“If anyone wishes to follow Me, he must renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
One hundred years of compromise has utterly robbed modern Christianity of the real significance of the doctrines expressed in these scriptures.
English translations of this passage from Mark, for example, commonly say “let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me”, but this doesn’t give the true sense of what Jesus is saying; it is almost implying that to renounce, or deny, yourself and take up your cross is an option that is open to you; a friendly suggestion, or good advice. But the verbs “renounce” and “take up his cross” are both in the imperative, meaning that this is not an option, but a command. If you don’t renounce yourself, you can’t really follow Him; because His life was one of renunciation of self in favour of doing the things that pleased the Father (John 8:29).
As to the passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul is not talking of a repaired model, not a newer model, not a better model, not a model at all, but an entirely new creature; that is, something that was not there before.
Powerless preaching and powerless hearing has brought about a deconstruction of the scriptures so that the death of self is no longer taught or demanded; all that is required today is intellectual assent and some sort of external change. The consequence is that the creature is not new at all; he is the same old model, tarted up a bit on the outside, but inside the same old engine throbs away driving the life on its same old self-centred way. “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20) is now just a song, not an experience; it has come to mean that I am going to try and follow Christ, or that because I believe in Jesus therefore I can claim to be crucified; it has become doctrine, not experience. Could Paul really write to the modern Church that the gospel “became not to you in word only but also in power”? (1 Thessalonians 1:5); I think not.
Of course, none of this powerless preaching is the truth; Christ Jesus is the truth personified and the truth led Him to the Cross; if we receive the truth it must do the same to us. If the gospel is to be the “power of God unto salvation”(Romans 1:16), then it must be the gospel as Paul preached it, not these latter day deconstructions that amount to a “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). While we try and do deals with God, to strike a bargain that allows the self to survive somehow, it is all to no avail. Eventually, we must surrender our will to Him.
God cannot fill what is not empty and when you empty yourself, God hastens to fill the vacated space with His Almighty presence; what a happy hour it is when that happens! Then, our prayers are not seeking for ourselves, not focusing on our needs; we are finally delivered from self when we seek God just for His presence.