The Cross is the means through which this is accomplished. The Cross is the key that unlocks the door to every provision and remedy available in Christ.
In the Cross we know that God laid on Jesus “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6b). He was made to suffer the penalty for our sins. In other words, Jesus identified with fallen man in His crucifixion. He was accounted as sinful, though He had done no wrong. That is the principle of identification.
Identification was necessary to accomplish the work of redemption. As glorious as this is, the opposite is equally true: that just as He was identified with us in our sins, so we were identified with Him in His righteousness. Thus, the identification is complete. We are now joined together, made one in Christ through His Cross.
This explains some most peculiar language in the New Testament concerning the Lord Jesus and our relationship to Him. The early believers were not just taught that Jesus died for them, but in addition, they learned that they died with Jesus. This is certainly a mystery, but when one traces it through the Scriptures it becomes increasingly clear. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” and just as the husband and wife are joined together and “the two shall become one” (Eph. 5:31,32) so it is with the Lord and His people.
Once we see this we understand why the words of Jesus take on an increasing urgency as He moves towards the Cross: “Abide in Me” (Jn 15:4). That is, “Continue to dwell in Me, live in Me, stay in union with Me. Even as I go to the Cross – especially now more than ever! – remain in Me.” Disciples of
Jesus are the crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended, and seated branches of a crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended, and seated Vine.
In Him there is Life, Light, Love, spiritual fruitfulness and steady growth. But outside of Him, apart from Him, it is a different story. To be outside of Him is to experience Death, Darkness, Fear, spiritual unfruitfulness and lack of growth. In the language of the Vine, Jesus says those who do not abide in Him are “withered” and eventually “burned” (Jn. 15:6).
But how is this union accomplished? How does God make us to be one spirit with Christ? We cannot say how it is done, but we can say with all confidence that it is so. Where and when does this happen? That we do know: it happens in the Cross. This is why the Cross is not only the necessary prerequisite for following Jesus, it is the absolutely essential component of our daily walk together with Him. For the disciple, the Cross must be a continuous, constant, consistent state of being in, relating to, and identifying with the crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended, and seated Christ. This is what it means to take up the Cross – not as a teaching or a philosophy, but as a matter of spiritual life and death.