I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times: “Everyone has their cross to bear.” That phrase is almost universally used for some kind of suffering. “Taking up your cross” is also constantly interpreted in the church as “dying to self” or “bringing your flesh into submission.” Where is that interpretation in the Bible? Your guess is as good as mine. “Taking up your cross” is actually referring to rest from your works and your salvation.
Here’s what people don’t understand: When you received the Holy Spirit, you were given rest from your works. The Holy Spirit came inside of you to live through you and to produce the fruit for you, so that it would no longer be you living. This is called your “crucifixion with Christ.”
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…
The term “crucified with Christ“ is referring to when Paul received the Holy Spirit for the first time. When we believe, the Holy Spirit comes into us to live through us. He puts us “to death“ and He begins to live through us (Col. 2:12).
Take another look at that verse, is there any dispute that Paul being “crucified with Christ“ is referring to Christ living through him? Is this verse talking about Paul’s suffering? Is this verse referring to Paul bringing his flesh into submission or leaving his comfort zone? No way! Paul defines exactly what he means. He says “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” That’s what being “crucified with Christ” means. It’s referring to the day that the Holy Spirit “put you to death“ (gives you rest) and now He lives through you.
Being “crucified with Christ“ is just a reference to our salvation when we were given rest from our works. Paul further speaks about his “crucifixion with Christ“ as the day that he was separated from the world. See here:
Galatians 6:14 (NKJV) But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
The day that you were “crucified with Christ“ is also the day that you left this world and became a citizen of Heaven.
Again, I will ask: Is this “crucifixion“ that Paul is talking about, referring to Christian sufferings or denying yourself some comfort? Clearly, Paul is referring to the day that he was no longer a part of this world.
When you first get saved, you are given rest from your works so that the Holy Spirit can live through you now. Simultaneously, you are no longer a part of this world. You leave this world and become the Lord’s. Being “crucified with Christ“ is literally just talking about your salvation, when you receive the Holy Spirit.
It’s a shame that as Christians we think that “bearing your cross“ is referring to pain, suffering, or deny ourselves comfort in some way. It seems like we don’t even know what being a Christian is. The fact of the matter is, Jesus came and suffered physically and emotionally FOR us. Becoming a Christian is not a decision to take up suffering or discomfort. Becoming a Christian is the day we leave the suffering of this world, in order to be saved from it. You can agree or disagree with that, but if Jesus suffered PHYSICALLY for me, I’m not going to make His work in vain by thinking I have to repeat it
(These previous points will only be clear if you’ve listened to our “Exit Earth“ audio article).
This concept of being “crucified with Christ“ is even symbolically represented in the Bible, when Simon carried the cross after Jesus.
Mark 15:21 (KJV) And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
Did you see that? At the point that Simon carried the cross after Jesus (crucified with Christ) he was “coming out of the country.” This is a symbol of what Paul explained. He said that he was “crucified to the world.“ At the point that you receive the Holy Spirit, you are given rest from your works (crucified) and you are redeemed from the earth (crucified to the world). All of this has nothing to do with suffering, bringing your flesh into submission, or denying yourself comfort in some way. It’s literally just talking about your salvation.
So, before we even go any further, you have to acknowledge the fact that the Bible itself defines what it means when it refers to being “crucified with Christ.“ This is not my opinion, this is what God says He means. The verses I just gave you (especially the first two) are not ambiguous in any way. Paul explains exactly what he means when he says “crucified with Christ.“ So, let’s take the Lord’s word for it when He defines what He means. Let’s take this information and apply it here:
Matthew 16:24-26 (KJV) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny [disavow] himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
When Jesus says that one needs to “deny himself“, take up his cross, and follow Him, He is describing our exit out of this world. If you want to follow Jesus, you are going to need to renounce your former self because you will be taking on a new identity now. You’re about to be crucified to the world! If you are not willing to deny your former self, then you cannot be made a new creation! And you know the context here is leaving the world, because of what He says next. Let’s read further:
Matthew 16:24, 26 (KJV) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Verse 26: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
You can see clearly that the context of this passage is about leaving this world. That’s why Jesus speaks about gaining the whole world here. Jesus is saying “You need to renounce your former self and be crucified to this world! Because what profit would it be to stay in this world?”
Ultimately, here’s the point: “Taking up your cross” is referring to your salvation — the day that you were crucified with Christ and left this world.
“Taking up your cross” is not referring to “bringing your flesh into submission“ or “denying yourself comfort in some way.“ Again, none of us have the right to define “crucified with Christ“ or “taking up your cross“ in the way that pleases us! It is up to God to tell US what He means. He is very clear that our “crucifixion“ is referring to “us no longer living, but Christ living through us now.“ Furthermore, our “crucifixion“ is when we were no longer part of this world. That is extraordinarily clear from scripture.
Here’s one more version of this account from Luke:
Luke 9:23 (KJV) And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Here, Jesus is referring to the same thing, but says “take up your cross daily“. Judging this by how Paul defined “being crucified with Christ“ in Galatians, I believe this is referring to walking in the rest that we were given at salvation, daily. But at the very least we know what being “crucified with Christ“ means. It’s not referring to Christian suffering or bringing your flesh into submission in any way.
Let’s let God define His terms and let us just listen.