Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Take Up Your Cross

Today is day three of our twelfth week, reading the Bible together.  Our scriptures today are:  Deuteronomy 15-18; Luke 9; Psalm 115.

In Luke 9, Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem, determined to face the cross.  The Samaritans refuse to show Him hospitality because His face is set toward Jerusalem--meaning that because of His ministry to them, they don't want to see Him go to His destruction, so they refuse to be party to His journey to that painful place.  Twice in this chapter, Jesus predicts His death, but the disciples refuse to understand.  Jesus wants to underscore to his friends that following God has a cost.  He Himself will die, and they must give up everything for Him.

The Lord knows that their mission will be difficult.  Their burden will be hard to bear.  That's why in verse 62, Jesus said, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  He wanted believers to know that once they make a commitment to Him, it will be a tough road.

In verses 23-25, Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"

Christ calls us to abandon ourselves to His give up our own agendas, our comfort, our self-determination.  So often we're so focused on "laying our burdens down at the foot of the cross" that we forget--Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him.  That's not to say that the Lord doesn't ease our load.  "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light," He said (Matthew 11:30).  But today's Christians have taken verses like this and re-shaped our faith into an easy-going religion in which we expect to experience no pain, no suffering, no heartache.  In essence, we want God to trim down our crosses so they'll be easier to carry--not so heavy, not so hard.  Take a look at this video to see what I mean...

When I see this video, I don't interpret this as the "salvation bridge" that you see in so many gospel tracts, where Jesus bridges the gap between humanity and God, and where we cross to God through Him.  That may be a good illustration of salvation, but this isn't that.  If this were an example of the "salvation bridge," then you could watch this video and say, "My effort has saved me...without all my hard work carrying the cross, I couldn't get to God."  No, salvation is by grace, and not by our works.  Here, the chasm simply represents the obstacles in life--those hard-to-cross moments.  When you abbreviate your gospel, when you trim down your cross, when you take the painless path, then you have a religion that's insufficient to see you through the tough times.  It's only through suffering that we gain the strength to overcome.

The "Salvation Bridge" of Jesus and the Cross
In Matthew's version of this story (Matthew 16:21-28), Jesus talks about taking up your cross just after Peter tells Jesus that He should avoid death.  But the Master said there was no other way.  And for us it is the same.  We should embrace the death of our old selves and take on the new life of Christ.  We should die to our own imaginations, our own desires, our own sins.  As our egos are replaced by the mind of Christ within us, a new person is born.  This is the resurrection that Jesus brings to our hearts, after we have allowed ourselves to die.  Only through being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) can we be reborn to live our true lives in the Spirit.

*All scriptures are taken from the ESV.

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