As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you already know that sin has wreaked havoc in this world. Maybe you have already experienced some of the devastation in your own life or have witnessed it in the lives of others. Remember this: GOD IS GOOD. While God will turn our mourning into dancing and sorrows into joy and while He will “work all things together for the good of those who ” He doesn’t cause those difficulties, pains and troubles. Sin causes those. And God uses them. That is a very big difference in perspective! To be a true disciple of Jesus, He said we must 1) deny ourselves, 2) take up our cross and 3) follow Him. These are three separate actions and each is an equally important part of the process of the faith journey. You’ll spend the rest of your life working out your salvation as a disciple of Christ, and Jesus knew that – that is why He took His up first.
However, that doesn’t negate the trials and hardships you’ve walked through in your life. They are a very real part of you. Do you think that Jesus oversimplified life when He said, “If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.“? Some “crosses” in life just seem too hard to carry, don’t they? And yet Jesus didn’t qualify that statement at all. He didn’t explain it. He didn’t give any examples or tell a parable. Take up your cross, He said. So what is your cross?
You’ll spend the rest of your life working out your salvation as a disciple of Christ, and Jesus knew that – that is why He took His up first.
The cross that Jesus carried represented weights and burdens and pains that are the result of sin, death, punishment, evil actions and spiritual darkness. What you bear is no different. Your cross may be the burdens of your own bad choices, or the pain of the choices heaped upon you by another person. You may bear the despair, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, addictions, jealousy, temptations and trials that come with a life lived in a fallen world. You may bear the cross of a struggle of the flesh contending with the spirit – fighting against pride or lust, fighting to love, fighting to control yourself, fighting to be patient, fighting to find peace, fighting for joy. You may bear the cross of spiritual ignorance and a disconnectedness from the Spirit of God.
Peter wrote, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” (1 Peter 1:4) That is you and that is me! Jesus carried a literal cross. You carry a spiritual one. Remember that your fight isn’t with flesh and blood. Your struggle is always, always, always spiritual. (Ephesians 6:12) When Jesus said to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him, He knew exactly what He was saying – and He said it anyway. What does it mean to “take up” your cross? Do what Jesus did:
- Move forward in your life under its weight.
- Keep walking toward Jesus, even if you stumble.
- Refuse to stay down even if that “cross” lands right on top of you.
- Get back up.
- Grab that “cross” and carry it until you haul it to Calvary and crucify that thing once and for all.
“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.” (Galatians 5:24)
Thought for today
I don’t know what your crosses look like, but we all have them! We all fight the flesh and fight we must until we reach heaven! Remember Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) Jesus’ real burden wasn’t the weight of the cross. His burden was for people. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Seek the heart of Jesus for His burden. He will show you the areas in your life where you are unnecessarily burdened with the weight of a cross He wants you to bring to Him. He will show you where in your life you can bear His burden for people. People often collapse under the weight of their “cross” and they give up, stop growing or walk away from their faith entirely. Imagine if Jesus had done that! The world will still be lost in sin. Jesus wants you to be a person of victory, but in order to truly follow Him and be called His disciple, you must take up that cross and carry it while He leads the way.