|« Prev||The Subjective Working Of The Cross||Next »|
The Subjective Working Of The Cross
We must keep before us now four passages from the Gospels. They are: Matthew 10:34-39; Mark 8:32-35; Luke 17:32-34; and John 12:24-26. These four passages have something in common. In each you have the Lord Himself speaking to us concerning the soul-activity of man, and in each a different aspect or manifestation of the soul-life is touched upon. In these verses He makes it very plain that the soul of man can be dealt with in one way and in one way only, and that is by our bearing the cross daily and following Him.
As we have just seen, the soul-life or natural life that is here in view is something further than what we have in those passages which are concerned with the old man or the flesh. We have sought to make quite clear that, in respect of our old man, God emphasizes the thing He has done once for all in crucifying us with Christ on the Cross. We have seen that three times in the Epistle to the Galatians the ‘crucifying’ aspect of the Cross is referred to as a thing accomplished; and in Romans 6:6 we have the clear statement that “our old man was crucified”, which, if the tense of the word means anything, we might well paraphrase: ‘Our old man has been finally and for ever crucified’. It is something done, to be apprehended by Divine revelation and then appropriated by faith.
But there is a further aspect of the Cross, namely that implied in the expression ‘bearing his cross daily’, which is before us now. The Cross has borne me; now I must bear it; and this bearing of the Cross is an inward thing. It is this that we mean when we speak of ‘the subjective working of the Cross’. Moreover it is a daily process; it is a step by step following after Him. It is this which is now brought before us in relation to the soul, and let us note that the emphasis here is not quite the same as with the old man. We do not have here the ‘crucifixion’ of the soul itself, in the sense that our natural gifts and faculties, our personality and our individuality, are to be put away altogether. Were it so it could hardly be said of us, as it is in Hebrews 10:39, that we are to “have faith unto the saving of the soul”. (Compare 1 Peter 1:9; Luke 21:19.) No, we do not lose our souls in this sense, for to do so would be to lose our individual existence completely. The soul is still there with its natural endowments, but the Cross is brought to bear upon it to bring those natural endowments into death—to put the mark of His death upon them—and thereafter, as God may please, to give them back to us in resurrection.
It is in this sense that Paul, writing to the Philippians, expresses the desire “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death” (Phil. 3:10). The mark of death is upon the soul all the time to bring it to the place where it is always subordinate to the Spirit and never independently asserts itself. Only the Cross, working in such a way, could make a man of the calibre of Paul, and with the natural resources hinted at in Philippians 3, so distrust his own natural strength that he could write to the Corinthians: “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:2, 5).
The soul is the seat of the affections, and what a great part of our decisions and actions is influenced by these! There is nothing deliberately sinful about them, mind you, but it is simply that there is something in us which can go out in natural affection to another person and which as a result can influence wrongly our whole course of action. So in the first of the four passages before us the Lord has to say: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37, 38). You note that to follow the Lord in the way of the Cross is set before us as His normal, His only way for us. What immediately follows? “He that findeth his soul shall lose it; and he that loseth his soul for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39, mg.).
The secret danger lies in that subtle working of the affections to turn us away from the pathway of God; and the key to the matter is the soul. The Cross has to deal with that. I have to “lose” my soul in the sense in which the Lord meant those words, and which we are seeking here to explain.
Some of us know well what it means to lose our soul. We can no longer fulfill its desire; we cannot give in to it; we cannot gratify it: that is the ‘loss’ of the soul. We are going through a painful process to discourage what the soul is asking for. And many a time we have to confess that it is not any definite sin that is keeping us from following the Lord to the end. We are held up because of some secret love somewhere, some perfectly natural affection diverting our course. Yes, affection plays a great part in our lives, and the Cross has to come in there and do its work.
Then we pass to the reference in Mark chapter 8. I think that is a most important passage. Our Lord had just taught His disciples at Caesarea Philippi that He was going to suffer death at the hands of the elders of the Jews, and then Peter, with all his love for his Master, came up and rebuked Him and said to Him: ‘Lord, do not do it; pity Thyself: this shall never come to Thee!’ Out of his love for the Lord he appealed to Him to spare Himself; and the Lord rebuked Peter, as He would rebuke Satan, for caring for the things of men and not the things of God. And then to all present the word was spoken once more: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his soul shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his soul for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it” (Mark 8:34, 35, mg.).
The whole question at issue is again that of the soul, and here it is particularly of the soul’s desire for self-preservation. There is that subtle working of the soul which says, ‘If I could be allowed to live I would do anything, be willing for anything; but I must be kept alive!’ There you have the soul almost crying out for help. ‘Going to the Cross, being crucified—oh that is really too much! Have mercy on yourself; pity yourself! Do you mean to say you are going against yourself and going with God?’ Some of us know well that in order to go on with God we have many a time to go against the voice of the soul- our own or other people’s—and to let the Cross come in to silence that appeal for self-preservation.
Am I afraid of the will of God? The dear saint whom I have already mentioned as having had such an influence upon the course of my life, many times asked me the question: ‘Do you like the will of God?’ It is a tremendous question. She did not ask, ‘Do you do the will of God?’ she always asked, ‘Do you like the will of God?’ That question cuts deeper than anything else. I remember once she was having a controversy with the Lord over a certain matter. She knew what the Lord wanted, and in her heart she wanted it too. But is was difficult, and I heard her pray like this: ‘Lord, I confess I don’t like it, but please do not give in to me. Just wait, Lord—and I will give in to Thee.’ She did not want the Lord to yield to her and to reduce His demands upon her. She wanted nothing but to please Him.
Many a time we have to come to the place where we are willing to let go things we think to be good and precious—yes, and even, it may be, the very things of God themselves—that His will may be done. Peter’s concern was for his Lord and was dictated by his natural love for Him. We might feel that Peter had a marvelous love for his Lord, sufficient even for him to dare to rebuke Him. Only a strong love could bring one to attempt that! Yes, but when there is purity of spirit without that mixture of soul, you will not be led into Peter’s mistake. You will recognize the will of God and you will find that that is what your heart delights in alone. You will no longer even shed a tear in sympathy with the flesh. Yes, the Cross cuts deeply, and we see here once more how utterly it has to deal with the soul.
Once again the Lord Jesus deals with the matter of the soul in Luke chapter 17, and now it is in relation to His return. Speaking of “the day that the Son of man is revealed”, He draws a parallel between that day and “the day that Lot went out from Sodom” (verses 29, 30). A little later He speaks of the ‘rapture’ in the twice repeated words: “One shall be taken, and the other shall be left” (verses 34, 35). But between His reference to the calling of Lot out of Sodom and this allusion to the rapture, the Lord says these remarkable words: “In that day, he which shall be on the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away: and let him that is in the field likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife” (verses 31, 32). Remember Lot’s wife! Why? because “whosoever shall seek to gain his soul shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose his soul shall save it alive” (verse 33, mg.).
If I mistake not, this is the one passage in the New Testament that tells of our reaction to the rapture call. We may have thought that when the Son of man comes we shall be taken up automatically, as it were, because of what we read in 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52: “We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump...” Well, however we reconcile the two passages, this one in Luke’s Gospel should at least make us pause and reflect; for the emphasis is here very strongly upon one being taken and the other left. It is a matter of our reaction to the call to go, and on the basis of this a most urgent appeal is made to us to be ready (compare Matt. 24:42).
There is surely a reason for this. Clearly that call is not going to produce a miraculous last-minute change in us out of all relation to our previous walk with the Lord. No, in that moment we shall discover our heart’s real treasure. If it is the Lord Himself, then there will be no backward look. A backward glance decides everything. It is so easy to become more attached to the gifts of God than to the Giver—and even, I should add, to the work of God than to God Himself.
Let me illustrate. At the present time17171938.—Ed. I am writing a book. I have finished eight chapters and I have another nine to write, about which I am very seriously exercised before the Lord. But if the call to ‘come up hither’ should come and my reaction were to be ‘What about my book?’ the answer might well be, ‘All right, stay down and finish it!’ That precious thing which we are doing downstairs ‘in the house’ can be enough to pin us down, a peg that holds us to earth.
It is all a question of our living by the soul or by the spirit. Here in this passage in Luke, we have depicted the soul-life in its engagement with the things of the earth—and mark you, not sinful things either. The Lord only mentioned marrying, planting, eating, selling—all perfectly legitimate activities with which there is nothing essentially wrong. But it is occupation with them, so that your heart goes out to them, that is enough to pin you down. The way out of that danger is by the losing of the soul. This is beautifully illustrated in the action of Peter when he recognized the risen Lord Jesus by the lake-side. Though with the others he had returned to his former employment, there was now no thought of the ship, nor even of the net full of fishes so miraculously provided. When he heard John’s cry of recognition: “it is the Lord”, we read that “he cast himself into the sea”.
That is true detachment. The question at issue is always, Where is my heart? The cross has to work in us a true spiritual detachment from anything and anyone outside of the Lord Himself.
But, even here, we are as yet only dealing with the more outward aspects of the soul’s activity. The soul giving rein to its affections, the soul asserting itself and trying to manipulate things, the soul becoming preoccupied with things, the soul becoming preoccupied with things on the earth: these are still small things, and do not yet touch the real heart of the matter. There is something which is deeper yet, and which I will try now to explain.
|« Prev||The Subjective Working Of The Cross||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version