We have not been delivered from the world or ourselves as long as we continue to interpret Calvary as to how it will benefit us. ~ Fromke
I am not sure if you’ve ever had your identity stolen. I have about three times in my life, and it is not fun. All the times, so far, were when someone had stolen my card number and made purchases with my money. They used my identity, took what did not belong to them, and used it however they saw fit. Identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent today. It is so prevalent that even Christ is having His identity stolen. Somebody is trying to steal Christ’s identity, and that somebody is all too crafty. He has taken a lie and wrapped some truth around it so that he can deceive the Lord’s people about who they are because of Christ.
You can ask anyone who knows me, I’ll be the first to tell you and remind you who you are in Christ. But lately, it saddens me to do so. I am saddened to see Christ’s identity separated from Him and His cross. This idea of having Christ’s identity apart from the cross is dangerous. This new thinking that “I just need to awaken and accept who I am in Christ, and I can have all this without the daily application of the cross” is a lie. To think the cross was only something that happened 2000 years ago, and it is not still needed today, goes against the very nature of Christ. We have not so learned who we truly are in Christ. This new cross-less Christ doctrine will find ground in those who have resisted, and continue to resist, the cross in their lives. It is coming to the surface to purify His people, to test them. It will test those who continually say, “I’m not ready for that path, I want the life, and all that comes with it, but not the cross.”
Taking Christ’s identity, then claiming it as our own without the cross, is identity theft. It is not your identity; it’s Christ’s, and you cannot take it and do with it as you will. We cannot use divine life to meet our needs. We need to remember that anything of Christ’s is unsafe in our hands without the daily practical application of the cross. We cannot have Christ apart from His cross. We cannot segment out our Lord, butchering Him to pieces, taking only the parts that appease our flesh – like His identity. This is religion all over again, saying I can have and do something apart from the complete person of Christ.
The cross is a part of His identity. The cross is a person; it is Jesus Christ Himself. It is a part of His nature. He is always laying down his life, even today. The cross is only a shadow of the reality of who Christ is; one who is always laying down His life for another. So if this is a part of His identity, then it is a part of our identity, too. We daily lay down our soul-life for His life to be known and expressed. We have NOTHING that belongs to Christ without the cross. The cross is the key to all of who Christ is for us today. There is no way around the cross.
The Work and the Way of the Cross
A couple of things need to be cleared up: the idea of dying to self or losing your life, and the difference between the work of the cross and way of the cross. The work and way of the cross are two different aspects of the same person – Christ. Christ displayed both the way of the cross and the work of the cross for us.
If we are seeing Calvary as only something that happened 2000 years ago then we have made it a thing and are missing out on the other half of the treasure. The cross is a person, and He is Jesus Christ. The truth is the work of the cross destroyed everything of the old creation like the old man, the power of the flesh, and our sinful nature, and we are now a new creation in and because of Christ. But there is more, so much more, to the cross.
In Devern Fromke’s book, The Ultimate Intention, he makes a beautiful distinction between the two works of the cross;
The WORK of the cross is experienced by the old Adam. But the new man in Christ is called to embrace the WAY of the cross. The new man is always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body.
When we look at what happened on Calvary as the only glorious thing that happened when it comes to the cross, we are missing what came first, which was the way of the cross. The way of the cross was revealed to us, in the life of Jesus, before the work of the cross. Christ didn’t just start laying down his life when he came to earth though; he started laying down his life in eternity past, it is all he knows. He is known as the lamb slain BEFORE the foundations of the world, before all things were created. What Christ displayed on earth leading up to the work of the cross was the way of the cross. He displayed the relationship of the Godhead, which is one of laying down one’s life. The way of the cross expresses the nature of Christ which is always laying down His life for His Father.
In the way of the cross, Jesus chose to leave everything He knew and all He had in heaven like His Father, His glory, his High place, His comfort, and He emptied Himself, becoming a bond-servant in the likeness of man. The Cross pierced time and space so we could know the Father and be brought into the relationship. Jesus was indwelt by his Father – remember, all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell in Christ. While Jesus was here, He made a choice to constrain Himself to do only His Father’s will and not His own. Jesus could not say or do anything except only what the Father was telling Him to say and do. What a constraint to the human flesh. Jesus was showing what it looks like to live by the life another person, because we would, one day real soon, as the ecclesia, be indwelt by Christ and given a choice.
Jesus also poured Himself into His disciples, imparting and displaying to them a relationship of laying down one’s life for another. His will was tested at every point – whose will would He choose, His own or the Father’s? Even when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He denied Himself and all that Satan was offering, for He knew His Father’s will. Jesus felt tired, hungry, rejected at every turn, and humiliated repeatedly because He chose to lay down His life for the Father’s will to be known. In the garden we see a beautiful scene, Jesus forsaking His will for His Father’s. We read how agonizing this was for Him, that He was sweating blood. He even says, “Not my will but yours be done.” All of us who believe are very thankful and benefited that Christ decided to lay down what He wanted for what the Father wanted. We, as the old Adam, have no part in the work of the cross but only to accept by faith all that it destroyed and created anew for those who believe.
For the new man, the way of the cross is the power needed to express the very nature of Christ. You will never be able to express Christ’s identity without the way of the cross. You can do nothing apart from Christ and His cross. Jesus tells us this Himself. He couldn’t either, so why do we think we can? If we think we can, then that sounds like another life that got us into trouble before. Do not fall into deception.
Applying Christ’s Identity
So what does the way of the cross look like for the New Man? To lay down one’s own life looks like losing, denying the rights to your life. Your life is no longer yours to do what you want. To lose or deny your life means to lose your soul-life. Your soul-life consists of your will, your mind, and your emotions. You lay down and deny your will, the way you think things should go or be. You lay down and deny your mind, which are your thoughts and understanding of things, people, and circumstances. You lay down and deny your emotions, how you feel about things and people. You lay these down not be void of them, but so you can make room for another life. For the new man there is a completely other person living within his rib cage now. This other person is Christ Himself, and He has his own will, mind and emotions. The way of the cross is to lay down my life which consists of my will, my thoughts and understanding of things, along with my emotions, to give way to this other person living in and through me. By this, our soul – our mind, will, and emotions – are transformed more and more into the image of Christ. This becomes very practical in the life of the New Man, and it is a daily thing to lay down my soul-life so that I can live by another life, Christ’s life.
We have a choice: He never makes us lay down our will, mind, and emotions. We freely choose just as He freely chose. Do not be deceived. Remember, the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, transformed, it is the power of God. Every time we lay down our soul-life for Christ’s life we are being saved – aka our soul is being transformed from our image to the expression and image of Christ. Oh, our souls long and groan for this transformation which will only come by the way of the cross. We have a Lord who longs to share His identity, which includes His sufferings, with us. He shares His identity by the way of the Cross. Let us be a people of the Cross. Let us embrace His complete identity.