24. Like Christ: Being Made Conformable To His Death.
"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings being made conformable to His death."óPhil. 3:10.
We know that the death of Christ was the death of the cross. We know that that death of the cross is His chief glory. Without that death He would not be the Christ. The distinguishing characteristic, the one mark by which He is separated here in earth and in heaven, from all other persons, both in the Divine Being and in Godís universe, is this one: He is the Crucified Son of God. Of all the articles of conformity, this must necessarily be the chief and most glorious oneóconformity to His death.
This is what made it so attractive to Paul. What were Christís glory and blessedness must be his glory too: he knows that the most intimate likeness to Christ is conformity to His death. What that death had been to Christ it would be to him as he grew conformed to it.
Christís death on the cross had been the end of sin. During His life it could tempt Him: when He died on the cross, He died to sin; it could no more reach Him. Conformity to Christís death is the power to keep us from the power of sin. As I by the grace of the Holy Spirit am kept in my position as crucified with Christ, and live out my crucifixion life as the Crucified One lives it in me, I am kept from sinning.
Christís death on the cross was to the Father a sweet-smelling sacrifice, infinitely pleasing. Oh, if I want to dwell in the favour and love of the Father, and be His delight, I am sure there is nothing gives such deep and perfect access to it as being conformable to Christís death. There is nothing in the universe to the Father so beautiful, so holy, so heavenly, so wonderful as this sight, the Crucified Jesus. And the closer I can get to Him, and the liker, the more conformed to His death I can become, the more surely shall I enter into the very bosom of His love.
Christís death on the cross was the entrance to the power of the resurrection life, the unchanging life of eternity. In our spiritual life we often have to mourn the breaks, and failures, and intervals that prove to us that there is still something wanting that prevents the resurrection life asserting its full power. The secret is here: there is still some subtle self-life that has not yet been brought into the perfect conformity of Christís death. We can be sure of it, nothing is needed but a fuller entrance into the fellowship of the cross to make us to the full partakers of the resurrection joy.
Above all, it was Christís death on the cross that made Him the life of the world, gave Him the power to bless and to save (John 12:24, 25). In the conformity to Christís death there is an end of self: we give up ourselves to live and die for others: we are full of the faith that our surrender of ourselves to bear the sin of others is accepted of the Father. Out of this death we rise, with the power to love and to bless.
And now, what is this conformity to the death of the cross that brings such blessings, and wherein does it consist? We see it in Jesus. The cross means entire self-abnegation. The cross means the death of self,óthe utter surrender of our own will and our life to be lost in the will of God, to let Godís will do with us what it pleases. This was what the cross meant to Jesus. It cost Him a terrible struggle before He could give Himself up to it. When He was sore amazed and very heavy, and His soul exceeding sorrowful unto death, it was because His whole being shrank back from that cross and its curse. Three times he had to pray before He could fully say, "yet not my will, but Thine be done." But He did say it. And His giving Himself up to the cross is to say: Let me do anything, rather than that Godís will should not be done. I give up everything, only Godís will must be done.
And this is being made conformable to Christís death, that we so give away ourselves and our whole life, with its power of willing and acting, to God, that we learn to be and work, and do nothing but what God reveals to us as His will. And such a life is called conformity to the death of Christ, not only because it is somewhat similar to His, but because it is Himself by His Holy Spirit just repeating and acting over again in us the life that animated Him in His crucifixion. Were it not for this, the very thought of such conformity would be akin to blasphemy.
But now it is not so. In the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of the Crucified Jesus, the believer knows that the blessed resurrection life has its power and its glory from its being a crucifixion life, begotten from the cross. He yields himself to it, he believes that it has possession of him. Realizing that he himself has not the power to think or do anything that is good or holy: nay, that the power of the flesh asserts itself and defiles everything that is in him, he yields and holds every power of his being as far as his disposal of them goes in the place of crucifixion and condemnation. And so he yields and holds every power of his being, every faculty of body, soul, and spirit, at the disposal of Jesus. The distrust and denial of self in everything, the trust of Jesus in everything, mark his life. The very spirit of the cross breathes through his whole being.
And so far is it from being, as might appear, a matter of painful strain and weary effort thus to maintain the crucifixion position, to one who knows Christ in the power of His resurrectionófor Paul puts this firstóand so is made conformed to His death, it is rest and strength and victory. Because it is not the dead cross, not selfís self-denial, not a work in his own strength, that he has to do with, but the living Jesus, in whom the crucifixion is an accomplished thing, already passed into the life of resurrection. "I have been crucified with Christ: Christ liveth in me;" this it is that gives the courage and the desire for an ever-growing, ever deeper entrance into most perfect conformity with His death.
And how is this blessed conformity to be attained? Paul will give us the answer. "What things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord, that I may know Him, being made conformed to His death." The pearl is of great price; but oh I it is worth the purchase. Let us give up all, yes, all, to be admitted by Jesus to a place with Him on the cross
And if it appear hard to give up all, and then as our reward only have a whole lifetime on the cross, oh let us listen again to Paul as he tells us what made him so willingly give up all, and so intently choose the cross. It was JesusóChrist Jesus, my Lord. The cross was the place where he could get into fullest union with his Lord. To know Him, to win Him, to be found in Him, to be made like to Himóthis was the burning passion that made it easy to cast away all, that gave the cross such mighty attractive power. Anything to come nearer to Jesus. All for Jesus, was his motto. It contains the twofold answer to the question, How to attain this conformity to Christís death? The one is, Cast out all. The other, And let Jesus come in. ALL for JESUS.
Yes, it is only knowing Jesus that can make the conformity to His death at all possible. But let the soul win Him, and be found in Him, and know Him in the power of the resurrection, and it becomes more than possible, a blessed reality. Therefore, beloved follower of Jesus, look to Him, look to Him, the Crucified One. Gaze on Him until thy soul has learnt to say: O my Lord, I must be like Thee. Gaze until thou hast seen how He Himself, the Crucified One, in His ever present omnipotence, draws nigh to live in thee and breathe through thy being His crucifixion life. It was through the Eternal Spirit that He offered Himself unto God; that Spirit brings and imparts all that that death on the cross is, and means, and effected, to thee as thy life. By that Holy Spirit Jesus Himself maintains in each soul, who can trust Him for it, the power of the cross as an abiding death to sin and self, and a never-ceasing source of resurrection life and power. Therefore, once again, look to Him, the Living Crucified Jesus.
But remember, above all, that while thou hast to seek the best and the highest with all thy might, the full blessing comes not as the fruit of thy efforts, but unsought, a free gift to whom it is given from above. It is as it pleases the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself, that we are made conformable to His death. Therefore, seek and get it FROM HIMSELF.
O Lord, such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain to it. To know Thee in the power of Thy resurrection, and to be made conformable to Thy death: these are of the things which are hid from the wise and prudent, and are revealed unto babes, unto those elect souls alone to whom it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom.
O my Lord! I see more than ever what utter folly it is to think of likeness to Thee as an attainment through my effort. I cast myself on Thy mercy: look upon me according to the greatness of Thy loving-kindness; and of Thy free favour reveal Thyself to me. If Thou wilt be pleased to come forth from Thy heavenly dwelling-place, and to draw nigh to me, and to prepare me, and take me up into the full fellowship of Thy life and death, O my Lord, then will I live and die for Thee, and the souls Thou hast died to save.
Blessed Saviour! I know Thou art willing. Thy love to each of Thy redeemed ones is infinite. O teach me, draw me to give up all for Thee, and take eternal possession of me for Thyself. And oh! let some measure of conformity to Thy death, in its self-sacrifice for the perishing, be the mark of my life. Amen.