“Those who save texts demanding a cross for ‘the deeper life’ have cheated their hearers in evangelism. Without a cross there is no following Christ! And without following Christ there is no life at all! An impression has been given that many enter life through a wide gate of believing in Jesus. Then a few go through the narrow gate of the cross for deeper spiritual service. On the contrary, the broad way without self-denial leads to destruction. All who are saved have entered the fraternity of the cross.”
- The Shadow of the Cross, p. 22
I have been reading this book, The Shadow of the Cross, lately for my personal devotion, and being challenged by the life of the cross, and the life of joy, hope, and abundance that comes through living such a life. Before I make any of my own comments though, I’d encourage you if you want to go deeper in your walk with God to read this book. Through looking at the passages on discipleship and the cross, Walther Chantry describes a life in Christ as one of self-denial, taking up our cross, and following him. As I read it, I feel that more of me is being chipped away so that I might become more and more like Him.
My host father, Pastor Sonny, one of the missionaries with MMP (Mission Ministry Philippines), said that his mentor, Attorney Ranier Chu, one of the directors of the organization, tells the missionaries regularly that they must not grow fond of leaving their ‘desert’ too often. By ‘desert’, he means the slum community in which the missionaries live and work. Though different in some ways from the actual deserts that the ‘Desert Fathers’ of the Christian faith spent time in, Attorney Chu and the director of my MATUL program, Viv Grigg, both see the ‘desert’ of the modern day ‘Desert Fathers’ being the depressed areas around the world (the world’s urban poor making up over 1/3 of the worlds population).
Like St. Francis and Mother Theresa (and their orders), the preaching friars of today have been called to live simply and justly amongst the world’s poor, not too dissimilar to Jesus’ own ministry as told in the gospels. Through this surrendered and sacrificial life, one grows closer to the Lord, and discovers the joy in taking up their cross on a daily basis. It is a life of prayer, sacrifice, worship, service, devotion, and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control).
I have experienced first hand over this past month the lives of these surrendered saints, and am myself learning a lifestyle of personal sacrifice and devotion. My ‘desert’ is currently in Tatalon (where I live) and Fairview (where I serve), two places with lots of need spiritually, economically, emotionally, etc. Yet these areas are great for growing deeper in ones walk with the Lord (including my own), seeing Jesus face to face on a daily basis (Mt. 25:31-46), and seeking ways to bring about justice in our world. For me, that looks like learning to live on $3-5 (that is, minus room and board and education expenses), seeking to be pure and content in being single, finding regular rhythms for prayer and reading Scripture, and serving my community through Bible studies, micro-finance, and simply learning time to learn their language and culture.
Where are the ‘desert’ areas where you live? I challenged the pastor at my home church back in the States to encourage his own family and congregation (or at least a percentage of them), to seek out and even move into some of the depressed areas in their own city. It is often the last place we want to go, but the one in which we will find the most abundant life if only we are obedient. The economically poor have taught me how to be happy with a little, and these same people, many of whom become heirs of the kingdom and spiritually rich upon receiving Christ (immediately joining the narrow road and ‘fraternity of the cross’, skipping in its entirety the wide road that I have seen too often with the economically rich – though that ‘cheap grace’ has also made its way over here to many churches), have taught me the joy of living in the grace of Jesus who, “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that (we), by his poverty, might become rich!” (2 Cor. 8:9)