Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cross to Bear

Cross to Bear
Feb 27, 2012
Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'"

If you are a Christian, then you have the opportunity and responsibility to follow Jesus. That is what being a Christian is all about. It's not simply about attending church or doing good things for others; it is about following the Lord Jesus Christ whole heartedly. Jesus spoke decisively as to what this means. He put it in plain language so the first Christ-followers could easily understand it: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." While the words seem easy for us to understand today, I don't think we fully grasp what Jesus was trying to say. He wanted to communicate that the individual didn't really matter any longer within the equation. He wanted to communicate something incredibly important to us that He would later demonstrate for us.

Recall the passages in Scripture that discuss Jesus' time immediately before His arrest and Crucifixion, praying in the garden. I can picture Him fallen prostrate in fervent prayer, the anxiety and stress of His impending torture bearing on His shoulders. As blood-sweat dripped from His flesh He begged the Father to take the cup of suffering and death from Him if possible. Jesus was saying that His own human nature was not excited about dying on the cross; He didn't really WANT to be tortured. But Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and obediently followed through with the Crucifixion. After Jesus was arrested, He was forced to literally carry His own cross to the place where He was put to death. Jesus could have decided at that point not to go through with it. But in obedience, He chose the will of the Father, bore His own cross and allowed Himself to be executed that day.

The early Christians were familiar with this process, watching a man march toward the hill of crucifixion while carrying his own cross. When Jesus said that a Christian must be willing to take up his own cross, denying himself, He was referring to this physical manifestation of marching toward a crucifixion. When He spoke those words, it was BEFORE He demonstrated them Himself, BEFORE He carried His cross. Jesus then gave us the first example of His own teachings, that you must deny what you want, submit to the will of the Father, literally march yourself to the hill of crucifixion and die to yourself, killing off anything that is internally you. WOW, this sounds aggressive, but it is the truth, and it is exactly what Jesus had to do.

We live in a world where "I" is the center of the universe. We raise a fit if we do not get our own way, and we talk louder when no one is listening to our opinions. But Jesus would say that if you want to call yourself a Christian, then all the selfish behavior goes away. Your opinion no longer matters in the grand scheme of things and you don't get to call the shots. Your hopes and dreams are secondary to the Lord's plan. While you might not like this point, you cannot argue with the Lord's words when He said, "deny yourself." His words were clear then and they are clear today. Jesus said you get to follow in His footsteps, marching your opinions and wants to the hill of crucifixion. Jesus carried a cross that should not have been His so you and I could understand bearing our own. And if we are not willing to do this, crucifying our opinions and wants and dreams, then Jesus has other difficult words to swallow. He said, "Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

We each must bear our own cross and do so willingly. If we do, He has promised that we will have eternal life in exchange. If we want to call ourselves Christians, yet not deny ourselves, then we are in jeopardy of Christ not knowing us in eternity.

Don' take my word for it; look it up: Matt 10:37-39, Mark 8:33-35, Luke 9:22-24, Luke 22:39-44

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