Contemplations On The Cross
“There is one all-comprehending, all-embracing, all-governing purpose to which God has committed Himself, by creation, by redemption, and by union. That purpose is the conformity of a race to the image of His Son.” From T. Austin Sparks http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002930.html
“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified." Romans 8:18-30.
Why has this been marginalized and thrown under the bus in most of what we call Christendom - the idea of a manifesting and increasing Christ likeness, wrought in us by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit? A careful and thoughtful reading of the Scripture reveals that this is the very reason for the Gospel, the reason Christ shed His blood to ransom us from the power of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.
Here are a few more passages along these lines. There are many more?
“No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began.” 1 Corinthians 2:7
“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so also shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly man.” 1 Corinthians 15:49
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
“He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will.” Ephesians 1:5
“In Him we were also chosen as God's own, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything by the counsel of His will.” Ephesians 1:11
“Who, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.” Philippians 3:21
“But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.” John 1:12,13
It seems that we don’t necessarily have issues with the idea of a state of eventual glory in the sweet by and by, even of the physical bodily resurrection. The issue seems to be that we may not have a big enough comprehension of God’s power to transform us into His likeness in spiritual ways, in spiritual fruits, and spiritual gifts, and characteristics like unto Him - in the here and now. The process goes on throughout the life of the faithful in Christ, and will see perfection in the hereafter.
King David asks the question, Psalm 8:3-5, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!” Some translations translate this as “lower than angels” or “lower than heavenly beings.” However, the word is 'ĕlôhîym (el-o-heem') אלהים meaning “gods” in the ordinary sense, and it is specifically used of the supreme God. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! “Our Father, Who art in heaven…”
In other words, our great Heavenly Father has great big plans for this fallen human race, ransomed by the blood of Jesus THE Christ, our elder brother - not only its redemption but its full renovation and restoration through the work of the Holy Spirit! As the song, “Only A Shadow” says, “The dream I have today, my Lord, is only a shadow of Your dreams for me, only a shadow of all that will be, if I but follow You.” … “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
( Song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWbfT9a0WYI )
This doesn’t sound like “anything goes grace” to me. Does it to you? He will perfect us according to His promise: “… He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.
This weekend is not about the Easter bunny, egg hunting, or any of the other earthbound trivia and hype ordinarily associated with this holiday. It’s about – if you choose to observe it as such, or if you don’t choose to do so – the startling reality of a new creation forged in the fires of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t end there… It’s not even “all about me” or the stuff I think I can do for God out of my own self importance. It’s not even about being “churchy”. Instead, it’s about a deep truth which has gotten overlooked and lost for the most part: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
The question is, how seriously do we take this? Ponder that for awhile, and see where it takes you… It’s not just “about me” or “for me”; it’s “in Him.”
And it doesn’t end here either. See Colossians 2:20-23 and Colossians 3:1-10 for where it goes from here.
Very often people regard Christianity as a “patriarchal” religion - male dominated, controlling, war like. Drawing from history, I can conclude why they think this is so, since so much of it has been a political institution characterized by the “believe it as we see it or else” mindset - with its infighting, crusades, wars, oppression, inquisitions, burnings, and the like.
What’s needed is not the history and reputation of a corporate, politicized “church” that merely makes a claim to the Name of Jesus Christ, but instead the presence of living temples of the Holy Spirit who know the Lord Jesus Himself, the very essence of Unconditional Love, the One Who says, “If you have seen Me, then you have seen the Father”. The world needs to know of the reality of such people consistently filled with the unconditional love of God.
Wisdom is referred to as “she” in the Old Testament. So, what we’re focusing on here is the quality of feminine wisdom, but not to be confused with feminism as a political movement. This wisdom is the one proclaimed by Jesus [Luke 13:34] as one who desired to gather, like a hen gathers her brood under her wings - even those who reject His work, message, claims, and identity.
Here’s a little “parable” to illustrate compassion as the strength of scriptural “feminine” Wisdom.
Standing behind a picture window curtain where I cannot be seen [or so I think], I happen to notice a peculiar stranger who stands outside the gate of the white picket fenced property that I call my life. For some reason I sense that to this person, the neat whitewashed fence seems more like a fortress wall surrounding a well stocked arsenal of defenses. It says, no one is coming in here that I deem unworthy.
As I draw closer to this soul, whom I “believe” is provided salvation by the same Jesus I claim I believe in, I notice he is disheveled, poor, and does not seem to have his ducks in a row as far as I’m concerned. I draw closer still. I notice he shivers; he is sick with fever. No! This cannot be!
Compelled by some unseen Hand, I approach as close as my fear allows. His eyes stare into mine. They plead, “Please help me!” He says nothing.
My mind races. What can I do, as little as possible, to simply assuage my conscience and make him go away? I cannot have this in my space! No, God. Not this person. Not now. It’s too much to ask.
My ego defenses are up. What will people think if I let this person into my life? Friends will tell me I’m an enabler, that this is America, and people like that have to learn to stand on their own two feet. Besides - and this is really important - I’m just about late for that seminar at the church on dreaming big and how to have more prosperity in my life. This guy could not have shown up at a more inconvenient time!
And then I hear it, that Still Small Voice Who says, “Never mind that. This is what inconvenient truth really looks like. What do you intend to do about it?”
Oh, come on! Seriously, Lord?
I draw still closer. I manage a half hearted smile. I open the gate. Slowly we walk together to the front door. Oh, he is such an unkept mess! Lord, surely you don’t mean that I should let him into my house!
Again, the Still Small Voice. “You seem to be suffering from ‘I’ trouble, My child. Here, let me help you. Look at Him; really look at him. Now open the door, bid him to rest his weary bones on your couch next to the fire, and bring him hot food to eat and some hot apple cider.”
You have got be kidding. Don’t You know I’m late for that seminar at the church, and I already paid for it!
“Just do it!”
Well, OK, You’re the boss...” I mutter as I chafe beneath this task.
As I go about preparing the meal, I feel something shift within me. I’ve forgotten all about the seminar, my reputation, and my standing in my white picket fence world. The thought crosses my mind that perhaps he is cold and would like a blanket, so I go to the closet and grab one. When I bring it to him, he is dozing. I unfold it and place it gently over him. He awakens and smiles a thank you, but he does not say anything, as his eyes gently close.
My heart melts, as I tell him I’ll be back in a moment with something to eat and drink.
I return to the kitchen. My heart is for some undefinable reason light and radiating a profound sense of Love that comes from within me but is not of me. Now I’m nearly dancing, as I feel surrounded by that Love myself. It is as if I’m in the middle of the smile of God! No, I feel like I’m one with the smile of God! This is so different!
I place his food and drink on a tray and carry it out to him.
Something very strange has happened. This beggarly, sick soul is no longer that! Before me sits a smiling radiant Lord Jesus Himself. And on the coffee table is spread a feast the likes of which would rival any banquet in any king’s palace.
He says, “Won’t you join Me? There are so many things I would like to talk about with you...”
[The rest of this story is interactive. Please feel free to write your own personal ending.]
Hebrews 13:2 [NASB].
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
What if? One of my favorite “games”.
What if the Source of all realities (God, the Creator) somehow contains (as an infinite Heaven “surrounding” the heavens we call the cosmos / universe / space / time / energy / matter in which we live, move, and have our being) and is infinitely aware, sensitive, and unconditionally loving?
What if somehow this Reality contains all the knowledge that ever has been, is, and ever shall be?
What if this infinite reality enveloping finite realities is at one eternal moment the “container” of past, present, and future - yet is in itself without beginning and without end - also the Abode of God, referred to as both Alpha and Omega (beginning and end)? What if this is a mere glimpse of what Jesus refers to as Our Father Who Art in Heaven?
Is your mind spinning yet?
What if our real Image and Likeness is as “He” is? What if “perfection” really doesn’t mean human yardstick perfection, but rather amounts to the Fullness that Christ Jesus is - in seed form, in a “becoming” form? [See Matthew 5:48 Amplified Bible for an excursion into some expanded thought on that!]
What if I am restored to oneness with this fabulous, expansive Infinite One, through the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ - having been redeemed from the rather pathetic finite domain into which I “fell” - to this vast infinite reality which is way beyond my human finite comprehension - at this point?
If this is so, and let’s just imagine for a moment that it is, then could I claim with the apostle, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”? [Romans 8:18]
We declare all these beautiful, expansive concepts about God, and then go about setting up drama, doctrine, and dogma (“3D religion”) - as substitute paradigms for this Real Reality - with mind games that keep people in some particular OK Corral. (OK, perhaps this has a necessary function…)
There are hoops to jump through and yardsticks galore - contests, conflicts, and contention - substituting these for the glory of what is freely given and called our inheritance in, by, and through Jesus Christ. Could these be the limited reality cow pens, which are so far from what our Truth really is, the organized religious enclosures which shut people out of the Kingdom of God and the greater expanse of understanding who and what they really are intended to become in Him?
Is God omnipresent or is He not? Is He omniscient? Is He omnipotent? Is He altogether unconditional and infinite Love?
If this is so, then why would any claiming to be created in His image seek to impose finite parameters and definitions around what anyone else is to be in Christ?
Didn’t Paul state that “the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” [Romans 10:8. Referencing Deuteronomy 30:14]. The apostles served the Son of God, living as the Son of man, who moved comfortably amongst sinners, harlots, and tax collectors who longed for something much more. He dined with them - revealing the Father’s vast unconditional Love - something the “religious” of His day would not be caught dead doing, lest they be defiled! Jesus wanted to show them what the Father “looked like”! Not only that, but He truly loved them and wanted them to experience their worth in their Father’s loving eyes!
He wanted them delivered from entrapment to self, sin, and Satan. This is what He came to offer and make possible!
But it was to the religious hypocrites that He pronounced, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” [Matthew 23:13].
The Cross represents new vistas of re-entering a Reality so vast and uncharted, that the old limited self must be “crucified with Christ” in order for the new creature to awaken and come forth. Behold! The old has passed away and all things have become new. [Revelation 21:1]. There is mystery here. There is my story in my Lord Jesus Christ!
I’m puzzled by the direction this is taking a currently limited me. At times I feel like an eggshell cracking. The Holy Spirit assures me that this is quite normal when we’re being reintroduced further into an expansiveness we have not been participating in for a very long time, since falling into an occupied territory.
Wow! Eggshell gone, pin feathers drying in the warmth of the Son, snuggling up beneath His wings. A new reality! What if the New Creation is already manifesting?
New heaven... new earth... new Jerusalem... even a new name! [Revelation 3:12] Might this also change our view of others, as we acknowledge that the Father waits for all His prodigal children to return home?
I’m not sure I can stand this much bliss.
How about you?
"Faith enables our spiritual sense to function. Where faith is defective the result will be inward insensibility and numbness toward spiritual things.
This is the condition of vast numbers of Christians today. No proof is necessary to support that statement. We have but to converse with the first Christian we meet or enter the first church we find open to acquire all the proof we need.
A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it.
God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence.
This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality."
A.W.Tozer: [ The Pursuit of God ]
For contemplation: 1Corinthians 2:7,8 - “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
This stunning passage is one that seemed to open up a lot of understanding for me awhile back - one of those things where you stop dead in your tracks as you read it. Where was that before? I didn’t know it said that in the Scripture. I’ve read that a dozen times at least! Why didn’t I see that before? You say, “Run that by me again! There’s something here I need to understand.” You pause. You pray. You ponder with the Holy Spirit. You ask hungrily to be shown more. Little by little, inch by inch, line upon line, precept upon precept, a little here, a little there...
Ever hear this? “A crucifix is grotesque! Why would anyone wish to wear a symbol of someone dying on a brutal Roman torture device? You might as well wear a miniature electric chair!”
Sound bite? Programming from the “matrix” that calls forth this recitation, as if to reinforce to the reciter “how rational thou art”? Who knows? But that’s all they see in it - what’s on the surface. That’s as far as it goes.
It takes new eyes to see what’s really going on with that “Roman torture device”, eyes divinely “wired” to see from a Celestial perspective, eyes that look out from the infinite Mind of Christ.
There is mystery here, hidden Wisdom, something that goes far beyond our ordinary perception and human reasoning. It leads into a much deeper metaphysical reality requiring the opening of deeper inner perception and persuasion [“faith”] - if it is to be grasped, understood, and fleshed out in physical reality.
Maybe this is a good spot to pause, look around, and consider that the physical Jesus begins in a wooden manger and ends on a wooden cross. That’s it?
It’s something so deep that it had to be kept secret because, if the powers that were had understood it, they would not have carried out their conspiracy against the Son of God. In short, it would have resulted in a cosmic catastrophe worse than the one wherein the current cosmic catastrophe was set in motion by the primal war in Heaven...
“They” would not have seen to it that He would be executed under the cruel visage of Imperial Rome, had they a clue. The Cross of Jesus Christ was God’s Celestial Counter Conspiracy enshrouded in the common wooden cross - yet so much more than a cruel device of execution, at least in this unique case.
They were rejoicing, “The end of Him!” But God was declaring, “Only the beginning!”
While the powers that were celebrated the death of the Son of Man, the Son of God was busily unlocking the gates of the clenched jaws of hell itself and offering a full pardon to all the human inmates gathered there on death row. “C’mon, brothers and sisters, take My hand, and let’s get out of here!” He cries. “I’ve paid the ransom note; let’s go! You’re free!”
This was the jail break of the ages, as He paid in full for our redemption with His own holy blood! He cried out in that moment, “It is finished!” And so it is. The brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ were being snatched out of the Cosmic Prison in order to return to the Celestial home of our Heavenly Father.
Dare we say that the rest is history?
There’s nothing for it but for each of us to ponder the implications of this act of redemption for ourselves and our lives.
Galatians 2:20 spells out the basics: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
“I”, that is my ego-centered false self, “old adam” no longer live. My personal sniveling little Gollum, always hungering after his “Precious”, comes to its end in the Cross! It is his undoing, his Forge of Doom. The desire for some form of “ring of power” that dominates an individual’s life ultimately consumes any semblance of true humanity. It must be reckoned dead and buried through the Cross.
Then it is only through this “death” [via taking up of our own cross] that the “Christ liveth in me.” It’s not just believing; it’s receiving and living within this New Reality that gives us a New Creation - a new transformed “me”, bearing to the world the radiant image and likeness of the resurrected Lord.
How many of us then can say with Jesus, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father”?
Each Soul must prayerfully ask to be shown what this means, what this reckoning ourselves dead, buried, and made alive in Christ, looks like for him or her. No one can do it for us. It’s a path in “Christed-ness” we need to walk ourselves with the Holy Spirit’s help, comfort, and counsel.
“Jesus walked that lonesome valley;
He had to walk it by Himself;
Nobody else could walk it for Him
He had to walk it by Himself.”
Each of us is called to walk that lonesome valley in the daily taking up of our cross. What does that mean for me? What does it mean for you?
He tells us that without this, we cannot be His disciple. This is a serious matter. It’s a call to radical discipleship, to flesh out the plan of escape through the Cross.
The question is, am I, are you, ready and willing and able to answer that call? Have we heard His Voice? Do we understand what it will require?
There’s a divine Pearl of Wisdom hidden in a field of mystery. Will you sell all you possess, and let go of all that possesses you, to have it?