I Die Daily – Part Two
By Fred Pruitt
The Three Aspects of the Cross
I think the best way to describe it is to use the three aspects of the Cross of Jesus. The Cross for me, the Cross in me, and the Cross by me for others. They are three distinct plateaus of understanding. In the first epistle of John the same thing is described as little children, young men and fathers. Childhood, adolescence and maturity. (It is not physical gender based, also.) And of course we are not really meaning that the “Cross,” as a piece of wood, did anything, but rather the ways of God that we see and experience through the Cross which Jesus bore and His subsequent Resurrection. All of that, including and especially the Resurrection, is what I am referring to as the “Cross life,” or intercessory life.
The first activity of the Cross toward us was our redemption. It was something Jesus did, exclusive to Him and unable to be repeated by anyone, as we noted when we spoke of Revelation immediately above.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We had no say in the matter because we were all at one time enemies (not in God’s eyes) because of the darkening of our minds by indwelling Sin due to the Fall. Everyone and everybody became suspect, especially God.
It was we who thought God was our enemy, not the other way around. From the moment of the Fall He spoke of the Redeemer to come in Genesis 3:15 – the Seed of the Woman, Who became the Blessing of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Who became the Kingdom of David that would have no end, Who appeared in the fullness of time in Jesus of Nazareth, Whom God made Christ and Lord.
But that Truth went through the years mostly hidden, while iniquity began to spread farther and wider in the earth. Therefore it has mostly been taught through the years that God (or in other cultures “the gods”) was angry with humanity, and had only punishment and retribution in mind for them.
Because so many have seen God this way throughout history, many saw the Cross as basically mollifying the Father and cooling His great Wrath, by His Son receiving the full brunt of the Father’s righteous wrath. In this picture of an angry God, rising even from Biblical scenes such as the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai where the people were terrified at the lightnings, thunderings, and fire, it looks as though Moses in that case, or Christ on the Cross, was barely holding back the Stirred-Up Anger of God Who wanted to rain down fire and destruction on the hapless humans below. (There are other examples of “God’s wrath” bringing destruction, etc., but we cannot look at all those here. For now let’s look at how Jesus presented The Father in parable.)
Jesus showed us a completely different picture in His Prodigal Son parable. There was no Father blind-mad with rage waiting for the time when he sees his wasteful son again, so he can pour out his wrath and vehemence toward him for his trespasses and wastes. Not hardly – this father had been waiting for his son’s return, looking for it. We know this because he saw him coming from a long way off. He didn’t even wait for his son to get to the house to say his piece. No, instead he was so filled with great joy and gladness, he ran to meet and embrace him on the road well before he reached their home. As the son started his rehearsed speech asking forgiveness of his father, the father ignored his offerings of penance and called for a robe and a ring for the son, signifying he was back fully in the family, and called for a feast with a fatted calf.
Our relationship with the Father as fallen sons of Adam is like that. It’s like human parents when their offspring reach adolescence. Suddenly, the teenager overnight thinks his parents are his enemy. His parents haven’t changed in their love and thinking of their child, but the child undergoes a process of growing up and learning his own independence, and often part of that process drives a wedge, hopefully temporary, between the parents and the child as the child slowly begins to become an adult. All the parents want is good for their child, but the child sees their “concern” as intrusive and their motives impure. There may be temporary anger in the parents over this and that deed or misdeed, attitudes, bad choices, etc., but most parents aren’t out for the destruction of their children, so inwardly they live out of their natural reservoir of parental love, waiting like the Father in the parable, to see them come back one day as themselves.
One of the main impediments to my initial coming to Christ when I was a young man was the concept of grace. I could not imagine that one did not have to “work and produce” to be accepted by God and at peace with Him. And when the Spirit finally broke all the way through to me on His eternally appointed Day, I finally saw grace, because I knew a miracle had occurred, one that I simply did not expect. A joy flooded over me for no apparent reason, joy that was completely unexpected, completely new and based on nothing “tangible,” and unable to be resisted! I kept saying to myself for weeks, “I was dead, and now I’m alive!” In one sense, nothing had changed. But in a real sense, EVERYTHING CHANGED! And it hasn’t changed back in 46 years!
All I knew in those early days was that Jesus had died on the Cross for me, and risen again for me. I knew absolutely nothing about the “deaths” we are speaking about here. I vaguely knew He had “come into” me, but really hadn’t a clue for some time what that meant. Even though He was in me, I still thought of Him and looked for Him as if He was not “in me,” but was somewhere apart from me, usually “above” me. It wasn’t wrong so much as it was just a baby understanding. Babies don’t even know their parents’ names, and they don’t care. They DO know mom and dad (ideally) are the providers and doers of everything as it concerns them, and (ideally) they feel loved, while every one of their material and emotional needs are met by mother and father. For a while they do absolutely nothing except receive. (They do have some output during this time, too, but nothing to keep for posterity.)
Early on our pastor did a teaching on Romans. He was a great teacher and preacher, so it was always a delight to listen to him. I distinctly remember when he got to chapter 6, and the verse that says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:3). That is the first time I remember encountering the concept of our “death” in Christ. Of course, by that time I had read Romans many times, but that “baptized into his death” concept had never registered before. When pastor moved to verse 11, I knew I did not understand what Paul was talking about. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (6:11). Although it was more than 40 years ago when I took that class, I still remember the difficulty I had understanding what it meant to “Reckon yourself dead to sin.” At that point in my life I didn’t seem to be “dead to sin.”
But by God’s design, the “dead to sin” question was put on hold for a few years, since it was not a subject being emphasized much at the time. We were deeply into “what we do to serve the Lord,” and in finding out techniques to “get the power” for ministry and miracles. Unknowingly, we had put the human self issue to the side, while we focused on activity. Understanding the workings of the human self in God is the key to almost everything, and until we see and know it, it should get top billing. But the church by and large has put that issue over to the side in a limbo-like “we don’t know what to do with it” state, while focusing on activity, politics, worldly issues, building programs, end-times, healing, reputation, and accumulation of wealth, etc.
One way to look at my past is to realize I got seven good years out of my initial “baby” understanding of God. What He did for me. The “me” part or side of things was not solved, which was my inner self, but what He Alone did FOR me I was very clear about. As far as considering “myself,” self-condemnation more than anything ruled the roost. So that had to be the next rung of the ladder.
The Inner Metanoia
The struggles that ensued from all that led to our oft-told transition out of California back to Georgia in 1980. Almost the first important event that occurred in our new life in Georgia in a brand new decade, was that it came to me to seek out Norman Grubb, whom I had met seven years before in 1973, just prior to our move to California. It was in reading his books in the summer of 1980 that I encountered this idea again of dying with Him in His death, and thus being “dead to sin.” When it had come up several years earlier, it was not my time yet to hear it. The Spirit put the seed there in that Sunday School class from my pastor. Now the seed had come up!
That was when I began, by the Spirit’s understanding, to put the pieces together regarding His Life in me. I learned and began to understand, finally, that the “old man” died through the Cross, and I was not that “old man” anymore. I had believed the opposite of that from my days in my first church. They taught that I had a wicked heart even though I was born again. What GLORY it was to find out that was not true! Christ was my heart, not darkness!
Like a lot of these things, it can be described as a consciousness that arises from a spiritual source. In the case of the old man, that identity was the product of the illicit union between our spirits and the spirit of Sin. The “identity” or “mindset” was/is a mind of independence and self-deification – we are our own god. Any god outside us we believe we “worship” is actually a joke on us, because it is only a projection of ourselves. We are, in that state, our own temporal heaven or hell. Either way it is darkness, a product of the deception of THE Deceiver.
But there’s a funny thing about consciousness. It has a life of its own, and no consciousness likes to give way to another one. The problem with this understanding, is that even though we see it plainly in scripture, I realized one day that even though I’d “reckoned myself” dead to sin a million times, my life still seemed just the opposite! How could the old man be dead, since I still “act like” and “think like” him?
That is why Romans six is before Romans seven. In Romans six we reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God and believe we are instruments of righteousness. However, we no sooner get to the end of the chapter and into Romans seven, that he has us right back in the clutches of sin! What is this about? Apparently “reckoning myself dead to sin” didn’t work, or did it?
For most people, finally it hits them. “I” died with Him in His death!” “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3a). Now, we may have gone through a conversion last week or 25 years ago. It does not matter how long it is for this to “take,” but one day, the Spirit just drops it into our understanding and it begins to become a part of our consciousness.
“Oh, I see! I really did die with Him on the Cross. That old me was put to death there, 2000 years ago.” This is our inner consciousness catching up to Truth! “Oh, I see, it happened to ME!” It is the “knowing” (not conceptual or academic) that cements our oneness. We are mixed with or “one with” that which we “know.” We realize He has become our fixed inner Truth!
I have seen people cruise for years on the simple Spirit knowing that they “died,” and found their real life in Christ Jesus. It is almost like we go away altogether when it first takes us. It is almost like there is only God and we don’t even exist.
This initial “death” is really what sets the stage for the resurrection, and the resurrection is what we are after. Because this period is not over until another death occurs, and the two deaths propel us into its third stage with power, which is described in the next verse: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col3:4).
We learned conceptually that we died to sin in Romans six. The next “death” mentioned is not what we would expect if the message of Jesus was logical. The next thing we learn is that we are dead to the law! (One might think it would be an increased vigilance against the encroachment of sin, rather than removing that which told us what sin is – the law!) And then the rest of Romans seven gives us a blow-by-blow account of one man’s struggle with himself, God, the devil and the law, until he is finally down for the count. And when he finally goes down, he is borne by the Spirit on wings of eagles to the resurrected life on the other side of Romans seven, where his new fixed consciousness is “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2).
END PART TWO