Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cross Of Christ

In my article "The Imitation Of Christ", T.W.I.Truth quoted several verses to refute my finding that there is not a single verse in the bible that says imitate Christ or imitation of Christ.

I want to focus my attention on a few particular verses that tell us to deny ourselves, bear our own crosses and follow Jesus (Matt 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23-24). I disagree that those quoted verses actually tell us to imitate Christ because Jesus said "follow me" which does not mean the same as "imitate me." Nevertheless, this article is not about arguing whether the verses mean imitate Christ but rather, I want to know what Jesus really means by denying ourselves and bearing our own cross.

I asked T.W.I.Truth this question and here's his answer:
Let me borrow the words of an unknown saint to explain what Jesus meant when He asked His disciples to follow His example by denying themselves: "Suppose you have been neglected or unforgiven. You sting with the hurt of the insult from such an oversight, but your heart is happy because you have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ. That is what dying to self is all about. When your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, and your opinions ridiculed, and yet you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or try to defend yourself, you are practicing dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently stand face to face with folly and spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus did, you have died to self. When you are content with any food, money, clothing, climate, society, solitude, or interruption by the will of God, you have died to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, record your own good works, or desire commendation from others, you are dying to self. When you can honestly rejoice with a brother who has prospered and had his needs met, and never feel any envy though your needs are greater and still unmet, you have practiced dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and humbly admit he's right with no resentment or rebellion in your heart, you have died to self. Are you dead yet?" What did Jesus meant when He said we are to take up OUR cross and FOLLOW Him? Taking up the cross is the the willingness to suffer reproach. Jesus said, as we are His disciples, we must be prepared hearts and minds with the willingness to endure persecution, rejection, reproach, shame, suffering, and even martyrdom for the sake of Christ.

Geri also posted her own interpretation of that, which I have reproduced in the article "The Imitation Of Christ - Different Views".

Both T.W.I.Truth and Geri have their own reasonable explanations for the meaning of those verses but somehow I feel something is missing as there are no other verses to back up those explanations, plausible though they may be.

These are difficult verses to understand, let alone explain. I did a search for the word "cross" and I discovered that only those verses quoted by T.W.I.Truth (all of them only in the synoptic gospels) refer to our OWN cross. The other references, all of them only in Paul's epistles, talk only about the cross of CHRIST.

After the resurrection of Christ, Paul talks only about the cross of CHRIST, nothing at all about our OWN cross. Perhaps, Paul said it best in Galatians 6:14-16 - Yet God forbid that I should boast about anything or anybody except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which means that the world is a dead thing to me and I am a dead man to the world. But in Christ it is not circumcision or uncircumcision that counts but the power of new birth. To all who live by this principle, to the true Israel of God, may there be peace and mercy! (JB Phillips NT)

Rather than talking about imitating Christ, Paul's letters emphasize the significance and importance of us being IN Christ and Christ IN us, and rather than talking about bearing own cross, Paul's letters emphasize Christ bearing His cross for our sake,and the power of the cross of Christ.

In Ephesians 2, Paul says the cross reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God, as one new man ie. the Church, and both can now approach God, the Father in one spirit.

Ephesians 2:14-18 (JB Phillips NT)
For Christ is our living peace. He has made a unity of the conflicting elements of Jew and Gentile by breaking down the barrier which lay between us. By his sacrifice he removed the hostility of the Law, with all its commandments and rules, and made in himself out of the two, Jew and Gentile, one new man, thus producing peace. For he reconciled both to God by the sacrifice of one body on the cross, and by this act made utterly irrelevant the antagonism between them. Then he came and told both you who were far from God and us who were near that the war was over. And it is through him that both of us now can approach the Father in the one Spirit.


In Philippians 2 and Colossians 1, Paul says Christ humbled in obedience to God, so that He can reconcile us to God by dying the death of a common criminal on the cross, and now Christ is the head of the body which is the Church.

Philippians 2:7-8 (NLT)
Instead, he gave up his divine privilegesa]">; he took the humble position of a slaveb]"> and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,c]"> he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 (JB Phillips NT)
Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.


In Colossians 2, Paul says God has forgiven ALL of our sins as Christ has completely annulled the Law by nailing it to the cross, and now we share in the life of Christ.

Colossians 2:13-15 (JB Phillips NT)
You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act!


All Paul talks about is the cross of Christ ie. what Christ has done, nothing about our own cross ie. what we have to do. Do you know that on the day Christ died on the cross, two other people also carried their own crosses and followed Jesus to their own deaths?

Matthew 27:38 (NIV)
Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:32-33 (NIV)
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.

John 19:16-18 (NIV)
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Those two people were actually criminals, and even though both carried their own crosses and died together with Jesus, their ultimate destinations were markedly different. What made the difference?

Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

40But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.f]">"

43Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

The one who would be in paradise with Jesus recognized that he was a sinner deserving of death but Jesus was sinless and did not, and he confessed that Jesus is the Messiah. That man did not have the time to do anything but Jesus was not looking at his deeds, just his heart.

I still do not really understand what Jesus meant by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and follow Him, and why Jesus said that. Nevertheless, I choose to imitate Paul and focus on the cross of Christ and what that means for me. How about you?

26 comments:

cybeRanger said...

Hmm...We will be enlightened if we really understand Matthew 11:28-30

Daughter Of Sarah said...

Amen =)

Enjoyed the read. Great sharing.

I won't be surprised if one day PP touches on Matt 11:28-30.

Wld also like to hear Blogpastor's views on this smday =D

Daughter Of Sarah said...

Sudden tot in the inner man after posting comment -

"It means dying to self and rising in Him. It means following Jesus by taking your crosses- your past mistakes, your anger, your grief, your weaknesses... all those burdens you carry- and instead of running from them, follow Jesus by nailing them to HIS cross so that it is forever settled on Earth and in Heaven. Christ's work is perfectly perfect. You are now a new creation in Christ Jesus."

Ummm ya. So that's the revelation I just got. Should ask Kae later haha...

Malcolm Loh said...

There are also other passages in the gospels that makes it appear really tough to be a Christian, for example Luke 9:59-62 where Jesus said that we are supposed to give up our own family, have no time to even bury our loved ones, etc.

My own take on such difficult passages is that Jesus wanted the Jews to come to the end of themselves. After all, even though this was classified as part of the New Testament, the dispensation back then was still the Mosaic Law since He had not yet died to establish the New Covenant.

We should rightly divide the Word of truth. The guiding principle to interpreting Scriptures should be this: where there are seeming contradictions, the epistles should prevail because they were written to us as beneficiaries of the New Covenant.

cybeRanger said...

I call it a "Cross Reference", always refer to the the finished work of our Lord Jesus at the Cross.

Worth reading -->
http://www.rightlydividing.org/secondarypages/rightlydividing.html

Malcolm Loh said...

Cross reference. That's a good one. Thanks!

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Malcolm,
In your comment above: "There are also other passages in the gospels that makes it appear really tough to be a Christian, for example Luke 9:59-62 where Jesus said that we are supposed to give up our own family, have no time to even bury our loved ones, etc."

Jesus is not saying one don't even have time to bury one's dead loved ones ! Jesus is responding to a person who say that he will only follow Jesus after his aged parents are gone from the earth and he has settled their last rites. Isn't the typical answers many people give that they must be first filial to parents and first obey their parents and first settle their parents' death rites before turning to follow Jesus Christ?

Matthew Henry's Commentary
"The excuse he made: “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. I have an aged father at home, who cannot live long, and will need me while he does live; let me go and attend on him until he is dead, and I have performed my last office of love to him, and then I will do any thing.” We may here see three temptations, by which we are in danger of being drawn and kept from following Christ, which therefore we should guard against: - (1.) We are tempted to rest in a discipleship at large, in which we may be at a loose end, and not to come close, and give up ourselves to be strict and constant. (2.) We are tempted to defer the doing of that which we know to be our duty, and to put if off to some other time. When we have got clear of such a care and difficulty, when we have despatched such a business, raised an estate to such a pitch, then we will begin to think of being religious; and so we are cozened out of all our time, by being cozened out of the present time. (3.) We are tempted to think that our duty to our relations will excuse us from our duty to Christ. It is a plausible excuse indeed: “Let me go and bury my father, - let me take care of my family, and provide for my children, and then I will think of serving Christ;” whereas the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof must be sought ad minded in the first place." Hope this helps clarify your understanding.


I don't agree with your comment: "After all, even though this was classified as part of the New Testament, the dispensation back then was still the Mosaic Law since He had not yet died to establish the New Covenant." However, for the moment, I will leave comment on this for another time.

Shalom

Daughter Of Sarah said...

I have learned over time that commentaries are written too by humans and can err in their interpretation sometimes. It's like a Lit thesis.

That Matthew Henry said it is not conclusive as compared to if I am told it directly by Jesus.

Anyway Stan, I tot today's sermon made a point on not letting obscure sermon passages rob us of the joy of the clear scriptural passages where it is very obvious what is being promised and our God does not lie.

I tot that summed every pomderings I'ave had over the last coupla weeks up very well.

Jeffrey said...

Jesus really gave very hard sermons to swallow not talking about follow.Sermons very familiar to me in my previous church,esp telling me to die to self and carry the cross.I was only 18 years old and they tell me to die.(joke)

He spoke mainly to the Jews in the Old Covenant.
They were not born again Christians yet.The church was only born after Pentecost.

Thank God that we are new covenant Christians and not old covenant Jews.

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Hungribunni,
You said: "commentaries are written too by humans and can err in their interpretation sometimes." I AGREE.

You said "That Matthew Henry said it is not conclusive as compared to if I am told it directly by Jesus." The risen Christ did give gifted men to His Church overtime ?

You may also like to refer another commentary on the same passages Luke 9:59 and Mat 8:21-22 by gifted men like Jamieson, Fausset & Brown (1871)

" Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead — or, as more definitely in Luke, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luk_9:60). This disciple did not, like the former, volunteer his services, but is called by the Lord Jesus, not only to follow, but to preach Him. And he is quite willing; only he is not ready just yet. “Lord, I will; but” - “There is a difficulty in the way just now; but that once removed, I am Thine.” What now is this difficulty? Was his father actually dead - lying a corpse - having only to be buried? Impossible. As it was the practice, as noticed on Luk_7:12, to bury on the day of death, it is not very likely that this disciple would have been here at all if his father had just breathed his last; nor would the Lord, if He was there, have hindered him discharging the last duties of a son to a father. No doubt it was the common case of a son having a frail or aged father, not likely to live long, whose head he thinks it his duty to see under the ground ere he goes abroad. “This aged father of mine will soon be removed; and if I might but delay till I see him decently interred, I should then be free to preach the kingdom of God wherever duty might call me.” This view of the case will explain the curt reply, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Like all the other paradoxical sayings of our Lord, the key to it is the different senses - a higher and a lower - in which the same word “dead” is used: There are two kingdoms of God in existence upon earth; the kingdom of nature, and the kingdom of grace: To the one kingdom all the children of this world, even the most ungodly, are fully alive; to the other, only the children of light: The reigning irreligion consists not in indifference to the common humanities of social life, but to things spiritual and eternal: Fear not, therefore, that your father will in your absence be neglected, and that when he breathes his last there will not be relatives and friends ready enough to do to him the last offices of kindness. Your wish to discharge these yourself is natural, and to be allowed to do it a privilege not lightly to be foregone. But the kingdom of God lies now all neglected and needy: Its more exalted character few discern; to its paramount claims few are alive: and to “preach” it fewer still are qualified and called: But thou art: The Lord therefore hath need of thee: Leave, then, those claims of nature, high though they be, to those who are dead to the still higher claims of the kingdom of grace, which God is now erecting upon earth - Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And so have we here the genuine, but Procrastinating or Entangled Disciple."

Shalom

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Jeffrey,
You said: "Jesus really gave very hard sermons to swallow not talking about follow.....He spoke mainly to the Jews in the Old Covenant.They were not born again Christians yet.The church was only born after Pentecost."

By your definition, a "born again" Christian only need to heed and obey what is written from Acts to Revelation ?

Shalom

Daughter Of Sarah said...

Ah but T.W.I.T, they are still but men.

Like Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, we can each claim to suppose to know what is in God's thoughts, why He does certain things... but all we know is foolish compared to the depths of who HE is. =)

As men we can only deduce with our limited human intellect what God says. We are led by the Holy Spirit but not all the time do we write/perceive/ hear what He is saying. If one pastor says one thing, another says something else, and yet another says other stuff yet ALL 3 claim to have been led by the HS and yet contradict each other, what do we do? We go back to the Word and we lean on the verses that are certain and clear and concise. We leave the obscure passages to question God personally one day in Heaven, or to when He chooses to do so, because not all things are revealed to us when we want to, but when He feels we are ready to come to understand it.

Remember but Job said?

"I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 3'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'"Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."

Let us not profess to know exactly God's interpretation of the passage is - be it ourselves or through man's writings.

Scripture always support scripture. Let us learn about who God is as best as we can in the Spirit through reading His Word. God is not a schizo, He is constant and if we are not anointed to understand obscure passages, then we lean on the passages that are clear and that are explained.

Parables and metaphors and biblical symbols and types hide the wisdom of God from men - until it is time for him to know, the revelation will not be given. In His time may we finally have a perfect understanding. We do have the mind of Christ and the HS does teach us all things - but always in His time. =)

Let us choose to celebrate in unity the scripture passages that clearly declare the wonders and glory and love of our LORD and not be divided over each one's personal convictions of obscure passages. Let us choose to edify each other, and boast of how wonderful Jesus is... not tear down each other, or boast of our understanding, how knowledgeable we are compared to others in reading the Word. Even the Pharisees and Saducees who studied the Scriptures and knew them by heart were not able to truly comprehend God's heart. Even the Apostles who followed Jesus and saw the miracles could not understand what the LORD said sometimes. Much less us. =)

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hungribunni,

Huh ?

Your lengthy discourse is totally out of point and has no bearing on the earlier comments relating to Luke 9:59 and Mat 8:21-22.

Shalom

Anonymous said...

"Nevertheless, I choose to imitate Paul and focus on the cross of Christ and what that means for me. How about you?"

Imitate Paul is hard but I'll like to if I can.

-- Another guy thinking about this verse each day.

Jeffrey said...

Hi TWIT,

I didn't mean that we only follow from Acts to Revelation.

What I maent was that we have to see everything from a new covenant perspective bcoz we are new coveanant believers.Ain't we?

Angie said...

Wow Geri, your entry is power! i like! ;) I just read something similar from Watchman Nee's book "Whom Shall I Send?" and he mentioned abt Matt 16: 21 - 24 too. (the one with shoulder your cross and follow me)

"From this passage of Scripture, we can see that "self" can be found to be expressed through the mind of man. Perhaps some may argue that this manifestations of Peter's self is really good, for does he not truly express here his love for the Lord? Yet please notice that the Lord says that this element of Peter's self has Satan at the back, for this self of his is minding the things of men, and Satan can in this sometimes make use of man's self to serve the self-centered ends of the Lord's arch enemy. Hence to deal with the influence of Satan one must deny his self"

I did not mean to inject his explanation of the passage but because I do not know how to summarise and word it in my own words that's why the copy of his passage here. :p

I'm not here to shed light on Stan's post but to agree with what Geri wrote on not relying on our human intellect but on the spirit 's guidance (plus the whole chunk of it that she wrote). ;p

Mabbe to help all of us understand the difficulties in some passages of the bible, here's something Watchman Nee said in his book which I found we could chew on:

"Revelation is God's way of working. Since revelation occurs in man's regenerated spirit, the spirit, and not the mind, occupies the first place. Spirit and life precede mind and brain. Oh how many people use their mind and brain when seeking to know God's will! How their thoughts are troubled! They cannot know the will of God because they have taken the wrong course. God wants us to wait for His revelation in our spirit; (just like what Geri is doing and sharing) then He will enlighten our mind and cause us to understand His will (also the things we ask of him. ie: difficult passages? :p) We must therefore realise that in spiritual matters the mind comes into play second, not first." (brackets mine)

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Anonymous (April 13, 2009 2:25 PM): You said... "Imitate Paul is hard but I'll like to if I can."

Paul Imitated Christ. To IMITATE, via Webster Dictionary, is to follow as a pattern, model, or example.

This is obvious and clear in Paul's life, he submitted and followed his beloved Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

Paul (by the Holy Spirit) wrote in Philippians 3:10 "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,"

Shalom

Stanley Wong said...

Hi T.W.I.Truth,

Paul is not saying that he wants to imitate Jesus' suffering and death, full stop.

Take note that Phi 3:10 ends in a comma, and continues into Phi 3:11 - "so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" (NLT)

Paul is saying that he so yearns to know the power of Jesus' resurrection that he is prepared to die so that he can be resurrected just like Jesus, and personally experience that power.

If you truly want to imitate Christ, then don't just suffer and die like Jesus did, make sure you are resurrected like Jesus was too!

Shalom

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Stanley,
I am in complete agreement with what you said above, it is my view all along as well. Whether you live or die, the God of the Bible is Sovereign.

Christ in perfect obedience DENIED Himself, He SUBMITTED to the will of God The Father.

All believers of Christ are FOLLOWERS of Jesus Christ, we are ALL to submit and obey the will of God as Christ. Should we do otherwise ?

Shalom

yaso said...

Yes, It is finished. Christ has done it. Deny ourselves means look not of our flesh but of the Spirit. Carry our cross means Christ in us. We are no more ourselves but Christ in us. Everything is in Him... we can do nothing without Him. Amen

Angie said...

Hi TWIT

I wanna share with you something Watchman Nee wrote.

"In John 6:28 a group of people are found posing a question to Jesus: "What must we do, that we may work the works of God?"

These questioners had zeal towards God, and they wanted to do His work: but they had a problem, in that they did not know what they must do in order to work the works of God. These people thought that if they only knew 'what' to do, they could then do it. If the question of "What must we do" were answered, they could go ahead and work the works of God. To them, whether or not they were 'able' seemed to be no problem at all so long as they knew what to do.

Here, then, were a people who thought of doing the works of God. They felt they could do His work and considered themselves capable enough to perform it.

How totally different was the Lord's answer to these men's question. "This the work of God," said Jesus, "that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (v.29).

Men declare that they do the work, but the Lord replies that men should believe. "What must we do" expresses the confidence of man's ability: "ye should believe" reveals the inability of man.

To believe is to receive (see John 1:12) To believe on Him whom God has sent is to believe on the Lord Jesus. But in believing, neither man's merit nor his ability is considered. Not what man can do, but what God has done. All that is required of man is to receive..

'This is the work of God,' proclaimed the Lord.

Man in his ignorance deems himself capable of doing God's work. And thus he become zealous and intends to do it. The Lord answers, however, that the work of God is for man to believe on Him whom God has sent. The is the 'work of God: not a matter of man doing God's work, but that of God himself doing the work. It is God's work, not man's. For man to believe in the Lord Jesus is the work of God. Only God can do God's work, man cannot do it.

Man has no part in the work of God."

The above passage convicted me once again that we need only rest in Him. Jesus Christ being the foundation of God's work and that no man can lay other. That when we deny ourselves and submit to God, it does not mean to follow Christ but to allow Christ & the Holy Spirit to live & work through us.

I pray that 'the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in you, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to you who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.' :)

shalom!

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Angie,
You said "That when we deny ourselves and submit to God, it does not mean to follow Christ but to allow Christ & the Holy Spirit to live & work through us."

I find this statement to be somehow contradictory. Because, you state as if following Christ and allowing Holy Spirit to work and through a believer are two mutually exclusive things and the two don't agree.

The bible is clear:
Without the Holy Spirit in regeneration through the new birth and Holy Spirit in sanctification in leading a born-again believer to be like Christ, any man-designed or man-motivated attempt to mimic or imitate Christ is at best a moral but fleshly work and is essentially spiritually dead.

The Holy Spirit indwells every born again (regenerated) believer, the Holy Spirit will transform a believer to be like WHO ? Jesus Christ.

Did Christ spoke His own words while on this earth ? The answer is NO, Jesus Christ spoke the words the Father gave Him.

WHOSE words will the Holy Spirit direct the believer to remember, do, submit and obey ? Jesus Christ !

WHO should a believer look at and consider as their model and Who is the Author and Finisher of a believer's faith ? Jesus Christ !

Eph 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

1Th 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

Shalom

Angie said...

Hi TWIT

We're having a lunch fellowship at Stan's shop tomorrow at 130pm. Bukit Timah Food Centre. If you're available, you're most welcome to join us. Geri, Jeffrey, Stan & I will be there.

*Anyone who's keen to join us, you're most welcome to too! :)

As for your questions, lemme go sit on them and ask my Mentor ;p

Hope to see you.

Anonymous said...

ha ha... how come you're eating at a Food Centre and not at the restaurant ? ;-)

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Thanks Angie for the kind invitation, my scheduling won't work.

I love eating at Food Centre or Hawkers' Centre as I normally call them.

Shalom

Angie said...

:) Alrite TWIT, another time. I look forward to u joining us one day. Sometimes it's easier to talk in person than on words.

Anonymous, so now that you know we're eating at the humble food centre, will you be joining us? :)