"The He said to them all, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." - Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)
Take up my cross daily -- what does that mean? This passage, specifically verse 23, is the purpose statement of my church, but I have struggled with how to apply it to my life. How do I take up my cross? What is my cross? But, after reading my devotional this morning and studying what Jesus is saying, I think I understand more clearly what it means.
Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary, as all prisoner's in His day had to do. Dying on the cross was the worst punishment there was. So, not only did He have to bear that burden but He was also bearing the burden of our sins. He was on His way to lose His life so that we, you and I, could be saved. And He did so with His eyes on the joy awaiting Him when He sat down at the the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). No matter what I'm facing in my life, no matter what burdens weigh me down, they're nothing compared to the burden Jesus carried for me. All He asks in return is that I trust Him and follow Him. Denying myself is to let go and trust Him completely. Taking up my cross is to take up the things that are pressing in on me, that are worrying and troubling me, and bear them with thanksgiving and joy, knowing that Heaven is the prize that awaits me. Following Jesus is to become His disciple, to let go of myself - my problems, my control, my desires, my will - and let Him lead me. He will NEVER lead me wrong. As verse 24 reminds me, in order to save my life, I must lose it to Jesus. He must ALWAYS be first, in all things.
No matter who we are, Christian or non-Christian, we are not promised a life free from affliction or suffering. We have no choice as to whether or not we want trials in our lives. But we do have a choice as to how we will bear them. Jesus did not complain about bearing His burden - our sin. He prayed and asked God to take the burden from Him, but God's will be done, not Jesus' (Luke 22:42). God's will was for His Son to die on the cross and Jesus' bore that burden and brought glory to His Father by doing so (John 17:1-5). So, who am I to complain about the burdens I bear? When I take up my cross, my burdens, and follow Jesus, do God's will, that's when God's glory shines through me. I choose to take up my cross today and follow Him, with joy and thanksgiving....to God be the glory!!
"Life is a grindstone, and whether it grinds you down or polishes you up is for you and you alone to decide." (Cavett Robert)
Dear Jesus, thank You for taking on the burden of my sins and dying on the cross so that I could be saved. Lead me today, Lord. I take up my cross gladly, and follow You. May God's glory shine in me. Your will, not mine. In Your name, Amen.