The Tree of Life
May 07, 2000
Our subject is "participation in our Lord's sufferings," which includes the blood of Christ the Lamb as it relates to our Lord's sufferings and the daily bearing of our own cross. Throughout human history, many believers have wondered, "If God is omnipotent, why couldn't He teach me all these things without subjecting me to so much sorrow and humiliation?" The answer is that we could not be taught effectively in any other way. Paul said in ROM 7:14, "Certainly, we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of [belonging to the realm of] the flesh [sin nature], sold in bondage to sin [sin nature]."
2Co 4:11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
There is a joy in participation in His sufferings and the suffering of the Cross when you are assured of its fruit in your life, and in the lives of others. Notice in 2Co 4:11 that we are constantly being delivered over to "situations of death." That is a major part in our participation in His sufferings.
JOH 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
As with a seed that is buried once, but then, after gradually disintegrating, sets free a new life, God does the same with our old nature by delivering it to death with Christ once and for all on the Cross, and then bringing about its disgrace in detail through the circumstances of life. This is what allows the new life to be released. The point is this -- Identification with our Lord's death and participation in His sufferings is not a one-time process but rather a continual one. Paul tells us in 2CO 4:16 that our inward man (the new creature) is renewed day by day; "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." Now, here's the issue -- When a certain breaking down of the indwelling old nature occurs in our life, it produces a tremendous change in us; however, we still have to learn in detail all that God is working within. There is a tendency for us to become filled with guilt as the Holy Spirit begins to reveal things about us that are not comforting or thrilling to realize. The Holy Spirit's administration of the Cross to the old man is preparing you for the truth -- That same Cross is central in the resurrection life of the new man! Being the focal point of the universe, the Cross not only crucified the old life, but paved the way for the life beyond the Cross. In other words, the marks of the Cross extend into glory. The ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of God, still bears the marks of the Cross and forever will.
REV 5:6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
REV 5:12 Saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
Paul tells us that teaching these principles will bring persecution in our lives.
ROM 8:36 Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
GAL 6:12,14 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
PHI 2:8 In fact, although having been discovered in outward appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of spiritual death, that is the death of the cross.
PHI 3:18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] enemies of the cross of Christ.
Satan hates the Cross, which is the center of the entire universe, and tries to accuse us day and night before our God.
The likeness of the Lamb of God in us will be manifested when we live for others and not for ourselves. Remember the mocking and derision around the Cross recorded in MAT 27:39-44, and our Lord's response in LUK 23:34, "But Jesus was saying, 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'"
The Lamb is our Life! The very nature of our life in the new creation is sacrificial! The Holy Spirit's work cannot be in vain, and He is fashioning our condition from our completed position, COL 2:10, "And in Him you have been made complete." The Holy Spirit does not mature the believer apart from the Cross. None of us could or ever would experience Mat 27:46, "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'"
EPH 5:18b says, "Be filled with the Spirit." There are different ideas among Christians as to what constitutes the fullness of the Spirit. One thing of which we can be sure is the fact that if we are filled with the Spirit consistently, we will be taught, guided, and enabled to walk the way of the Cross by participation in His sufferings. The Lord Jesus Christ "through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself," Heb 9:14, and we shall offer ourselves when the same Holy Spirit fills and enables us.
This means that we will have to go through all kinds of undeserved suffering. For example, there is providential preventative suffering for learning obedience, self-discipline, and enforced and genuine humility. No human being can ever reach maturity without enforced and genuine humility, and this is even more certain when it comes to the spiritual life. This will include people testing, thought testing, system testing, and disaster testing, on behalf of Christ,2CO 12:10. We will also face momentum testing as a part of participation in His sufferings. This comes in the following three categories and is designed to accelerate the believer's momentum.
1. The old sin nature test.
2. The "Cosmic #1" Test (Living for self).
3. The "Cosmic #2" Test (Antagonism toward the Word of God).
Ultimately there will come evidence testing, which is Satan's cross-examination of every witness presented by God in the historical trial of the fallen angels. Every believer who attains spiritual maturity is qualified to be a witness for the Prosecution against Satan. Satan's attacks will not make any difference, however, even if our protection seems to be removed, and we find ourselves utterly alone for the sake of participation in His sufferings and sacrificially giving our lives for others. The comforting fact is that the Holy Spirit, whose intention is to conform us to the image of Christ, will finish the work He has begun. We need to have the proper perspective, which means keeping our eyes off ourselves, other people, and circumstances, and focused on the Lamb. You can always trust the Holy Spirit with His ministry on your behalf. He is applying the finished work of the Cross to free you from the power of the "lion" life of the old man ("I'll live my way."), and He is applying the present working of the Cross to mature you in the resurrection power of the "Lamb" life of the new man. Here we see the spiritual paradox of life out of death. This is very vital when it comes to your spiritual life.
Always remember this principle -- God is after the inner change, or that inward reality in all of our lives, before He expects us to serve and honor Him, PSA 51:6, "Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom." Ultimately, those who minister to the Body of Christ are those who communicate the resurrection life of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be "letters" or "epistles of Christ," 2CO 3:3. Life is communicated to others, quite simply and spontaneously, as death operates in us. Therefore, the question to be asked is not, "How much are you doing or saying for God?" but "How much are you going through under the mighty hand of God?"
1PE 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.
Knowing Him is to know the greatest experience we could ever know in life, and we should not settle for anything less. However, we should not only desire to know Him but we should aspire to have His attitude toward life.
JOH 18:11 The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?
This statement was a far greater thing than calming the seas or raising the dead. Prophets and apostles could work remarkable miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer the Father's will is still the highest form of faith and devotion, the most glorified Christian achievement in time -- to go through the difficulties and sorrows of life, to bear a daily burden that is never pleasant and where you see no relief; to be confined by some incurable physical disability, to be stripped bare of loved ones, until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life, and still be able to say, "The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" This is faith at its highest. This is spiritual achievement at its crowning point.
We all love the fact that we have a Father who sympathizes with our weaknesses. However, we have a sympathizing Father because we had a suffering Savior. If we truly desire fellowship with God, we must enter into participation in His sufferings. This is not payment or judgment for sins (Only the Lord Jesus Christ could suffer that because He was impeccable.); rather, this is identification and participation with the undeserved sufferings He endured before He arrived at the Cross. People were shocked, stunned, and devastated when they saw the abuse our Lord suffered. His face and appearance was completely destroyed and disfigured.
PSA 22:14 All my bones are out of joint.
ISA 50:6 I gave My back to those who strike [Me] and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
MAT 26:67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him.
MAT 27:30-31 And they spat on Him, and took the reed of thorns and began to beat Him on the head. And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.
LUK 22:63-64 And the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him, and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, "Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?"
MAR 15:19 And they kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting at Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him.
The weight of His body on the cross actually pulled His bones apart; this is truly intense suffering. This physical and mental abuse took place prior to the Cross. He did bear the weight and pressure of our sorrows and our sins, but He also went through undeserved suffering before the Cross. In fact, we are told in
LUK 22:44, that as our Lord drew near to Gethsemane that the pressure was so intense He sweat drops of blood through the pores of His body. This is the suffering with which we are called to identify as a part of participation in His sufferings. In heaven there will be only one resurrection body with scars and wounds -- the "Lamb of God." The wounds of the Lord Jesus Christ are like precious jewels, which should charm our eyes and melt our hearts. That crown of thorns has far more glory about it than any crown of gold. Those hands that were pierced and nailed should be our delight to behold.
However, just as His sufferings and humiliations were the greatest ever, so is His glorification is the greatest ever. In resurrection body the entire royal family will identify the Head of the family, Jesus Christ, to the glory of the Father. Therefore, our subject of participation in His sufferings tells us that we cannot live the Christian way of life and live for others unless we are willing to accept the Cross and lose our lives. We cannot fulfill this without losing our lives, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to do so. The one who desires to be a servant must first be a sufferer. We cannot have the highest happiness of life, which is helping others, without tasting the cup that the Lord Jesus Christ drank. The school of suffering graduates very few scholars.
(For more information, pick up last week's tapes, Philippians series, 0190-809 to 0190-813.)