Our Cross

The pattern of Christian sanctification is connected to the experience of the cross – namely, our spiritual life is connected to suffering and weakness.

There are many who view sanctification as primarily a matter of human exertion. It is very natural for us to want to sanctify ourselves – to cultivate a sense of spiritual independence and self-sufficiency so that we can be in control of our spiritual lives. We are tempted to glorify the life of the victorious, virtuous person because it appears that he has mastered sanctification. However, this is not the picture of sanctification given by the Apostles or the experience of Christians throughout the ages.

 

As Christians who have fixed our hope on the appearing of our Lord Jesus, we have been called to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. Thus, the call of discipleship is a central theme of the Christian life and this calling is intimately connected to our sanctification. Jesus Himself gives an important prerequisite for anyone who claims to be His disciple.

“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

and again:

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:27

These passages do not mean that we have to suffer as Jesus did, nor does it mean that our cross-bearing is meritorious. However, it does mean that the pattern of Christian sanctification is connected to the experience of the cross – namely, our spiritual life is connected to suffering and weakness. As the Baptist Catechism states, “Sanctification is a work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of Christ. However, the manner in which God ordinarily renews and sanctifies believers is through the way of the cross.”

There are many who view sanctification as primarily a matter of human exertion. It is very natural for us to want to sanctify ourselves – to cultivate a sense of spiritual independence and self-sufficiency so that we can be in control of our spiritual lives. We are tempted to glorify the life of the victorious, virtuous person because it appears that he has mastered sanctification. However, this is not the picture of sanctification given by the Apostles or the experience of Christians throughout the ages. The reality is that our lives are marred with various weaknesses, sins, and frailty. When we realize our true spiritual condition (even on our best days), then we cling to the cross, trusting Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. As the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, on the cross, Christ carried not only our transgressions and our iniquities, but also our infirmities and our sorrows (cf. Isaiah 53:4). This is not an argument for a form of quietism, but it is an argument against any form of self-made religion that seeks to achieve spiritual self-sufficiency (cf. Colossians 2:23). This attitude must be broken so that we awaken to our need and put our trust in Christ to save us rather than in ourselves. In the Gospel and at the cross, our natural sense of independence is replaced by deep sense of dependence on the Lord for His grace.

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