"Oneness with Christ means to be identified with Him in crucifixion - then going on to be identified with Him in resurrection power!"
We urgently need a new kind of reformation throughout our Christian churches - a reformation that will cause us not only to accept the will of God but to actively seek it and adore it!
At one point in history concerned believers sought a reformation that would bring the Bible back to the church. They got it.
Again, the church needed a reformation that would demonstrate that men could be forgiven, converted and transformed. This came about in reality under the Wesleys.
The reformation we need now can best be described in terms of spiritual perfection - which reduced to its simplest form is no more and no less than doing the will of God! This would expose us all at the point of our need, no matter how sound we think we are in doctrine and no matter how great our reputations.
I long for the positive and genuine renewal which would come if the will of God could be totally accomplished in our lives. Everything that is unspiritual would flee, and all that is not Christlike would vanish, and all that is not according to the New Testament would be rejected.
If this ever happens, it will come because Christians are finally willing to look on the Savior and let Him, work, and each will take his; own cross with such gladness that he can breathe, "Oh cross, oh good cross, I embrace thee!"
As believers, our relation to the will of God may be twofold: passive and active. In the passive sense we are resigned to God's acts, and in our day when we mention the will of God, we almost invariably mean this kind of resignation to God's win.
We see this resignation in the New Testament account in which God revealed Himself to Mary. He told her what He was going to do and Mary said, 'May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38b). God promised that He would perform a great miracle and she accepted it as the will of God, indeed.
But the second aspect of the will of God is one which we rarely consider-the active side of the will of God. Do we voluntarily and actively observe God's commandments, making positive changes in our lives as God may indicate in order to bring the entire life into accord with the New Testament?
That is the active aspect of the will of God that I would own as reformation in the church, and it would surely result in revival.
Many are content to sit around in the pews singing, "Have Thine Own Way, Lord!' They are resigned to this interpretation of the will of God: "Whatever God wants to do is fine with me." They are passively resigned.
But are they willing to hear the voice of God and obey His bidding and do what He wants them to do? That would become active participation and acceptance of the will of God. It would mean bringing the entire life into accord with New Testament teaching.
Can't separate the two
Some people in reading the Bible say they cannot understand why Elijah and other men had such active power with the living God. It is quite simple. God heard Elijah because Elijah had heard God. God did according to the word of Elijah because Elijah had done according to the word of God. You cannot separate the two.
When we are willing to consider the active will of God for our lives, we come immediately to a personal knowledge of the cross, because the will of God is the place of blessed, painful, fruitful trouble!
The Apostle Paul knew about that. He called it "the fellowship of Christ's sufferings.' It is my conviction that one of the reasons we exhibit very little spiritual power is because we are unwilling to accept and experience the fellowship of the Savior's sufferings, which means acceptance of His cross.
How can we have and know the blessed intimacy of the Lord Jesus if we are unwilling to take the route which He has demonstrated? We do not have it because we refuse to relate the will of God to the cross.
All of the great saints have been acquainted with the cross-even those who lived before the time of Christ. They were acquainted with the cross in essence because their obedience brought it to them. All Christians living in full obedience will experience the cross and find themselves exercised in spirit very frequently. If they know their own hearts, they will be prepared to wrestle with the cross when it comes.
Think of Jacob in the Old Testament and notice the direction from which his cross came-directly from his own carnal self. It took Jacob some time to discover the nature of his own heart and to admit and confess that Jacob's cross was Jacob himself.
Read again about Daniel and you will discover that his cross was the world. Consider Job and you will find that his cross was the devil. The devil crucified Job, the world crucified Daniel, and Jacob was crucified on the tree of his own Jacobness, his own carnality.
Study the lives of the apostles in the New Testament and you will find that their crosses came from the religious authorities.
Likewise in church history we look at Luther and note that his cross came from the Roman church which makes so much of wooden crosses, while Wesley's cross came from the Protestant church. Continue to name the great souls who followed the will of God, and you will name the men and women of God who looked forward by faith and their obedience invariably led them into places of blessed and painful and fruitful trouble.
I must point out here the fallacy of thinking that in following Jesus we can easily go up on the hillside and die-just like that! I admit that when Jesus was here on earth, the easiest and cheapest way to get off was to follow Jesus physically. Anyone could get out of work and say goodbye with the explanation, "I am going to follow Jesus." Multitudes did this. They followed Him physically, but they had no understanding of Him spiritually. Therefore, in that day the cheapest, easiest way to dispose of the cross was to carry it physically.
But, brethren, taking our cross is not going to mean the physical act of following Jesus along a dusty pathway. We are not going to climb the hill where there are already two crosses in place and be nailed up between them.
Our cross will be determined by whatever pain and suffering and trouble which will yet come to us because of our obedience to the will of God. The true saints of God have always borne witness that wholehearted obedience brings the cross into the light quicker than anything else.
Identified with Christ
Oneness with Christ means to be identified with Christ, identified with Him in crucifixion. But we must go on to be identified with Him in resurrection as well, for beyond the cross is resurrection and the manifestation of His Presence.
I would not want to make the mistake of some preachers who have never gotten beyond the message of death, death, death! They preach it so much that they never get anyone beyond death into resurrection life and victory.
I recall that when I was a young man and getting along well spiritually, having been wonderfully filled with the Holy Spirit, I read a book about the cross. In that volume, the author put you on the cross in the first chapter, and you were still hanging on the cross in the last chapter. It was gloomy all the way through - and I had a difficult time shaking that off because it was death, death, death! I was greatly helped at that time by the radiant approach of Dr. A. B. Simpson to the meaning of the cross and death to self. He took one through the meaning of the cross to the understanding that beyond the cross there is resurrection life and power, an identification with a risen Savior and the manifestation of His loving Presence.
The old 15th-century saint whom we have quoted declared that "God is ingenius in making us crosses."
Considering that, we have to confess that when Christians say, "I am crucified with Christ by faith,' they are merely using a technical term and are not talking about a cross in reality. But God wants His children to know the cross. He knows that only spiritual good can come to us as a result of our identification with the Lord Jesus. So, He is ingenius in making crosses for us.
The quotation continues: "He may make them of iron and of lead which are heavy of themselves. He makes some of straw which seem to weigh nothing, but one discovers that they are no less difficult to carry A cross that appears to be of straw so that others think it amounts to nothing may be crucifying you through and through.
"He makes some with gold and precious stones which dazzle the spectators and excite the envy of the public but which crucify no less than the crosses which are more despised.'
Christians who are put in high places, Christians who are entrusted with wealth and influence, know something about the kind of cross that may seem dazzling to spectators and excites the envy of the public-but if they know how to take it, it crucifies them no less than the others.
It seems that He makes our crosses of all the things we like the best so that when they turn to bitterness we are able to learn the true measure of eternal values.
It appears, also, that it often pleases God to join physical weakness to this servitude of the Spirit.
"Nothing is more useful than these two crosses together," the quote from the old saint continues. "They crucify a man from head to foot"
I confess that when I read that it came like a shock to my soul, realizing anew that Jesus Christ was crucified from head to foot! When they nailed Him there, He was crucified in every part of His body and there was no part of His holy nature that did not suffer the full intensity of those pains on the cross.
The children of God must be ready for everything the cross brings or we will surely fail the test! It is God's desire to so deal with us about all of the things that the world admires and praises that we will see them in their true light. He will treat us without pity because He desires, to raise us without measure-just as He did with His own Son on the cross! I The Apostle Paul gave us this wonderful assessment of the will of God concerning the person and the earthly work of Jesus Christ:
But notice the next word: "Therefore!"
This is why I believe that God will crucify without pity those whom He desires to raise without measure! This is why we believers have to surrender to Him the full control of everything that we consider to be an asset in terms of human power and talent and accomplishment. God takes Pleasure in confounding everything that comes under the guise of human power-which is really weakness disguised! Our intellectual power, our great mind, our array of talents-all of these are good if God has so ordered, but in reality they are human weaknesses disguised. God wants to crucify us from head to foot - making our own powers ridiculous and useless-in the desire to raise us without measure for His glory and for our eternal good'.
Dare we realize what a gracious thing it is that the Lord of all creation is desirous of raising us into a position of such glory and usefulness? Can we conceive that God would speak to angels and all the creatures who do His will and say of us: "The lid is off for this child of mine! There is to be no ceiling, no measure on what he can have, and there is no limit to where I may take him. Just keep it open. Without measure I will raise him because without pity I have been able to crucify him!"
You who are parents and you who have had the care of children know what it is to chasten without pity and yet at the same time discipline and punish with both love and pity. What do you do when you want your child to be the very finest example of manhood and character and citizenship? You pray for him and you love him so much that you would give the blood out of your veins for him - yet without pity you apply the rod of discipline and chastening. It is actually pity that makes you punish him without pity!
That sounds like a beautiful mix-up, but that is the character and desire of our God for us if we are His children. It is the love and the pity of God for His children that prescribes the chastening of a cross so that we may become the kind of mature believers and disciples that He wants us to be.
Be completely separated
I earnestly believe that God is trying to raise up a company of Christians in our day who are willing to be completely separated from all prejudices and all carnal desires. He wants those who are ready to put themselves at God's disposal, willing to bear any kind of cross -iron or lead or straw or gold or whatever?and to be the kinds of examples He needs on this earth.
The great question is: Is there a readiness, an eagerness among us for the kind of cross He wants to reveal through us?
Often we sing, "Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes, Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.'
What a pathetic thing to see the cross so misunderstood in sections of Christianity. Think of poor souls who have never found the evangelical meaning and assurance of atonement and justification, cleansing and pardon. When they come to the time of death, the best they know is to clutch some manufactured cross to the breast, holding it tightly and hoping for some power to come from painted metal or carved wood to take them safely over the river.
No, no! That is not the kind of cross that helps. The cross that we want is that which will come to us from being in the will of God. It is not a cross on a hill nor a cross on a church. It is not the cross that can be worn around the neck. It must be the cross of obedience to the will of God, and we must embrace it, each believer for himself!
Willingness to suffer for Jesus' sake - this is what we have lost from the Christian church. We want our Easter to come without the necessity of a Good Friday. We forget that before the Redeemer could rise and sing among His brethren He must first bow His head and suffer among His brethren!
We forget so easily that in the spiritual life there must be the darkness of the night before there can be the radiance of the dawn. Before the life of resurrection can be known, there must be the death that ends the dominion of self . It is a serious but a blessed decision, this willingness to say, "I will follow Him no matter what the cost. I will take the cross no matter how it comes!"
Out of my own experience at this point I wrote a few words years ago which have long been my constant prayer:
"Oh God, let me die right, rather than letting me live wrong.
"Keep me, Lord, from ever hardening down into the state of being just another average Christian.
"Lord, I would rather reach a high point and turn off the light than to live a poor, useless life on a low level.'
As individuals we often say that we want revival to come. Revival will come to us and within us when we really want it, when we pay the price.
Have you come to the place of heart-searching, of travail in the Spirit, the place of blessed pain and trouble for Jesus' sake?
Without that decision and that commitment, you can pray on for revival to your dying day. You can join groups and stay up and pray for revival all night but exercise is all you will gain and sleep will probably be all you will lose!
We must dare to pray, "Oh God, crucify me from head to foot - I lay in dust life's glory dead!"
This is the reformation that we need!
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