To really know The Cross of Christ is the core of Christian spirituality. It is the core of our ongoing formation and development as people. The entire sanctification process which our life is, is entirely empowered activated and fulfilled by His Cross! Without the cross, we really just have religious practices to bring us near to God. And they don’t work. There is no other Gate but Jesus and His Active Life on His Cross–both what He did and is doing from that position of Himself.
I studied comparitive religion in school. There are many shared values, ethics, and within the mystical streams of each religion, many similarities. But what separates true Christianity from all other religions is the Cross. No other religion has God dying on a Cross as the empowering principle of all its virtues. This is the dividing rod–Jesus’ Cross. This of course, was Paul’s argument in many of his letters against mere religion and ethics. He said, basically, they are unempowered. The rules are clear, but unlivable apart from The Cross. The Cross is Jesus doing the great virtues through and in us; not us doing them for Him.
The Cross–to really know it, is one of the biggest keys to all of life. I keep being led to return to it, especially during life transitions–it really is the most basic foundation of our faith.
It confronts all religion. It disassembles all ideologies. It is someone else doing it perfectly, and us being called to enter into His Life to know Real Life. It is an entirely different way. Paul marks it out in contrast to Judaism in Romans 7 and 8; but it could be contrasted with all other religions as well. It is the key to the gospel i think.
Lately, I’ve been praying for a deeper work of the cross in me. Sounds serious, maybe it is; but I’ve been convicted that this is “the” way forward. I don’t want to go further unless His Life has gone deeper in me. I feel like He is allowing me to be nothing and no one again. He seems to do this after major seasons of ministry in my life. I am starting to be ok with it actually-as I recognize it as a way He prepares me for whatever is next in Him. I thank Him for making me no one again, for helping me see again, that all i have and do is His, and can change as He wishes. These little mini-Sukkots (our tents of vulnerability)-where we are shown again that all we have built and done was His from the beginning, and the only aspects which matter, are things which have their very foundation in His Being! He has brought my valleys (the places which appear less impressive) into the foreground and my mountains–all my gifts and talents-low. My valleys are the things i am terrible at as well–and all of these are overt now. I am currently meeting the Cross on a new level of my being, and I am thankful. Perhaps, this is my transitional spirituality!
It feels like the Cross just keeps sinking deeper and deeper into our beings over the years–this is part of the way of The Cross, so that more of it is applied into us over time. That deepening work of the Cross becomes our very spirituality over the years. And there really is no other work but this work of the formation of Christ’s Life within us through the administering of His Cross. Praise You My Lord! I don’t care what i do, or where i go, just place your Cross more deeply within me Lord. I say yes, to this sinking within, into new depths of my being, that only You could know, of Your All Powerful Cross and this part of Your Life that you have enabled me to know. Amen. Anyways, other men have more to say about His Cross…
Watchman Nee speaks of the death side of the Cross and the Life side. Both deepen as we go on! Thank You also that as Your Cross goes deeper in me, the more of its Victory I will know! In ever newer areas of my life. I am thankful for Your Way God, through Your Son and His Cross. Thanks again Jesus for what you have done, and are doing in us all. The way of the cross leads home, the old song goes. That home is also what Henri Neuwen called our Center or what Merton called our true self. As the cross’ work deepens within us, we are more often in this home, this center of true identity. In this way, the cross guides us to who we truly are. As it works its death to old nature and life to new creation in us, we are progressively freed to be and become who He made us to be. So the Cross is also the gateway into true identity.
In order to know ourselves, we must die in Him and be reborn to our new selves, which are hidden in and revealed by Him. This can only occur through His Cross. This is why counseling or therapy by itself apart from The Cross cannot lead one to their true nature. Only He can, and He does so through the method which He set up–that method is to come to His Cross. Here is forgiveness, here is power to live well, here is the sacrificial heart we need to be kind to others and ourselves, here is His Life already offered, by the pouring out of His Perfection into our imperfection. Here is also the way of meaning. The Cross brings meaning to our lives, by transforming them into what they were meant to be in Him. A sense of purposefulness pervades the Cross. And when we visit it, regardless of what in us dies, we immediately sense immanent meaning and purpose to our lives. That is one of the fruits of the Cross. It was the most meaningful action in History. And when we enter that, our lives take on this true meaning that so many people seek.
This way into meaningful life is through His Death. The way to know true life is to die with Him, and be reborn in each area of our lives, as His Spirit directs, and allows His Cross to settle into our beings progressively, sequentially, until we can say, with Paul, “not I, but Christ in me”.
Even our “good” aspects have to visit His Cross. Even our own “suffering for Jesus” if it is not in Jesus, is foolish. Thomas Merton teaches us that unconsecrated suffering is meaningless. What he meant, was that if we are just suffering to seem more holy to God, we are wasting time. But if we are in “His” suffering, that is another matter. This is the death that Paul died daily. This is the daily visitation of the Cross. But just as charity can be entirely religious and not from His Spirit, so can suffering. Our job is to say yes to the Cross as His Holy Spirit makes it real to us in different areas of our lives. That is meaningful death and suffering–His in us. Both our valleys and our mountains must be kissed by His Living Cross in order to become holy places where we meet with Our God. Both the places where we feel most righteous, and the places we feel most sinful-both must visit the Cross in order to be made new.
“To know the cross is not merely to know our own sufferings. For the cross is the sign of salvation, and no one is saved by his own sufferings. To know the cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ. For to know his love is not merely to know the story of his love, but to experience in our spirit that we are loved by him, and that in his love the Father manifests his own love for us, through his Spirit poured forth into our hearts…”
All great spiritual thinkers have meditated deeply and regularly on the Cross (The Holy Spirit seems to draw people often towards this central theme in God!)–there simply is no avoiding this meditation if you are in Christ. Here is a short selection from Oswald Chambers:
If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God. Instantly the power of God will be in you. “Look to Me. . .” (Isaiah 45:22). Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there. We lose power because we don’t focus on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work. Concentrate on God’s focal point in your preaching, and even if your listeners seem to pay it no attention, they will never be the same again. If I share my own words, they are of no more importance than your words are to me. But if we share the truth of God with one another, we will encounter it again and again. We have to focus on the great point of spiritual power— the Cross. If we stay in contact with that center of power, its energy is released in our lives. In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings, the focus tends to be put not on the Cross of Christ but on the effects of the Cross.
And lastly from Henri Nouwenn:
I look at your dead body on the cross. The soldiers, who have broken the legs of the two men crucified with you, do not break your legs, but one of them pierces your side with a lance, and immediately blood and water flow out. Your heart is broken, the heart that did not know hatred, revenge, resentment, jealousy or envy but only love, love so deep and so wide that it embraces your Father in heaven as well as all humanity in time and space. Your broken heart is the source of my salvation, the foundation of my hope, the cause of my love. It is the sacred place where all that was, is and ever shall be is held in unity. There all suffering has been suffered, all anguish lived, all loneliness endured, all abandonment felt and all agony cried out. There, human and divine love have kissed, and there God and all men and women of history are reconciled. All the tears of the human race have been cried there, all pain understood and all despair touched. Together with all people of all times, I look up to you whom they have pierced, and I gradually come to know what it means to be part of your body and your blood, what it means to be human.
I love revisiting the very foundations of my own spirituality, and am thankful and hopeful for an even deeper revelation of His Cross in me! The more I journey on this path, the more I realize we are all basically just ministers of the Cross–whether it be into culture, business or whatever our areas of calling. To allow Jesus to form Himself ever more within us through His Cross is also the only hope for the world around us! Sometimes, it’s good to get back to the basics!