Sunday, May 18, 2008

Take Up Your Cross...

Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'
-Matthew 16:24

Jesus' words were unmistakable--and brutal--to His disciples. They knew what crosses were. No, they weren't silver charms worn on necklaces. They weren't the designs in tattoo parlors. The cross was an instrument of execution, one of the most violent and horrible ever invented by evil men. I can imagine the disciples gasping when Jesus uttered those words. If we fully comprehend them, well will gasp, too.

But before we get to the cross, let's understand some things. Jesus begins this statement with a tiny but important word: if. He doesn't take it for granted that you and I will be willing to follow Him along His path of radical obedience to the Father. Jesus is no bully. He doesn't try to get us to pack our bags for a guilt trip. No, He simply offers that path with all its hardships and joys, and says, "If you want the greatest adventure life has to offer, here's what the ticket will cost you." Quite frankly, the vast majority of Christians look at the brochure and say, "No thanks. The price is too high. I'll settle for something else." Only a few are willing to say, "Yes, Jesus. I want to go wherever you go." Fewer still stay on board for the whole journey. Jesus makes the offer, and He leads each of us in deciding what we want to do. The question isn't "Do you do what you want to do?" but "Do you do what He wants you to do?" In this lies the opportunity to die.
A few months later, the disciples understood what Jesus meant. At that time, the perfect Son of God, the sinless messiah, willingly "endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Heb. 12:2) in obedience to the Father. He prayed so hard that blood vessels in his forehead burst from the strain. Drops of blood fell on the ground where he agonized with his Father about dying such a horrible death. But His commitment to obey the Father was greater than His desire for comfort and approval. So He went to the cross.
That's what it means for you and me, too: to obey God no matter what He asks us to do and no matter how much we don't want to do it. On a daily basis, we are to say "Yes!" to God by:
  • Valuing what God says is important, and blowing off the things that aren't
  • Being loyal to the Father at all costs because He is worth of our love
  • Obeying Him wherever, whenever, and however He leads
So "taking up our crosses" means to value God above all else, to serve instead of demand our rights, and to be humble instead of proud--to the point of death.
The rewards are great, but so is the cost. It costs us everything. Like the hymn says, "I surrender all," not "I surrender 10%." No one will tell you that it's an easy road. Jesus himself faced hardship on the cross. He wept. He sweat. He asked his friends to pray. The result of his obedience was that God is exalted above all and Christ became the way for you and I to be forgiven. You and I will face excruciating moments, too, when it seems like God is asking too much and nobody is there for us. Those are the most painful, and the most important, times in our journey. We will feel alone, but we aren't. God is with us, and He has not forsaken us, especially in those times of need.
[taken from A Call To Die by David Nasser]

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