If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. [Matthew 16:24]. We will hit the highlights of taking up our cross here and hit it more in another article. To deny is to say No to our insistent, demanding self-assertive ego. We must echo the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane. "Not my will, but Yours be done." [Luke 22:42]. Only after we have denied ourselves can we go and take up our cross. Someone has defined our cross as the place where God's will and our will cross. It is the place of execution.
The old man is the rebellious, self-pleasing nature which each one of us has inherited by descent from our common ancestor, Adam. God's solution is simple and final. It is execution. The good news of the Gospel is that the execution took place when Jesus died on the cross. Our old man was crucified at that time in Him.Being dead to sin
First, God had to deal with our sins. He did this by having Jesus pay the full penalty for our sins on the cross. God could then forgive us without compromising His own justice. His first provision, therefore, is forgiveness.
Second, God had to deal with our corrupt nature. His provision was execution, to put that sinful nature to death. That execution also took place on the cross.
Third, God's purpose was to replace the old sinful man with a new man. Ephesians 4:22-24 "..that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man... And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness." We should not assume, however, that the old man will passively accept his sentence of execution. We must stand in faith that the death of the old man is an accomplished fact, and we must resist his attempts to regain control over us.Spiritual Inventory:
Job 7:18 "What is man-that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?" Am I prepared to receive a visit from God every morning? Do I wake up with that expectation? Why does God test us? What is his purpose? The dictionary says "to ascertain the worth of a person...by subjection to certain examinations." Remember when God permitted Job to be put to a test? Job 23:10 "...when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." In Job 42:7 "You have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has." Job pleased God during the test. Abraham was subjected to severe tests. James responds that we should respond to testing with joy.
James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (endurance). But let patience (endurance) have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. God's commands are designed to guide you to life's very best. You will not obey Him, however, if you do not believe Him and trust Him. You cannot believe Him, if you do not love Him. You cannot love Him, unless you know Him.
If, however, you really come to know Him as He reveals Himself to you, you will love Him. If you love Him, you will believe Him and trust Him. If you believe and trust Him, you will obey Him. God has given His commands so you may prosper and live life to its fullest measure. If you do not obey Him, you do not really love Him (John 14:24). Because of His love, His will for you is always best. God also is all-knowing, so His directions are always right.TESTING OR CHASTENING?
It is vitally important that we learn to distinguish between God's testing and His chastening. Some people think that as long as they are Christians, they are exempt from God's chastening. They go around rebuking satan everywhere. Or they are resigned to their fate in life. (Woe is me, I will just suffer for the Lord, [sounds more like self pity to me]). But what does the Bibles say:Hebrews 12:5-8
Chastening means to influence the conscious will and action in bring up a child in moral and spiritual matters. To correct in order to conform to divine truth. We need to sincerely allow the Lord to search our hearts and if He does NOT put His finger on anything that is offensive to Him, THEN we may conclude that we are under God's testing, not His chastening.Psalms 139:23-24
What God reveals will determine how we respond. Our response to chastening should be to REPENT; our response to testing should be to ENDURE. But if we persist in trying to endure when we should repent, we are guilty of stubbornness and insensitivity to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Adam and Eve went through 3 stages in their fall. They went from mistrust of God's goodness, to disbelief in God's Word, to the act of disobedience. Through faith in Christ, God has provided a redemption that reverses the downward process of the fall. It replaces disbelief with faith, disobedience with obedience, and mistrust with trust.
Faith leading to obedience is the FIRST stage. But the process is not complete until faith has developed into trust. Now faith is an act of commitment, but trust describes a continuing attitude that follows the initial act of committing. A primary purpose behind God's tests is to produce trust in us. That was true of Job.Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.
Why is trust so important? Because it reveals our estimate of God's character. Our salvation from sin is not complete until it has undone the effects of the fall and produced in us this quality of trust. This is the purpose of God's tests: to produce in us an unshakeable confidence in His absolute trustworthiness. How do we respond if we cry out to God and he does not seem to answer us? Can we still trust His faithfulness? God is more interested in our character than our achievements.James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
First we must distinguish between testing and chastening as I mentioned earlier. All too often we adopt a posture of resisting the devil when we should be submitting to God and REPENTING. The root character problem that this exposes is PRIDE.Psalms 19:12-13
Our faults are not necessarily secret to those around us. Secret faults are faults that are secret to OURSELVES, faults in our character that we do not recognize. David describes them as presumptious sins -- sins that we commit when we PRESUME that our conduct is acceptable to God, when in fact it offends Him. Once we are clear that what we are passing through really is a test from God, we need to make sure our bases are covered.
We cannot lead holy lives if we deliberately consort with unholy people. All such relationships must be cut off with the sharp sword of God's word. It tells us to not spend a lot of time with them.Hebrews 12:1-2:
The only way to cultivate endurance is by enduring. Once we accept that fact, we can begin to respond rightly to each test that comes our way.James 1:2-4:
We must continue to endure until God's purpose has been fully worked out and He brings the test to an end. In 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul uses the example of an athlete: And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (exercises self-control) in all things. Only if we cultivate self-control, will we have the strength to endure.
In 2 Peter 1:5-7 Peter lists 7 successive STEPS that lead upward from the foundation of FAITH to the completion of Christian character: Virtue (moral excellence), knowledge, self-control, perseverance (endurance), godliness, brotherly kindness, love.Self control is an essential perquisite to endurance. Every test of endurance is also a test of self control. It will expose any weakness in this area.