jesus hung there, He identified so fully with me that, in effect, I hung there with Him. When He was resurrected, He identified with me so fully that, in effect, I was resurrected with Him. That’s the absolute reality that we have to ‘grow into.’ We have to appropriate it little by little until one day, we will live in the absolutely unlimited glory of eternal life with Him. The way we appropriate it is by learning to crucify self daily – to recognise those things in us that still need to be put to death and to be willing to see them on the cross.
When we ‘see things on the cross’ it simply means that we see the truth that Jesus already dealt with them. Self may demand attention, but it’s a futile gesture because it’s already been overcome. We just haven’t experienced the full reality of it. Human beings have a tendency to look for shortcuts, to find quicker and easier ways, but there’s no avoiding the truth that the only way to resurrection life is through death on the cross. The only way to life in Christ is to first crucify self, to die in Christ. We cannot identify with the good part unless we’re willing to identify with the death part.
When we learn to live at the cross, we begin to take hold of the awesome, absolute power contained in the cross. It is the place where spiritual and physical met in a single powerful event which changed the world and still continues to effect transformation. ‘Once and for all’ means that it’s power was not confined to the moment but remains active – and will do so for eternity. As we daily learn to crucify self, we tap into that power. We’re a part of the spiritual reality because we identify with Jesus. It releases the power inherent in the reality of Christ in us and us in Christ. We can overcome self because Jesus has already done it and is a part of us and we’re now a part of Him.
It simply means acknowledging we cannot, on our own, crucify self. We may be willing, but without the cross we do not have the power. It is only in Christ that we are able to do so. What a joy it is to know that Jesus was not only willing to endure the cross and death on our behalf, but is now willing to share His resurrection power to enable us to follow Him through death to eternal life. Living at the cross is living in Jesus, totally and completely. God has taken what was a symbol of the most excruciating and humiliating torture and transformed it into a simple truth for an abundant life. All we need is to believe, and to have a heart willing to die to self in order to live for Him.
Thank You, sweet Saviour for Your overwhelming love and grace. Keep us safely at the cross. Keep our spiritual eyes open to see Your victory at all times. Turn our hearts and soften them into willingness to crucify self as we yield and learn to live in You and fully identify with all that You have done.