I did an informal survey the other day and asked people what the cross they were wearing meant to them. The responses varied from, “I don’t know…it’s cool…it was a gift from a family member…who cares?…my favorite pop star wears one…it reminds me of what Jesus did.”
Do you wear a cross? What does it represent to you? Are you aware of it every day? Does your cross reflect who you are and how you live, or is it just nice jewelry or a tattoo?
Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me…” Isn’t the word anyone exhilarating? I think it is one of the best things about Jesus – He will take anyone. No need to prove yourself. No resume, application, SAT or skills test is needed. Family background, social status, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, political beliefs, level of brokenness, times you have failed, amount of money in the bank, disability, or any other kind of qualification does not matter to Jesus. He said anyone is a candidate. You just have to recognize your need of Him.
But once you decide you want to follow Him, He asks something of you. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he or she must deny him or herself and take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Read Luke 9:22-26 to finish off the passage.
Jesus did not say, “Take up the cross, or any cross.” He said we each have a personal cross. Each of us has his or her own history, genes, personality, family, and life experiences. All of us could describe a favorite memory from high school, a temptation we struggle with, one of our fears, as well as things we are not proud of. Decisions we regret, things we said, laws we broke, people we hurt, sins we committed, consequences we caused and suffered. The kinds of stuff we would not want anyone to know about. Each of us has broken God’s commands and deserve to be punished.
When you read about the 1st century culture out of which the New Testament was written, people were forced to carry literal crosses for various crimes. Once convicted, they were slain on them. Those who were dying on crosses could not hide. They were hung on them in plain view for all to see, and they were helpless to shield themselves from public view. There was no cover or camouflage for someone on a cross, a fragile human being nailed to a rough piece of wood. Crosses have a way of taking away any sense of pride. Pride keeps all of us away from Jesus.
As you carry your cross each day, remember that you are doing it because Jesus asked you to. Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord demands not only believing the truth of His message, but committing ourselves to sacrificially follow Him in obedience. He carried a cross for you. It was not forced on Him. He endured suffering, shame, ridicule, and rejection. He carried it willingly. He identified with people who were broken, beaten, and sinful. He was crucified, died, and was buried. He gave His life on that cross for each of us so we could live, forgiven and free. He endured the cross, despising its shame (Hebrews 12:2). Then He rose again, in triumph.
Why does Jesus want you to deny yourself and take up your cross daily? The choice between denying ourselves for His Honor or living for our own selfish desires must be made daily. As we do, He empowers us to live a victorious life even as we struggle with sin, suffering, and Satan.
Keep carrying your cross and do not be ashamed as long as it keeps you following the ways, values, and teachings of Jesus. Walk wisely. Your cross is a lifeline, not a death sentence.
Love is a verb,