Jesus came to restore the image of God in mankind. He accomplished his mission by making salvation a possibility for every person. In return, Jesus makes demands of his disciples.
A disciple of Christ is one who makes Christ the Lord of his life.
Then he said to them all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Notice he said we are to do three things:
Take up our crosses daily
Last time we looked at denying ourselves. Now we move to the second thing.
Take Up Your Cross
God has provided a way for Christ to be at the centre of your life. This is the second part, ‘take up your cross daily’. ‘To deny yourself’ is the negative side of becoming a disciple; to ‘take up your cross’ is the positive side. Taking up your cross puts Christ in the centre of your life and works this out in all you do.
“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Let’s illustrate this point by drawing a cross around the circle.
Jesus carried his own cross to Calvary. In John 12:24 Jesus explained the purpose of his death: “ I tell you the truth, unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” He compared it to a grain of wheat which must die so that more wheat could be produced. Death to the old way of life brings forth new life.
Self-denial emphasises turning from commitment to self to commitment to Christ. Taking up one’s cross involves turning with Christ to the world in need. The first result is a new vision of self; the second result is a new vision of the world’s need. Crossbearing includes sacrificial, loving service to others.
In Philippians 2:8 Paul explained why Jesus was willing to take up his cross: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Jesus was obedient to God’s will for his life even when it meant dying on a cross. We can learn from Jesus’ example in crossbearing that the Christian’s cross has two characteristics: (1) It is a voluntary commitment. (2) It is an act of obedience.
Jesus said you are to carry your cross daily. That means you move beyond denying yourself to a place of concern for other people’s redemption. Carrying your cross and serving others require discipline. Next time we will illustrate on the cross the disciplines that Jesus said a disciple must have.
[Adapted from MasterLife Discipleship Training for Leaders by Avery T Willis Jr 1980]