The Way of the Cross
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Nancy Missler; ©2002|
|God not only desires to make us holy, He also wants to conform us into His image by removing anything that would prevent His life from flowing through us. God accomplishes both these purposes by the cross. Nancy Missler explains.|
Deeper Death to Self
In the dark night of the soul, there is a death to sin, but in this dark night, there is an even deeper death to self. This is our own Calvary.
It’s an interior crucifixion of self-love, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-trust, self-will, self-pity, self-grasping and any other self-interest, self-seeking, self-preservation and self-esteem that God sees. Many of these things are not conscious to us, but God knows about them and He knows the quenching effect they have on His Spirit and His Life through us.
Through this dark night, God not only wants to show us things about Himself, He also wants to show us things about ourselves. He wants us to see for ourselves our self-centeredness and our selfishness. Until we see these things through God’s eyes, we really don’t know ourselves. Many of the qualities that we possess in the “natural” are really contrary to what God would have for us and, therefore, must be eradicated. In order to accomplish this, God must uncover things that we desperately want hidden and covered.
Under all other circumstances, our human nature can hide, but in this dark night it all comes out in blazing color. God wants us to see our true inner motives and see just how far we have fallen from all that He desires for us. He wants us to see how much we still we in love with ourselves. He wants us to see through this night season that we don’t have that persistent, on-going faith that we thought we did and how we automatically run to “other things” (besides Himself) to fill our needs. The more He enables us to “see” ourselves (our own incapacity), the more we’Il realize we cannot live without Him.
We cannot intimately know the One we love, except as we come to know ourselves as we really are. We must see our own nothingness next to His everything. Our soul needs to be completely undone, in order for God to instill “naked faith” in us—a faith that is built on nothing else but Christ Himself. This is what this night of the spirit is all about.
Life Comes Only From the Cross
God is not only desirous of making us holy by removing all the sin in our lives, He also wants to conform us into His image by removing any character flaws, any belief systems, any habits or thought patterns that prevent His Life from flowing through us. God accomplished both of these purposes by the cross.
Life comes only from the cross. The cross is the heart of all Love and Love is the heart of the cross. The foundation of everything spiritual and the end of all things is the cross. The cross is the only way to rise above all that imprisons our soul and spirit. The whole purpose of the cross is to purge the soulish things in our lives (empty us out), so that God can fill us up with His abundant Life.
The cross must cut deeply in order to rid us of the things that prevent our fellowship and our life with Him. And, of course, this hurts. If we don’t “feel” the cross, however, then we really haven’t suffered. Feeling pain is part of suffering, and suffering (barring our self from sin) is a major part of the sanctification process. Without pain, there is no cross; and without the cross, there really is no exchange of life.
In the middle of our night seasons, we must learn to love the cross, because this is the way God accomplishes our sanctification. Abandonment to God’s will and the cross go hand in hand. Sometimes we can bear the cross in His strength and proceed the way God desires. But, at other times, when we’re weak, we must bear the cross by faith. Either way, we must bear the cross and allow God to do whatever He must do.
Throughout the Bible, the principle that “life only comes through death” is very apparent. For example, John 12:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth [hangs on to] his life shall lose it; and he that hateth [is willing to surrender it] his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
Just as Christ was raised from the dead after the cross, we too, can “walk in newness of Life,” after being conformed to His death. As we allow God not only to deal with our sinful acts, but also our self-centered ways, we too, can experience His resurrection Life. God’s desired outcome is that after the death of our self-life, we might “serve Him in newness of spirit.”
The cross that cleanses us from sin is very different from the cross that deals with our “self.” Jesus made atonement for our sins by shedding His blood for us on that cross 2000 years ago. He paid the complete price and there is nothing else needed for our salvation. But, in order to be sanctified body, soul and spirit, we must also allow God to daily (moment by moment) expose our “self” and we are the ones who must nail it to the cross (crucify it).
Purification of Our Spirit
Only as we, moment by moment, crucify the flesh, can we truly walk by the Spirit. As 2 Corinthians 7:1 exhorts us, “Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Purification of our spirit simply means a spirit that is freed from all soulish influence. Our spirit gets polluted through our “flesh.” God wants to purify and strengthen our spirit so that it can be freed of soulish influences (or entanglements), and can, once again, begin to direct our soul. The only way this is possible is by cutting, separating and dividing away anything that contaminates it. Then we’ll be able to have that complete spiritual union with God that He desires and that we yearn for.
In order for our spirit to become experientially one with God, there can be no adulteration from anything that is soulish. He wants us to know His will through our conscience, discern His leading and guiding through our intuition, and begin to fellowship and commune with Him in the spirit. He wants us to have a renewed and purified spirit, like Psalm 51:10 talks about. This is a spirit that has been cleansed of impurities, so that God’s Spirit can freely work.
All of our own self-justification, self-defense and self-orientation only betrays an unbroken and unpurified spirit. Until our spirit is purified, we will be full of ourselves, full of our own plans, our own ambitions, our own values, our own judgments, our own rationalizations, our own ideals and so on. Again, many of these things are not sin, but nevertheless, because we build our lives upon them, they can prevent God’s perfect will from being accomplished.
In contrast to our soul (our flesh) being cleansed from “sin,” which can be instant (through our choice to appropriate what Christ has already done for us on the cross), spirit “purification” can continue on for many months or even years. It reminds me of the difference between the “sin offering” (which was given once a year on the day of atonement when the priests actually carried the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies), and the “wholly burnt offering” which had to be offered daily.
The wholly burnt offering was an offering that had already been cleansed, it just needed to be killed, the bones and muscle separated and divided away, the remainder salted and wholly consumed by the fire. The aroma that resulted from this offering ascended to God in the fire and was accepted by God and well pleasing in His sight. Wholly burnt offering actually means “that which ascends to God in flame and smoke.”
To me the sin offering is like our once-and-for-all acceptance of Jesus as the atonement for all of our sins. No matter what sins we have committed, past, present or future, if we give them to Him, they are already atoned for by His blood. Whereas, the wholly burnt offering (the most common offering) reminds me of our own moment-by-moment responsibility to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We must daily offer God our lives and ask Him to expose and to cut away the things that contaminate our spirit. This is what determines our intimacy or our experiential union with Christ. God wants us holy, not only in body but also in spirit, so that we might continually “meet with Him” and enjoy His presence.
The dark night of the spirit is where we get up on that Brazen Altar and, out of faith and obedience, we don’t get off until God says, “Okay, your offering is acceptable and well pleasing in My sight.” The dark night of the spirit is the melting (by fire) of a vessel that is already filled with the spirit. It’s being wholly burnt, in order to become “one” with God’s Spirit. It’s called the way of the cross.
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