“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:17-20)
Christian marriage does not work on auto-pilot. A Christian husband and a Christian wife, does not guarantee a Christ-centered relationship. We must be intentional. We must be friends of the cross. The Cross requires an internal command that can only come from me; can only come from you. I have often prayed this simple prayer: “Adam die; Jesus live.” In a sense, Jesus prayed similarly in Gethsemane: “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Jesus die; Father live.)
I love the depth of expression from author Alicia Britt Chole in her book 40 Days of Decrease. “Cross-talk can be rather confusing. On the one hand we are told that Jesus endured the cross so we would not have to, and to the extent that ‘the cross’ means the ‘place of redemptive sacrifice,’ that is correct. Jesus died in our place to reconcile us to God. On the other hand, Jesus Himself told us to ‘take up our cross daily’, therefore, when we define the cross as ‘self-denial’, the fact that Jesus went through it does not mean that we get to go around it.”
The dual meaning is a glorious one: the path to life after death, as well as to crucifixion during life.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:14 NKJV) Clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. (NLT) A Christ-centered, God glorifying marriage, is available for every husband and wife that carries the inner resolve to be transformed into the image of Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) I often wondered, if we HAVE BEEN crucified, why is there so much of the old self still alive? But the verb tense here gives us greater insight. It’s the “perfect” tense in the Greek. It refers to something that has happened in the past but whose influence continues into the present. For example, I was married in 1981. That was the event; but it’s the event that is also a present calling in my life.
“Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1- 2) A living sacrifice is one that burns on the altar but is not consumed. It can be offered again.
“And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.'” (Exodus 3: 2 – 4) The living sacrifice caught his eye. It was a bush that was burning, that was still a bush. In the end, it wasn’t a black, charred remnant of a bush. So consider the process, when you invite God, who is “consuming fire”, to live permanently on the inside of you. You become the living sacrifice, potentially on a daily basis. This is the essence of “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” This is the crucified life. This is embracing the Cross. You don’t stop being a person anymore than the bush stopped being a bush.
This is where the voice of God is clearly heard; from within this fire. It’s where God called to Moses. It’s where God will speak to you.
Jesus gives us a definition of true community, which I believe is also a major key to marital unity. “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ But he answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.'” (Luke 8:19-21) A deep and enduring friendship, essential for a strong marriage, is solidified as each spouse embraces the “hear and do.”
Naturally, we have a conflict: we were born in Adam… born again in Christ. We have a carnal DNA, and a godly DNA. We have the potential to exhibit both natures. We are pulled in two directions, every day. “A man’s harvest in life will depend entirely on what he sows. If he sows for his own lower nature his harvest will be the decay and death of his own nature. But if he sows for the Spirit he will reap the harvest of everlasting life by that Spirit.” (Gal. 6:8 Phillips) Simple math here: whoever you feed the most will grow the most. The Cross is the place of power that will determine the outcome.
Friends of the cross, sow to the Spirit. Friends of the cross, embrace the lifestyle of being a living sacrifice. Friends of the cross, hear and do.
Calvary’s hill is the means of ascension to the lowest place. A marriage anchored here, partaking of the humility of Christ, will enjoy the fruits of a deep and enduring friendship.
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