Teaching Article #25
by Bill Nugent
Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NASB).
I stand in the pulpit of a mega-church and say “How many here have committed your heart to Jesus Christ?” Everyone raises their hands in the affirmative. I ask “How many have ever re-committed your heart to Jesus?” A few hands go up. I ask “How many of you have re-committed your heart to Jesus in the last twenty-four hours?” Fewer hands go up. I say: “Every hand should be raised in response to that last question because we must re-commit ourselves to God every day!”
I must take up my cross daily and follow Him. Christ’s cross is His death, burial and resurrection that saves us. Christ’s cross is also a type or picture of our own surrender in our walk with God. Christ’s cross saves us if we just believe. Our cross consecrates us to Him if we just surrender. Christ’s cross was His death for us. Our cross is our death for Him.
Jesus says that we must take up our cross daily. Why daily? It’s because we have good ideas (and bad ideas) every day that have to be surrendered over to death. When we die daily, Jesus gives our lives back to us daily.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word [rhema] that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We eat the physical bread that God gives us each day. We must also eat the words from God that He speaks to us each day. God speaks to us in more ways and at more times than we think.
Jesus said: “whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27 NKJV). Many believers are not really disciples of Christ but are disciples of themselves. If you live by your own ideas, then you are your own disciple. If you live by the Spirit of Christ and not by your own soul then you’re a disciple of Christ.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:16-17 NKJV).
The above verses indicate that there’s a battle raging within the believer. The Holy Spirit, who dwells with our reborn, righteous human spirit, is opposed to the unsanctified part of us which is the soulish mind and body. We do not do the things that we wish but like Paul in Romans 7:14-25, we are pulled one way and then another. The remedy for this is to surrender to the Holy Spirit every day to do what He wants.
What is My Cross?
Your cross is the place of surrender by which you consecrate yourself to God through Christ. Christ’s cross is His covenant commitment to us. Our cross is our covenant commitment to Him. The essence of covenant is that each party of the covenant dies to himself and lives for the other party. That’s why it says in Hebrews 9:16-17 that where there is a testament (covenant) there must be “the death of the testator” for a testament is in force “after men are dead.”
A human being is composed of spirit, soul and body (I Thessalonians 5:23). The human spirit of the believer is instantly regenerated to be holy and righteous at the conversion experience or new birth (II Cor. 5:17). The soul of the believer is being saved day by day, from “glory to glory” (II Cor 3:18) as we grow in Christ. The body of the believer will be raised in a glorious state at the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:52-55).
Jesus died and rose again to save our souls. Yet our souls do not experience death and rebirth all at once. God has so ordained that the soul will be the battleground, the area of testing that we must surrender to Him not just once, but day by day.
We must learn to divide between soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). If we don’t distinguish between soul and spirit, the Bible will seem to be full of contradictory statements. If we study to show ourselves approved unto God, we will know which scriptures refer to spirit and which refer to soul and thereby we will rightly divide the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15).
Howard Pittman was a former New Orleans police officer who did much ministry work for God. He and his wife took in more than thirty foster children and reached them with the gospel of Christ. He zealously passed out tracts and did other evangelistic outreach. In 1979 he had a profound encounter with God in which God told him that his works were an abomination. Howard Pittman travels and shares his testimony and says that his works were rejected by God because he was serving himself. He wasn’t serving God in daily heartfelt consecration. He was serving the god of self!
We must examine our motives every day. Am I serving myself? Am I doing ministry work to be honored by men? When I share my testimony in church is it just a bragging session? Am I going on this mission trip because I love God and the people to whom I’m sent or am I doing it because I enjoy adventure and travel? We must examine ourselves deeply and lay down and crucify our selfish, self-centered motives. God will renew our souls day by day and give us holy motives.
The cross that we must take up daily to follow Him is unconditional surrender. A surrender that has conditions is not a true surrender. If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. In the same way, if a person surrenders all areas of his life to the Lord yet holds back one thing, he has not surrendered at all. Anything that you don’t surrender is your god. An unsurrendered thing is an idol. God required Abraham to lay down his Isaac. Ultimately Abraham did not actually have to kill Isaac, but he had to be willing to kill him.
There are two major categories of things that we find difficult to surrender. We can call them desires and dreads. There are some things that we desire so much that we are not willing to surrender them to God to let God decide if we should have them or not. There are other things that we fear or dread so much that we refuse to allow God to bring them into our lives.
Things that we desire are things such as marriage, a ministerial position in a church, a good secular job, money, a nice car, entertainment, pleasant geographic location, etc. Things that we dread could be fasting, remarriage to your ex-spouse, adopting a handicapped child, being a missionary in a poor country, doing street ministry, etc.
Listing Your Desires and Dreads
A practical way to begin to consecrate yourself to the Lord is to prayerfully consider what things are your greatest desires and your greatest dreads. They are, of course, different for each person. Some people have a strong desire for marriage and family, others are very ambivalent about it and some even reject it. Some people don’t particularly dread being sent to Africa while others wake up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat worrying about it.
The desires we must lay down are the desires for anything other than a closer relationship with God. The list of desires should be limited to desires we have for things other than God Himself. Even the desire to serve God in a certain type of ministry can be an idol. As Abraham laid down Isaac so we too must consecrate even our ministry giftings so that our relationship with God comes before all else.
Once we determine our own personal desires and dreads, we can write them down on a piece of paper and set it before the Lord each morning. Write two lists: desires and dreads, on the same piece of paper. Desires could be money, cars, vacation home, investments, travel, teaching ministry, writing ministry, marriage, children, friends, etc. Dreads could be missionary work in a poor country, singleness, waiting, living in a small apartment with a difficult roommate, moving to a location far from your adult children, etc.
The Prayer of Consecration
We then can pray the prayer of consecration like Jesus did in Gethsemane saying “Father…not my will, but Yours, be done.” Let God decide whether or not to give us our desires and whether or not to withhold our dreads. We must do this every day and thereby take up our cross daily.
During one’s early morning quiet time of consecration, it is also appropriate to pray such statements as the following: “I lay my life down before You and You will raise it up”; “I thank You Father for everything You’ve given me and for everything You’ve taken from me”; “I have joy in our relationship”; “I will serve You wherever, whenever and to whoever You send me and do only that which I see You do”; “I’m willing to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile”; “I forgive all who have offended me.” Let your heart speak to God such statements of surrender. Let God give you new things to say. You can write them on the same page as your desires and dreads.
What I do personally is to open my morning quiet time with praise and worship. Next, I take my list of desires and dreads which I keep in my Bible and read it aloud. I then pray “Father, these are my desires and I now commit not to idolize them. These are my dreads and I now commit not to fear them. You alone are my desire. You alone are my fear” (Isaiah 8:13). Then I flip the paper over so the blank, reverse side of the paper faces up. I continue in prayer: “Father, I give You the blank page of my life called May 3rd 20__ (or whatever the date may be) and I ask you to write Your blessed perfect will on it.”
I don’t focus on the piece of paper. The piece of paper which lists my desires and dreads is not my cross but rather the attitude of unconditional surrender in my heart is my cross. The piece of paper is just a prop to remind me of my soulish desires and dreads that I need to surrender.
There are other matters I attend to during my daily time of consecration, such as forgiving people who have offended me. I also pray for God’s blessings on my life and for God to protect me from all evil. The prayer of consecration is the foundation; the starting point. Once I am consecrated to God, I go on to take up the sword of the Holy Spirit and do battle in the Spirit in intercession and prayers of petition.
The prayer of consecration is a dangerous prayer; but if you refuse to pray it, you’re being cowardly and not acting as a true disciple of Christ. Be brave enough to let God write on the blank page of your life each day. God may give you guidance to serve Him in an ordinary way or God may write: “Sell all you have and give to the poor and you will serve widows and orphans in a poor country for ten years.” Don’t be like the rich young ruler who turned away from such a command.
Don’t be like Jonah who turned his back on God’s leading. We all know of the terrible trials Jonah suffered because of it. If you refuse to consecrate yourself to God, then you’re acting as a lukewarm Christian (Revelation 3:15-16). You could be spit out and miss out on God’s purposes and find yourself in mediocre, obscure circumstances in the end times
Looking at this from a more positive perspective we must remember that God gives His best to those who leave the choosing to Him. Does the Lord ask you to give up a career in accounting that you earnestly desire? In its place the Lord will give you a career, perhaps, in nurturing and caring for the handicapped that you will learn to love far more than you would love a career in accounting.
To Walk as Jesus Walked
“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (I John 2:6 NKJV).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19 NASB).
Jesus walked continually in an attitude of consecration before the Father. This continual attitude of surrender did not lead Him to passivity but rather into intense action in the Spirit. So must it be for us, His disciples!
We are quick to remember that, to the Lord, one day is as a thousand years (II Pet. 3:8). Each day of your life is as a thousand years in the sight of God. We can accomplish more in the will of God in one day, consecrated to Him, than we can in a thousand years unconsecrated. Let us therefore pray the prayer of consecration every day and remain in the attitude of consecration at all times.
The above article is an excerpt from my book on sanctification titled “The Cross, Self-Denial and the Manifestation of the Sons of God.” It’s available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!