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GLORY ONLY IN THE CROSS.
As men are wont to glory in their wealth, warriors in their arms, royalty in its blood and name, scientists in their science, women in their beauty and artists in their art, so Paul gloried in the Cross of Christ. “God forbid”, he exclaimed, “that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”. He not only gloried in the Cross, he brooked no competition. He would glory in nothing but the Cross. Its claim upon his devotion was to be absolute and undivided.
One simply cannot exaggerate the power of the Cross over Paul’s heart and life. To him it was the centre of his life, the foundation of his being, the soul of his theology, the alpha and the omega of his hopes and aspirations. It was the load-star of his faith, the foundation from which he drew all his inspiration. He was determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Never was a man so in love with a maiden as was Paul with Christ and his Cross.
As Christians we must return continually to our centre, the Cross. If we fail to do so we shall be swallowed up in the darkest night.
a) We must come back to the Cross for an ever-fresh cleansing. We never reach a point where the cleansing Blood is no longer needed. “He that is washed needs not but to wash his feet”. Contact with the world besmirches, however watchful we may be in our Christian walk. True, the Christian does not sin wilfully, but he does stumble upon occasion and his garments are forever being soiled. If he would walk in the light and live in unbroken communion with his Redeemer, he must learn to turn immediately to the Cross as need arises and wash his garments anew in the Blood of the Lamb.
b) We must receive the power of the Cross for an ever-fresh removal of the “self-life”. It is true that our judicial position of identification with Christ in death and resurrection, once it is taken in the power of the Holy Spirit, is a sacred foundation. We count it a fact regardless of feeling. We simply reckon true what God affirms in His Word. But oneness with Christ in His death to sin, which we are commanded to reckon upon (Rom. 6 v11), is something which the Christian who desires to be more than conqueror must be forever making good in experience. An unguarded moment may be the occasion for the setting in motion the wheel of nature. I must return to the centre and receive anew the slaying power of the Cross, renouncing “self”, or else the old life of nature will secretly reinstate itself.
c) We must be forever turning to the Cross or else those providences, whereby we are “delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake so that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”, will surely fail to achieve the full purpose of God. There is no life save out of death. That is why we are forever being turned over to death. God would have abundant fruit, but the corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else it abides alone. The abundance of life which we communicate to others will ever be measured by the depth of death to which we are committed in Christ. Every fresh undertaking for God will be preceded by some excruciating circumstance which will take us down into death. There is no other way to abundant fruitfulness.
d) We must never lose sight of the Cross, ever turning back to it in spirit, inasmuch as it is God’s mould for the Christian. We are being fashioned according to a pattern. As to character, the Divine Potter is not shaping one thus and another so. We are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son”, which means being conformed to his death (Phil. 3 v10). It is only as, with Paul, we are crucified together with Christ that the Heavenly Potter sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. We must interpret all things in the light of the Cross, knowing that we always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Only this will keep us from being distressed when in trouble, from despair when perplexed, from being forsaken when persecuted, and from being destroyed when cast down (2 Cor. 4 v8-9).
e) We must be forever looking to the Cross, considering “Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds”. It was the Cross that sustained Father Damian as he laboured among the lepers. But for the Cross he could never have lived among them, preaching to them the gospel, until he himself died a leper. Mary Slessor testified that the Cross of Christ held her faithful to a task that involved infinite pain, in the heart of Africa. The conflict to-day is such that unless we draw in an ever deeper way from the fountain that flows from Immanuel’s side, with Calvary as our only centre, we shall most certainly faint in our minds, grow weary and turn back.
f) Finally, we must be forever turning to the Cross, for nowhere else will be found adequate weapons with which to overcome the devil, the “prince of this world”. It was on the Cross the Redeemer spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in Himself. It is only as we live a crucified life that the weapons of our warfare cease to be carnal, and become mighty through God for the pulling down of the strongholds of Satan. It would seem that the hour has come when the enemy, knowing that his time is short, has come down with a great rage. More than ever we need to “bind the strong man” on the basis of the Calvary victory. If ever there was a time when the Biblical injunction “resist the devil” should be heeded, it is now. If it is done in the full exercise of the Redeemer’s consummated work of Redemption, victory shall be ours, however subtly the enemy may strike and however multiplied the demons, though all hell be moved against us.
If we will but learn that it is a sin to glory in aught save the Cross of Christ, a sin to glory in our own imagined righteousness, a sin to glory in our denomination, a sin to glory in our experiences, a sin to glory in our own virtues or talents, a sin as preachers to glory in our eloquence, if we will but commit to death utterly and fully the old life, the life of nature, glorying only in Christ and His Cross, we shall, even as Paul, be more than conquerors. Come what may, we shall sit with Christ in heavenly places and reign.