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Victory Through The Cross

Missionary Rally message from 1954 by Rev. Stanley Plunkett

It is computed that there are two million, 200 thousand people who are yet without Christ. Why? Is it because the Gospel is not adequate to so wide a program? No, I believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Then why? Is it because we who are entrusted with the Gospel have failed? I think there is a great element of truth in that.

My dear friends, if you and I are going to see a large and abundant harvest over the face of the earth for Christ, then we will have to sow far more Christians in the homeland who are really prepared to die to self. That is our subject here.

There are many phrases in the Bible that are a little hard to understand, but I hope we can gain some idea as to their real meaning of a few of them here, and how they can be applied to our lives. One of them is this: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Before anybody can say, “Christ liveth in me,” he has to say, “I am crucified with Christ.”

Paul also speaks about mortifying the deeds of the flesh, saying, “They that are Christ’s must crucify the flesh with the affections and the lusts thereof.” You have him writing to the church at Galatia saying he glories in the cross, whereby the world is crucified unto him and he unto the world.

What does he mean? What is this doctrine that we see scattered throughout the Epistles, this doctrine of which our Lord spoke when He said, “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

I want to take you to the story of Naaman in 2 Kings, to show to you from it how that there is a way of life in the flesh, and that it fights against the way of life in the Spirit.

Now Naaman, you remember, was a leper. If you saw a leper in his horrible state, with the feet and hands even falling off until they are stumps, the face so emaciated, you’d shudder at the horrible sight. But just as that sight is repulsive to the human eye, so the flesh is to God. God just has no love for the flesh; God’s Word says that “They that are in the flesh cannot please Him.” Our Lord and Saviour said, “The Spirit quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing.” It is of no worth at all.

Paul gives the whole trend of the flesh when he says, “They that sow of the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption”—nothing better than that. And he says, “I knew that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” I wonder if we really know that? The psalmist said, “I am a worm.” That is not very complimentary.

I remember reading in the memoirs of Robert Murray McCheyne how a lady came to him on one occasion realizing that there was no real fruitfulness in her life. That dear saint of God dealt with her kindly and yet faithfully, but somehow or other she couldn’t see the truth. Either she was resisting it or the powers of darkness were very strong. Until, as he was saying goodbye to her, he said these words, “You poor, vile worm, It is a wonder the earth hasn’t opened and swallowed you up long ago.”

She looked at him and she blinked, but the truth had gone home. She saw herself for what she really was before God.

That’s where you and I have got to come, that we have to realize that we are nobody, nothing. For as long as we cherish and love the flesh, we will trust it. And when we come to the place that we hate the flesh, where we see it for what it is, then we will not trust it.

The trouble is that we are putting so much faith in our own wisdom, in what we are. Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “And we have the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raiseth the dead.” We will continue to fail to put trust in God to do a great thing across the world as long as we trust in the flesh, as long as it is alive in us.

You and I have got to get to the place where we see ourselves as God sees us and, once seeing ourselves, we will not trust in ourselves, but in God. Are we willing to accept God’s estimate of our nature, of our flesh? Are we willing to accept ourselves as being worms and no[t] men, vile and repulsive? We are all so self-centered—we are full of our plans for our own interests and our own security. We are forever wanting people to think nice things about us. We don’t want people to rub us the wrong way, we don’t want to be put out. We want to preserve the flesh, and we cannot really live for God and save ourselves at the same time.

This dread disease which Naaman had carried with it a separating potential. It separated him from people.

This fact of the flesh and our innate sinfulness within us has a separating potential. It separates us from God. There is only one thing that has ever come between the soul of man and God, and that thing is sin. If you are not rejoicing in His presence, then you can be sure that your flesh is coming between you and God.

I cannot tell what it is—it may not be anything very gross and immoral in the eyes of society, but something that is equally vile in the eyes of God. It may be resentment, it may be covetousness with regard to money, it may be any other sin. But it robs you of the delight of the presence of God—it has separating potential.

If each one of us would accept God’s estimate of our nature; if only we would cease to trust in the flesh—what God could do through Moody Church here in Chicago and unto the ends of the earth! What releasing of spiritual power when we are willing to allow this thing to be reckoned dead within us!

My dear Christian friends, it is just at this very point that we are denying to millions the Gospel of redeeming love!

How did Naaman have his leprosy healed? Well, he had all kinds of ideas. And so have you and I. He filled up the chariot with gold and silver and raiment. He thought he could get this thing by gift of money. I hope you are going to give very liberally to the cause of missions, but the sacrifice of money in and of itself does not deal with the flesh.

He had other ideas, too. He had a letter drafted to the king of Israel. We think that if we go to Dr. So-and-so, he’s going to help us—he’s a real good preacher. Or if I read a book by Dr. So-and-so, that’s going to do the trick. Nothing that is purely man-made—though God can use that just the same as He can use money—can bring about this deep work within the heart.

Poor old Naaman also had this idea in mind: “In my country there are rivers clearer and better than all the waters of Israel. Dip in Jordan? No, not I!”

There are some of us who have thought along that line too. We have thought that we should polish ourselves up a bit spiritually, perhaps. But self-righteousness will not produce the desired results. Something far deeper, something surely of God alone, can do it.

However, Naaman finds himself eventually wending his way down to Jordan, getting down from his proud position in the chariot, getting down before his captains, making a fool of himself almost. But he did what God had ordered him to do through the prophet.

You see, that river of Jordan always speaks to us of a sacred death—the death of the cross. There is only one way in which our flesh, your nature and mine, can be dealt with: It is by being crucified with Christ.

Let me make it abundantly clear: I am not speaking just about the cross for us, I am speaking about the cross in us. Every one of us who are truly Christians know the cross for us. We know that our sins are forgiven, we know that we have eternal life, we know that we have fellowship with the Father. These are blessedly real. But, I need more than the cross for me—that is adequate for eternity, but I am in the world, with all of its enticements, and the flesh with all its subtlety and sinfulness.

What you and I want to know in our lives is not only the cross for us, but the cross in us. And that is not a cross that we just inherit because of something that comes our way through circumstances, it is a cross that we deliberately take up.

What is that cross? It is the cross of Christ. And so I want to make abundantly clear to everyone what it means to be crucified with Christ.

There were two actions in the cross. One was what God [the Father] did, the other was what Christ [God the Son] did. God alone can crucify the flesh. But Christ had to submit Himself, and this is just precisely where we come in. You and I are not able of ourselves to deal with our own selfish, deceitful, subtle nature. God alone can deal with it, but we must submit ourselves.

I believe if we can see what the cross meant to Christ then we will be able to understand just how we are to follow Him, and how we are to submit ourselves. In the prayers of our Lord we see exactly, I believe, what the cross meant to Him.

The first prayer was in Gethsemane, when He said, “Oh, that this cup might pass from Me.” But then, thank God, He came to that place where He said, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” There was a reluctance at the beginning to go through this painful process, but then he yielded Himself to it. There is an equal reluctance on our part to go through with this process. We do love and cherish the flesh; we don’t like things that are hard and painful and unpleasant, but that is the way of the cross.

You remember that on the brazen altar of the ancient covenant there were four horns. Do you know why those four horns were there? Why, the beasts, as it was brought to the altar of sacrifice, would smell death there, and it would struggle against it, and would have to be bound with cords to the horns of the altar, and there slain. That is what the psalmist means when he says in the 18th Psalm, “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even into the horns of the altar.” Oh, how our flesh struggles against being dealt with and crucified, but we have to be firm with it. We must be willing to be bound to the altar, that God may do what God alone can do. Are we willing for that?

Paul speaks of this in the 12th chapter of Romans, when he says, “I beseech you…that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” It is one thing to come and put on the altar our money, our talents and gifts, whatever they are, but to put ourselves there, that is something quite different.

You see, you just cannot save the flesh and preserve it, and at the same time allow it to be crucified. You have to say, “No, not my will, but Thy will be done!” And if that happened here at The Moody Church, with one-tenth of the people here, I believe Chicago would feel it, and the ends of the earth would feel it.

Then there came the second prayer, when they were nailing Him to the cross. As they drove the nails into His hands and His feet, and His precious blood poured forth, He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Has it ever struck you that when He prayed that prayer He was practicing what He preached? You remember how, on the Mount, He said, “When thou comest to thy altar, and there rememberest that thou has anything against thy—.” No, He didn’t say that. “When thou comest to thy altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, go and be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift.”

And when He was going to His altar, and there were those that had something against Him, He was reconciled to them as He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

If you are going to be crucified with Christ, it is going to mean that personal relationships will have to be put right. It will not be easy to say, “I’m sorry,” and mean it. That will put the dagger through the flesh and the pride.

Some wrong relationship between you and another, maybe in this church, is hindering the blessing like Achan coveting something hindered the victory for Israel against Ai. I do not know what it may be, but all I know is, that when the flesh is being crucified, there is a release of spiritual power that eventuates in fruitfulness.

Are we willing to go through this humiliating process? Are we willing to admit that we are wrong? Are we willing to take that step that is going to sting our pride? It is going to be painful, but, you see, we cannot spare ourselves and at the same time be crucified.

And then there came that third prayer, where He said, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” In that terrible, dark hour on the cross, why did our Lord utter those words? Was it just that the Father had turned His face away from the Son because He was bearing away the sin of the world? I think that is part of the explanation, but if we are thinking of something more than the cross for us, then there is a deeper meaning. Because Jesus Christ was going through with God to the very bitter end, the devil, seeing that this was an hour of crisis, poured out his vileness; he was out to utterly destroy Him. That was the meaning of that dark, dark hour: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

And if you and I are willing to be crucified with Christ, we must go this way. If we do, we can be sure we will become the target of the enemy of souls. He will pour in all the darkness and blackness of hell. I have a lot to learn yet, but I have been this way. And this is not a once and for all experience. Paul said, “I die daily.” Jesus said, “If any man come after Me, let him deny himself and take up the cross daily and follow Me.”

This is the treatment the heavenly Surgeon has to do, and it will not be easy to bear, but it is necessary. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Are we willing to have the sentence of death in ourselves so that we trust not in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead?

And then there came that last prayer. Our Lord said upon the cross, “Into Thy hand I commend My spirit.” He went into the very bosom of God; He entered into that intimacy with His father. If you and I want to know what it is to walk with Him, if you and I really want to know what it means to be in full fellowship with Him, to dwell deeply with God, this is the way. We will never know this glorious way of walking with Him until we are willing to go the way of the cross.

Naaman would have remained a leper if he had not gone the way of Jordan. It was hard for him, humiliating for him, but it was God’s way—it was the only way. If he had not gone that way, he would have remained a leper.

And we can know that God is willing to deal with our flesh, or we can rebel and resist, and not say, “Thy will be done.” But if we do, the flesh will remain alive, just as surely as Naaman would have remained a leper, if he had not gone the God-appointed way.

I remember when I was a chaplain with the Royal Air Force, going into my squadron headquarters one morning and seeing a poster which struck me. It was a time when there was a lot of absenteeism in the mines and factories. The men had been working long, long hours each day, and they were up in the night because of the air raids. It was becoming almost unbearable, but it was 1943, and everything had to be put into the fight, every nerve had to be strained.

The poster read this way: “You can’t spell Victory with an absent ‘t’.” As I looked at it, I said, “Oh, that’s clever.” For that ‘t’ in the word “Victory” stood out in a red letter.

And I thought how that, lying behind the warfare of daily life, just as behind that desperate conflict, there lies a deeper battle, a war of nerves. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.” You cannot spell victory without the cross—there is no other way.

I do not know what the next decade or century, if God gives us a century, is going to produce. I do not know whether that two billion, two hundred million people will still remain unreached with the Gospel. But I do know this: if we are going to make any effective contribution to the evangelization of the world, our fleshly natures will have to be radically dealt with, as God alone can deal with them—so that there will be the release of missionaries, so that there will be the release of money, so that there will be the release of spiritual prayer forces, that we will be able to confess that the battle is God’s to the far ends of the earth. I pray that God will give us grace that we may be willing to be placed upon the altar, to allow God to do what God alone can do in our hearts, and be prepared for the consequences.