Meaning of the Cross
III. The Cross and the Lust of the Flesh
Excerpt: The difference in method is that of a factory and a Garden. The flesh works; fruit grows. A factory works entirely in the realm of death; a Garden lies entirely in the realm of life. Man's work is always in dead stuff. It must die before he can use it. Fruit is God's work; not man's. Fruit comes from life, and all life is of God. Man's part in it is cultivation; but in works it is manufacture. The works of death have in them the elements of destruction. The fruits of life have in them the propagation of life. Painted fruits fade upon the canvas; living fruit brings forth after its kind. Factories are noisy places of contrivance, enterprise, and energy. Gardens are silent places of cultivation, spontaneity, and effortless production of fruit and beauty. God does not run a factory. He keeps a garden."
III. The Cross and the Lust of the Flesh
Crucifixion is an end and a beginning. The Cross completed Christ's earthly ministry of sacrifice, but it led to the Heavenly ministry of Intercession. The two are one. The Cross did not break the continuity of the redeeming purpose. He is the same in Heaven as on Earth. The same Jesus, impelled by the same motive, seeking the same end. He died for our sins, and He lives to save us from our sins. There is no cross in Heaven, but "we have an altar." Sacrifice is eternal. The Cross is the supreme manifestation in a sinful world of that which is eternally central in the heavenly order. The Bleeding Lamb is central, in the midst of the Throne, in the midst of the Redeemed, in the midst of Creation. Salvation does not come through assent of an isolated act, but by the living faith which accepts the cross as a revelation and stakes all upon its sufficiency for salvation. Christ is able to save to the uttermost, not by the fact of His death, but by the power of His endless life. The Cross must not be detached from the eternal Priesthood. Neither must it be regarded as an external fact, that saves regardless of personal identification. Salvation is entirely of grace. It is not by any word of righteousness; but it is by faith, and the faith, that saves, works.
The Crucified Must Crucify
The exultant declaration of having been crucified with Christ seemed to be final and complete. "I have been crucified—Christ lives in me," seems to leave nothing unfinished. It is surely a definite, complete and final act of saving grace. So it seems, but the apostle who said it, says also in the same epistle: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (Gal. V. 24). Crucifixion passes from the ego of personality to the carnality of nature; from "I" to "flesh." The passing involves remarkable changes from passive to active, from vicarious to personal, from an act of faith to an activity of discipline.
There is a crucifixion with the crucified; a crucifixion within the regenerate. The passage is unique, in that it distinguishes the personal and experimental from the vicarious and historic. This is a crucifixion which the believer has to secure within himself. It is not done for him; he has to do it himself and for himself. He has to keep on doing it. His crucifixion with Christ is an act of faith that leads to a maintained activity of faith. The life of faith lived in the flesh must crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.
The word "flesh" cannot mean the same in the two passages, and if Paul had known he was writing Holy Scripture he would certainly have explained the difference. There is nothing wrong with the flesh in which we have to live. Human nature is not in itself sinful. The body has not to be crucified. The reference is "to the body of sin." Paul uses the word, "flesh" for the inward principle of evil that is opposed to "spirit," and is the instrument of sin. There are lusts that pull toward evil; an affection that longs for indulgence. They may be inherited, and they may have been cultivated. They survive regeneration which is a re-birth of personality and by grace they have to be crucified that New Life may be maintained and perfected.
The Cross and Carnality
The "old man" must die, that the "new man" may live. The "body of sin'' must be done away, that the body may become the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The Cross condemns sin in the flesh. Sin must not reign in our mortal bodies. It must not remain. The word of grace leaves no place for it. When Christ is put on, there remains no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its affections and lusts (Romans XIII. 14). Crucifixion is not death, but it is unto death, and there must be no slackening of discipline until it is accomplished. This enemy must be given no drink, however feverish its thirst; it must not be fed, however earnestly it pleads. The crucifier must reckon on an accomplished crucifixion. I have been crucified with Christ, therefore the flesh with its affections and lusts must be crucified. There comes a point at which the "affections" cease and the "lusts" die. The time may be a conscious crisis such as the Hymns on entire sanctification describe or the occasion may be without a definite consciousness, but to the crucified Christ. The carnal mind and inbred sin must go. Even then lust may revive if the life of the Spirit declines. As the nature is sanctified through faith, so the sanctified state must be maintained by the obedience of faith. In the old Hymn Book there was a Hymn with these verses:
Bound on the altar of Thy cross,
One old offending nature lies;
Now, for the honor of Thy cause,
Come, and consume the sacrifice.
Consume our lusts as rotten wood.
Consume our stony hearts within!
Consume the dust, the serpents' food,
And dry up all the streams of sin.
Its body totally destroy.
Thyself, the Lord, the God, approve.
And fill our hearts with holy joy,
And fervent zeal, and perfect love.
The Hymn was not counted worthy of a place in the New Hymn Book. Perhaps its realism was too vivid, but more probably because the intensity no longer represents one experience of the people who were raised up of God, "to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land."
The Factory and the Garden
The crucifixion of self with Christ introduces a new principle and a new method. The works of the flesh are put in contrast with the fruit of the spirit. "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit, for to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His." (Romans VIII. 5-9.) That is the new principle of life. "No longer I, but Christ llveth in me."
The difference in method is that of a factory and a Garden. The flesh works; fruit grows. A factory works entirely in the realm of death; a Garden lies entirely in the realm of life. Man's work is always in dead stuff. It must die before he can use it. Fruit is God's work; not man's. Fruit comes from life, and all life is of God. Man's part in it is cultivation; but in works it is manufacture. The works of death have in them the elements of destruction. The fruits of life have in them the propagation of life. Painted fruits fade upon the canvas; living fruit brings forth after its kind. Factories are noisy places of contrivance, enterprise, and energy. Gardens are silent places of cultivation, spontaneity, and effortless production of fruit and beauty. God does not run a factory. He keeps a garden. "The works of the flesh are manifest—the fruit of the spirit is love.'' Lusts kill fruit. The fruit of the spirit cannot mature where the works of the flesh abound. They are mutually exclusive. If one lives, the other dies. That is why the crucified with Christ must crucify the flesh. As the flesh is crucified, the fruit of the Spirit abounds. Dead lusts nourish living fruit. They manure the garden of the soul.
The Cross in Practical Life
In such a life there is no vain-glorying, no provocativeness, no annoying. The Cross makes peace in the soul and in the life. From Caesarea Philippi Calvary our Lord applied the principles of the Cross in discipleship and in fellowship, in the home and in business, in sovereignty and in service. It was central in the supper at Bethany and at the supper in the Upper Room. All life was interpreted by the Cross; and it is at the Cross all life must be judged. No one can be His Disciple who refuses the cross. If we have not His spirit we cannot be His. To be a Christian is no pastime luxury. It is a serious undertaking, in which life is to be disciplined in sacrifice. It begins in self-renunciation and is maintained by self-crucifixion. Affections and lusts of the flesh must be mortified. Does that seem hard and stern? It is redeemed from anxiety and bitterness in the fact of an indwelling Presence. "Christ liveth in me." Fruit does not grow by toiling, only by abiding. "He that abideth in me and I in Him, the same beareth much fruit" After all, that is the conclusion of the whole matter.