This is one of my favorite chapters in "The Believer's Secret of Living Like Christ" because it starts off with my favorite scripture, "That I may know Him...." That is my passion and my pursuit through my prayer, writing and life's challenges. In this life pursuit the cross is so precious to me, because it's there that I know that my self-life in all its subtleties will be put to death allowing His resurrected life to live out of me, and allowing me to know Jesus more intimately in all His power and His glory. I want that intimacy of our relationship to manifest in blessing others, that as I know my Lord more personally and intimately and bring the needs of others to Him, that He responds and answers their needs, making me His life partner to spread and manifest His love here on earth."Being Made Conformable to His Death"
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made
conformable unto his death"
We know that the death of Christ was the death of the cross. We know that the death of the cross is the chief glory. The one mark by which He is separated from all other persons, both in the divine Being and in God's universe, is this one: He is the crucified Son of God. Of all the articles of conformity, this must necessarily be the chief and most glorious one--conformity to His death.
This is what made it so attractive to Paul. Christ's glory and blessedness must become his glory too: he knows that the most intimate likeness to Christ is conformity to His death. What that death had been to Christ it would be to him, as he was conformed to it.
Christ's death on the cross had been the end of sin. During His life it could tempt Him: when He died on the cross, He died to sin; it could no more reach Him. Conformity to Christ's death is the power to keep us from the power of sin. By the grace of the Holy Spirit I am kept in my position as crucified with Christ, and live out my crucifixion life as the crucified One lives it in me. I am kept from sinning.
Christ's death on the cross was infinitely pleasing to the Father. If I want to dwell in the favor and love of the Father, I am sure there is nothing that gives such deep and perfect access to it as being conformed to Christ's death. There is nothing in the universe to the Father so beautiful, so holy, so wonderful, as the crucified Jesus. The closer I am to Him the more conformed to His death I can become, and the more I enter into the very bosom of His love.
Christ's death on the cross was the entrance to the power of the resurrection life, the unchanging life of eternity. In our spiritual life we often have to mourn the failures and sins that prove there is still something that prevents the resurrection life from asserting its full power. The secret is: there is still some subtle self-life that has not yet been brought into the perfect conformity of Christ's death. We can be sure that nothing is needed but a fuller entrance into the fellowship of the cross to make us to be full partakers of the resurrection joy.
Above all, it was Christ's death on the cross that made Him the life of the world, gave Him the power to bless and to save (John 12:24,25). In the conformity to Christ's death there is an end of self: we give ourselves to live and die for others; we are full of the faith that our surrender of ourselves is accepted by the Father. Out of this death we rise, with the power to love and to bless.
But, what is this conformity to the death of the cross? We see it in Jesus. The cross means the death of self--the utter surrender of our own will and our life to be lost in the will of God, to let God's will do with us what it pleases. This was what the cross meant to Jesus. It cost Him a terrible struggle before He could give himself to it. When He was sore amazed and very heavy, and His soul exceedingly sorrowful unto death, it was because His whole being shrank back from that cross and its curse. Three times He had prayed before He could fully say, "Not my will, but thine be done." But He did say it. And His giving himself up to the cross is to say: Let me do anything rather than that God's will should not be done. I give up everything--only God's will must be done.
And this is being made conformable to Christ's death: we so yield our lives to God that we learn to be and to work nothing but what God reveals to us as His will. Such a life is called conformity to the death of Christ, because it is himself by His Holy Spirit living in us the life animated Him in His crucifixion. Were it not for this, the very thought and such conformity would be unthinkable.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer knows that the resurrection life has its power and its glory from its being a crucifixion life, begotten from the cross. He yields himself to it, he believes that it has possession of him. Realizing his failures of the past and that the flesh will assert itself if he allows it to, he yields every power of his being to the place of crucifixion and condemnation. In doing so he is yielding every power of his being, every faculty of body, soul, and spirit to the disposal of Jesus. The distrust and denial of self in everything, the trust of Jesus in everything, mark his life. The very spirit of the cross breathes through his personality.
It is surely not a matter of painful strain and effort to maintain the crucifixion position. It is rest and strength and victory. It is not the dead cross, not self's self-denial, not a work in his own strength that he works with, but the living Jesus, in whom the crucifixion is already passed into the life of resurrection. "I have been crucified with Christ: Christ liveth in me"; this gives the courage and the desire for an ever-growing, ever-deeper entrance into conformity with His death.
And how is this blessed conformity to be attained? Paul gives the answer: "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord....that I may know him....being made conformable unto his death" (Phil 3:7-10). The pearl of great price; but oh! it is worth the purchase. Let us give up all, yes all, to be admitted by Jesus to a place with Him on the cross.
And if it appears hard to give up all and to choose a whole life-time on the cross, let us listen to Paul as he tells us what made him so willing. It was Jesus--Christ Jesus, his Lord. The cross was the place where he found the fullest union with his Lord. To know Him, to win Him, to be found in Him, to be made like to Him--this was the burning passion that made it easy to cast away all, that gave the cross such mighty attractive power. Anything to come nearer to Jesus. All for Jesus was his motto. It contains the twofold answer to the question, How can one attain this conformity to Christ's death: The one is, cast out all: the other, let Jesus be all.
Yes, it is only knowing Jesus that can make the conformity to His death possible at all. But let the soul win Him, and be found in Him, and know Him in the power of the resurrection, and it becomes more than possible. Therefore, look to Him, the crucified One. Gaze on Him until your soul can say, "Oh my Lord, I must be like you." Gaze until you see how He, the crucified One, in His ever-present power draws close to live and breathe through your being His crucifixion life. It was through the eternal Spirit that He offered himself to God; that Spirit brings and imparts all that the death on the cross is and effected in you as your life. By the Holy Spirit Jesus maintains in each trusting soul the power of the cross as an abiding death to sin and self, and a never-ceasing source of resurrection life and power. Therefore, look to Him, the living crucified Jesus.
But remember above all, that while you seek the best and the highest with all your might, the full blessing comes not as fruit of your efforts, but as a free gift from above. It is as the Lord Jesus reveals himself that we are made conformable to His death. Therefore, seek and get it from Him.
Lord, such knowledge is to wonderful for me. It is high, I cannot attian it. To know You in the power of Your resurrection, and to be made conformable to Your death--these are things hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed to babes.
O my Lord, I see what utter folly it is to think of likeness to You as an attainment through my effort! I cast myself on Your mercy: look upon me according to the greatness of Your loving-kindness; and of Your free favor reveal Yourself to me. Lord, if I will live and die for You, and the souls You have died to save, then You will draw near to me and take me up into the full fellowship of Your life and death.
Blessed Savior! I know You are willing. Your love towards us is infinite. Draw me to Yourself and take eternal possession of me. And let some measure of conformity to Your death, in its self-sacrifice for the perishing, be the mark of my life. Amen