From Altar’d by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
The cross of Christ stands as the point of separation between the old person powered by death-driven corrupted flesh, and the new creation, powered by the very Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. At the moment you embrace the cross, you receive its power into your life —a power that is eternally and continually working. Paul says that “death is at work in us.” At work in us now. Doing ongoing work. Doing present work. A.B. Simpsons says, “We may not preach a crucified Saviour without being also crucified men and women. It is not enough to wear an ornamental cross as a pretty decoration. The cross that Paul speaks about was burned into his very flesh, was branded into his being, and only the Holy Spirit can burn the true cross into our innermost life.”
The death that Jesus died on the cross cannot be—and need not be—repeated. Only He is able to die for our sins, having no sins of His own to die for. The priests of the Old Testament, which were foreshadows of our Great High Priest, had to offer sacrifices first for their own sins, then for the sins of the people. But Jesus had no sins to be atoned for, and He alone is able to bear our sins on our behalf. The writer of Hebrews explained it: “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27 ).
As we surrender our corrupted flesh to His crucifixion, and as His death works in us, we are not repeating the atoning work of the cross. That is done, completed, finished. Instead, we are letting the power of the cross work out the crucifixion of our flesh. It is not a cross of punishment that works in us. The cross did its work of punishment on the body of Jesus. It is the cross that is freeing us from the confines and the distortions and the limitations of our sin nature. It is not restriction, but freedom. It is, in fact, the only hope of being all that we were created to be.
God designed the eternal cadence and it is built into creation at its crux. Life emerges out of death. The seed that falls into the ground to die to produce a harvest. The branch that is pruned so that it can bear more fruit. The beautiful colors of fall, ushering in the very death that will culminate in the springtime resurrection.
Living in an altar’d state means surrendering to the death from which life comes. The cross is the only place where flesh can go to die.