THE CHRISTIAN CROSS
Take up your cross daily and follow Christ!
Matthew 10:37-38 Matthew 16:24-25 Galatians 6:14
What did the cross mean to Jesus? Isaiah 53:3-7
The burden he bore for those who believe
Matthew 15:34 The worst part
Luke 22:44 The terrible agony
Luke 22:42 His submission
What does the cross mean for Christians?
For many Christians and even some cultists the cross is symbolic of what Christ did on Calvary, and rightly so, however that meaning only applies to Christ and his sacrifice for us and doesn't fully express what the cross means in the life of the Christian beyond salvation. Our generation seems to have forgotten that Jesus set the example we are supposed to follow.
There is, however a cross that Christians are supposed to carry daily, and many churches never preach on this most important subject at all. This is a travesty of great proportions and creates pseudo-Christianity in them and leaves the world to rightly mock Christianity as a weak religion! What is the meaning of the cross in the life of those who really want to give themselves completely to the one who gave himself completely for them? Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived during the time of Hitler and wrote in his book The Cost of Discipleship, "Can we honestly think that what cost the Son of God his life will cost us nothing?" Bonhoeffer was executed for his refusal to turn from Christ. Evidently he fully believed his cross was more than rhetoric. I wonder what we would do in his place.
2 Timothy 3:12 KJV promises Christians that "ALL who will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution."
Jesus told us "If the world hate me they will hate you also for ye are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Therefore the world will hate you." John 15:18-21 KJV
He further told us, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and curse you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in Heaven, for so persecuted the prophets which were before you." In other words, consider it a blessing and thank God for it. That verse is found in Matthew 5:11-12 KJV.
Taking up our cross daily and following Christ means far more than we realize or perhaps more than we want to admit. It involves death to the self life, it means preferring others before ourselves, and humbling ourselves and living sacrificially so that others might find life in Christ. It may mean sleepless nights drenched in tears for the lost and dying world we live in. It may mean giving up those things that are temporal and focusing our lives on things that are eternal to the point of denying our personal preferences to obey God irrespective or what we might want. It may mean leaving our little world and going out into the highways and byways of life, going to another country intent to reach the lost, getting involved in prison ministry, coffee house ministry, or street evangelism instead of sitting in front of a television or computer and wasting precious time when time is at a premium and we begin to see things from an eternal perspective. It is in moving past our shallow views and focusing on this life that we gain insight into the most important thing - preparing for eternity. We are all too easily lulled into fussing about the things on earth including our jobs, recreation, families, and creature comforts, and we become ineffective in reaching out to those who are lost and unprepared for eternity, and we make our excuses and go on with life day after day in innocuous bliss or carnal fear of losing what is precious to us while multitudes are rushing toward Hell and facing eternal hopelessness without Christ. Is it any wonder that those who live around us and observe our lives and hear our words refuse to take us seriously when we tell them about what Christ has done for all mankind? What reason do we give them to think that we are not just another religious nut case trying to push our religion on them?
We must wake up! We must pray that God will clear our vision so that we might begin to live and think of eternal things and put the temporal things in their rightful place! Christ didn't die and resurrect so that Christians may hoard materialistic possessions and live comfortable without pain or suffering. He died that we might live unto him and die unto ourselves so he might receive the reward of his suffering. He suffered and rose again so that we might have eternal life and share that life with everyone within our sphere of life that we possibly can. We have been thoughtless and selfish to believe that we can bask in the light of God's love while never telling others of the grace and mercy that is available to them and excusing our ignorance in one way or another. God is not pleased! He has been calling those who know him to cast off the shackles of this world and begin to act as if we believe what we say we believe. There are millions of souls at stake and the day of reckoning has come for millions already, and we have never cared enough to warn them of their impending doom. We must die to self that others may live. We must take up our cross and follow Jesus even if it means dying physically that others might find eternal life through Christ working in and through us for his glory and honor and praise! Let's not just say we love Jesus with words but let's prove it by our obedience to him! Millions of souls are lost and thousands die every second of every day, and so many have never heard the gospel that can send them into eternity filled with joy and confidence of eternal life! We must take up our cross "daily" and follow Jesus!
If you decide to pursue this kind of life, be prepared for those from within the church who will call you self-righteous, bigoted, holier-than-thou, and other such names. Be prepared to suffer persecution from those who you once believed to be friends and family. Be prepared to be misunderstood and maligned by many who are carnal rather than spiritual and who love comfortable Christianity that costs them nothing while they want to suck up all the blessings of God and in some cases feel entitled to them for some twisted reason or the other. Be prepared to face the wrath of unbelievers in and out of the church circles who love the things of this life more than they love God. Be prepared to be lied about, cursed and even hated because you are solidly convinced that Christianity takes everything you are and ever will be. Jesus made it clear that "If the world hated him, it would also hate those who are his, because they are not of this world even as he was not of this world. We are in the world but not of it, and those who truly believe that will echo the word of Hebrews 11:13-16 from their hearts with joy and expectation! In these verses we see that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and we seek a country to come, and that we desire a better country that is heavenly and that God is not shamed to be called our God for he has already prepared for us a city. YES! Our hearts will leap with joy and expectation that no words or threats can dampen because we serve a God that is holy and perfect and cannot lie. We will understand that from deep within our souls. and trust in God in the face of everything and everyone and at any cost!
Do we understand this? Is it real to us in the innermost depths of our being, or is it head knowledge and not heart knowledge? The Bible calls us to be careful to "examine ourselves" whether we be in the faith or not. In Revelation, speaking to the church of Laodicea Jesus says some horrifying words that have been deeply etched into my heart for years as a call to walk circumspectly as wise and not a fool. He said, "So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Are we cold or hot or lukewarm? That is something that we all must understand for ourselves, and the sooner the better for all of us. Would that we were all living Leviticus 6:13 which says, "The fire shall ever burn upon the altar; it shall never go out." The fire of God should forever be burning upon the altar of the hearts of every genuine believer, and it should never go out. How can we be less than filled with desire to serve the God who delivered us from our spiritual blindness and eternal death? I hope and pray that those who read this will examine themselves as I have over and over again so that we can keep the fire of our zeal for God burning in us forever! The world is looking for those who have been in the presence of God and have heard from him and have a message to bring to them as they search in every avenue but the right one to deliver them from the things that press upon them every day. We who have believed also have been commissioned to bring this message to a sin-filled and dying generation without hope and desperate for relief! God help us to do what is right!
Sadly, it is true that many churches have abandoned the old hymns in favor of what is called Christian Contemporary music in this generation. When I think of this message one old hymn comes to mind that should be a challenge to us!
"ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS, marching off to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on before." We hardly resemble an army today, but a group sadly divided by doctrine; unwilling to move beyond our differences to unite in one common cause; the proclamation of the gospel for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ and salvation of millions who are lost and dying without hope! We desperately need repentance and revival in this time, and it will take God''s great power working worldwide. Will we join together or will we continue to neglect the call of God as multitudes die around us without hope in Christ?
C R Lord © 5/22/2016