(For Part 1 of this 3 part series, read Why Take Up My Cross?)
God is softly whispering to the courageous few.
Will you deny self?
Take up your cross of suffering, of burdens, and follow me?
The Christian life is one of submission and service. It is one of utter dependence upon God. An acknowledgement that God empowers us to will and to do in obedience to His Word.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Pure joy when we face trials. I don’t know about you, but that’s not usually how I respond to adversity. When hard things come, my first thoughts are usually “why me”, quickly followed by, “how do I avoid this?”
I am not looking to see how God might use my suffering for His glory, how He might be using it to build character in me. In theory, I love Scriptures like this one, but I have feared being called to live it, and have secretly hoped that I could escape it- spend my whole life never having to suffer, face trials, or face despair.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the disciples. He says to them:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
That is a hard teaching for me to read. Are we willing to obey God even if we have to sacrifice things that affect our family?
What if God calls us to leave behind a lucrative career to serve Him? Are we willing to give up material comforts for ourselves and our children and trust Him?
Does obedience to God only extend as far as we are comfortable?
When I start wrestling with these thoughts, I have to honestly confess my own selfishness.
In the past, there have been times when I have simply glossed over these teachings, rationalized my way around them- excused them.
But now, for two weeks God keeps returning me to this truth.
Take up your cross; deny self.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
But what does it mean? Deny self. Take up thy cross.
Let’s look at this passage in the MSG (Message) translation:
24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?
27-28 “Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.”
To be like Jesus, to take up my cross, I must relinquish control of my life to the Father. Jesus lived in complete obedience and service to the Father. He acknowledged the Father’s plan and guidance as being of utmost importance to Him.
John 8:28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
So our call is to be like Christ. To live like our lives are not our own (for they are not, we have been bought with a price). We have died with Christ and have risen in new life.
What do we do when we slip?
When the lies of the enemy assault?
When the desires of the flesh threaten to pull us back into habitual sin?
Stay tuned for one final post in this series: No Turning Back.
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