The cross and the experience of the cross is not an end in itself; the cross leads us to the Body of Christ, the cross operates in the sphere of the Body, and in the Body of Christ we cannot go on without the cross.
The cross of Christ and the experience of the cross is central in God’s economy and in His building. Just as the altar is right in the center of the building, being the meeting place of God and man, so the cross is both at the entrance of the church and in the center of the church as the building of God.
God doesn’t negotiate or compromise in order to solve problems or please both parties; He simply applies the cross to everything and everyone, and Christ is the only One who remains.
God gives us only one person – Christ Himself, His beloved, the all-inclusive One – and one way – the cross of Christ.
We are not “ascetics” or pain-inflicting people, but we realize that, in order for us to be properly related to God, to the saints, and in the Body, we need the experience of the cross of Christ.
In the church life Christ must be all and in all; anything that is not Christ must go to the cross, and anything in us and of us that is not Christ must pass through the cross.
When we experience the cross, we become nothing, we have nothing, and we are able to do nothing; if we don’t experience the cross, the things that we are, have, and can do will become a substitute for Christ.
Christ’s crucifixion put an end to all the problems in the universe, and in His death we have been reconciled to God, the ordinances were taken out-of-the-way, and the rulers and authorities were openly put to shame.
The effects of Christ’s crucifixion are wonderful; on the negative side, the separation between God and man has been abolished, the base of Satan’s rebellion was shaken, the strongholds of Satan’s earthly kingdom were broken, and the power of death and Hades was conquered and subdued.
On the positive side, the death of Christ was a life-releasing death, for through this death Christ’s life was released to be imparted into us and produce us as the church. Christ died both for our redemption, shedding His blood, and for our regeneration, releasing His divine life. Hallelujah for the death of Christ!
The Cross Leads us to the Body of Christ and Operates in the Sphere of the Body
Although we have seen the centrality of the cross, we need to realize that the cross is not an end in itself; God doesn’t want to merely terminate us in our natural man. Rather, the cross is a divine means to arrive at a divine goal.
When the cross has carried out a specific work in us, we spontaneously find ourselves in the Body of Christ, for the cross leads us to the Body of Christ.
Our experience of God’s salvation, His victory, and His sanctification in us, is not that we would become more holy, more spiritual, or more victorious; God doesn’t work in us to make us holy and spiritual individual persons – His goal is to gain the building, the Body of Christ.
All our spirituality is not for us as individuals, and even the experiences of the cross are for the producing of the Body. The cross goes as far as the Body of Christ and consummates in the Body.
When we have the experience of the cross in reality, we will know the Body in reality. When we experience the cross, we are brought to a state of weakness and inability, and we will lose our hope in the old creation; when we are brought to such a point, we are delivered from the old creation in a real way, and we are brought into the new creation.
The Body of Christ is the new creation – the Body has nothing to do with the old creation. In the church life we cannot rely on human methods, tactics, and skills, but we need to allow the old creation pass through the cross and remain on the cross.
The church accepts and receives only what comes from Christ, and the Body rejects anything coming from our natural man. The cross operates in the sphere of the Body, and the experience of the cross leads us to experience the Body of Christ (Rom. 6:6; 8:13; 12:4-5).
The cross not only brings us into the Body, but the Body also becomes the realm within which the cross works (see Col. 1:20; 3:15). Many of the mystics have experienced the cross, as their testimony confirms, but they mostly did so in the individual sense; they didn’t experience the Body of Christ, and they never knew that the Body is the realm in which the cross works.
The cross is to produce not spiritual individuals but the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ is the realm in which the cross operates.
The most simple way to understand this is to look at our physical body and see how it operates: there’s a metabolism going on, a process of destruction and building up, death and resurrection.
Old cells and things are dying and being removed, and new cells are generated and food is added for the growth and building up. In our human body there’s a lot of dying and living continuously.
As seen in 2 Cor. 4, death works in us and life in others; this shows that we are not individual Christians living by ourselves, but we are members of the one organic Body of Christ, and in the Body both death and life operate all the time.
As death operates in us, life is being released in others. It’s not that we are dying as a Christian to give life to another Christian; rather, as we experience the death of Christ in the Body, life is simultaneously released in other members of the Body. Death works and operates in the realm of the Body.
Lord Jesus, give us the experiences we need for us to realize that the experience of the cross leads us to the Body, and to know that the cross operates in the sphere of the Body! We give ourselves to You, Lord, for the building up of Your Body. May we be those who allow death to operate in us so that life would be released and operate in others. May our experiences of the death of Christ in spirit lead us to the Body, operate in us in the realm of the Body, and be for the building up of the Body of Christ!
We need to Know the Cross to Know the Body, and the Body Leads us to the Cross
The more we go on with the Lord in the church life, the more we realize that in the Body of Christ we cannot go on without the cross. The more we advance in our spiritual life, the more we realize that God doesn’t need the old creation, neither will He allow anything that issues from the old creation to gain the upper hand.
God wants to break the backbone of the natural man and touch his thigh, so that he would be crippled and fall flat on his face. Then, the new creation will come into being. When the old creation is terminated, the new creation can come in.
When we cooperate with the Lord to deal with the natural life, the Body comes into being spontaneously. The cross will dig away our natural life, our own activities, and any disproportionate growth (see Matt. 16:24-26).
When someone experiences the cross but not in the Body and for the Body, he becomes an individual that is a bit strange, not blendable with others, having a high standard for others to attain; his growth is disproportionate.
We need to experience the cross in the Body, allowing the cross to lead us into the Body, so that our growth in the Body may be proportionate, our natural life would be taken away, and our own activities would be terminated.
Our experience of the cross has to be governed and measured by the Body. Life and work in the Body necessitate drastic dealings with the flesh, and such dealings necessitate a deep knowledge of the cross of Christ (see Gal. 5:24).
The restriction of the Body will take away our freedom, and it will drive us to the cross (see Rom. 12:3; 2 Cor. 10:13-15; Eph. 4:7, 16).
The members of our physical body are very restricted; if the hand wants to move, the shoulder and the arm also have to move. As members of the Body, we are restricted, having no freedom; we have a lot of restrictions all the time.
Some believers leave the denominations because they have too many rules and regulations, and when they come into the church life they discover there are even more restrictions, for here we are under the experience of the cross.
In the building of God everything is with measure, just as everything in our body is proportionate and measured.
Our God is a God of measure, and we need to be restricted.
We are not all-inclusive or unlimited; we all are measured to have a certain portion, and if we live in that measure, we are fitted for the Body.
All of God’s dealings with us have been with a view to prepare us for the Body; all His work in us is a process of elimination so that we can become functioning members of the Body.
He works daily to strip us off and terminate our natural life, so that we may be subtracted and terminated, and Christ would live in us. We don’t need more things to be added to us – we need to allow God to strip us off from all the things that are not Christ, and we will spontaneously find ourselves in the Body.
If our natural life is dealt with by the cross and if we submit to the headship of Christ and live the Body life, we will have the Spirit’s anointing and enjoy the fellowship of the Body.
Lord Jesus, cause us to realize that we cannot go on without the cross in the Body of Christ. May the cross dig away our natural life, our own activities, and any disproportionate growth in our being. Oh Lord, we want to cooperate with You for our flesh to be dealt with, so that we may live and work in the Body. May we be those who know the restriction of the Body, so that we may experience the cross in the Body. Show us, Lord, that all Your dealings with us have been with a view to prepare us for the Body, so that we may be functioning members of the Body!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by James Lee for this week, and portions from, Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 44, chs. 97, 100 as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Crystallization-study of Ezekiel (2), msg. 7 (week 19 in the HWMR), The Cross – the Center of the Universe.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Oh, may Thy Cross within me / Deepen its work and burn / In me enlarge Thy measure, / And me to ashes turn. / Oh, may Thy Spirit fill me / Each day more than before, / And may Thy living water / On me and thru me pour. (Hymns #280)
# Through the Cross, O Lord, I pray, / Put my soul-life all away; / Make me any price to pay, / Full anointing to receive. (Hymns #279)
# The Christ we know is crucified — experience of the cross / Allows us to enjoy His life and count ourselves but loss; / The sense of life and death within us functions as a gauge, / Equipping us to live Christ in the Body in this age. / The cross is our deliverance, / Our entrance into grace, / To deepen and increase our joy / In Christ, His way to trace. (Song on the cross not being a suffering)
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