Both Payment and Pattern

By Francis Frangipane

It should be noted that most Christians understand the significance of Christ's crucifixion, and are bowed in thankful reverence toward it. Here, at the foot of the cross, our need meets God's provision. We find forgiveness, redemption and healing. These are well-known, established truths of the gospel. They are proclaimed and re-enacted for us in an variety of expressions, rituals, and celebrations. With trembling awe we gaze at the Lord of life dying on the cross; we are captured by God's grace.

But Jesus' cross was not only the payment for mankind's sins; it was also the pattern for His disciples' lives. If we would walk in His footsteps, we must ascend beyond the foot of the cross; we must see ourselves nailed with Jesus to the redemptive purpose of God, for we are called to extend heaven's love into our times and needs.
We cannot allow so little a thing as our old nature, with its fears and inherent selfishness, to thwart the will of God. Thus, to reach the full extent of the Father's plan, the cross not only provides forgiveness of sin; it supplies deliverance from self, which is the source of sin.

Oh, how we beg for the security of knowing our debt is paid without accepting the responsibility and commitment that stops "running up the bill!" The cross cuts off sin at its source: the old nature. It crucifies the old life, granting access to Christ to re-enter this world through us.

Too many Christians want forgiveness without deliverance.

Baptized Into Death

We wonder why Christianity does not seem to work as we expected. The source of our impotency is in our reluctance to crucify our former manner of life. Because we coddle our fears instead of crucifying them, and pamper our pride instead of punishing it, we are held hostage to a superficial and powerless version of Christianity. Christ has but one central plan for the old nature: it must be crucified. God wants the old self dead.

One might argue, "But this is a deeper truth, something for the more mature Christian." A fine argument if it were not so deceptive! How can a Christian ever become mature without the cross? No. This is a most basic truth. If you deny this reality, you are offering a false religion to the one you are trying to help. Even before a new believer is baptized, death to the old self should be presented as fundamental to God's salvation plan. This priority is consistent with the Scriptures. Paul wrote,"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (Rom 6:3)

God does not want to reform the old self, He wants to remove it and replace it with Christ. Let me be ever so clear: The Spirit of Christ that enters you is not a different Jesus than He who rules the universe. You did not receive a religion about Jesus, but the actual Person of Jesus. The sooner we accept this goal of our transformation, the sooner we will appreciate the work of the cross, and the quicker we can proceed with our destiny.

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom 6:4-7).

Here is the power of the cross: God does not just forgive us there, He puts an end to the rule of self, which is the source of sin. He makes His truth plain: He who has died is freed from sin.

How frustrated many sincere Christians are as they try to keep the old nature from sinning. According to God's word, only death can stop the old self from sin, for the old nature is sin itself.

Both the death of the old self and the identification with Christ as our life are eternal realities. As such, they must be worked into us during the processes of time and obedience. But, they are completed provisions. Like a medicine taken once in the morning that is time-released throughout the day, our salvation is an event from which we draw continually, so Christ may ever increase throughout our lives.

"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3). We have died. Past tense. The death of our old self is an eternal fact accomplished once for all with Christ at Calvary: "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died" (2 Cor 5:14).

Time and eternity meet at the cross. It is here where the old self, born in the limitations of man's world and sin, dies; it is here that the eternal life which God prepared beforehand manifests itself and lives.

Here also God transforms theology into reality. Doctrines about dying to self and living to God are no longer just "memory verses"; and the dogma of resurrection is no longer postponed to the end of the age, but accessed now in fellowship with Christ.

Religion Or Relationship?
Without the cross we are trapped inside an old nature that is pretending to be new. We put on a religious show, an occasional flurry of guilt-motivated activity that endures as long as a typical New Year's resolution. Inwardly, our character has not changed.

You see, as long as we allow our old nature to live, it will at best become religious, but never truly repentant. It will be pious, but powerless to express true virtue. It will never truly grasp that the goal of God's will is not just regular church attendance, but conformity to Christ.

Unless the soul aggressively embraces the cross and God's plan of Christlikeness for the believer, the old nature will always illegally position itself as the possessor of the promises of God. Instead of receiving the Holy Spirit, the only spirits that are compatible with the old nature are vile, religious demons, which leave the soul weak, self-condemned and doubting.

Each month Christian workers spend thousands of hours counseling people who do not need advice, but crucifixion.

You cannot "cast out" a religious spirit without crucifying the old nature first. The union of our flesh nature and the corresponding manipulation of demonic activity can only be countered by the power of Christ and the cross.

Thus, true salvation will always embody expressions of both life and death: Christ brings life to the spirit while the cross brings death to the flesh nature. Without both of these dynamics, every other form of Christianity is, in varying degrees, counterfeit.

Without the alliance of both the cross and Christ dwelling within us, we never leave the treadmill of religious futility. For religious spirits easily manipulate our flesh, making us legalistic or licentious, ritualistic or political. The only version of Christianity that truly works is that which crucifies the flesh and brings the actual substance of Christ into the soul. As Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. . ." (Gal 2:20a).

This is God's will for each of us: In the place where self once ruled, Christ now reigns. To serve God's highest purpose, therefore, the cross must become to us both the payment for our sins and the pattern of our lives.