Luke 9:23 (ESV) … “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
When we initially decide to follow Jesus, it is always from a place of healing. In other words, we first come to Jesus for his healing touch to our sinfulness condition and our lostness before a Holy God. We come seeking his miracle-working power in our lives, waiting for him to transform our lives and make us whole.
However, before we can receive that miracle-working touch, Jesus asks us if we are willing to take up our cross and follow him. That means, that we willing to follow him as Lord over our lives. The truth is, before Jesus can become our Savior, he must first be our Lord.
What does that mean? What does that look like? Jesus says: Yes, I provide healing and miracles to those in need. Those are signs of God’s power as I bring my kingdom to earth. But that is not where this earthly ministry leads. The final road we must travel as we follow him leads to a criminal’s cross. Not a gold cross on a chain that enhances the beauty of the wearer. Not a piece of art in a museum that enhances the reputation of the artist or brings awe to a young art student. Not a massive cross atop a cathedral that marks off a holy place. No!
This cross is among the world’s cruelest instruments of torture. You cannot wear this cross. You must bear it. You take it to the government’s place of capital punishment. It becomes for you the gas chamber, the electric chair, the lethal injection all rolled into one.
So, what does all this mean for us today? Self-denial. Living for Christ requires self-denial. This decision begins when we voluntarily abdicate the throne of our lives—when we radically renounce self-centeredness. A crucified Savior is not well served by self-pleasing, self-indulging people.
What are our crosses? They are not merely trials or hardships. Some think of a nutty boss or an unfair teacher or a bossy mother-in-law as a “cross.” But they are not. Neither can we rightly call illness or a handicap a cross.
The personal cross that Jesus speaks of is the result that comes from specifically walking in Christ’s steps, embracing his life in the kingdom work. It comes from bearing disdain because we are following the narrow way of Jesus Christ, “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). It comes from living out the business and sexual ethics of Christ in the marketplace, the community, the family, the world. It comes from standing true under challenging circumstances for the sake of the gospel.
Our crosses come from and are proportionate to our dedication to Christ. Difficulties do not indicate cross-bearing, though problems for Christ’s sake do. Ask yourself, Do I have any issues because I am closely following Christ?
So, have you begun to follow the Lord Jesus in this way? Are you ready to face hardships and to speak boldly of him? We must ask ourselves these questions if we sincerely wish to take up our cross daily.
Why? Because the Lord goes on to propose a poignant question that relates to that one, ‘What profit is it to a person if they gain the whole world, and they are destroyed or lost?’ (v. 25). In other words, to gain this world’s money, power or popularity is meaningless if final judgment swallows us up. If we fail to choose rightly regarding the decision to take up our cross daily for Jesus, then in the finality of life we will suffer loss.
So, have you committed to taking up your cross to indeed follow Jesus into and wherever that may lead you in life? Is Jesus your LORD?