Take Up Your Cross

In thinking about what to write tonight, it seems fitting to speak of the cross. In the Christian faith, this is the season of Lent. For many, it’s a time to meditate on Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross as he took upon himself the sins of every human past, present, and future, and paid the price for each one of us to be ransomed from death and made right with God. To be honest, I haven’t been thinking much about that these days; I’ve been pretty caught up in my own trials and suffering, not to mention glued to reports about the crisis in Japan and the revolution and violence in Libya. Sometimes it’s hard to tear ourselves away from this present chaos long enough to meditate on the cross of Christ, his sacrifice for us, and what that means for us today.

We had a sermon a couple weeks ago based on Luke 9:23: “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.‘” Of course, being a community church, there was great emphasis put on the very first section, “come after me,” which translated to “be with Jesus,” which translated to “live in community.” (Sometimes Bible study here is like a magician’s hat where no matter goes in, the same thing comes out every time.) :-) Anyway… back to the point. If we want to go after Jesus, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him.

I’ve been reading “Jesus for President” for some time now (it’s slow going because it’s packed with so much fascinating information that takes a while to digest). That book has really awakened a hunger in me to learn more about the Bible, about the context when Jesus lived, and the historical, geographical and political significance of various people, towns, parables, etc. My nagging curiosity really makes seminary sound good. But in the meantime, I figure I’d better learn to use the resources already at my disposal, like commentaries and word studies available free online. Tonight I found a gem of great worth at www.biblestudytools.com. Read what Matthew Henry says in his commentary about Luke 9:23 :

“So far must [the disciples] be from thinking how to prevent [Jesus’] sufferings that they must rather prepare for their own. We must accustom ourselves to all instances of self-denial and patience; this is the best preparative for martyrdom. We must live a life of self-denial, mortification, and contempt of the world; we must not indulge our ease and appetite, for then it will be hard to bear toil, and weariness, and want, for Christ. We are daily subject to affliction, and we must accommodate ourselves to it, and acquiesce in the will of God in it, and must learn to endure hardship. We frequently meet with crosses in the way of duty; and, though we must not pull them upon our own heads, yet, when they are laid for us, we must take them up, carry them after Christ, and make the best of them.”

Here we have not just the command, but the reason for it. The more we pamper ourselves and indulge our flesh, the harder it becomes for us to endure hard work, hardship, and desire, for Christ. The cross is like a workout tool for our faith and dependence on Christ. But it is more than that, too. Look at verse 24: “For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.” The cross is the way to Christ; it is the way to life. It is the way Christ took, so if we would follow after him, we must also take it.

If you want to know where your heart is, consider how you view your cross. Do you try to avoid it? Escape it at all costs? Do you see challenges and hardships as obstacles to what you’d really like to be doing? Think you’d just like to get around them and get on with your life? Those are signs that you’re trying to “save your own life,” and I admit I find myself there pretty often. But there is a holier way, a way that is “set apart” from the natural, worldly way. Jesus says if we lose our life for his sake, we will find it.

Consider your cross. Consider the attitude Christ is asking you to have. Consider the sacrifices that will have to be made. For me, it will mean letting my toddler housemates play in my room a little more, going cheerfully to meetings I can’t understand, studying Korean more diligently, being attentive to the needs of others and taking time to really pray for them, reaching out a hand of reconciliation to an estranged family member. Not sure if it’s just me or the magician’s hat again, but it seems all those sacrifices have to do with living in community with one another—or, as Jesus would say, loving one another. How is Jesus asking you to follow him this week? Let’s take up our cross daily, spurred on by our hope in the Resurrection. It is not far off now. If we lose our life for Christ’s sake, we will find it.

Note: I post this article with a fair amount of trepidation, knowing how often I shun my cross to indulge my flesh. As a fellow work-in-progress, saved by grace alone, I hope the truths herein will encourage not only the reader but also myself.