I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…
Oswald Chambers’ devotional today (Nov. 29) addressed a common concern for each generation, when he wrote that the pietism of his day lacks the “rugged reality” of the New Testament –
…there is nothing about them that needs the Death of Jesus Christ; all that is required is a pious atmosphere, and prayer and devotion. This type of experience is not supernatural nor miraculous, it did not cost the passion of God, it is not dyed in the blood of the Lamb, not stamped with the hall-mark of the Holy Ghost; it has not that mark on it which makes men say, as they look with awe and wonder – “That is the work of God Almighty.” That and nothing else is what the New Testament talks about.
We could say the same thing today about much of our Christianity, that it tries to set the mood for devotion, emphasizes appearances and feelings, but it lacks the power of the cross.
It is instructive that Paul wrote about the power of the resurrection first, for our new life is by grace. We are recipients of His grace before we understand the crucified life. To live the crucified life is not the requirement for salvation – only repentance and faith in Christ is needed – but it is the command of Christ for His followers. Many languish in immaturity, where all they know or want is Christian entertainment, and they will only go forward in their growth as they embrace the cross in their own life.
We want the crown without the cross, but the cross always comes before the crown. We are crucified with Christ before we can say, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). If we want to share daily in His life, we must share daily in His sufferings. There are two aspects of this – inward and outward. The inward is the prayer of the heart of commitment to God, the mortification of the flesh or the crucifixion of the old man – to die daily to sin and self. The second is to live out this death in practical ways, to take up one’s cross in the public square and to follow Him where He leads. It is to associate with the rejected, to love the unlovely, to endure difficulty without complaint, to undergo rejection without whining, to experience injustice without becoming cruel ourselves, to reach out in compassion to those who require much of our energies, to go where it is difficult, to be where it is hard, to forgive the offender and never breathe a word about it, and to do it all for the sake of Christ.
We need both the inner and the outer commitment. Pray within your heart, reach out to God in faith and commitment, die to self, die to sin, die to unholy thoughts, die to greed and hatred and revenge, give in to forgiveness, release your heart into the hands of Christ. But then, when you get off your knees, look for how this can be lived out in your life. Where are you called to join in the fellowship of His sufferings?