Sunday, October 27, 2019

Living the Life of the Cross

Jesus told his disciples and those that were listening to Him that if they wanted to follow after Him, they would have to first deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. Many people hear those words, and if you are like me, are in the dark as to what they mean. During recent years I have come to know what those words mean in a simple way, and that is what I am going to share with you in this article.
First, Deny Yourself
In the world of capitalism, the modern way we live, and the "look after number one" ideas that prevail in our society, the idea of denying yourself seems to be the opposite of how most people live. We all know certain monks in monasteries live a simple, holy life of self-denial, but how can we in the midst of the society we live in deny ourselves?
There are physical things that we can deny, like time in front of the TV. We can deny ourselves sleep, and we can go without an expensive lifestyle of keeping up with the rest of society with all the modern gadgets.
Then there is the spiritual side, where we spend time reading the Word of God, we spend time in prayer, and we spend time doing things that are building the kingdom of God.
If things are done correctly, then the spiritual side of self-denial will impact your physical side of life. For instance, instead of watching TV on a Tuesday and Thursday night you might be at your local, or not so local, soup kitchen serving meals to the homeless and the disadvantaged in our society. Rather than sleeping in on a Sunday, you could deny yourself and go into church early to help set up for the morning service. Rather than eating biscuits and cake after the service and talking with your friends, you could be speaking to the new couple who has come to your church that day.
All around you are opportunities to deny yourself. Not all of them involve your money, as many people who write on this subject might suggest. Of course, self-denial, when it comes to spending money on things, certainly opens up your resources to bless other people that are not so fortunate, and this is a good thing, but Jesus would prefer your time rather than your money in many instances.
Second, Take up Your Cross
In the days of Jesus, if a person was told to take up a cross, it would mean that he was going to be crucified on it. The people that were sentenced to death on a cross would have to carry it in public humiliation to the place where they were to be hung on it and killed.
When Jesus told the listeners that in order to follow Him they would have to take up their cross, it meant more than just words spoken. It meant that the disciples would carry a real weight on their shoulders as they lived the Christian life and that the people of the world would know that they are sentenced to death, spiritually speaking.
We take up our cross in a practical sense when we obey the commands Jesus Christ gave when he was on earth. When we forgive and love our enemies, we are taking up the cross of Christ. When we are ridiculed and mocked for our faith, yet continue strong in it, we are taking up our cross. When we serve food and interact with the down and out at the soup kitchen, we have taken up our cross. When we spend an hour reading our Bible instead of watching TV, we have both denied ourselves and taken up our cross.
Third, Follow Me
There are many people that call Jesus saviour, but not as many people would call themselves a slave to Christ. Jesus calls us to follow Him in every way. He tells us that through self-denial and taking up our cross in obedience to what He taught, we can reach a place on earth where we are a little Christ. In fact, the word Christian means little Christ.
We may not all be killed for our faith in Jesus like the disciples, but we all need to die to our selfish life and live a life of power in the Holy Spirit.
I pray that this has helped you.

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