About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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 Carry Your Cross 

Over the centuries the cross of Christ has meant different things to different people.  It has been a symbol of redemption for some while a symbol of military conquest for others.  It has been both a good luck charm and a relic to be worshipped.  Those in the Evangelical Church in which I was raised abhorred the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross.  That was way too Catholic for their liking.  "Jesus was no longer on the cross, so He should never be pictured that way," they maintained, and I agree.  However you view the cross, Jesus said something about it that we must all be in agreement with and have it lived out in our lives. 


Jesus said this concerning the crowds that followed Him.  "You are looking for me, not because of the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and you were filled."  In other words, the crowds followed Jesus for what they could get from Him, not for what they could give to Him.  Concerning His disciples, however, Jesus said this.  "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). 


Imagine what might have flashed through the Apostle Peter's mind after Jesus told him to carry his cross.  For Peter, thoughts of a cross would have conjured up horrifying images of pathetic, blood-stained, dying bodies.  The word "cross" would certainly not have stirred up warm feelings towards God, at least not at that point in his life.  Jesus' words must have boggled Peter's mind.  Why in Heaven's name would Jesus command him to do something that was equated with such a dreadful form of death?   


It is commonly understood that Jesus was talking figuratively in this instance.  He was telling men like Peter that they were to deny their selfish sinfulness that is resident within us all.  Only then could he, and we, effectively serve Him.  Whether it is money, materialism, careers, or any kind of self-centeredness, "you cannot serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24).  Either you serve self like the crowds or you serve Jesus like a disciple. 


I realize that some people over the centuries have misappropriated Jesus in reference to denying self.  Among many other things, some mutilated their bodies in an attempt to crucify the flesh, as they thought was meant in Galatians 5:24.  "Those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires".  Some men castrated themselves as an attempt to put to death sexual desire, something they considered sinful.  Jesus suggested no such thing.  He was talking about denying the inner compulsion to put self ahead of Him and His will. 


We live in a self-gratifying "I want it all and I want it all right now" culture which in my opinion has penetrated our western world Christian culture more than we realize.  The result of this self-seeking mindset is disabling us from being the effective disciples of Jesus we were called to be.            


The Biblical command to carry our crosses does not get a lot of press in church these days, but that does not nullify what Jesus commanded.  Whatever the cross means to you, it should mean that you are to lay aside your self-seeking ways to whole-heartedly serve the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciple.  It is not rocket science.  If you lay your life down for another person, that other person will be impacted by the love of God you extend to him, and isn't that what you want out of life?  Isn't that what carrying your cross means?  Isn't that what being a disciple of Jesus is all about? 




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