Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10: 38-39
What does it mean to you that you are personally chosen, are able to live in hope, are given new birth, are given abundant mercy and assurance by God?
In Matthew 10:34-42, Jesus calls us to take up the cross. This passage goes against the grain of most Christian mindsets, just as it did when Jesus first gave it. Yet, it is essential for us to understand who we are in Christ and allow His empowerment to come into our relationships. What does this mean? How does this affect my relationship with God, my relationship with self and with others? Simply stated, taking up the cross involves and influences all that we are and all that we do. We must remember life is not free. Life is work; it does have a cost. The gift of grace if freely given to us; however, this grace from God has an incredible cost that we did not nor could hope to pay. Christ paid the price for us. We can sit on the "Christian couch" and do nothing with our faith, if we choose. Our salvation is secured, perhaps, if our faith is real, but what kind of life would that be-sitting on the couch? We can choose something different. We can get off the couch and engage life and relationships--by and with Christ. We do this by carrying the cross into the depths of who we are; then, we carry the cross into all of our connections, opportunities, and daily life!
Do not allow anything or anyone to come between you and Christ!
We can do this! In Christ, we have assurance with no condemnation and no separation! We are saved! We do not need to fear having our sin, fears, and failures condemn us when we are in Christ! We do not need to search for more information or better philosophies; there is none better than that which we receive by the grace of God, through our faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. We are free from the debt of sin and the frustration of searching because our debt has been paid in Christ; in this truth, in Christ, we find our joy. Remember, the joy is not in what we want or, even, in what has happened to us. Rather, our joy is built only upon Christ, only upon what He has done. With this joy, we take up the cross, and we take Him into and with us, throughout our lives-earthly and eternal. No power on earth or in the universe can conquer God in us (Rom. 8:1, 31-39; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 2:14-15; 10:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; 2 Pet. 1:3-4)!
We can do this; as Christians, we are already In Him . This means that we are in union with Christ; we have "mystical" membership and unity in the body of Christ, for now and for eternity. It is mystical because we can neither possibly fully define it nor understand it. When we have faith in Christ, the relationship is secure-salvation is our's. When we are saved, we are in Christ. He dwells in us while He also represents us before the Father; thus, we have full access to His grace and blessings. What could be greater? The answer: nothing. There is nothing greater; false teachings, complicated rituals, and empty philosophies can do nothing but distract, confuse, and hurt us (John 15:1-8; Rom. 6:4; 8:9-17; 1 Cor. 6:15-17; 2 Cor. 1:4-5; Gal. 5:24; Phil. 3:1-14; Col. 1:24; 2:11-15; 3:3-4)!
We have meaning in our new life of abundance in Christ. We have to see how much we have been given and forgiven; only then, we can have gratitude and build our lives of faith and fruitfulness in Him. The Christian life is simple; it needs no elaborate traditions or ceremony to receive His Word and to offer ourselves up to Him. Living in fruitfulness for the Lord does not result in salvation; instead, any offerings from us are simply our responses for being saved by faith in Christ Jesus, through the grace of God. Unfortunately, so many Christian groups over the centuries have confused and complicated what God has made, moving Him farther away from His people. This is not just about the Catholics or others that may come to mind; many of us forget who and what we are in Christ. Remember, He f orgave us all our sins. Jesus did not just hurdle over sin; He eradicated its guilt and penalty. Sin can still affect our lives; however, sin is powerless in our destiny and eternity in Him. He removed all that the law required and covered our sins so that we are clean and pure before God the Father; we are pardoned and set free in our new life in Him (Rom. 5:12-21; 6:23).
When we take up the cross, we--as Paul states--walk or live in Him . This means going about the business of God or walking in righteousness, to "halakah" (Lev. 26:3; Ezek. 36:27) as to regulate our lives to behave according to our beliefs. Taking up the cross is to know Christ, live in Him and for Him, and pursue Christ beyond our salvation. Simply stated, we are to abide in His strength and not our own. We are to be obedient and constant with our learning and growth in Christ so that we live by the tradition of God empowering us--learning His precepts of living and relating to God, self, and others--and, not by the traditions of men, who deceive us (Mark. 12:38; Rom. 6:4; 8:1; 13:13; 1 Cor. 7:1; 2 Cor. 5:7; 10:3; 12:18; Gal. 5:16-25; 6:16; Eph. 2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8-15; Phil. 3:10-18; Col. 2:6-10; 3:17; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:1, 12; 2 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:6-7; 2:6; 2 John 6; 3 John 3-4).
Why are we to take up the cross? One word--gratitude! We should be overflowing and abounding with thankfulness . Our growth in Christ is motivated by the magnitude of what Christ has done for us; therefore, we respond from our indebtedness and gratitude. In this way, we can stay grounded in His Word and Truth (Col. 2:9-10; 3:1-17).
Is Christ Lord over you?
You should already know He is Lord over all! The call in Scripture is that since Jesus is Lord over all, we must accept that He is Lord over me! With Christ as Lord, He is God and Savior, He is Guide and Governor, He is Friend and Father, He is Lord over our lives, our situations; He is Lord of all that was and will ever be. Jesus is demanding our allegiance and loyalty before anything else. Nothing must be in His way--the way of Christ working in us and using us. Taking up the cross means we need to be committed, mindful, and tactful while modeling the Fruit of the Spirit, as well as demonstrating our trust in Him. We must be as kind and loving as possible so we that we are not living in opposition to the Word of the Lord. Putting Christ first does not mean we are to ignore our family and friends, or just be contemplative; because He is Supreme, our relationships with those around us improves exponentially, as we are still called to love them and encourage them. Rather, we are not to put others before the Lord!
The cross, in the passage from Matthew, refers to the crossbeam (not the entire cross) that a criminal would carry to his crucifixion and death, penitently going to a shameful and painful end. (See my article on the crucifixion of Jesus at intothyword.org). The criminal would endure a mob of people cheering for his death, as well as knowing that his horrified family members were witnesses. It is a picture of what some Christians go through in life; they meet with antagonistic people who revel in the prospect of another's suffering, seeking to destroy that which is good. Taking up the cross means living with our hurts while being undaunted in Him. The cross shows us the importance of obedience and trust in Him. We are to be identified with Christ, even if it means losing our lives. This is not a burden that we pick up on His behalf or that God imposes upon us; rather, it is a joy to serve because of what He does for us.
Does taking up the cross sound too difficult, too harsh? Is this too scary a commitment, too much to handle? Yes, it is! The cost of surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ is high! It was high for God, and it can be difficult and troublesome for us, as well- the ways of the world will come against us. However, we can do this! Remember, our faith is wonderful because our security is in Him. If we do not seize the peace, we will have trepidation in life and disconnection from God. Take comfort! The payoff is far more than we could ever conceive. We have the joy and wonder of trusting and obeying Him! Jesus tells us, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39). We find greater treasure for us here and now; this treasure resounds through all eternity. As His representatives and ambassadors, we model and embody Christ; thus, what is done to us is also done to Him!
This can cause fear and apprehension in the life of unbelievers as they wonder if they should choose this way; this can even give pause to Christians who fear what might happen if they surrender this all. The good news is that when we surrender, we give up a losing and costly battle for a higher, perfect plan of peace. By surrendering and taking up the cross, we allow God to control the beachhead of our lives; He will do better. And, the clincher is, what we give up is in no comparison to what we receive. The deal is good for us--beyond our imaginations and plans.
Still think this is too hard? Consider this. Christ gives us the relief! He gives us the c up of cold water (Matthew 10:42). A cup of cold water was the most highly praised and most difficult gift to give then. Remember, there were no ice machines; people had to go climb a mountain and bring the ice back-incredible effort for a gift. It was also the best gift a poor person was able to give; one did not have buy it, but rather went out and got it. This is a gift of commitment that brings comfort--an illustration of what Christ does for us and what we can do for others. This is more proof that we are precious and acceptable to God, and that He has our best in His Will. We do not need to fear. He will care for us and empower us no matter what we face or give up; He impacts all that we are and all those we touch. As Christians, we are bearing Christ and bringing Him into the lives of others by His strength!
Christ is our living Hope that will never fade away! We are chosen by God and by God alone! The Holy Spirit sets us apart. We are able to hear and receive His Words of grace and life. We need to be reminded of what we have and who we are in Christ. If not, we will forget and replace His guidance with our frailty or with the ways of the world.
Finally, we must remember that we can do this because we live in hope! As Christians, we have God's abundant mercy, hope, and assurance; we can praise God for His grace and salvation! In our new life, we are set apart; we have salvation and an eternal inheritance available to us! God makes us holy in His sight and relevant for life here and now, as well as for the eternity to come. We have, as Christians, God's most abundant mercy, love, and grace, given to us--without merit--before the foundations of matter and time. He loves and cares for us beyond any depth or limit--far beyond any human comprehension. This inheritance is given to us so that we can declare it to others. We know Christ because He has made Himself known to us so we can make Him known to others (1 Pet. 1:1-12).
Our Grace and Hope is Real!
What we have and what we are to look to is a result of His sacrifice of redemption, His permanence, and His love for us. He lived, died, and rose again for you and me! All we are to do is trust and obey Him; as we continue, we can take up the cross! He gives us even more empowerment for enduring life and performing ministry, along with His special favor and peace! Even if we do not see Jesus, He sees us; He loves us, and He helps us persevere. This may seem unattainable or even unfathomable when we are under stress or in the hostile occupation of life. However, we can carry the cross because we have access to His empowerment; we are literally kept by God, through faith. As we grow in our faith, we become even more precious to God; He will preserve us through trials of life.
We have received His grace and are called to enjoy our relationship with Christ. This brings us peace; the fruition of our faith is still to come in eternity. Our deliverance is still to come! Our testing should bring joy and comfort--even with dire stress-- because God is still carrying and loving us through it; we will be better, stronger, and purer for it. We will be of better use to Him and to all those around us. The key to getting through is in seeing Christ as the goal and being more like Him in character, rather than focusing on our situations. Persecution was the main test for Peter's people.
Our relationship to God and our connections with others comes down this: I must die to my own will and put on His Will. This is not just about applying Scripture to our lives, but applying our lives to Scripture. When we do this, we are being the transformed Christian--impacting, loving, and encouraging.
· Jesus' authority is ultimate (Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Timothy 6:14-15; 1 Peter 3:22)!
· His authority is based on the fact that all things were made by Him, and for Him (Psalm 2:8; John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:2, 6; Colossians 1:16).
· He is worthy to be worshiped (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5; 5:11-12; 7:9-10).
· He is our Redeemer, and we are purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7; 5:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
· He is the supreme, the head of the body of all Christians, of His Church (Colossians 1:18).
· Jesus sent His Spirit to guide us into the truth (John 16:12-13).
· We are called to teach others to observe all that He commanded (Matthew 28:20; John 13:20).
When we are doing the above, we will realize:
· I need to commit myself to Christ as LORD over all, and do this completely, repentantly, and without doubt.
· I can take the One Another passages (see appendix or a concordance) seriously and reverently.
· I can reflect on God's call and plan for me.
· I can reflect and proceed with God's call for me in my relationships-past, present, and future.
· I can see my marriage as God's plan and provision, and that it needs my continual work, effort, and love, and that this is God's will-what He desires.
· I can submit myself to my spouse with respect, and love him or her with honor unconditionally, humbly, honestly, and completely.
· I can commit to positive and active communication.
· I can admit my sin and failures.
· I can seek and ask forgiveness.
· My relationships will be edified, equipped, and empowered by what Christ has done for me and is working in me.
· I can renew my relationships through His empowering of me.
· I will be modeling and representing Christ, His character, and love in all that I do.
· My relationships will become healthy, and setbacks will be overcome.
· My happiness is not because of a focus of a ministry or an opportunity; rather my happiness is that God is using us and because Christ is with us!
Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jeremiah 17:14
A Biblical mindset lays a Biblical foundation for a life transformed and triumphant! It is the realization that God loves us, He has a plan for us, and our relationships are important and foundational. Our lives are not happenstance; they are purposeful when we are in Him. The people in your life are the people God has brought you. The circumstance that brought you together is a Divine appointment; yes, this includes those relationships that seem difficult right now-spouse, friends, coworkers.. Living honorably in these relationships is our responsibility--even if you feel as though you married the wrong person. We have to be willing to connect and make it work (as long as there is no abuse and proper boundaries are established and maintained). Furthermore, we need to persevere with our church members, coworkers, family, and friends.
We can do this, by recognizing Christ; we can abide and build on His Rock. By our obedience in faith, we are not immune to temptation, trouble, persecution, setbacks, and condemnation from the world, and or even from other Christians; however, we are stronger because of our faith in Christ. It may seem that our foundation has shifted by a constant beating; but, the Lord will remain steadfast in us-unconditionally--and even more powerfully when we remain steadfast in our faith! Keep your faith real, valuable, and practical on His solid Rock. He will not leave you or forsake you. Let Him be the Rock-solid foundation of your life and your relationships!
There is so much more to tell you; I cannot possibly cover the massive volumes of psychological research, examples, and outcomes. And, I would be overly compacting what is really quite simple: By carrying the cross of Christ, by focusing on Christ as LORD, by removing the focus from ourselves, we will succeed and overcome any trial for the Glory of God!
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:11-13
What can you do to show your love to Christ, even though, sometimes, we don't see Him or feel Him? Remember the bottom line is this, it isn't about applying Scripture to your life; it's about applying your life to Scripture!
© 1993, 2011, R.J. Krejcir Ph.D., Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org