Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 16:24-25
Years ago my West African friend received a phone call. “We have your friend here. Your and his preaching about Jesus will not be tolerated. If you don’t stop, you and your family will receive the same fate that your friend is about to get.” Bang!
Even the murder of his ministry partner, a dear brother from Bible school, could not prevent my friend from denying himself, taking up his cross, and continuing to follow Jesus. Even with persistent threats upon his life, my friend still proclaims the name of Jesus wherever he goes.
Our Lord and Savior was humiliated, beaten, mocked, ridiculed, and murdered…by the very ones he was dying to save. He did this out of love for His Father, and love for us. Jesus’ cross was a physical one, formed of rough beams of wood.
While the cross he spoke of to his disciples, in Matthew 16, could also have been a literal one–we know that several of them were themselves crucified–our “cross” today usually takes a more figurative form (although a bullet to the head is hardly figurative).
Merely following Jesus and speaking His name (not in vain but with reverence) is often viewed with disdain. Subscribing to God’s written Word as absolute truth can be a sign of deficient thinking for those in higher education. Abstaining from participation in medical treatments or procedures, such as abortion, can put a health-care worker’s livelihood at risk.
This way of life, the Way of the Cross, is not for the faint of heart. Only those who are clearly focused and fixed on their eternal destination, just like Jesus was, are free to live with such selfless abandon. If we find our security in Christ, we are empowered to follow Him on that lonely road, not without struggle, but with resolve.
This resolve can have a dramatic influence on those around us, resulting in increased impact for the Kingdom of God. When we take up our cross,
- Others will see Jesus! I pray every day that people can see through me to see Jesus within me.
- Truth will be declared! Our faith must be rock solid and our resolve unwavering.
- Faith will fuel faith! We will see God’s, and not man’s, clear handiwork in our midst, inspiring faith within the community of believers.
Jesus continues in Matthew 16: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul” (verse 26)? Don’t be fooled: the alternative to “taking up your cross” is not a comfortable life that ends with a gentle transition into eternal glory; the alternative is the forfeit of our souls! The choice here is binary: the world or the Cross, not both. For those who desire the eternal treasure of deep and abiding love in the arms of our Lord, the choice may yet be difficult, but it is clear.