Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Taking Up the Cross

"Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

After accepting Peter’s statement, Jesus went on to warn the disciples that He was going to “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law,” and be killed and raised to life again (v. 22).

Then Jesus went on to say that His followers would also have to accept suffering. To follow Christ involves a kind of self-denial, a cross that is made for every Christian. Unfortunately, Jesus’ words here have been often misapplied. We hear people say that their cross is an unbelieving spouse, or an unemployed husband, or some debilitating sickness. The expression “carry one’s cross” has come to be used for any kind of suffering we are called upon to endure. But that’s not what Jesus is referring to here.

When Jesus tells us to take up our cross, He is not referring to “ordinary” suffering, the kind of tribulations that afflict Christians and non-Christians alike. Rather, He is referring to suffering that has a direct connection to our association with Him. As Christians, we must not only bear the suffering that all other people endure, but we must also be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake.

We can see this in baptism. Baptism symbolizes many things, such as our being ingrafted into Christ, being cleansed of our sin, or our new birth. It is also a sign of our burial with Christ, our engagement in His suffering and death. To be a Christian is not only to be united with His resurrection, it is also to be united with His agonies. It is to experience the same rejection of men that He experienced.

Jesus expounded this commitment with these words: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self.” (vv. 24–25).

Jesus intentionally used the word daily to describe the frequency with which we must recommit ourselves to suffer on His behalf. Being prepared daily does not necessarily mean we will suffer daily. Prepare yourself for what God might yet bring to pass today.