Life-Study of Markby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 8:34 the Lord Jesus says, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” In the foregoing message we pointed out that to come after the Lord is to gain Him, experience Him, enjoy Him, and partake of Him. If we would come after the Lord in this way, we need to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Let us now consider what it means for us to take up our cross.
Many Christians have a misunderstanding concerning the cross. They think that to take up the cross is to suffer hardship. This was my concept more than forty years ago. I told others that the difficulties in their environment were a cross to them. For example, if your husband or wife is troubling you, that is a cross. But when the Lord Jesus speaks of taking up the cross, He does not mean this. He means that we should apply the cross to our living. The real significance of the cross is not suffering—it is termination. In ancient times, crucifixion was not used merely to cause suffering; it was meant to cause death. Crucifixion, therefore, equals death, termination.
For us to take up the cross is for us to be terminated. I wish to emphasize the fact that the cross is for termination, not for suffering. Sometimes believers are not helped by suffering. I have known certain persons who suffered a great deal with the result that they became strongly self-willed. The more a person suffers in himself, the more his self-will is strengthened. Those who have passed through hardships in life and have become strong in their will are extremely difficult to touch. Eventually, when such a person reaches the age of sixty or seventy, he may have become so strong in his will that he cannot be changed.
The concept that the cross is a matter of suffering is contrary to the revelation of the Lord’s word in 8:34. In this verse He says, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Here the Lord speaks of denying the self. To deny the self is to give it up; it is not to keep the self so that it may suffer.
Taking up the cross is not a matter of suffering. Instead, it is a matter of applying to our life what Christ has done on the cross to terminate us. Therefore, to take up the cross is to apply this termination to ourselves. Day by day we need to apply such a termination. If we do this, we shall realize not that we are suffering, but that we are terminated, finished, put to an end.
Suppose a brother says, “I thank God that, in His sovereignty, He has given me a wife who causes me to suffer and bear the cross. My wife is a cross given to me by God, and now I must bear this cross.” This is a serious misunderstanding of what it means to bear the cross. In fact, this understanding is related to that found in Catholicism. To some extent at least, this misunderstanding of the cross has been promoted by a famous book entitled The Imitation of Christ.
A married brother does not need to learn how to suffer. Rather, he needs to realize that, as a husband, he has already been terminated in Christ and that now he should live as a terminated husband, simply enjoying Christ’s termination. Then he may say to his wife, “Dear, I am not trying to be a good husband, to be a kind and gentle husband. I am here as a terminated husband. The more I am willing to experience Christ’s termination, the better I shall be as a husband, for then Christ will live in me. As He lives in me, He will be your husband through me.”
To come after the Lord is to partake of Him, enjoy Him, experience Him, and let Him become our very being. In order to come after the Lord in this way, we need to deny ourselves. We need to apply to ourselves the termination Christ has accomplished on the cross. This means that to bear our cross is to apply Christ’s termination to ourselves. When we do this, we become a crossed-out person, not a suffering person. Then we can testify, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
Christ’s word concerning taking up the cross is a mystery. If we had only 8:34, we would not be able to understand Christ’s word about the cross. In order to understand this word properly, we need the fourteen Epistles of Paul.
The cross is not merely a suffering; it is also a killing. The cross kills and terminates the criminal. Christ first bore the cross and then was crucified. We, His believers, have first been crucified with Him and then bear the cross day by day. To us, bearing the cross is to remain under the killing of the death of Christ for the terminating of our self, our natural life, and our old man. In so doing we deny our self that we may follow the Lord.
Before the Lord’s crucifixion, the disciples followed Him in an outward way. But since His resurrection, we follow Him in an inward way. Because in resurrection He has become the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) dwelling in our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22), we follow Him in our spirit (Gal. 5:16-25).
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