“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).
Where is your cross?
That may be goofy question, but the discussion has to start somewhere. And, really, it is no more goofy than Jesus telling us that we have to pick ours up. How can you pick it up if you don’t know where it is?
So, what about your cross?
Crosses are not discussed much in our Sunday sermons nowadays. Neither do they show up very often in the choruses we project on the wall. We’d rather sing and preach about love and grace and power than sacrifice, self-denial, and humility. Our focus is usually on what we gain by being a Christian – rather than the responsibilities we assume when we are born again.
Responsibilites like taking up your cross. And that’s just one element of instruction that Jesus packed into this short sentence.
First, the call is universal. If any man Jesus said. Those three tiny words encompass the entire human race. No exceptions, exemptions, or substitutions. If you want to go with Jesus, this applies to you.
Second, this universal call is to self-denial. Not a call to display your talents or astounding giftedness, but to put others first and your own desires last. To harness your own will and to stop seeking your own comfort. To remember that you were created to serve, to give and not receive. To seek what is important to Him.
Next, this universal call to self-denial requires personal action. Take up your cross. Not your neighbor’s cross. Not the one that appeals to your personality. But the cross Jesus has identified as yours. It will take some getting use to, this cross. You’ll feel a bit awkward, at first, carrying it around. Yours might be a bit more rough or less colorful than your friend’s cross, so, human nature being what it is, you might be inclined to keep it out of sight or covered as much as possible. But as time goes by, you’ll grow to appreciate that it was designed just for you and it will become more precious and more comfortable to carry.
Now that you’ve picked up your cross, you have permission to follow Jesus. Without your cross, you can’t be His disciple. Without the cross He has designed for you, you won’t be able to complete the trip. Amos Wells illustrates what following Jesus looks like in his poem, The Cross.
“God laid on my back a grievous load,
A heavy cross to bear along the road.
I staggered on and lo! one weary day,
An angry lion sprang across my way.
I prayed to God, and swift at His command
The cross became a weapon in my hand.
It slew my raging enemy, and then
Became a cross upon my back again.
I faltered many a league, until at length,
Groaning I fell, and had no further strength.
“O God,” I cried, “I am so weak and lame!”
Then straight my cross a winged staff became.
It swept me on till I regained the loss,
Then leaped upon my back, again a cross.
I reached a desert, o’er the burning track
I persevered, the cross upon my back.
No shade was there, and in the cruel sun
I sank at last and thought my days were done.
But lo! the Lord works many a blest surprise.
The cross became a tree before my eyes!
I slept; I woke, to feel the strength of ten.
I found the cross upon my back again.
And thus through all my days from that to this,
The cross, my burden, has become my bliss.
Nor ever shall I lay the burden down,
For God some day will make the cross a crown.”
Get used to your cross. Embrace its limitations that keep you close to Calvary. Don’t wish to carry another. Own yours.
It’s required if you want to fellowship with Him.