"And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:38)
The cross is not something laid upon us by God, it is something we must pick up. As with everything else in our walk with the Lord, it begins with a decision. As soon as we decide to fulfill the specific purpose God has for us, we pick up our cross. It is not necessary that we should know what God's purpose is, it is necessary only that we decide to fulfill it.
The cross is neither a testing nor a trial. Usually our trials come as a result of other decisions we make. It isn't a rod used by God to chastise us. Paul described our personal cross as he discussed problems encountered in the work of the ministry:
"For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:11)
"... but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
This is an exciting statement from Jesus to His disciples. We especially like the promise of power.
However, we misunderstand a very important word. The word used by Jesus which we translate as witness, is actually martus, from which we get our word, martyr. We love the idea of being able to stand up as Peter did on the day of Pentecost and move multitudes into the kingdom of God, but Jesus calls us to be as those who "...overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death." (Revelation 12:11)
To pick up our cross, we must lay down our right to ourselves. This is unnatural to our flesh; therefore, death to self must take place. As this happens, we experience the production of fruit that glorifies God. Gradually, it dawns on us that good work doesn't produce fruit, dying to self produces fruit.
This is because spiritual fruit comes only after resurrection. Resurrection power moves multitudes, but there can be no resurrection of spirit until there is first a dying of flesh.
We can't use Christ as a means to a better lifestyle. We can't expect His power to flow through us to acquire worldly gain or higher position. Teaching about using Christianity as a way to self-improvement, is deception because the accent is upon self.
It is true that we live in peace, that we have joy in our hearts, that we love others, regardless of their behavior, that we are patient and kind and gentle and reliable, that we exercise self-control, regardless of the circumstances. It is true and it is self-improvement, but it is available only as fruit of the Spirit, resulting from resurrection, following death.
If we interpret the drama of Calvary only in terms of how we benefit from it, we still wander in the world, we don't enter the kingdom. Our focus is upon ourselves, not upon His purpose for our lives. There is but one way to enter the kingdom: we must submit to His kingship. If we preserve our own right to rule, we remain captive to the world system.
It is possible to use the cross for our own benefit, and many do. But the cross Jesus wants us to voluntarily pick up, is one in which we ignore anything we might receive as a benefit. The cross of Jesus is a symbol of death and detachment from our Adamic nature. This is not re-direction of life, it is death, followed by resurrection.
"...that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." (2 Corinthians 5:15)
When we pick up our cross, we make a statement to Jesus that we recognize ourselves as being no longer members of the family of Adam. We no longer rely upon our Adamic nature to give us security and significance. We now have a new life-source. We place Adam on the cross with Jesus, and we accept our resurrected status with Him. This changes not only our life-style, it changes our purpose for life.
Our new status activates a vulnerability that makes our flesh nervous. We understand the statement about working out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is because we are no longer in charge, God now works in us for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12,13).
To lay our own plans and purposes aside, is like putting an axe to the root of our old family tree. We cut the tap root and begin to take nourishment from our new Source.
We may expect our decision to take up our cross to please Jesus and activate Him to reward us in some way. For instance, it would be nice if He would deliver us from this trying set of circumstances now that we have entered His kingdom. This attitude reveals that we still have self-improvement in mind. When we take up our cross, it is not the circumstances, but our attitude toward the circumstances that change.
God's providence comes, but in a way least expected. Our responsibility, once we take up our cross, is to keep focused upon Him. As we firmly set our focus, regardless of our circumstances, He is then free to fulfill His purpose for our lives. In the process, He is glorified!
Jesus is King!
P.S. What are you doing of eternal value?
Question for today: What kind of cross does the Lord want me to pick up at this time?