Take Up Your Cross - Part 2
May 4, 2021
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
While some scholars relegate this text to the suffering and martyrdom of Christians for their faith in Jesus Christ, the text should not be confined to this aspect alone. “Obviously the extent of suffering and persecution varies from believer to believer, from time to time, and from place to place. Not all the apostles were martyred, but all of them were willing to be martyred. Not every disciples is called on to be martyred, but every disciple is commanded to be willing to be martyred” (John MacArthur). While that has been true down through the years of Christian history, I am convinced the point Jesus made was more fundamental that that.
What is repentance? It is turning away from self and turning to God. It is willfully turning away from the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, and turning to a life of holiness and righteousness. It is denying self. It is willfully dying to the god of this world and one’s participation with him and the things of the world. It is being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). It is this act of repentance that leads to salvation. But it doesn’t stop there. Once a person is saved, that same denying of self and taking up one’s cross daily continues on. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh (in this human body) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).
In truth, living the Christ-life in a world that is anti-Christ is no picnic in the park. In fact, it can be very difficult at best. Jesus did not call His disciples to a life that was easy, popular, prosperous, or glamorous. He called them to Himself, to a life of spiritually progressive discipline, to a life of self-sacrifice, to a life of holiness and righteousness. That calling holds true today to everyone who names the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior. This leads to a life not just of physical persecution, but of mental, spiritual, emotional, and moral persecution by Satan and his ministers.
A profession of faith in Jesus Christ that allows a life of continued worldliness, licentiousness, and sin is not a genuine profession of faith in Jesus Christ. It is an attempt to acquire religious and spiritual ‘fire insurance’, which is no insurance at all. Therefore, the cross is a symbol of suffering that we bear, not as an ornament on a chain around our neck or a tattoo on our arm, but as a truth imprinted on our heart. It is ours because of our relationship to Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:16-17) The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
“Lord Jesus, by the power and leadership of Your Holy Spirit may I bear my cross faithfully each day for Your honor and glory. May Your name be praised through my life and service, Amen.”