spiritwarfare

Submission and Obedience

DIMENSIONS OF GOD'S LOVE

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19.

THE GREATNESS OF GOD'S LOVE

What a glorious unveiling of God's supernatural revelation of Himself to the heart of one who is truly in love with Him! The book of Ephesians is all about love, the extreme love of God, and the One whom we love when we totally belong to Jesus Christ.

Paul loved His Lord! Farther in Ephesians he describes the relationship of Jesus and the Church to marriage between one man and one woman: Him with sacrificial, superlative love for His Bride; her with having utmost reverence and respect for the One who cherishes her.

As He taught His disciples, Jesus gave them not so much a command as a guide to becoming His likeness:

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:24-25.

It is obvious from reading those sobering words that it is impossible to love the world (other suitors) and, at the same time, love and follow Jesus. The two are totally incompatible! A person cannot have his cake and eat it, too, as the saying goes. But it is much more serious than merely considering it an adage! It is a matter of eternal life or eternal death. Total gain or total loss.

Many years ago a wonderful book recounted the story of a young woman who met the man of her dreams. Falling deeply in love with him, she gave up all her plans for life to follow the man she loved. Follow she did through thick and thin, so great was her devotion. If human love makes such concessions for one they love, how much more ought the bride of Christ turn her back on everything else to walk with Him?

That being said, take another look at the passage from Ephesians quoted at the beginning of this writing. It is a description of the cross we take upon ourselves when we become a true follower of Jesus as His Bride.

THE CROSS OF DEVOTION

A cross in Jesus' day was made of two wooden beams, a vertical one across which was fastened a horizontal beam. When a person was crucified, his head rested against the uppor portion of the vertical beam. His arms were fastened to either side of the horizontal one. The lower part of the vertical beam was the longest portion. To it the feet of the victim were nailed, usually crossed one ontop of the other before a cruel spike was driven through both of them into the wood beneath. The terminal end of the beam was dropped into a hole in the ground or rocks to stabilize it in an upright position.

Did you know that death on a cross is the only way of dying that a person cannot use to commit suicide? Another person or persons had to be the one to drive the spikes through the hands and feet to fasten the condemned person to the wooden cross. He could not do it himself. When we take the cross of Jesus to be our own, it means we give our self and our will up to God. We submit to Him. He is the One Who must drive the nails into our hands and feet. The Holy Spirit 'slays' our sin nature as we submit completely to God.

In Roman times, death on a cross was a deterrent to committing a crime. Today the cross is typically a symbol of Christianity and may be worn around the neck on a chain, hung on a wall, or placed at the top of a church steeple.

But what does the cross really mean to one who is determined to follow Jesus to the end? The Ephesians passage describes it as Jesus meant it, for He is love, and His dying on the most cruel of Roman execution methods went far beyond the physical torture He endured there.

When Jesus talked about His followers taking up a cross, He did not mean it would be a literal, wooden structure or a symbol. Nor did He mean that it would be a cross made of anytghig material. Hius own cross, though iut was wood, embodied all that took and kept Him there. When a follower of Jesus takes up his cross, it means that the person makes himself available to God, who drives the nails that kill the self-will and self-control. He or she becomes a love-slave to Jesus and become like Him in His love and attitude toward others and to God.

THE DIMENSIONS OF THE CROSS

In its outreach, Jesus' cross demonstrates the extent of His love for the Father and all the people who comprise the world. Our love must reach out just as His did to everyone. Four dimensions listed by Paul in Ephesians describe the cross which we are to take upon us. So, let's look at them one at a time:

Height refers to the upper end of the vertical bar of the cross. It reaches upward to extol God the Father, who originated the eternal plan of redemption. It was the will of His Father that Jesus forsook His rightful place in heaven with Him and the Spirit and came to earth as a man. Philippians 2 unveils Jesus' heart attitude when He came to earth as a servant, walking in the world as the Son of Man, preaching, healing and delivering those trapped by the grip of sin.

Jesus lifted up His Father when He said He had no thoughts of His own, just what His Father said. At the very end of His physical life on earth when He hung between heaven and earth, Jesus cried out, "Into Your hands I commend My Spirit" and died. He came to do the will of His Father and trusted Him for the results of His obedience. He completely honored and obeyed God the Father.

It was the Father who endured eternal separation from His Son when Jesus died on the cross and went to hell to experience the suffering due man for his sin. II Corinthians 5:21 says:

"He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

That included being severed or separated from Jesus, His beloved Son. How that happened in the Godhead is unexplainable and unfathomable, but the Father endured it so that we could be forgiven. We are indebted to Him forever!

Breadth is one arm of the horizontal bar. Breadth clearly describes God's outreach with mercy and redemption from sin to all people, slighting or omitting no one. Everyone is included. John 3:16 clearly says, "God so loved the world...," "world" referring to the entire population of the globe for all centuries since the creation of Adam and Eve. Beginning with Genesis 3:15 that prophecied the coming Messiah, and going forward, believers either looked forward to His coming or now look back at His actual death and resurrection. Jesus, the beloved Lamb of God, died for everyone. His blood atones across the centuries of time for every person made in God's image...ever!

Length addresses the other arm of the horizontal bar and embraces the endurance of His love, mercy and longsuffering to all people and for every sin forever. God forgives sin and puts it out His sight, He said, as far as the east is from the west. Forgiven sin is gone, never to be held against that person again! Through all eternity those sins will never be mentioned or brought against the one forgiven. In their place Jesus imparts holiness to the humble heart in greater and greater measure through the indwelling Holy Spirit. As the person dies daily to himself when he encounters decisions and crossroads of life, the Spirit transforms the individual more and more into the image of Jesus, and His love reaches out to all people.

Depth is represented by the lower portion of the vertical bar of the cross. The cross rests on it. It supports the weight of the one dying above it and embodies the boundaries of poverty to which Jesus was plunged. Separated from His Father and the Godhead (the pain of which is beyond human ability to fathom or comprehend), Jesus' shed blood redeemed men and women, boys and girls, so they may embrace the richness of God's love and enjoy Him forever. God said without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin.

On the first Passover night in Egypt, a lamb had to be sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the lintel and doorposts of an Israelite home. The presence of the blood prevented the death angel from slaying the first-born child in the household.

Jesus voluntarily became the blood sacrifice for all men, typified in the Old Testament by the slaying of the innocent, unblemished lamb. When Jesus came in human flesh, the perfect GodMan, He was that Lamb who alone could redeem sinful man. His life and death positioned Him to be crowned Jesus, Lamb of God. Isaiah 53 foretold the Lamb's throes with emotion that goes far beyond what words can truly describe.

Having conveyed the meaning of each portion of the cross and their significance in the death of Jesus as well as the death and attitude we must take on us when we follow Him with all our being, Philippians 2 is our direction to becoming like Him:

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but laid aside His privileges, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Hinself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

A CROSS OF SACRIFICE

It is this same heart attitude of humility and self-sacrifice we must acquire as we put our own nature and preferences on the cross and ask the Holy Spirit to slay us as Jesus was. It is not just a happening gained in an emotional moment, but rather a real death to everything we call us and ours and submission in obedience to God's will for our life, no questions asked.

Howard Pittman, a Baptist minister who had a near-death experience and came back to tell about it, was told by God that all his good works as a pastor and adoptive parent were an abomination to Him! When Pittman tried to justify himself and said, "But I called you Lord every day!", God replied, "You called Me Lord, but you didn't make Me Lord!"

To take up your cross means you make God REALLY the Lord of your life. You give Him total control of your life. You obey Him completely, instantly, and unquestioningly. Obedience was the key to all Jesus did on earth. Hebrews 5:8 says:

"Although He (Jesus) was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered."

Jesus obeyed His Father because He loved Him. Jesus wants that same obedience from us out of a heart of love. Listen to His words:

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14:15.

Death to ourself puts God on the throne of our heart. It gives the Holy Spirit complete access to all of our person so He may fill and transform us as we walk in obedience to Him and His Word

Thus, the bottom line is that we can know the breadth and length and height and depth of God's love for us and the world, and walk in it only when we take up Jesus' cross as our own, letting it trasform us. The secret is that we KNOW...we come to know God intimately. The cross is the only way to knowing God and His heart. Put yourself up for crucifixion!

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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®
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