“. . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6).
PRIOR TO OUR CONVERSION, MOST OF US UNDERSTOOD, AT LEAST ON SOME BASIC LEVEL, THAT WE MUST “DIE WITH CHRIST.” But unless we’re among the few who’ve truly counted the cost of discipleship, we probably underestimated the pain that would be involved in having our “old man . . . crucified with Him.” As we begin to discover how painful it is for our old habits to be put to death, we may back away from the process. We didn’t expect that any part of being a Christian would be so painful. We’re surprised by the unpleasantness of it all. Perhaps we even resent or resist it.
Yet there is no such thing as a comfortable crucifixion. The word excruciate is simply a variation of the word crucify, and so in a quite literal sense, death by “crucifixion” is always “excruciating.” If our Lord chose the concept of crucifixion to describe the removal of sin from our lives, we ought not to expect that process to be entirely pleasant. Deeply rooted habits can’t be easily denied or conveniently removed. Their destruction requires nothing less than the dying of the person we used to be.
But if we saw where sin takes people, we’d be willing to make any sacrifice to be free of it. Jesus said that if we couldn’t keep our right eye or our right hand and still stay away from sin, then we’d be better off plucking out our eye or cutting off our hand (Matthew 5:29,30), however painful those removals might be.
If the crown that awaits us requires that we first go to the cross and die, then the crown is worth every bit of the cross. Paul said that “if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). It would be worth dying a thousand times if that meant we could live with Christ. But let’s not be silly. Our cross can’t be any more painless than His. It’s going to hurt.
“If we are wise, we will do what Jesus said: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of our life to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. And we shall find that it is more than poetry, more than sweet hymnody and elevated feeling. The cross will cut into our lives where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputation. It will defeat us and bring our selfish life to an end” (A. W. Tozer).