Self-denial is inseparably linked to the bearing of the cross, for we only demonstrate that we have truly denied ourselves and resigned ourselves to God’s will when we bear our afflictions with patience. Moreover, we only truly become conformed to the image of God in Christ when we patiently bear the same cross that he took on himself before us.
There are common miseries to which the life of men is indiscriminately subjected, yet as God trains his people in a peculiar manner, in order that they may be conformed to the image of his Son, we need not wonder that this rule is directly addressed to them.
The godly experience the same apparent contradiction and offence that Christ did in his own life, namely that the more they express the image of God in their lives, the more they experience affliction and tribulation in this life, which lasts until the day of their death.
When we do turn from ourselves to trust solely in God’s goodness, we experience the truth of God’s providential care, and thus have our confidence in God confirmed by experience, leading us to hope in the protection of God in the future. The saints, therefore, through forbearance experience the fact that God, when there is need, provides the assistance that he has promised.
Human reason tells us to avoid dishonour and disgrace as the worst of plagues, but faith in Christ reveals to us that being reviled for the sake of his name is the highest honour we can receive in this life. They endure insults and ignominies, but because they know that the marks of Christ have more value and merit in heaven than the empty and fleeting shows of earth, the more unjustly and abusively the world torments them, the richer ground they have for glorying.
Thus the bearing of the cross reinforces the displacement of reason in guiding the lives of the godly, for by the Spirit they now discern that the true glory in this life lies where human reason only sees disgrace and dishonour. So highly ought the name of Christ to be revered by us, that what men consider to be the greatest anguish, should be to us the greatest honour.
Categories: Church Life