“THE CROSS “
by Dr. Robert Gladstone
Die. Lose your life. Crucify the flesh with its lusts and evil desires. Nail all of it to the bloody, violent finality of Jesus’ cross. Murder the passions for worldly things that stain the conscience and compromise the saint. What is there to lose? Mediocre spirituality? An impotent prayer life? Half-hearted worship and service? The nagging of an unclean conscience? Depression? God’s displeasure? Eternal damnation? Carry your cross.
And what is there to gain by such radical self-denial? The removal of every weight? Liberty to serve the holy Lord with a clean conscience? Sweet communion with Jesus? A powerful, joyful anointing for divine service (Heb 1:9)? Freedom from slavery? The right to be called God’s child and to receive His heavenly inheritance (John 8)? The awesome privilege of being a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in a world dying in its sin? Eternal life? The new, perfect, glorious heavens, earth, and Jerusalem? Carry your cross.
Oh dreadful cross! It means denying the temporary pleasure of sin. Pleasure, that is, which usually turns into all kinds of misery in this life, and definitely the untold pain of God’s wrath in the next. The cross nullifies this empty, present life and infuses an abundant, eternal life. How dreadful the cross is to futile things!
But the cross is so barbarous, so violent! Yes, it’s violent… against everything evil, sinful, and demonic. Against any- and everything attempting to destroy God’s glorious life and goodness in His human creation. It cruelly slams the door on the devil and swings it open to joy unspeakable and full of glory, to the promise of an everlasting kingdom, to real power and godly fulfillment. It conquers. It kills. It shows no mercy to lust, pride, and greed. The cross hates sin. In fact, it hates even a good thing when we put it between the Lord and us: whether parents, spouses, children, or our own souls (Luke 14:25-26). The cross is indeed violent… overwhelmingly violent.
How painful, this cross! Most assuredly. Feel the pain and hear the screams as it removes deep-set guilt from the human heart and viciously robs death of its terror and sting. How awfully it tortures the demons fleeing from our souls. Mercilessly it deals blow after blow to the Grim Reaper, for six agonizing hours, until he loses all the keys to his tombs. How weak he has become! He bows low before a Higher Authority, moaning and gasping for breath. He clutches his throat and chokes in agony as resurrection victory slowly suffocates him until the final hour – until God’s Son utters His voice. The dead hear. Tombstones crack. Memorials burn. And the dead in Christ rise. Death looks on, paralyzed, devoid now of all mortal oxygen, as broken crypts release their prisoners and a nail-scarred hand hurls him into the lake of fire. The resurrection swallows what that cross kills. Oh, cruel cross.
And what pain will we have suffered? What will we truly have sacrificed? We will lose that which we could not keep to gain what we cannot lose. Oh precious cross of Christ. Your dread is joy; your pain is relief; your death is life. We carry you gladly, following our Savior proudly.
But remember: the world hates this cross. To the present evil system and world of carnal opinions, it is the emblem of suffering and shame. It contradicts all aspirations for fame and fortune in this life. It cancels every hope for world peace and religious unity. It divides before it conquers, captures before it frees, cuts before it sews, kills before it conceives. Such is the narrow way the fallen race abhors with all its might. For the blessed cross is brutal to the proud. It reminds us of our sins and calls us to account. It strips us naked to expose how wretched we really are before the holy Savior Who hung on it perfectly. It blames us for crucifying the Lord of glory. It forces us to admit our guilt. Then it saves us from that very crime.
Oh blessed cross. Hailed by heaven and hated by humanity. You promise forgiveness, but demand repentance. You require what we least want to give: ourselves – our spirits, souls, and bodies. We want to substitute our hypnotic religion for your harsh reality. We hang you on the wall as religious decoration instead of on our backs in radical devotion. We want to feel your blessings, but we refuse to feel your nails. The world hates you! Our flesh hates you! You are a foolish idea to our natural minds and a weak display to our proud spirits. You are a stumbling block to our religious hearts. But you are God’s wisdom, power, and salvation to everyone who believes. Those who accept you carry you happily after Jesus.
And this cross means literal, physical death to many. Like Jesus, some saints – to the world’s utter bewilderment – actually shed their own blood carrying the cross. They lose their earthly lives for the secret, holy joy set before them. Their reward is special in heaven. They are the martyrs – those who, in a very real sense, understand the sacrificial aspect of Jesus’ redemption more than the others. Their robe of righteousness will be marked by Lamb’s blood, but mingled with their own. Meanwhile, their persecutors, who hated the cross, will look up at them from hell and see the martyrs’ crowns. They will see the light and delight of those they crucified while they themselves suffer in righteous agony. Suddenly they will know the full meaning of the cross: eternal life.
The revelation will shock and dismay them. They will sense deeply and horribly the justice of it all, receiving the due penalty for their sins in their own persons. They’ll be absolutely convinced that they deserve what they experience. Such knowledge will be part of their eternal torture. They will “gnash their teeth” because the physical pain is unbearable and unrelenting. But they’ll “weep” because they know they deserve it. Cross-haters will chant Jesus’ own words out of unfathomable misery – words they now fulfill: “I saved my life, now I’ve lost it… I saved my life, now I’ve lost it… I hated the cross… and now it’s too late.”
So die. Lose your life. Nail it to the only instrument violent enough to murder your passion for dead things and ignite your passion for eternal things. Jesus carried a cross all the way to glory. “If any man will come after Me…” he must do the same.
Dr. Robert J. Gladstone, Fall 1997
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