A very good morning to you my friends
Luke 9 verse 23 says “And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Imagine living in first century Israel. The Roman Empire is in control, and the means of torture and execution used is crucifixion. The cross was seen as an instrument of torture and death, and was highly feared. Then out of nowhere you hear Jesus say “Take up your cross and follow Me.” It was a frightening proposition, because Jesus is asking us to deny ourselves. In other words, Christ is asking us to become disciples.
In our culture the cross is something cool. It is on T-shirts, and worn as jewellery, but in ancient times it was feared. The early Christians died for what the cross had come to mean. They died because they were followers of Christ. They denied themselves to follow Christ at all costs; they took up their cross daily, and sometimes literally.
Often we follow Christ, but our lives show little evidence of it. We may be leaving our cross at home a little too often. If we desire to change our cities, churches, and world then that cross needs to be hoisted over our shoulders all the time. Christ must be who we are looking to, and we must put our wants a distant second. We must become better disciples who help make other disciples.
Taking up our cross is a daily endeavour that must be repeated. Every day we tell Christ to take the lead and we will follow. This may lead to something that is uncomfortable like being a pastor, missionary, or simply showing love to the neighbour who never pulls the weeds. The words of Jesus in today’s verse apply to all of us in some way. What cross are you being told to bare? Will you answer the call to obediently take it up and spread the cause of the faith?
To “take up your cross” is something that has to take place in our thoughts.
When thoughts that aren’t pleasing to God come to our mind during the day, we “put them to death” on an inner cross.”
As bad thoughts come up in your mind, you can choose to deny them. Your mind stands guard at the door of your heart, and you get to decide what comes through. When a sinful thought pops up in your mind the first time, it is only a temptation – a “suggestion” from Satan.
But you can choose to deny that thought access to your heart. So as soon as you become aware of the thought, you disagree with it. You don’t dwell on it. The thought meets a firm “no” in your mind. You don’t permit the thought to pass through your mind and come into your heart. Denying these sinful thoughts is how you take up your cross daily.
It hurts to go against what you are naturally drawn to – to deny the thoughts that you naturally tend to think. Just like a physical cross causes suffering for the body, this metaphorical cross also causes suffering – for your flesh, that part of you that is drawn to sin, and which is denied its demands. But you have a good reason to choose to do this, and that is what is written in 1 Peter 4 verse 1 says “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.”
This verse promises that when you suffer in your flesh, when you take up your cross and deny the sinful thoughts that come up in you during the day, you will actually cease from sin! It is not just a promise that will be fulfilled in the future – you see progress as you go. As you say “no” to temptation when these negative thoughts come, you notice as time passes that those thoughts don’t come as often anymore. It becomes easier for you to be kind and good to those around you are becoming free from sin in that particular area.
This is what true discipleship is all about. It is a life that you live, daily, following after Jesus, our forerunner. What did Jesus do in His daily life? He had a firm resolve when He was tempted: Luke 22 verse 42 says “Not My will, but Yours, be done.
Taking up our cross daily leads to transformation. We won’t always be the same person we are today. As we are cleansed from the sin in our nature, the fruit of the Spirit come in its place. Rather than being quick to judge and critical, or grumpy and downcast, we can radiate love and kindness and gentleness.
Lord Jesus help me to be obedient to You and help me to take up my cross and follow You each day. Show me the way I should go and help me to trust You with everything. Amen
Much love from Maurice and Margaret