“To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold…”–Oswald Chambers
No one ever comes into a union with God without a rejection and abandonment of self. Often evangelical Christians view the cross as a blessing and salvation as us casting ourselves into the arms of the Savior. But, such fantasy is not true, is not Biblical, and imposes a false perspective upon salvation.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. –Luke 9:23
Salvation is meeting Christ on His terms and surrendering our lives to Him without reservation. We think that God can use our ideas, our plans, our lives for His glory so we bring them to Him. But, God cannot use and will not accept your dreams, your goodness, your humility, until you give Him your sin. He begins His transformative work in your live by removing your sin and replacing it with a heart of obedience and service to His plans and His will. Salvation is about identifying with the crucifixion of Christ who laid down His everything for us. Nevertheless, though we come to Christ empty–having nothing to offer but our earthly bodies as vessels for His service–, yet we are still called to lay down all of our intentions and aspirations.
“…to be identified with the death of Christ.” –Oswald Chambers
What Chambers is relating is what baptism is really all about. We are identifying with the death of Christ in being dead to our own sins; and His resurrection from the grave that we also, who have been made alive again, would live transformed lives as new creatures.
What Does it Mean to Identify With Christ’s Death?
Paul describes it in this way in Galatians 2:20 “For I am crucified with Christ…”. That’s the first part, to die a spiritual death to sin and self as Christ died a physical death to conquer spiritual death and condemnation. The second part of this identification, or certification is found in the previous verse when Paul says, “For I through the law am dead to the law that I might live unto God.”. Notice the key words with and unto. We are to be dead with Christ to live unto God. These are the credentials of our salvation, our identification with Christ and His salvation. But, how do we get to this point in the story?
God’s Terms For Obtaining Salvation:
People will tell you that there is only one way to get to heaven. That is more or less true. From a practical standpoint, there is only one way to get to heaven: through the provisional grace of God through Jesus Christ. But, from a mere concept standpoint, (if you would change your perspective with me for just a few moments), there are two theoretical ways to get to heaven.
Throughout history God has given laws and ordinances for Man to follow. These laws were for Man’s protection, for his benefit, and for the ultimate glory of God. You’ve heard of the 10 Commandments, the one’s given to Moses for the Children of Israel to follow. Those were God’s laws of righteousness. If any man could keep all of those laws, more, if any man could fully understand the laws and follow them, he would be righteous enough to enter heaven… in theory.
The law of God, as a means of salvation and redemption requires both salvation and redemption to be unnecessary. The law has only three main parameters that must be met for a person to be worthy of heaven.
- Righteous Purity (Romans 7:7, Romans 10:5)
- Spiritual Holiness (Romans 7:12, Isaiah 5:16, Leviticus 20:7)
- Sinless Perfection (James 2:10, Romans 2:13)
All that was required was utter fulfillment of God’s standards of holiness, complete obedience and undefiled purity of heart, mind, soul, and body, and a completeness of spirit that comes from a unity with God.
The killstroke is the point at which we turn this argument on its own head and slay the straw man we’ve erected.
“The law is past those who, without heed, plunge into it.” –William Shakespeare
I said there are two theoretical ways of obtaining heaven. As mere concepts, that is accurate, but unfortunately for Mankind, even if we embody the law itself and be pure and perfect in everything we said, did, and thought, (which is not possible for any human being), we would still be of Adam’s seed and therefore under the curse of sin.
“The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into the world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature.” –G.K. Chesterton
The curse was not that we would be tempted to sin, that we would sin, or even that our sins would be applied to our accounts, but that we were, by heredity, born into sin without a say, without a chance to avoid it.
“Of all the parts of a law, the most effectual is the vindicatory; for it is but lost labor to say, “Do this, or avoid that,” unless we also declare, “This shall be the consequence of your non-compliance.” The main strength and force of the law consists in the penalty annexed to it.” –William Blackstone
Like death, there is no escape from the law. We will just a surely be judged and condemned for our failures to obey the law as we will die. There is a guarantee, we are accountable to God for our failures and disobedience. John Milton once said, “The law can discover sin, but it cannot remove it”, and that is a sad reality. The futility of life and desperation it must incur to struggle to meet God’s demands of Holiness and perfection in vain.
The law cannot save what has already been condemned.
Grace is hailed as the unmerited favor of God, as “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense”, but grace is not itself without stipulations. It also has certain requirements that must be met before it can bring about salvation and transformation in a life.
“Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.” –Jonathan Edwards
God says that your sins have been paid for and forgiveness is His gift to you: that’s grace. The debt you owe God because of your sins can be erased if you accept His gift of salvation through grace. We need grace because we do sin, we not only are born into sin and therefore are guilty of crimes against God, but we willfully rebel against the law because it is our nature.
“In spite of what all the cynics say, the infallible way of inducing a sense of wrong-doing is by making laws.” –William Belitho
Grace is a gift from God but it has certain parameters that must be adhered to.
- Honest Brokenness (Psalms 34:18, Psalms 51:17)
- Admitted Guilt (Romans 3:19)
- Totally Surrender (Mark 8:34, Romans 6:6, Galatians 5:24)
All that is required may be all you have to give. What is the cost of your salvation? You must forsake your pride and honestly admit your brokenness. Your reputation and earthly integrity must be shunned in a confession of guilt. Your life must be forfeit in a spirit of complete surrender to Christ. That’s all it takes. Some might say, “Wow! That’s a lot!”, but what price is too much to give to gain what we could never earn? What on earth is more valuable than heaven?
What? You thought there wouldn’t be a killstroke for grace? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is the reality of salvation, surrender, and the cross. God doesn’t save people from Hell; He saves them from sin. And God doesn’t save people for Heaven, He saves them to Heaven and for earth. We are saved from sin to a new life and identity in Christ. Jesus then becomes our certification and our credentials before God and among men. But grace comes with a cross.
Makoto Fujimura told this story in his book “Silence And Beauty”:
“On a bright morning in December 2002, I had the privilege of standing on the spot called Martyrs Hill in Nagasaki…
Twenty-six men and three children were paraded some 480 miles from Kyoto to this hill to be crucified. It was the magistrates’ logic that it would embarrass them to be taunted throughout their journey. Some bled as they walked; their ears or noses had been cut off in Kyoto…
The story of their arrival at their destination is one of a remarkable display of faith. When they arrived at the hill in Nagasaki, crosses were already lined up. As the story goes, one of the two boys said, “Show me my cross.” Then the other echoed, “Show me mine.”
“Show me my cross” may be a statement that every Christian needs to say to the world. In chapter 16 of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ warns his followers, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 KJV, substituted for ESV).
Grace in the Place of our Fears:
“As grace is at first from God, so it is continually from Him, as much as light is all day long from the sun, as well as at first dawn or at sun-rising.” –Jonathan Edwards
Grace does not end at salvation, rather it begins there. God’s grace is more than forgiveness, and quickens us when we grow faint; encourages us when we lose heart; awakens us when our spirits fall into slumber; comforts us in the midst of our trials. For the Christian, when we are saved we take up a cross, identifying with Christ and voluntarily entering into His sufferings as follower of Him. That cross is our burden, that cross is our calling, and the cross is our eventual end. Service to Christ entails suffering and even persecution, but grace takes the place of fear when we know Christ.
His mercies are new every morning, and His grace is never less than the day we were first saved by it. God so loved the world that He gave His only son to save us, but to be saved is not to be free from pain, but to accept it and bring glory to God through it.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist