Although we as believers in Christ meet the cross everywhere in our Christian life, we experience the cross in a particular way when we come to the altar at the centre of God’s building, and here the cross becomes our center.
The center of the building of the temple of God revealed in a vision to Ezekiel is the altar; God comes out of the temple to meet man at the altar, and man comes to meet God at the altar. The altar is a type of the cross; the cross is the center of the universe, the cross is the center of God, and the cross should also be our center.
Yes, Christ is the center, but actually, Christ and His cross are the center, for whenever we meet Christ, we meet the cross. Whenever the Lord spoke concerning following Him, He always mentioned the cross.
When He spoke of the church and building up the church, He also spoke of the cross (see Matt. 16:16-24). The cross not only operates in us personally in our daily life to terminate us so that Christ may live in us, but the cross also leads us to the Body of Christ.
According to the New Testament revelation, the cross operates in the sphere of the Body, the cross leads us to the Body, and the cross consummates in the Body of Christ.
God doesn’t want us to be individuals who experience the cross and have “scars” to show others how much we bear the cross; rather, He wants that death would operate in us, so that life would operate and be released in others in the Body of Christ.
We need to experience the cross not only in our daily living, as we do this and that, in our family life, or at work; in a very particular way, we need to experience the cross in the Body and realize that the Body is the realm within which the cross works.
Just as in our human body there’s a process of metabolism by which the old elements are being removed through death and elimination, and the new elements are being added, so as believers in Christ and members of the Body of Christ we have to experience the cross so that our natural man and natural life would be put to death, and the life of Christ may be manifested in us.
The cross digs away our natural life, our own activities, and any disproportionate growth, so that we may be adjusted and tempered in the Body, for the building up of the church. 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.
We Experience the Cross as the Center of God’s Building to be Built into the Church
All human beings experience hardships, sufferings, problems, and difficult situations, but we as believers in Christ take everything from God’s hand as a dealing and lesson from Him, so that we may be reduced and Christ may increase in us.
Although we meet the cross everywhere in our Christian life, we experience the cross in a particular way when we come to the altar at the centre of God’s building. This is to realize that all we are and all we have were terminated at the cross (Rom. 6:6).
Here, at the altar in God’s building, we have a definite experience of the cross – not merely a superficial knowledge about the cross.
The Lord wants to bring us to a point where we touch the cross in a definite way and sense, in our fellowship with the Lord, that God will not allow us to live any longer in our natural man (Gal. 2:20).
When we experience the cross to such an extent, we will have a major breakthrough and an absolute submission to the cross; we will know what the natural life is, and what is the means for the old creation to be stripped away.
This is the experience of the cross as the center. If we look at our situation, how much do we live a crucified life? In our married life, do we live a crucified life, or does the husband still argue with the wife, and the wife argues back with the husband?
If we experience the cross as the center of God’s building, we will live a crucified life, and we experience the termination of our Adamic life and of the old creation; the result will be that we enjoy God’s riches and His divine element.
When we experience the cross, even though outwardly we lose our face, lose our case, and seem to be defeated, inwardly the riches of Christ are released, the life of God is flowing, and we enjoy His divine element.
We may want to run away from the cross and consider it to be too much suffering and death; we may be afraid to experience the cross, for we consider that the experience of the altar will cause us to become a burnt offering.
But we need to realize that, since the Lord had mercy on us to save us and regenerate us, we cannot escape Him. It wasn’t our choice to believe into the Lord: He simply appeared to us, and we were attracted to Him; it is of the Lord that we believed into Him, and it is of Him that we pursue Him, love Him, and experience Him.
It is the Lord’s mercy that we enjoy the Lord, are satisfied with Him, love Him, and receive His divine dispensing. It’s not because we are more seeking or better than others; it is simply because of His mercy.
Because of the Lord’s mercy and His operation in us, together with our cooperation, we have no other way but to go on with Him. We go on with the Lord little by little until, sooner or later, we meet the cross, and the cross will tear us down, strip us off, and bring everything into death.
Even if we are not willing to do so, we will pass through the experience of the cross, and this experience will be ours again and again.
The Lord allows a certain kind of work mate to be with us, our wife, our children, our boss, and many other people in our life to apply the cross to our being. At other times, the saints in the church cooperate with the Lord to apply the cross.
We may wonder why is everyone against us, why does everyone and everything cause us to suffer loss, and what is going on; God’s answer is simple: we need to experience the cross so that we may gain more God and be part of His building.
The more we experience the cross, the more we gain God; at the same time, we are put to death, our natural man is nullified, our natural life is destroyed, and the self is denied – and God is added to us more and more.
This is not the cross that is experienced by the mystics to make them more “spiritual”; this is the cross in the center of God’s building, the cross that causes us to be built into God’s building.
This is the experience of the cross – the center of the universe (Matt. 16:24); may the cross as the center of the universe become our center.
Lord Jesus, have mercy on us and grant us to experience the cross in a particular way as the center of God’s building, so that our old man would be nullified, we would gain more God, and we may be built up into the church. Take us on with You little by little, in spite of our un-cooperation and unwillingness. We say Amen to what You want to do in us. May we realize that all we are and all we have, have been terminated at the cross. May we be brought to the point where we touch the cross in a definite way and have the sense that God will no longer allow us to live in our natural man! Oh Lord, may the cross as the center of the universe become our center also in our Christian life and church life!
Three Simple Ways for us to Experience the Cross
The cross is the center of God, the center of God’s building, and the center of the universe; as much as we try to avoid it, the cross will become our experience for God’s building sooner or later. As a simple and practical application, there are three simple ways for us to experience the cross.
First, we need to see the fact of the cross: God has already done it. The work of the cross is done. God has carried out the work of the cross – Christ was crucified on the cross, and our old man has been crucified with Him. The first thing we need to do is see the fact: Hallelujah, God has carried out the work of the cross!
Second, we need to accept this fact. We need to reckon ourselves as dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). This means we need to acknowledge the fact, reckon the fact. Reckoning is to have a spontaneous believing, a spontaneous consideration upon our seeing.
When we see that God has already done the work of the cross, our reaction is: Amen, Lord, I believe this, and I accept this fact!
Third, we need to apply the cross (Gal. 5:24). We need to subjectively apply what God has done and what we have acknowledged. Day by day in our Christian experience we need to apply the cross in the following ways:
- Apply the cross with a joyful heart. We apply the cross not grudgingly, unwillingly, or grinding our teeth, but joyfully. The Lord Jesus, because of the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame (see Heb. 12:1-2). To bear the cross should not be a painful matter but a joyful matter.
- Apply the cross by exercising our spirit. The reality of the death of Christ is an element in the Spirit of Jesus, and this Spirit is with our spirit today. How can we apply the cross of Christ to our being? It is by exercising our spirit, and the Spirit with our spirit will apply Christ’s death to us.
- Apply the cross of Christ by standing upon the word of God. We need to come to God’s word and allow the word to pierce and divide the soul and the spirit in our being; the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and dividing of soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12).
- Apply the cross by staying connected with the Body. Never try to experience the cross separately, individually, by yourself; stay in the Body, for the cross leads us to the Body and the cross operates in the realm of the Body.
Lord, cause us to see the fact that God has already carried out the work of the cross – Christ was crucified, and our old man has been crucified with Him! We accept this fact by faith, and we reckon ourselves as dead to sin. Amen, Lord, we want to subjectively apply what You have done on the cross with a joyful heart, by exercising our spirit, by standing upon the word of God, and by staying connected to the Body. May we be those who experience the cross in the Body and for 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, Life-study of Ezekiel, msg. 21 (by Witness Lee), 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:
# By the cross discern the spirit, / Through the living Word of God, / Separating soul from spirit, / That the right path may be trod. (Hymns #748)
# The cross is not a suffering. / The cross is our release. / Deny the self, enjoy the Lord, / And live by life and peace. (Song on the cross not being a suffering)
# Take the cross with joy, / Walk the narrow way, / Flow forth life, / The Lord no more restrain! / Leave the world behind, / Seek naught else but Christ, / Flow forth life, / The Lord no more restrain. (Song on the cross)
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