Take up thy cross.
He calls me to a radically different lifestyle than our culture holds up as the ideal.
I could easily balk at, ignore, or rationalize away this reality in our self-worshiping society.
I have hesitated obeying this call in the past because I had never deeply and consistently spent time meditating on what God has done for me through Jesus Christ.
Sin is stealthy in the lives of so many Christians. It lingers behind and under good intentions and half-truths.
We don’t see how far sin has infiltrated, nor how we are living distracted and ineffective in our witness for Christ.
I woke up washed out, gray, half in and half out- on the fence.
I have been well-versed on God’s love my whole life. I know all about it. I have embraced it. But I find that I easily forget what came before. The dire straits I was in.
I was skipping right to the love and then when Christ called me to take up my cross and deny myself…I found myself shuffling my feet and looking around like- who me?
Unless I live in the light of what God has done for me in Christ, I see suffering only as something to be avoided and the cross of Christ- only as a means to salvation (being saved from sin and death)- and not also a call to walk in newness of life.
Romans is the book where Paul explains the gospel message. What is the gospel message? The True teaching regarding what God did for us through Jesus Christ His Son.
Chapters 1-4 talk about our dire straits. About God’s wrath. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like thinking about that. I prefer to focus on the good things that I can do- but not necessarily on the state of my heart, my lack of trust.
Or ponder the reality that no matter how “good” I try to be, I am still desperately in need of a Savior– and a God who dwells in me through His Holy Spirit.
I need Him. Without Him I face hell, damnation, fire, God’s just wrath poured out against me.
We can’t skip to chapter 5 and start reading there. We don’t start with being justified by faith and at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1)
How precious His grace becomes in the light of what He could have given me, and His actions would have been just.
Paul starts in chapter one and two recounting the dire straits we find ourselves in. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.” (1:18)
I grew up in church. So, when I used to read the first chapter of Romans I would think, that’s not me. I haven’t given myself over to a debased mind and degrading passions. I have loved God my whole life.
But that does not mean I am without sin- or somehow my sins rate differently since I have tried to be obedient.
In chapter 2-3, Paul confirms this truth. There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God.
Chapter 3 verses 19-20 further clarifies by saying every mouth is silenced. For though we may have kept parts of the law or certain laws, no person is perfect when judged according to the law.
Romans 3:23- For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
When I consider this God I serve, and how my sins injure Him- and yet he lavishly pours out love on me, His fallen creation- through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.
That evokes worship.
And when suffering comes, I see my circumstances through the lens of redemption- and all God has done for me.
Trust becomes a natural outpouring of thanks and gratitude in the light of all that God has done to intervene on my behalf.
So, what now?
Now, I want to serve God, to learn what it means to deny self, pick up my cross and follow Him.
How do I live in that truth?
The next post in this series coming soon- Taking up my Cross.
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