Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

“And He [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 ESV

I heard a lady say, “such-n-such is my cross to bear.”  I’ve heard others say similar things (one even said “Coronavirus is our cross to bear”) and I wonder – what is our cross to bear? And what does it mean, that I, as a follower of Christ, have to carry a cross?
Well, there it is in Luke – Jesus said to do it and do it daily. So, I guess I better get doing it – whatever it means.  I know this much (going into this Bible study) that this statement is so important that I found it in three of the four gospels and three times in the book of Matthew alone.

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 ESV

Here we learn that not only should we be doing this daily, but if we don’t we are not worthy of Jesus. But wait – we are all unworthy and grace saved us through the work Jesus did with the cross and death and resurrection. And now unworthiness is being called out differently! Is it somehow different?

While we did not know about the grace of the cross and salvation, and while we were yet unworthy sinners, Christ died for us. However, once we know – once we believe we are transformed:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV
And after that transformation if we are disobedient we become unworthy of the grace of the cross. Listen, I am not interpreting this. I am just reading the verses.  We looked at this next verse before on this blog and I think it is very clear:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” Hebrews 10:26-27
The consequences of sin is death – the grace of the cross is only continuously extended to those who are transformed and continue to be transformed and grow in Christ – to those who take up their cross and follow him, daily. Willing obedience is the difference.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 ESV

Let’s get back to understanding what this means.
“Come after me” and “follow me” seem simple enough – I think I am a follower of Christ. Are you?
So that leaves us with the meat: “let him deny himself and take up his cross”. And luckily Matthew really liked this concept and even elaborated:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 19:24-26 ESV

The word “life” in verse 26 is the same Greek word as the word “soul” in verse 26. Therefore we can read and re-read this interchanging these words:
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?”
Could it be that this verse is literal? – is it possible? Does Jesus want us to build a big old Roman cross and mount it in our backyards and die? Eh, I think that is too literal. What does Mark say?

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he [Jesus] said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:34-35 ESV

Mark never minces words. He keeps it short and to the point. The book of Mark jumps right into the action and doesn’t even tell us where Jesus came from or how all of the people started following him. But it still sound like we might have to erect a cross in our backyards – and we all know that isn’t the case!

So, maybe I should think about it this way:  I had a plan for my life. I was going to work in such a way, make enough money to get by and party a bit. I was going to be carefree and irresponsible and just roll with it. I was head strong and I was going to do what I was going to do and no one was going to stop me. That was my life. That is what I worked for, dreamed about, planned for, etc.
If I tried to follow Jesus and save that life – well I that life was not following Jesus and we already talked about the consequences of sin is death. Therefore If I save my life, I will lose it.
When I decided to follow Jesus, I handed my hopes and dreams over to Him. I gave up ‘my will’ for His. I lost my life and have earned eternal life through Him!
By the way – Christ was human (a very pure human, but human none the less) He must have developed hopes and dreams. Skills and hobbies He enjoyed, He gave up His life to live the life Abba Father had for him. Then, on the cross He gave up His life literally for our sins.
Are we to love not our lives even into death if needed?

“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” Revelations 12:11 NAS

Well, folks – look at the end of the story!! Yes, we are to actually, literally die for him! It is how we overcome! Many will not die dramatic martyr deaths – but many will, and if you are asked to – will you?

Maybe the “Take up your cross” is to take up the cause of the work of the cross – the grace?  And to die to our own selfish will, and furthermore die physically if need be. 

Paul explains this self-death association with the cross in both Romans and Galatians.  We have had posts about the Romans chapter 6 revelation of our sin and need to die to it and chapter 7’s struggle and chapter 8’s victory over it. So let us now look at Galatians.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:20-21 ESV

Paul picked up his cross daily and followed Jesus.  He no longer lived for himself – he lived for Christ. The life he then lived in the flesh, he live by faith!  Anyone remember the 4 posts (starting on February 25th) about how faith grows through obedience? It is true. There are 2 ways to grow faith – one is that faith comes by hearing the word of God – the other is that the act of obedience grows our faith, mostly because you need faith to be obedient – but grace provides the initial faith.  

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-25 ESV

Coronavirus is not your cross to bear. Neither are your kids nor your job. Financial hardships aren’t your cross – sin, troubles and trials are not your cross.  Through grace the laying down of self even unto death just like Christ did.  It is our ability to self-identify with the cross.

Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

~Grace be with you ~
~Thank you for reading ~ Be healthy and blessed ~
~ Pray for our nation ~ Pray Psalm 91 ~

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