Contemplations On The Cross
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
“Behold the man!” These words of Pontius Pilate seem to be a strange place to begin. “Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!” (John 19:5) Yet they echo the words of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as he says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
The question is, what do I see when I “behold the Man”? It occurred to me that perhaps I ought to answer that as a sort of affirmative prayer...
Let this be my prayer, my affirmation wherein I stand, giving all thanks to You, oh Savior and Lord of all, that I may behold You first of all, myself within You in Your Passion, and You within me. Another facet of Your Incarnation. Amen.
Soon comes the day, the Day of the Lord, when all things are accomplished and restored - the sons of God manifested, the Earth and all her inhabitants no longer under the dominion of evil. Then will be the reign of the Prince of Peace with the restoration of all creation, which has labored as a woman in childbirth, awaiting the revealing of the sons of God.
It took the Cross to begin this work. One by one. The old song asks, "Where you there when they crucified my Lord?" Each of us might do well to ponder the implication of this question.
This is the purpose of our faith - that the sons of God are restored and manifested, to be as Jesus was in this world, coming about through the redemption wrought by our Elder Brother Jesus Christ, walking the path of repentance and humility, the Way of salvation. It means that the Holy Spirit calls us to and keeps us in His work by Grace through faith. With the vision of faith, as we “behold the man”, we become in fulness what we already are in seed, as the acorn becomes the oak. Christ in us the Hope of Glory. “For me to live IS Christ, and to die is gain.” He increases; I decrease.
I see this in type as the ancient symbol of Moses’ serpent on the staff (Numbers 21:6-9), a picture of the crucifixion of the “serpent” nature in us, and as we behold ourselves within His passion in the Cross, we are set free and healed. His heel was bruised, but the serpent’s head was crushed. Once and for all! And with Him we cry out in acknowledgment, “It IS finished!” This is where all true healing begins - as we behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
Oh say, can you see this? “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.” (Galatians 2:20)
Let me live, Holy Spirit, ever in this vision, this truth, this reality - crucified, dead, buried, raised up and ascended - in Him, with Him, and through Him, in and by Whom we live, move, and have our being - to Whom belongs all might, power, and dominion, now and throughout all ages forever and ever. Glory to the Lamb Who was slain, the Risen Savior! Amen.
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For contemplation and consideration: Psalm 1, and also 1 John 5:19.
Point for consideration: ”Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19 NASB.
Where is the confusion in this simple remark by Jesus? It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Or is it just that we think we ought to be entitled to “reinterpret” His directives, informed more by what we’d rather do, or what is politically correct (and spiritually unsound), that brings us to the conclusion that the moral and universal laws of God do not apply to our Christian life?
Substitutes? Doctrines of cheap grace in the form of “all we have to do is believe” - making the cross, redemption, salvation, and sanctification ineffective? Another favorite: substitution of rituals for realities, memberships in a church as a substitute for the Divine Life of Christ within us by being born of the Holy Spirit?
The apostle Paul reminds us most sternly and without mincing words, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” 1 Corinthians 13:5 KJV.
A few synonyms for “reprobate”: unprincipled, bad, wicked, rakish, shameless, immoral, degenerate, dissipated, debauched, depraved, knavish, lawless. And does it need to be restated that, just because we have the “legal right” to do something, is it necessarily morally right or in our best interests?
Here’s how it’s supposed to work: “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.” Galatians 2:20 KJV.
Miracles beyond description happened through the Cross! One of the biggest of these is that the old reprobate me died there - in and through Jesus!
When a soul experiences this “death”, and a rebirth takes place, that soul begins to experience freedom from sin and the passions of the flesh. What Jesus Christ did for that soul now manifests in that soul! An old life dies. A new life begins. He or she is no longer driven by a reprobate mind or behavior. He or she has been set free, having received in real time the “get out of jail free” card, so as to walk in newness of life.
The thing is, we must then continue to walk free. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1. KJV.
Many of us have undergone this “conversion” experience, or begun it. That is what it means to be born again. It is very, very real. There is no more desire for sinning; one is no longer motivated by it.
That is why it is so difficult to understand where all this “liberal theology” comes from, with its anything-goes positions, that tells us we can go on sinning once we have realized that we have been set free from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ, and are now free to live the blessed life by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Anyone who has experienced this freedom no longer wants to sin and live a reprobate life. It’s that simple. Management, motivation, and mission have changed hands!
Churches, which are more politically informed than they are Holy Spirit and Word of God informed, should simply stop referring to themselves as “Christian”, for they are not living in the holy name of Jesus Christ, but are only profaning it before the world.
None of this carries any power of salvation, and it certainly does not promote any sort of Biblical sanctification. It is in fact complete “ignore-ance” of the Holy Word of God and the Holy Spirit, teaching instead that what is corrupt and defiling within a soul is just plain OK, acceptable, and supported.
Those sticking to the understanding of the implications of the Cross have been accused any number of times of being “judgmental”, the favorite accusation of peddlers of New Age hedonistic relativism and the cult of self-will. God’s Word on the matter simply states, “Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge; but he that hateth reproof is brutish.” Proverbs 12:1. KJV. The NASB take on it: “... But he who hates reproof is stupid.”
If God did not love us, He would let us wallow in our reprobate state, instead of making a way for us to come home and to be made whole through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Where are the lovers of the knowledge of God? Where are they who yearn for His instruction? It seems we live in a world where much of the church has gone reprobate and stupid in its hatred of divine Wisdom and reproof!
Where is the salt of the Earth? Or are so many among us as salt that has lost its savor, always looking back and yearning for Sodom?
The purpose of the Cross and the shedding of Jesus’ Blood is so that we may be set free from self, sin, death, the world system, and the power of the devil - not so that we can get a free ticket to heaven while still wallowing in reprobate thinking and doing.
As far as the Cross is concerned, Jesus “nailed it”! It really is that simple.
It really is true that when we become Christians in spirit and in truth, we exchange our old reprobate life for the pure Mind and Heart of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are new creations, the old has passed away, all things are become new! We live increasingly according to the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing unloving or judgmental about that! However, original sin, that source of rebellion within, can prompt a defensive posture, since it is the “end of the world” for the reprobate mind and the forces that drive it! What is passing away is certainly reluctant to surrender to its inevitable fate.
Apparently some who are under the impression that surrender to the Cross is unnecessary have not bothered to read the Bible for themselves, come to know the Christ of Whom it testifies, nor allowed the Holy Spirit to lead them into the truth or bring to mind all that Jesus taught. If they did, they would not embrace the foolery that they have, nor would they be allowing politics to inform church beliefs and practices.
How theologians and ministers continue to debate against the simple Way provided through the Wisdom that is Jesus Christ, after over two-thousand years, seems rather baffling. You’d think they’d know better by now.
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Maybe instead of calling it Bible Study or Sunday School, we might consider calling our Berean-like activity “S.T.E.P.”: the Sonship Transformation Exploration Project, or even the Satanic Termination and Eviction Process. Both go hand in hand - one of them very empowering, the other very freeing, and both absolutely necessary.
John 1:12 and13 jump out at us with a very amazing idea. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.” It’s an amazing thought. Not one of those things you can take lightly once it impacts your awareness and opens your eyes. It also challenges the expectation of seeing ourselves as “believers”. We “believe” on His name. But what does that mean? And where does it go from there?
There’s so much more! We may feel a sentimental rush when we sing that little chorus, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, all I ask, to be like Him...” Yet do we consider that this is not only within the realm of possibility, but actually one of the big reasons for being a Christian? To actually be like Jesus!
And didn’t Jesus also promise, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father”? (John 14:12)
The first time I encountered these verses (or maybe they were encountering me) I had to wonder, Am I missing something here? There seems to be so much more in the way of powerful, transformative experience that goes with being a “believer”!
The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, it turns out, took on some really dynamic implications in light of our becoming sons of God. His finished work means the way is open for being restored to sonship lost through the sin of our first parents. He gives us His teaching, and the Holy Spirit’s input in the process of salvation - which leads us along as we are formed into sons of the Most High.
Romans 8:19 reveals that “the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” It appears that the creation itself is anxiously awaiting the revealing of not only the Firstborn Son Jesus, the Second Adam, but the rest of the His “younger siblings” we might say - to whom He gives the authority to become as He was in this world. This is in order for all of creation to be set free from slavery to corruption “into the freedom of the glory of the children of God”! This is a much bigger picture than we’re usually used to considering.
Jesus, now - through the Holy Spirit - is still always about our Heavenly Father’s business, freeing and restoring God’s children in order for us to participate likewise in an entirely new way of being. And there’s more! It’s with a view to the glorious freedom of the entire creation. That’s a tall order!
This is a spectacular bit of news! In fact much of the entire chapter of Romans 8 has to do with our becoming “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ!” It is also pointed out that this process does not come about through being some sort of spiritual couch potato, but through mortification of the deeds of the body, and through suffering. This is where the evil one experiences eviction!
This isn’t a real popular idea these days. Mortification has to do with the mind set on the spirit, not on the “flesh” and its agendas for “happiness”. To “mortify” means tosubdue - to put to death - the desires rooted in the sin nature - not only through self-denial and self discipline, but by realizing that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us. God is doing a work in us through suffering that leads us into glory!
It’s an attitude that begins in the mind “set on” and motivated by the Holy Spirit, who testifies with our spirit that we are children of God - as we see God at work transforming us into sons through the difficult aspects of our lives. Nothing separates us from our Father’s Love! Even the threats of our times - two millennia after the Bible events of Jesus’ life and the early church and the Apostles’ writings - take on a different meaning in light of all this!
This understanding that’s gotten lost in a worldly-minded Christianity focused on its mini empire building, or what feels good as being exclusively “God’s will” for us... Strange. If Jesus had embraced that idea, there would have been no Cross and no redemption. Have we considered that in this light before? “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)
Could we dare to go as far as to look upon the “negative” events in our life as a kind of experiential co-crucifixion, cleansing us and preparing for an infilling of the Holy Spirit, the likes of which we have never seen, in preparation for becoming sons of God? Something to consider, to pray for, and to ponder.
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Scripture passages for contemplation:
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:29)
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:22-24)
It is said that Moses was the meekest man above all others on the face of the earth! (See Numbers 12:3) Imagine that for a moment!
Here is someone who walks into the court of Pharaoh from whose condemnation he fled years before. Moses then performs miracles by the hand of God bringing about the liberation of the entire enslaved population of the Hebrews. He leads them out of Egypt. From there he parts the Red Sea, leading these ex-slaves in the wilderness for forty years - refining and preparing them to receive the inheritance of the Promised Land given to them by God so long ago. There in the Wilderness of Sinai he receives the covenants of God’s Law while on the mountain and sees God face to face.
Not exactly the average Mr. Milk Toast, as defined by today’s ideas about the word “meek”!
So, we might ask, what’s so unique about meek, since Jesus also invites us to learn meekness of Him? Certainly we’d have to agree that the Biblical kind of meek does not mean weak! It certainly is not characterized by being a doormat. In fact it’s remarkably resilient, powerful, and no nonsense.
Meekness here, rather than referring to timidity, is the boldness which comes only from full surrender to the Spirit of the Living God and to our Heavenly Father’s will - which always has the best and highest in mind for us! Our meekness results in His strength.
Sometimes maybe we get a little confused about how this meekness thing works.
One of the best and surest ways meekness operates is through the prayer attitude of Jesus before His betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Thy will, not mine, be done!” He prays. Obviously this requires radical commitment as well as being able to see beyond the cross and our daily co-crucifixion in Jesus. Yes, we see beyond the cross and hold the vision of our resurrection and ascension - also in Him. We have to understand that the way to is the way through, and surrender the ego self to it.
Meekness has everything to do with the inner view of what we call “faith”. I think the NASB has an easy-to-comprehend definition of that in Hebrews 11:1 - “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Without a faith-view, it’s virtually impossible to practice meekness, for faith is not ever really “blind”.
Perhaps it would be good at this point to prayerfully pause for awhile to consider how God may be calling on us for this kind of meekness in our own life... How does that look? Where is my ego holding me back, with its personal agendas and opinions for its own fulfillment?
Preceding this personal working knowledge is the heart that completely desires the Father’s will, having first experienced His unconditional Love (See 1 John 4:19). We’ve seen God’s Love for us in action. We know we can trust Him in whatever He asks of us. It means abiding in His Holy Spirit and in His Scriptural Word. Surrender in this case is built on a deep and lasting trust in Divine Wisdom through the experience of its workings.
This is also known as humility... not what I want, Lord, but what You want, nothing held back now or ever. “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way...”
There is no doubt that the journey He leads us on will have a blessed destination. We realize, know, and understand that He never leaves us or forsakes us - no matter where He takes us.
Thus is it not a fairly simple matter to surrender oneself to Him, or to practice meekness, since we know of His wholly reliable and unconditional lovingkindness toward us?
Simple in theory, but practice is another matter, we might say. More easily said than done?
But this is the point: learning meekness is a spiritual practice. And practice makes perfect, they say... The quality, the virtue, of meekness grows as we allow God to aim His grace toward us, and through us out into life! The more surrendered to Him we become, the more we manifest His image and likeness in the world.
As we follow Jesus into this very real and daily experience of fleshing out our co-crucifixion with Him, let us be “bravely meek” and stalwartly committed, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” (Isaiah 50:7)
A concluding exercise: Pray about and ponder the promise of Jesus as to how it is that the meek shall inherit the earth, in spite of what we perceive as the situation with current events.
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It never ceases to fill me with awe and wonder whenever contemplating the following passage, summarizing why the Church exists. She is the Bride extraordinaire to her Bridegroom, one with Him as a spiritual warrior fighting powers unseen and bringing captives to freedom at the deepest and most profound levels, in Her Bridegroom’s Name.
“...God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God... For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3: 9,10,14-19 KJV)
Several aims of the Apostle’s prayer stand out dynamically as something worth pondering, something really worth entering into through the work and life of the elect, by way of prayer as the central focus and purpose of our being.
The question is, does our aim as the church align with what is revealed here? Do we pray this prayer with the Apostle, or are we approaching God, in a manner of speaking, looking for beads and trinkets instead of the heavenly spiritual pearls and diamonds of priceless worth?
The first order of business is intention, not of self interest, but surrendered to Divine Will and Purpose. Paul isn’t talking about simply making a better life for ourselves. He is revealing that the the elect are called to a very supernatural purpose - that the multi faceted Wisdom of God is to be revealed by the elect - not just to Earth dwelling human beings, but to the principalities and powers in heavenly places!
(The reader may want to meditate on Romans 8, to access even more insight into “the fellowship of the mystery”, as Paul refers to it in Ephesians 3:9. This fellowship is the “Ecclesia”, the ones Jesus prayed for, those called out of worldly religions and systems, per John 17:6, to a specific and supernatural purpose.)
The second thought addressed is the idea of being strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. There’s much to be done, and it begins with “an inside job” - the work of the Spirit in and through us. Being surrendered to the work of the Cross of our Lord Jesus - His redemptive work - so as to be set free from the entanglements of evil, beginning within ourselves - is what this is about. This takes place in time and space, here and now. It is in the innermost being where the process of salvation begins and continues. We’re liberated at the most foundational level, cleansed, healed, restored and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The third point is that Christ’s Spirit must make His abode in us. This is so easily taken for granted. I’m baptized, so I’m a Christian... I belong to such and such a church or group, so I’m a Christian... I answered an altar call... I speak in tongues... Such ideas are “blessed assumptions”. Assuming does not make it so. Redemption is given freely through Christ, yes. But salvation is a process worked out by surrender to God’s will and work through the power of the Holy Spirit, with fear and trembling.
The fourth issue is this. Prayer in alignment with the Mind of Christ embraces a spiritual and supernatural vision unlike anything we can imagine. Prayer means continual asking, seeking, and knocking so we - being rooted and grounded in Christ Love - may comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of His Love (in all dimensions and directions!) surpassing all knowledge! Why? To be filled up to all the fullness of God - a far greater Reality than most of us ever thought possible!
Something happened a very long time ago. Angels staged a coup in Heaven. Humanity became complicit and was drawn out of its blessed and perfect estate, falling into a cosmic trap. A plan of redemption was conceived by the Godhead and carried out by none other than the Fullness of the Godhead in bodily form - Jesus the Messiah.
He now calls forth His elect to live a life that serves notice to all principalities and powers hostile to our Supernal Father Creator and His children. Those fallen rebels are to be evicted from the Creation which they hijacked, and it is to be restored to those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus.
The question is, who has actually heard and understood the call - the call to come out from among the world’s systems, false religions, philosophies, and paradigms and to stand apart in His Name on behalf of His Kingdom which is not of this world? This mission is not for the faint of heart, but in Christ it is also not “mission impossible”, for with God all things are possible. In Christ, let us be about the Father’s business.
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