What does it mean to take up our cross and die daily?
Jesus says in Luke 9: 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
And we see in I John 3: 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them,how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
I am learning something about taking up my cross and denying myself and following Jesus. I write this to encourage you. I write this to help you to understand what it means to become a disciple of Christ. I write this so that I do not forget what I am being taught by my Savior, who is a very gentle and loving teacher. Finally, I write this so that you are not deceived.
First, I am learning that taking up my cross daily and denying myself as I follow Jesus has more to do with love than anything else. And not love as this world knows it, but love as God designed it and as it is modeled and taught by Jesus.
Secondly, denying myself has less to do with carnal or fleshly desires than what I ever thought. Denying myself for Jesus has more to do with not demanding my rights, not trying to get revenge and not punishing others whenever they have hurt me in some way. Denying myself for Jesus has more to do with choosing to forgive others, overlooking offenses, bearing with others in their moments of weakness and standing with others when they have lost a battle here and there.
One last lesson, for now, is that following Jesus is painful at times. Just as Jesus suffered as He laid down His life for me, when I lay down my life for someone that I love or even for a perceived enemy, it is going to hurt. Jesus felt pain in His offering. Why should it be any different for me?
For some, your cross could actually be as the sole caretaker that is taking care of an elderly relative that has become combative instead of being the loving mother that you knew all of your life. For another, your cross could be raising a child with developmental or health issues and it takes all of your effort to remain patient and loving as a parent and then tend to your marriage and a job, as well. Another dear brother or sister may be called to remain in a marriage that has some problems with addictions, finances, health, fidelity – or even all of those things. Your cross could be that you are the only believer and the only stable member of an extended family that is full of all kinds of problems and you are called upon to support them financially, spiritually and emotionally all of the time. Still another believer may be called to deal with all of the above issues rolled onto his or her very own – one – cross. This, of course, is not a full list of crosses that are possible to bear – I think you can begin to understand what I am learning.
What if taking up our cross and denying ourselves and following Christ has a lot more to do with what He began His ministry teaching and less to do with every do and don’t you’ve heard your entire life? What if denying yourself is not really about not having that extra candy bar? What if denying yourself is not really about making do with the 2 bedroom house instead of the 4 bedroom house? What if denying myself is not entirely about not smoking cigarettes and has more to do with forgiving when I am hurt? What if taking up my cross is loving my husband through each and every difficulty we face and remaining a team through it all – no matter what?
I mean, how many of us really like and follow and practice the parts of what Jesus said when He said: “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you?” Also in Matthew 5, Jesus tells us not to “resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
These all sound great and we nod in agreement when we hear them at church. Then, when we hear them out in our “lives” where the “real world” is we kind of laugh at them or rationalize how hard that would be and so Jesus must not have really meant for us to do any of those things. You know. We cannot just automatically start doing ANY of these things all at one time and we will never be able to do ALL of them ALL of the time. Part of His point was to show people that we do need a Savior and a Redeemer. But as we come to maturity in Christ we need to realize that we gotta start practicing what Jesus teaches us and what He said all of those years ago is still ringing true today. We love to quote promises and pray for healings and blessings and proclaim that Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever. We love to hear how the Rock doesn’t move when we are looking for something to gain from the relationship.
I ask you today – and you will recognize this idea, I am sure – but
Ask not what Jesus can do for you as you mature in Him – but think about what are you doing for Him? How have you grown in Him? Have you become more loving, compassionate, tender, kind, gentle, long-suffering, peaceful, and/or faithful? Has the Holy Spirit produced any of this fruit of the spirit in you and in your life? If not, then are we really taking up our cross? Are we really denying ourselves? Are we really following Jesus?
I also want to say that I am not complaining at all! Nothing has ever filled me with more peace and joy than to forgive when I didn’t want to but did it anyway – or to forget about my right to be mad and angry and to not seek to punish or get revenge… as a matter of fact, the punishing of other adults and the condemnation and accusing and putting them down and staying mad and wanting to see them “get it” so that they could “get it” – just makes it worse in the end for me and keeps others from growing, also. If we forgive others, then we will be forgiven. If we forgive others, then the Lord will, too! Every time a new trial comes in this area and I surrender a little more to Jesus – the more peace and freedom I gain, myself. I am telling you there is TRUTH IN HIS WORD – have faith 🙂