by Paul Benson
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 1Peter 2:21
In this modern age, when apostasy is so increasingly evident among what calls itself the ‘Christian Church’, I think it wise we would each ask ourselves some pertinent questions: Am I myself truly following in the footsteps of Christ? Am I walking out my life of faith in God in a manner that jives with the true teachings of Jesus and his Apostles? Or am I merely following a pathway of delusion proscribed for me by the mindset of a backslid Christian religion; a path filled with excuses for my every sin, neglect, and compromise?
Following Jesus Christ
In my own efforts to define some standard of a true biblical walk of faith my thoughts often return to a message I heard years ago by Zac Poonen titled: ‘The Way oF the Cross’. (I will include a link to that message at the end of this article.) I doubt we could ever come up with a verbal description to more aptly title the true path we are called to follow as believers: The Way of the Cross! For to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, in the hopes of arriving at the same destination he did, is most assuredly the way of his Cross.
The preaching of our day is filled with such a ‘Jesus suffered for us so we don’t have to suffer’ mentality that you would think a successful Christian life ought to be nothing but a bed of roses. And thank God he did suffer for us upon that Cross, for without that sacrifice there would be no salvation. And no one is suggesting we are called to in any way, shape, or form atone for our sins by our own suffering. But should we buy into that notion that because Jesus suffered for us that means we should not expect some suffering of our own? What do the Scriptures have to say about this issue?
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Philippians 1:29
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 2Timothy 2:11
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 2Thessalonians 1:5
Contrary to the preaching of the pacifiers in today’s pulpits the Scriptures clearly present suffering on behalf of Christ as a very real part of true Christianity. Much of this suffering will come in the form of persecution (if you live a life that exemplifies Christ that is); but for one who truly follows in the steps of Jesus a great share of this excruciation will actually be self-imposed. True Christianity involves a very cruel treatment of oneself!
I am not talking of the whipping or cutting inflicted by the perverseness of flagellation practiced in some dark monastery. I am referring to a topic which was once a mainstay of Gospel preaching, but now days is nearly taboo: the sacrifice of self upon the altar of devotion to God. The laying down of your life, and the disregarding of your own dreams, desires, and aspirations, to give yourself altogether to the will of the Father.
Laying Down Our Lives
Although most modern Gospel preaching centers around the prosperity and preservation of self, this is not the Gospel of Christ, nor the one lived and taught by his apostles. Most believers of this generation could easily quote John 3:16, but how many of us could quote 1John 3:16 (or would even want to)?
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1John 3:16
I think we all pretty much have a sense that our faith-walk may involve some sacrifice on occasion for the benefit of God or others, but where do we get off treating this notion like it is some kind of an option we can engage in (or disregard) as convenience allows? Does the Bible present a laid down life as an option? And if not, then we must once again raise some questions here: Is MY life laid down in the manner it ought to be?
Am I really a believer; or possibly just a make-believer?
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
So little preaching is done today on the necessity of identifying with Christ’s death so we might partake of his Resurrection! I wonder how many of us really have a decent comprehension of what Jesus meant when he called his followers to daily take up their cross? Do we grasp the truth that taking up one’s cross was a precursor to one’s crucifixion? Do we understand that this was a reference to a self-imposed death sentence?
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Romans 6:5
The word ‘if’ can be such an enormous word at times in terms of implication. And all too often we tend to ignore the implied ‘if not’ that little word normally presents. Do we give any consideration to the implied ‘if not’ in this Scripture? Wouldn’t that implication read as follows; if we have NOT been planted in the likeness of his death we will NOT be in the likeness of his resurrection? If you think I am being a little too elastic with the Scriptures here I’m sorry, but this implication is clearly born out in the teachings of Christ.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. John 12:24-25
Getting Beyond Dead Faith
Those who think consecration and self-denial are an optional facet of the Christian’s journey have swallowed a false Gospel spawned in the pits of Hell. But Paul, you say, aren’t you preaching works here? Thanks for asking; and my answer is: YES I AM preaching works. We could never pay the price for sin. Only the Blood of Christ could accomplish that; but if you think there are no works associated with salvation you are quite deceived.
The Bible says faith without works is dead (James 2:20); and a dead faith will never save a soul. The sacrifice of God’s Son paid the penalty for sin, and opened up onto us the way to eternal life, but if you think the path of life will lead you to God’s eternal Kingdom without you actually getting ON that path (and walking it in the manner God has ordained) you are liable to end up being one of the tragic cases of someone who expects salvation but is turned away by Christ with the words, “I never knew you!”
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. John 12:26
We will never experience the fulfilment of our identification with the resurrection of Christ without a personal identification with his death. The Christian walk is more than simply believing in Jesus. It is a journey from this temporal world to an eternal one. The footsteps of Jesus Christ lead the way. He took up his Cross and it led to the death of himself. But that death led to a Resurrection and an eternal glory. Laying down your life, and taking up your Cross, will lead to the death of your self-life also (and possibly even your physical life). But praise God! It is the path to your resurrection and eternal glory too!
I hope you have found the way of the Cross, and are following the footsteps of our LORD. No other path leads to eternal life!
The backslid modern pulpit is not likely to confront you with this truth, nor with a call to repent, turn from your sin, and embrace a life of service to the will of God; but it is truly the Gospel lived and taught by the apostles of our LORD. They knew and preached this path; and it led them to their desired haven. It will do the same for all who heed their words today.
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. 1Peter 4:19
May the LORD lead us all to the true path of life;
Here is a link to the message by Zac Poonen I spoke of in this article. I think you will find it very edifying and Christ exalting.
The Way of the Cross by Zac Poonen
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