To quiet and calm the human soul requires a heart that is not haughty; that is, a heart that no longer holds a conceited view of itself. It has been astutely observed that the middle letter in the word “sin” is “I.” Sin is simply “I” trouble. It is spiritual nearsightedness, the inability to see beyond oneself. Sin blinds us to God and others by keeping us from ever taking our eyes off ourselves. Its tunnel vision destroys all peripheral vision so that we are left staring adoringly at ourselves alone.
Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The enemy is “ina-me.” No wonder the Apostle Paul proclaimed that the magnificence of our salvation in Christ is truly found in the fact that Jesus “died for [us]” so that we “might no longer live for [ourselves]” (2 Corinthians 5:15). When it comes to the majesty of calmness, the first and most formidable roadblock encountered on the steep slope leading up to this soaring summit is the massive stumbling stone of self. Before we can get anywhere up this steep slope we must first get self out of the way.
The only remedy for self is the cross. Self can’t be reformed; it must be crucified. Whereas the world’s prescribed cure-all is self-esteem, Christ’s remedy for fallen humanity is death to self. Christ’s first demand of every disciple is to “take up his cross” and “deny himself” (Mark 8:34). Anyone unwilling to do so cannot be Christ’s disciple.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as cheap or costless Christianity (Luke 14:26-33). Neither is there any such thing as a “crossless” follower of Christ. As Amy Carmichael once poignantly put it in a poem:
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow me;
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?
Although we’ve turned it into a pretty picture, a piece of jewelry, and a steeple topper, the cross is and always has been a symbol of death. To Christ, the cross meant more than indescribable pain and suffering; it also meant dying to His will in order to submit Himself to the will of His Father (Matthew 26:39, 42). As a result of His supreme act of obedience, Christ has become “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9). In other words, only those like Christ—willing to take up the cross, deny themselves, and do the will of God—will be saved by Christ (Matthew 7:21).
There is no easy road to Calvary, but there is no other way to Heaven. Like our Lord, we too may sweat blood as we contemplate the cross and stumble beneath it as we bear its heavy load (Luke 22:44; John 19:17; Mark 15:21). Still, bear it we must if we hope to live forever, for “whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for [Christ’s] sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25)
The first stop on the way to the majesty of calmness is Calvary. No one can calm the soul until he has taken up his cross and died to himself.