Take up Your Cross!
The phrase "Taking up your cross" or "This is my cross," is a phrase used loosely amongst many in today's Christian church. It is a phrase however, that is used out of context of the true meaning of the phrase as used by Jesus. Today people apply this phrase to say something like, " Oh, I am a paraplegic. This is my cross that I will have to carry for the rest of my life." This phrase is given to mean many other types of illnesses, deformities, pains etc. "This is the cross that I have to bear."
When Jesus said to His disciples to take up your cross, none of them according to scripture were burdened by any ongoing maladies.
A Biblical definition of what it is to take up your cross is given in 2 Cor. 4:8-11. I like the New Living Translation to this passage because it paints a clear picture of the suffering a true disciple goes through because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. (New Living Translation)
Rom. 12:1 adds another perspective to define what it is to "Take up your cross." It reads:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. NKJV
Or again using the New Living Translation:
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrificethe kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b]
Let's add to the mix Phil. 2:5-8. , again using the New Living Translation.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminals death on a cross.
And also Phil. 3:7-11
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. NKJV
So, what does all this add up to. This all adds up to being Christ like. As Christ suffered, was persecuted, beaten, whipped, despised, put to death on the cross, we should like wise live our lives reflecting Him. That is, we should try to live as best as we can to be like Him. In so doing, others will see Him in us. Some will desire to seek and find Christ also when they see Christ living in us. Others, sadly will also persecute us and will never find Him.
However, as he was abused by those who hated Him, we to should be prepared to receive the same kind of treatment as He received, even to the point of death. In so doing many are raised into the family of God, and God is glorified.
Paul tells us that he to was persecuted, struck down, beaten, whipped etc. for the sake of following after Christ. The life of a Christian is not all apple pie and roses. It is not a life free of sickness, sorrow, afflictions, persecutions, difficulties and distresses.
The Christian life is a daily dying through troubles. Just as Jesus suffered, we to also suffer. But this does not mean that we are vanquished. The way of dying, of taking up the cross daily, is a way of victory in Him.
The world cannot see Jesus physically, they do see Christ though, through us as we suffer daily for Him, He is manifested and glorified in our bodies. The world thus sees Him through us as we stand fast, not running away, but persevering for Him through all kinds of tribulations.
Paul describes our bodies in 2 Cor. 4:7 as earthen vessels, like pottery."
"7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." NKJV
This passage is likened to Gideon in Judges chapter 7. In this chapter, God tells Gideon to thin out the number of Israelites in various ways, so that when God sent Gideon and only 300 men to defeat the Midianites, God would be glorified through Gideon and these men.
1Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
4And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
5So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
6And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
7And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
8So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
9And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.
10But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
11And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.
12And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
13And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.
14And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
15And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
16And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
17And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
18When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
19So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
20And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
21And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
22And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
23And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.
24And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
(King James Version)
The reason why God did this is given in judges 7:2
The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, My own hand has saved me. 3 NKJV
God wanted the Israelites to know that he would defeat their enemies by His own power and strength. This would be clarified when they go against the MIdianites who out numbered them greatly. They would know that there would be no way to defeat their enemy on their own. They would know for sure that God had defeated their enemy by Himself, using their earthen vesseled bodies. He would shine through them and defeat the Midiantes.
So Gideon it is recorded gave his remaining 300 warriors trumpets, empty pitchers, (representing the people) and lamps which would be contained with the pitchers. Thus when the pitchers were broken, the lights within shined so brightly that the enemy became terrified because they perceived that the host of Israel was far, far greater in number than themselves. The spiritual lesson here is that, just as the pitchers were broken and the light shone out, likewise when we receive the gospel, God can likewise shine through our imperfect human earthen bodily vessels with the gospel message to the world.
History books confirm the ongoing persecution of Christians from the first century to the present. Many a dictator has vowed to wipe out entirely any all traces of Christianity including the Bible itself. Yet to their discouragement, Christianity only grows and spreads. It is written, I do not know the source, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."
As foolish and insane as this sounds, this is how God works. He uses our persections and tragedies as Christians to further His Kingdom, adding daily fellow brothers and sisters into His family.
Acts 2:41 (New King James Version)
41 Then those who gladly[a] received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
As we take up our crosses daily, being persecuted, ridiculed, beaten and dying for Him,
the life of Jesus is manifested in our broken earthen vessels.
In Rom. 12:1-2 Paul pleads, beseeches, entreats, exhorts us to present, to give our bodies whole heartedly to the service of the Lord. He implores us to commit ourselves to Him is such a manner that to the unregenerate eye we are a holy people, undefiled, sacrificing ourselves daily to do the will of God. This is our duty, a portion of what it is to take up our cross daily for Him.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2 NKJV)
In essense then what Paul is saying is that since Christ gave Himself for us, dying in our place for our sins, the least we can do is to live for Him. There should be no sacrifices too big to give to Him. As the hymnist Isaac Watts wrote: " Love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life my all."
We are to yield our lives to Him, offering our service to Him, pure undefiled, holy.
16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
We also should be daily offering to Him, our praises in song and worship. Heb. 13:15
15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (NKJ)
And also our possessions. Heb. 13:16
16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. NKJV
Paul continues to implore us to turn away from the world's system of thought and deed. He writes:
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Don't allow this world's ways to squeese and mold you into the same pattern as itself. A Christian should abandon all vices and ways that makes us slaves to it's evil ways.
This world's system is a system that has abandoned God, turned it's back on Him. It wants to live without Him to do it's own thing, thinking that if I ignore Him, then all things are permissable. What I think is right, is right for me, the world says. What you think is right for you, is right for you, it says.
How ridiculous is that ! It is tantamount to saying that murder is okay for me, but maybe not okay for you. I recall seeing a film years ago about an athiest speaking these kinds of words before a crowd. A Christian stood up to challenge that way of thinking in a very dramatic way, that nearly scared this atheist right out of his pants. The Christian picked up a chair and approached the atheist. he said in essense; " Well, in that case, if I say it is okay for me to break this chair over your head, because if as you say, whatever I think is right to do is okay, then it is not wrong for me to break this chair over your head."
Satan is the god and prince of this world. It is he whom is influencing this world.
4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. NKJV
All unbelievers are under his authority whether they believe it or not. Just as he seduced Adam and Eve in the garden through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life,
For all that is in the worldthe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of lifeis not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:16 NKJV
Satan is still using these same tactics to sway the world to do his bidding. Examine if you will the world's politcs, art, music, religions, amusements, thought patterns and life styles. Do they conform to the ways of God, or are they a way unto itself, ignoring the ways of God?
Did Christ die for you so that you can wilfully do your own thing, living as you please, living as the world lives? Should you continue in lusts of pride, flesh and whatever else your eyes see and desire?
The love of the world is enmity to God. Rom. 8:7 NKJ
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
AS James puts it in James 4:4 NKJ
..... Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
John again reminds us; 1 John 2:15-17 NKJV
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the worldthe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of lifeis not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Therefore as Paul pleads with us, turn away from the ways of the world and be transformed, run towards the ways of God. How? By the renewing of your mind. Rom. 12:2 NKJV We do this by thinking the way God thinks as we read the Bible. In so doing, by soaking our minds like a sponge on the Word of God, He will redirect our ways, He will guide us to do His perfect will, holy pleasing to Him. In this way, as we sacrifice our lives, surrendering our whole heart, mind, body and soul to Him, we take up our crosses daily. We yield our bodies to Him, we are separated from the world and given over to Him and our minds are transformed into His way of thinking and behaving. We give up daily ourselves to Him, carrying the cross of Jesus as a visual portrait of Christ living in us. And if the world hates us, it also hates Him, because they see Christ living in us when we are transformed daily, living our lives for Him.
Did Christ die for you so that you can wilfully do your own thing, living as you please, living as the world lives? Should you continue in lusts of pride, flesh and whatever else your eyes see and desire?
The love of the world is enmity to God. Rom. 8:7 As James aptly put it: Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 NKJV John again reminds us: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 NKJV
Therefore as Paul pleads with us, turn away from the ways of the world, and be transformed, run towards the ways of God. How? By the renewing of your mind. (Rom. 12:2 NKJV) We do this by thinking the way God thinks as we read our bibles. In so doing, by soaking our minds like a sponge on the Word of God, He will redirect our ways. He will guide us to do His perfect will, holy pleasing to Him. In this way we sacrifice our lives, surrendering our whole heart, mind, body and soul to Him, we take up our crosses daily. We yield our bodies to Him, we are separated from the world and given over to Him and our minds are transformed into His way of thinking and behaving. We give up daily ourselves to Him carry the cross of Jesus as a visual portrait of Christ living in us. And if the world hates us, it also hates Him, because they see Christ living in us when we are transformed daily, living our lives for Him.
Peter, one of the Lords closest friends, was known to have what we would call today; Foot in mouth disease, meaning that in his zeal and desire to do and say the right things, his mouth and actions went ahead of his thinking. He was rash, moving and, saying and doing, before considering first what he was about to say or do.
We see Peters foot and mouth in action when after Jesus had just done many miracles, (Mark 8:32; Matt 16:22), Jesus asks His disciples whom do people say that I am? Peter immediately pipes up and says that You are theMessiah. (Mark 8:29 New Living T'ranslation; Matt 16:16; Luke 9:20) All fine and well.
But, Peter sticks his foot in his mouth quite deeply when He rebukes Jesus, after Jesus tells His disciples that, He must suffer and die, prophesying His own death on the cross. After all, Jesus was the Messiah. He was the one everyone thought was going to destroy the Roman oppression and set up His kingdom on earth. After all, if He was the miracle worker, surely, it would be a simple matter to overthrow the Romans and take over.
To Peters surprise, Jesus then looks first at His disciples then rebukes him saying: Get behind me Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. (Mark 8:33 NKJV) Jesus, you must realize, was not calling Peter Satan. Rather He was telling Peter that you are talking like Satan.
From the beginning of time, Satan has been trying to thwart the ways of God. As you may recall, Satan tried to make Jesus go against the will of God in the wilderness, just like he did to Adam and Eve in the beginning. Likewise, Peter also, unwittingly was suggesting to Jesus that He bypass the ways of God, that he bypass the cross. This is why Jesus said: you are not mindful of the things (ways) of God, but the things of men. Man is likewise is against the things and ways of God.
Jesus is saying in essence: "If I do not go to the cross, my disciples, my people, my church cannot be saved.
Jesus had set His mind from eternity past to go forward to the cross so that many lives may be saved and inherit the kingdom of God with Him. Nothing at all was going to stop Him from fulfilling that quest.
Next Jesus tells His disciples: whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Mark 8:34 NKJV). This is now the true context of the saying, to take up my cross. It is not because of any maladies that Jesus says this. He is showing His disciples that He must suffer and die to save man. If you want to come after and follow Him, you must resist and deny any desires to do your own thing. You must refuse to do anything that will side-track you from following Him to the cross. To follow Him, may mean possibly to put aside any personal ambitions, comforts, riches, possessions and to perhaps even lose your life as well for Christ. He calls us to a life of self-denial if we are to follow Him, to be His disciples. It is a call to surrender all to Him.
We as Christians, are often tempted to save our lives, to compromise, so that we may enjoy our comforts, our luxuries. We want to store away and save up for the future, forgetting that in so doing we are forfeiting opportunities to pour our lives out for Him. We miss opportunities to save our neighbours from the punishment of sins, forever separated from God. We miss out the opportunity to live out our lives for His sake that He may be glorified. In order to save our lives, we have lost our lives.
Jesus goes on to say: What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his own soul? Mark 8:36-37 NKJV God is able to destroy our souls it says in Matt. 10:28 Yet He will not.
Never-the-less, Jesus gives us a stern warning. You may spend your life gathering greedily for yourself riches and things of the world. Yet Jesus is telling us that God is able to take and destroy both your body and soul in an instant. Mark 8:36,37; Matt. 10:28 What good is all your gathering if you can lose it all in the blink of an eye? You cannot take anything at all to the grave, nor to hell beyond, should that be your eternal destination. Would it not be of more value to take up your cross, doing His will, following behind in His footsteps daily, helping and using your God given gifts to bring more souls into His kingdom? Would it not be of more value using your wealth and resources, which belong to Him anyway, to feed, to clothe etc. the poor, the destitute, the forgotten, the crippled, the widower etc.? Should we not use our lives to the benefit of God and others rather than greedily collecting and hoarding wealth for ourselves?
As if to punctuate the idea of saving your life by losing it, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain where He was transfigured revealing partially His glory as He speaks with Elijah and Moses. Mark 9:1-7; Luke 9:27-35 This portrait of whom He really is, along with the appearance of Elijah and Moses, paints for the disciples the truth of His message, that if you take up your cross and follow Him, that if you lose your life for Him, you shall save it. Jesus pictures for them these truths. By following after Him, they would be rewarded with glory just as Elijah and Moses. The appearance of these two giants of the Old Testament, cemented for them the truth that eternal life with Him in glory was real, a certainty, a goal to set their minds on and to pursue to death. And, we to should likewise also run for the prize. 1 Cor. 9;24-27 Note, Paul here in verse 27 also paints a picture of submitting our bodies to follow after Him, taking up the cross daily using it to reach the goal of glory in eternity with Jesus Christ.
Another way to look at what it is to be a disciple of Christ, of one who takes up his cross and denies himself is to be a slave for Him. John McArthur, writes a book called, Slave, The Hidden Truth About Your Identity In Christ. In this book, he well embellishes the idea of what it is to be a slave for Christ. To be a slave is to surrender all your rights to your master. It is to do whatever the master commands of you. In this book John quotes a Scottish author named Alexander McLaren, a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon.
Quote: The true position then, for a man is to be Gods slave.. Absolute submission, unconditional obedience, on the slaves part, and the part of the Master complete ownership, the right of life and death, the right of disposing of all goods and chattels, the right of issuing commands without reason, the right to expect that those commandments shall be swiftly, unhestitantly, punctiliously, and completely performed-these things inhere in our relation to God. Blessed [is] the man who has learned that they do and has accepted them as his highest glory and the security of his most blessed life! For brethren, such submission, absolute and unconditional, the blending and absorption of my own will in His will, is the secret of all that makes manhood glorious and great and happy end quote
This is the true mark of what it is to be a Christian, a true disciple of Jesus, one who takes up his cross daily in full submission to Jesus, surrendering your entire self to Him, allowing Him complete authority over every aspect of your life.
Jesus gives us several hard sayings which on the face of it would seem contradictory to His other teachings. But when we dig down and look at the context of what He is teaching, they become transparent, and the meanings become clear. One such saying is found in Matthew 19: 23,24. He says: Assuredly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. NKJV
These two verses are in relation to the conversation Jesus had with a rich young ruler. Matt. 19:16-22 This guy had asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life. This mans theology seems to indicate that he was genuine in wanting to learn how to attain eternal life. However, he was a Pharisee, and as a Pharisee, he sought God by works, and by works alone. Jesus tried to draw him to a point where the rich young ruler would see that he was a sinner in need of a Saviour. This poor fellow would not acknowledge that at all. Jesus led him to make a choice between whom he would serve, God or money. Unfortunately he chose money. We know this is true, because we are told that he walked away grieved. He was grieved because he believed that in order to attain eternal life; he would have to give up all his wealth. This is not the case. One can still be rich, and yet still serve God. Jesus drew him to make a choice, whom will you serve? (Joshua 24:15) Are you willing to forsake all to follow Him? Sadly, this rich young ruler was unwilling to forsake all and to commit himself in total obedience to God.
That is why, Jesus said: Assuredly, I say unto you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:23 NKJV) Most rich people cannot bring themselves to separate their allegiance from money to God. They would rather put their faith and trust in their wealth rather than in God. Jesus is saying in essence, Will you do what you want to do? Will you let me run your life, or are you going to try and run your own life. Unless you allow Jesus to be your Lord and master, there is no place for you in the kingdom of God.
It is not necessary to give up all your possessions to be a follower of Jesus, but it may become at some point necessary to forsake all, even to the point of death. Nothing at all should have pre-eminence over your life than the Lord. Sadly anyone who is not willing to turn away from possessions, selfishness, false religions and sins, will be able to turn to the Lord and to take up their cross and follow Him.
Another saying which Jesus used to show people that they must prioritize their lives if they want to follow Him, is found in Luke 14:26-27. It says; If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be My disciple.
Should we actually hate our families to follow Jesus to be one of His disciples? Would that not violate the commandment to: Honour your father and your mother? Exodus 20:12 NKJV, or the edict to love your wives.? Eph. 5:25 NKJV Are we to hate our own lives? Luke 14:26
No, this is not what Jesus is saying at all. He is telling us that without question, our allegiance and priorities are to be firstly to Him. All else is secondary. Self also stands behind Him. Matt. 16:24
Paul also reminds us to discipline and subject our bodies, so that as we run the race, seeking after the prize of eternal life with Him, we will then gain the prize, the crown which is imperishable. 1 Cor. 9:24-27
Jesus uses such harsh language to eliminate any half-hearted followers. He wants a full commitment from us. We are to make Him number one above anything else in our lives. That means that family, friends, material things, money or anything else are to be second in line after Him. To follow Him, to take up our cross, is to deny self, deny family, friends, material possessions and all else if we want to follow Him.
When we decide to build a home, we have plans made up which helps to be able to count the cost of the building the house. Likewise, if we want to take up our cross to follow Him, we are also to stop and count the cost. Jesus said in Luke 14: 28-30: For which of you intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it-lest after he has laid out the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it mock him saying, This man begins to build and was not able to finish. NKJV
This sadly is an analogy of the Christian landscape in many countries around the world. There are so many professing Christians who have begun to follow Jesus. They have become nominal Christians who have a form of Christianity, never having fully committed themselves, to follow Him. They have never stopped to count the cost of what it truly is to become a Christian. These are some who have bought a Christian fire life insurance, to protect themselves, they think, from the wrath of God when judgment day comes. But they have never really made a full commitment to follow Him. They have not denied self, or pleasures and treasures of the world. The one who stops to count the cost is a true disciple who takes up his cross daily, following Jesus and obeying His Word.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a similar idea of what it is to count the cost of following Him. Read Matt. 7:24-27. This is the parable of two men building a house. One, Jesus said is a wise man because he built his house upon a rock. For, when the storm winds blew hard, the house stood firm without falling. This He said is the wise man that not only hears His Words, but obeys them as well.
Then there is the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. When the storm winds blew hard, the house fell. This is a foolish man who hears the Words of God, but does not obey them. In this parable the man who listens and obeys the Words of God, is the one who enters into the kingdom of God. The foolish however does not. This we can surmise is true because it is in the context of the previous verses 21-22.
Perhaps one who does not take up his cross daily and follow after Him daily may not be destined for eternal punishment. I wont be dogmatic about that. But can we be sure? The inference given in many other verses may suggest that the foolish man will not enter into eternal glory with Jesus. Will you take the chance?
Count the cost if you will of following or not following Him daily. Go ahead and throw the dice and see if you are a winner one way or the other, depending on how the dice land, and on which side of the fence you stand to follow or not. One way or another, the cost of not taking up your cross daily and following Him in complete surrender to His authority over your life, is not worth the cost. You may not lose your salvation, but you will lose rewards in heaven, if you do not take up your cross daily and follow Him.
Verses 21-23 of Matthew chapter 7 are strong enough for me to look seriously at not taking any chances. Jesus said plainly; Not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness. NKJV
The lesson here is quite plain and simple, those who do not obey and follow in true genuine righteousness, shall not enter eternity with Him in heaven. Thats a sobering wakeup call to not only count the cost, but to whole-heartedly take up your cross in sincere submission, surrendering all to Him.
The hypocrites whose only motive is an outward appearance to follow Him, will one day be surprised when He says to them; Depart from me.
What will be your decision? Will you build your tower and not count the cost? Will you be the foolish one and build upon the sand? Will you wait until the storm comes and see if your house will stand? Will you be a Hearer of the Word only and not a doer also? (James 1:22-25)
The gospel of Jesus calls for a decision, to follow or not, to take up your cross or not, to obey Him or not, to surrender in full submission to His authority or not.
In conclusion then, unless you are willing to surrender all including your life to Him, you cannot be His disciple. Unless you take up your cross and follow Him daily, you not are worthy of Him. Matt. 10:38; Luke 14:27 You must forsake all, deny self to the point of dying for Him.
To take up your cross is not bearing diseases. It is not bearing troubles in the family at home or with your car.
To take up your cross is a 100% submission, in obedience to His every Word given in scripture as He places them in your heart and mind through the Holy Spirit. It is to follow Him giving all of yourself, your possessions, your thoughts, your attitudes, your sins, your whole entire being to Him. This is not a one time event, but a daily occurrence, as Paul said in 1 Cor. 15;31 "I affirm by boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." NKJV
To take up your cross and to follow him is a life time commitment . You are to give all to Him unconditionally, with no hesitation, holding absolutely nothing back from Him. It is a turning your back on the things and ways of the world, abandoning anything that blocks Him from being your number one priority in life. Do not look back once your hand is on the plow. Luke 9:62 Sign up now for the first day of the rest of your life and surrender all to Him.
The hymn written by Winfield S. Weeden 1847-1908 pictures well the attitude we should have when we Surrender All, as we take up or crosses daily to follow Him.
I Surrender All
1. All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
2. All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow;
Worldy pleasures all forsaken, Take me Jesus, take me now.
3. All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Saviour, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit-truly know that Thou art mine.
4. All to Jesus I surrender, Lord I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power, Let Thy blessings fall on me.
Chorus : I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.
P.S. I was once asked while attending Bible College by the professor What is the ultimate purpose in life? At the time I did not come up with an answer. But now I know. Mans ultimate purpose in life is to take up his cross and follow Jesus and worship Him as Lord and Master, with all his heart, mind and soul.
New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Cross Amidst The Chaos
Isaiah 54:10 NIV
On September 11th, 2001, as volunteer Frank Silecchia sifted through the carnage at the World Trade Centre, he found 47 bodies but no survivors. He also found something else - a 20-foot steel-beam cross standing upright against the dusty sunrise. The beams were from two different buildings, but as they crashed into each another, the girders, forged together by the fire, created a giant cross amidst the chaos.
When death or disease claims a loved one, or financial disaster wipes out our sense of security, we wonder, "Where's God in all of this? Does He care?" We can handle almost anything as long as we know He's there. When we're not sure, we begin to doubt.
When God introduced Himself to Moses through a burning bush He said, "I AM" ( Exodus 3:14 NAS). That hasn't changed. He's still the same present-tense, "I AM" God. Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I AM" ( John 8:58). That means He doesn't need a crystal ball to predict the future, or a rear view mirror to see the past. He's "the same yesterday, today, and forever" ( Hebrews 13:8 NLT). He still walks into lions' dens, fiery furnaces, weddings, funerals, broken homes, hospital rooms, bankrupt businesses, and jail cells saying "I AM - always with you." Listen: "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not... Says the Lord who has compassion on you" ( Isaiah 54:10 NIV).
If you look closer you'll see He's right there with you - and has been all along!
(A friend from Minnesota)
My Yoke is Easy (A Response to an Email)
The passage you are referring to is Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (King James Version)
A yoke in the days of Jesus and earlier, as you likely know, is a wooden frame linking two oxen together, held there with a thong around the neck. (Numbers 19:2; Deut. 21:3) This picture is used to figuratively to describe subjugation. (1 Kings 12:4, 9-11; Isa. 9:4.) The removal of the yoke denotes deliverance. (Gen. 27:40; Jer. 2:20; Matt. 11:29,30) Consider that thought a few moments.
Sin holds us bondage. Jesus came to set the captives free.
Listen to the words of Jesus, Luke 4:18-19: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (King James Version)
Again. sin holds us in bondage. We are like the oxen held in the yoke. It is a heavy burden to carry the burden of the yoke. We carry this burden for many years often enough, because we are to stubborn to let Him carry the load. We try oh so hard by ourselves. But we are unable of ourselves to lift that yoke off of our necks.
There is that still voice calling and calling and calling. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matt. 11:28-30 (King James Version)
He wants to lift that yoke off of your neck. He wants to carry the heavy burden for you. And He will if you but listen to Him, follow His lead, obey His Words. It is not difficult, but we make it difficult upon ourselves when we listen to the other voice. The one whom pricks our minds with lies.
The words and lies of the devil are heavy and carry us down. But, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." 1 John 5:3 (King James Version). His "ways are ways of pleasantness", and His "paths are peace". Prov. 3:17 (King James Version)
The Key to having the burden lifted is to listen to His voice, to "Come unto me" (Matt. 11:28 King James Version)
Come to Him and Learn His ways. His ways are easy, they are light. He offers you rest from your weary load. Christ offers to you freely, with no exception, with no hardship, with no conditions, REST AND COMFORT, if we but take and accept His Lordship over our lives. Come unto Him and take freely. Come as you are, heavy laden, dirty, thirsty. All that is holding you back at this very moment from being delivered once and for all of your heavy burden is you stubbornness to follow the ways of sin. Follow Him and Be SET Free. When there is obedience to Him, the yoke is easy. What makes it hard, is when there is no submission to Him.
To COME to Jesus is to believe by faith what He says Acts 16:31 It is to receive Him John 1:12. It is to eat of the bread that He offers John 6:35. It is to drink the cup that He offers. It is to Look upon Him, and be saved Isa. 45:22. It is to confess that He, Jesus is God 1 John 4:2. It is to Hear Him, who believes His Word and believes in Him who sent Christ who will have everlasting life and not pass into judgement, but from death to life. John 5:24 It is to enter the door and be saved and find the pasture. John 10:9. It is to open the door and hear His voice and dine with Him. Rev. 3:20 It is to touch the hem of His garment and be healed. Matt. 9:20,21. It is to accept His wonderful gift of eternal life John 3:16, Rom 6:23
Where is, or to whom is the object of this wonderful faith, But None Other Than Jesus Christ. He says COME TO ME. There is none other under heaven or earth by which you may be saved and healed and to have your heavy burden lifted.
In order to have this burden lifted, you must first admit that you are burdened with the weight of sin. Only those whom acknowledge that they are burdened with they weight of sin and lost can be saved and have the weight of sin lifted. Faith in Christ is preceded by repentance toward God.
He offers you a free gift. He offers you REST. This gift is unearned, undeserved. This gift comes from realizing and accepting the truth of the gospel message. Rest comes when we realize the debt He paid for our sins. And He does not demand a payment ever again.
Take His Yoke. Enter into submission to Him, to do His will. Turn over control of your life to Him. Rom. 12:1-2 implores us: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (King James Version)
Learn From Him. Acknowledge His Lordship in every area of you life. Read His Word, study it and obey it. In this, He trains us to follow after Him, to become more like Him.
Unlike the world today and the Pharisees of His day, their yoke, and the yoke of the world today is heavy, it is burdensome. He is gentle and lowly of heart. When we let Him lead us and humble ourselves before Him, we will ...
Find rest for our souls. Rest is found in obedience to Him, in letting Him take control of our lives, when we serve rather than being served.
When the Pharisees walked the earth, they laid a heavy burden on the people with their man made rules which were longer than the Mississippi River. They themselves would do nothing to lift or carry the burdens of the people. Matt. 11:30 Jesus on the other hand says: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (King James Version)
This does not mean that we shall never have trouble or heartache. But rather that when we do, He will be there tio help us carry the load. We are together yoked with the One who created us who gives sufficient grace for every need, for every burden. To serve Him is not bondage, but is perfect freedom.
J.H. Jowett said: "The fatal mistake for the believer is to seek to bear lifes load in a single collar. God never intended a man to carry his burden alone. Christ therefore deals only in yokes! A yoke is a neck harness for two, and the Lord Himself pleads to be the One of the two. He wants to share the labor of any galling task. The secret of peace and victory in the Christian life is found in putting off the taxing collar of "Self" and accepting the Masters relaxing "yoke"."