Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Does It Mean To "Take Up Your Cross"

(Originally from Miscel-Lainie-ous)

Mark 8:34 [Jesus speaking]
"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

There are three main components to this verse. I am a Bible marker-upper and mine looks like this (only not as neat :)

"Whosoever will come after me, let him #1 deny himself, and #2 take up his cross, and #3 follow Me.

Now although #1 "deny himself" is often difficult and requires effort to live out, it is pretty easy to understand. Simply stated it means to give up your "rights" to have what you want when you want it and to give up your right to live any which way you're inclined at the moment.

It speaks of purposeful living and relies upon those biblical promises that when we choose to live according to God's commands it will bless us and life will have depth and meaning in a way we couldn't even imagine.

Even #3 "follow Me" is simple. We all learned (hopefully) to follow since our days on the playground playing "Follow the Leader." To follow Jesus is to be willing to be led by Him and to go down a path of His choosing. Knowing He is good makes trusting His lead easier even when it doesn't look like a logical choice to our earthly thinking.

Ah, but #2 "take up his cross." What in the world does that mean?! I mean really. This is one of those verses that just make you scratch your head. You kinda know but it's hard to explain and whew, boy, trying to live it out...well (pause) yeah.

But tonight at church, since we go verse-by-verse through the Bible, we had to cover this verse. I am so grateful Pastor Jim didn't give us a head scratch and move on.

What follows is a culmination of what he taught and my thoughts on the verses he shared. I asked him if I could steal it and he asked, "Would you like my notes?" (smile)
I love our church body. Anyway, I assured him I took pretty good notes and now I'm gonna share 'em with you.

I definitely feel the need to share his disclaimer that what follows is really just scratching the surface but I thought it was a very good start.

So, in answer to the question, "What does it mean for a believing Christian to "take up his cross" and what could that possibly look like for us today?"

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying,
"O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as You [will].
Matthew 26:39

(a) Our "cross" is something we don't want naturally and requires a submission of our will to the will of the Father.

And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him,
put His [own] clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
Matthew 27:31

(b) Our "cross" will often involve mockery and/or exposure.

...they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink.
But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.
Matthew 27:34

(c) Our "cross" is often something we want to anesthetize, numb, or otherwise distract from. The options are limitless to accomplish this.

We can actually use drugs or drink. Business or just plain busyness. Sleeping or shopping. Television or tabloids. Computers or cardio. Isolation or ice cream.

He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him;
for He said, 'I am the Son of God.' "
Matthew 27:43

(d) Our "cross" will often appear to others as a circumstance God is not in. Critics (perhaps yourself being the biggest of them all) will question why you aren't being delivered from your circumstance. Our "cross" will cause you or others to doubt the power and character of God.

This usually sets up our next point...

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice,
saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is,
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Matthew 27:46

(e) We ourselves, during our "cross" may feel we have been forsaken by God.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Matthew 27:50

(f) Taking up our "cross" will at times involve a yielding up of our spirit, a being tamed by a loving Master. Like a wild horse being "broken" so that he is obedient and useful, we too need our wild wills lovingly broken to be useful to others and the kingdom of God.

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom;
and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,
Matthew 27:51

(g) When the "cross" is present there is a shattering of the earth at times. Not necessarily literal, although with the recent flooding here in Oregon many families are experiencing a very real shattering of their world as homes slide down hillsides.

But during our "cross" times there is that feeling of our world being turned upside down, of not being in control and of feeling like nothing will ever be the same again.

But did you notice what happened at that moment of chaos? The veil which separated man from God was torn. Man had access to God.

In our most chaotic of circumstances there is intimacy available with the Lord that is often not present when things are going well.

Our "cross" situations create in us desperation. And in our desperation we seek Him and He is found. He is found available, loving, patient and faithful.

And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said,
"You also were with Jesus of Nazareth."
But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are saying."
And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed.
Mark 14:67-68

(h) When we are picking up our "cross" sometimes those closest to us will abandon or disappoint us at our very hour of need.

Or in the most intense time of our "taking up" is when we ourselves want to abandon Him, deny our Lord and walk away from our faith.

I am so grateful He restored Peter and then used him greatly. There is hope for us even in the midst of our greatest spiritual "failures."

Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.
Mark 15:32

(i) During our "cross" times, outsiders, mockers or even we tempt to give God ultimatums.
"If God really loved you(me) then ..."

They (or we) want God to act according to our expectations and desires. And when He doesn't we try to convince ourselves either He isn't real or He doesn't care.

In our finite wisdom, life appears to not make sense a lot of the time.

But when we know and trust who God is we can be confident that we will know all the "whys" and will declare, "True and righteous are Your judgments Lord God Almighty."

Then Pilate, when he had called together
the chief priests, the rulers, and the people,
said to them,
"You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people.
And indeed, having examined Him in your presence,
I have found no fault in this Man concerning
those things of which you accuse Him;
Luke 23: 13-14

(j) Here's a tough one. Often taking up our "cross" will involve false accusations. It is a very hard thing to be accused of something you know to be innocent of and yet, how often do we falsely accuse ourselves against of truth of what the Scriptures says we are?

You know, things like beloved, victorious, fearfully and wonderfully made...

Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
And they divided His garments and cast lots.
Luke 23:34

(k) This is the most beautiful part of taking up our "cross." Here in our "cross" is a place to demonstrate forgiveness, God's forgiveness, to others.

It's a place to intercede on other people's behalf.

It's a place to grow in grace.

We grow in grace when we do as Jesus, there on The Cross, did as He prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

If you find it crazy or impossible to forgive those responsible for your current "cross" I point you to Jesus who forgave me and you while we were still His enemies.

Make no mistake about it Beloved, the wrongs we have committed against a just and holy God should result in our death but instead He offers us life through the voluntary substitution of Jesus on our behalf.


God's Riches At Christ Expense

Any wrong a person commits against you pales in comparison to our debt of sin we owed to Him.

We forgive, sometimes heartbreakingly, painfully so. But we forgive because we ourselves have been forgiven so very much.

And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
Luke 23:43

(l) The "cross" is the place to either take your thoughts or help another to take their thoughts to the reality and permanence of Heaven.

Our circumstances will not always be what they are right now. And even if they are difficult for your entire earthly life, if you are a confessor of Christ you can know without a shadow of a doubt that you will live in the very presence of God who is good and right and true.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished,
that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!"
John 19:28

(m) Enduring our "cross" creates in us a thirst that cannot be quenched by anything except the Living Water. Anything but Jesus in the midst of your "cross" is like a badly dehydrated person drinking salt water--certain death.

Only the pure water of Christ and His Word will satisfy.

...He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
John 19:30

(n) The "crosses" we take up in our journey here on earth are all temporary and help to purify us. The "crosses" we bare are not crosses to earn us salvation.

The bearer of The Cross, the cross of Calvary, Jesus, declared, "It is finished!"

What was finished? Our debt was stamped, once and for all, "Paid In Full."

Jesus accomplished what we could never-- He redeemed us, He bought us back and He restored us with God the Father who sent Him to do that very work.


Mountain Mama said...

Hi Lainie - I discovered and bookmarked your sweet blog a couple of weeks ago after deciding to use My Father's World curriculum…will begin kindergarten with my daughter next fall. (Read: I was completely ecstatic as I felt yet another divine confirmation in my bones regarding MFW by finding your blog + your MFW blog roll!)
Also, Lent is brand new to me this year, and as I've been more purposeful during this season to focus on Christ and the cross, I've wondered repeatedly, "What does it mean to take up my cross?"
Tonight, I revisited my MishMash Maggie bookmark and saw this post.
Just felt compared to share that our God has used your Pastor and your zeal for the message he shared to reach a gal in Texas who has had this very question on her mind for weeks. I am finally beginning to wrap my brain around what it means to "take up my cross." He has woven a tapestry too big for me to share on your comments…so for now, I just wanted to extend to you my heartfelt "thanks" for being a vessel of God's tender lovingkindness.
Grace & Peace - Tami in Texas

Murray T said...


I was just reading this today:
Do not punish me, Lord, by taking my cross from me, but comfort me by submitting me to Thy will, and by making me to love the cross. Give me that by which Thou shalt be best served . . . and let me hold it for the greatest of all Thy mercies, that Thou shouldst glorify Thy name in me, according to Thy will. --A Captive's Prayer

My personal cross has indeed been all that you described. Thank you (And Jimmy) for expounding on this very important Scripture.

Love N <><, Lisa

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