Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Cross [Part 2]

And He said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

The cross is more than two intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. The cross is more than a symbol on a cute pair of earrings. The cross is SO much more than that and in today's American culture, we often fail to understand or even see the significance of the cross.

What does it mean to take up your cross? What does it mean to follow Jesus? You have to be willing to die to yourself. That might mean loss of friendships, relationships, job, etc. - but are you willing? It doesn't mean you will necessarily lose all those things, but are you willing to let it happen? Personally, the biggest loss I have faced through the process of following Jesus is friendships. Some are completely over and some aren't the same as they used to be (and probably never will be). It can be tough, but the result of following Jesus is eternal life - no earthly friendship can guarantee you such a promise. Because of that, following Him will always, always, always be worth it. No matter what the cost.

Something important to understand from this verse is what Jesus means by "cross." Some people interpret this as a burden - something they have to put up with, something that weighs heavily on their life that they have to work through in order to follow. But in its historical context, it means something different. The cross in the first century was a symbol of death. In present-day time, this would be like an electric chair or something similar. Think of the worst possible way for you to die. There's your "cross." With that said, you have to be willing to lose your life like we talked about before. Again, not easy but worth it.

It is also important for us to be able to recognize our sin and turn from it. When we make the decision to live out the Christian life and follow Jesus, we can no longer continue to live in the same sin as before. This can  manifest itself in many different ways in our lives: drinking and sex outside of marriage are two primary examples (1 Corinthians 6:9). Yes, most people have a past - including myself - but that is why it is so important that we become washed, sanctified, and justified through Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit (11). Which brings me back to the cross. It is because of the cross that this is able to happen. Powerful, right? Because of the cross, God is able to cancel our guilt and credit to us righteousness even though none of us are completely righteous (Romans 3:10). We learn in Romans 3:24 that we are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ." Aren't you thankful that Jesus did live his life completely righteous so that when he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, that righteousness could be accredited to us? Amazing. He loves us THAT much. How do you show your love for Him?

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8

And my last point is this: Just because God is one of grace and mercy, that does not give us a right to willingly and consciously sin. Ever. Yes, God does forgive us for our sins through Jesus dying on the cross, but He also calls us to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). To be holy is to be set apart. It's to be different from the world. Can others look at us and see Jesus or can they only see the ways of the world when they look at us? We have to be separated from impurity. We have to love Jesus more than we love this world. We have to love Him more than anything. It is only through Him that we can pursue holiness. Habakkuk 1:13 says, "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong." This should motivate us to do no wrong! Regardless of what it might cost.

So, take up your cross. Give it all over to Him. The sin, the impurity, all of it. It won't always be easy, but I can promise you that your life will change for the better. I am living proof and you can be too. It is a daily struggle, and I often fail - but that's where His redemptive grace comes in. I am so thankful for the cross. Are you?

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