Part of the difficulty that Christians and non-Christians have regarding the second half of the cross is that it runs contrary to conventional worldly thinking. A person who uses their talents to achieve fame, fortune, and success all on their own is applauded by our popular culture. Few people critically question the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song “I did it my way.”
The world validates and celebrates its own, but frowns upon dissenters. Spirit-led Christians dissent from the conventional self-on-the-throne pursuit of personal validation and acclaim, and because the world does not understand the underlying issue of sin, the resultant response of rejection, criticism, and outright persecution is the attitude the world takes toward a walk of faith with Jesus Christ.
It is an immense challenge for Christians to live in a world where the outward appearances of success are the only standards by which we are judged. Genuine Christians have to make the choice to follow Jesus Christ according to God’s higher ways (Isa. 55:8-9), which at times do not conform to the world’s expectations and standards (1 Cor. 4:9).
The fundamental question is whether our individual talents and our short time spent here on earth are given to us to use for our own exclusive self-gratification, or is the purpose of life to discover God and glorify Him in a life-plan that is larger than ourselves?
The “I did it my way” approach by definition is completely at odds with the biblical walk of faith designed to actualize our true calling within a life-script composed by the Creator God. Part of the cost of living the Christian life is being radically different from other people, in our core goals and aspirations that are based upon a belief system that is centered in a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
The people of Haran did not understand why Abraham would suddenly head off in search of a new country, with his family and material belongings, through faith in a God they did not know. At the time, Abraham outwardly appeared to have everything going for him, right where he was in Haran. This drastic move made little sense from a conventional, worldly viewpoint.
The few people sparsely living in the region around where Abraham eventually settled in Canaan had no idea he was the God-sent future “father of faith” example for literally hundreds of millions of people in the ensuing four thousand years of human history. They did not recognize, by anything in his outward appearance, that “somebody” important in the future spiritual destiny of mankind had arrived. A genuine adventure of faith with God is seldom recognized, understood, or appreciated by the world.
One of the important points to be made in this book is that the second half of the cross is a necessary integral part of the package of Christian salvation for every believer. The cross is divided into two parts by me in this book for better analysis and understanding, but we sign up for and receive the crucifixion of our self-autonomous nature, just like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and others in the Bible, as part of the initial and ongoing experience of salvation.
Not only are we forgiven, cleansed, and born anew into the Spirit, but we are also given the power through Christ to cast aside our own short-sighted will and way about the direction of our lives, like an old worn-out garment (Isaiah 64:6), when we invite Jesus into our hearts at our conversion.
The clearly defined break-points between self-in-charge, and God’s plan described above in God’s call of Abraham to leave Haran and go to Canaan, or when Moses met God at the burning bush, are also included within our salvation package. We received this when we repented of our past life and asked Jesus Christ into our lives. Our part as Christians is to be aware of this important feature, and to willingly surrender daily our self-wills to God in search of His higher way for our lives.
One of the vital features therefore of the new life in Christ is a higher life plan whose events and circumstances are designed and orchestrated to allow a person to get to know God personally (Jer. 31:31-34). The believer has the participation of the Creator of the universe in helping to discover and craft a meaningful and intelligently planned life. The associated cost involved in following God is that our self-in-control nature has to be crucified on the cross alongside Jesus. We have to step down off our throne. Jesus went before us in this regard, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to enable us along each step of the way.
As with all of the works of God, a journey of faith is perfect in its inception and performance, even factoring in divine grace and forbearance to cover our shortcomings as we grow in Christ.
The second half of the cross creates the space for God to be able to set-up the circumstances by which we can get to know Him better. Death to self-in-charge is therefore not a negative concept, but the most necessary and natural process when viewed within the context of a life of faith with God. Without it God has no room to work His higher ways into our lives. Our ways and God’s ways simply cannot be operating at the same time.
Christians today must come to terms with the pull of the popular culture, and recognize it for what it is. The goal of the Christian life is to come to love God, and discover His nature and character first-hand through a walk of faith in Him. The “I did it my way” approach to life is part of the old man of sin that is supposed to be nailed to the cross of Christ. When Christians mix the worldly approach of self-in-control, with the cross of Christ which requires the death of the self-will, they end up with a middle-of-the-road compromise that robs them of the purity of a walk with God after the pattern of the people of faith in the Bible.
The leading of God for born-again Christians is always in accordance with the scriptures, and always results in morally correct choices, increasingly higher levels of ethical behavior, a better acceptance and performance of responsibilities, a noticeable improvement in personal character traits, and more love towards others. With time and spiritual maturity, God’s leading eventually results in blessings to a larger number of other people in whatever theater of action God has placed us in.
Once we see the cross within the lives of the people of faith throughout the Bible, and understand this within the context of God composing, setting-up, and orchestrating specific events and circumstances within a journey of faith to lead us to the point where we discover our need of God’s help, then the biblical idea of an individually tailored and personalized adventure of faith following Jesus Christ becomes a rock-solid foundation of scripture that every Christian can stand upon.
Once we see the second half of the cross…the death of our self-in-charge nature (Lk. 22:42), designed to create the space for God to implement His plans for our lives…once we see this within the life-scripts of the characters of faith in the Bible, this then becomes a life reality based upon scripture that we can follow with confidence and commitment.
The second half of the cross is not just a New Testament concept. The idea that the higher ways of God must completely displace our own ways, according to the cross of Christ, and through the symbolism portrayed in believer’s water baptism, is interwoven into the accounts of the lives of the people of faith in the Bible from beginning to end.
This God-invented idea was hiding in plain sight all along throughout the Bible. Studying this all-important second half of the cross aspect in the lives of the people of faith in the Bible, as it relates to our own lives as modern-day Christians, is the subject of this book.