In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) This may seem clear enough, but I have questions. What does it mean to “bear my cross?” And what is my “cross?”
Someone sent me a series of drawings (probably on Facebook) that triggered questions and self-examination. I’ve shortened the series, but this gives you an idea. (Pictures free to use, per Bing.)
This scared me. Was my life, my cross, big enough? As I meditated on this, I FINALLY realized that my cross isn’t what gets me over that chasm between heaven and hell. It is JESUS’ CROSS that is more than big enough, for me, and for the whole world! That is where my confidence lies!
But Jesus did say that we must take up our crosses and follow Him. What does this mean?
Matthew 16:24 sheds more light on this. Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He connects denying ourselves and our crosses together. Denying myself? What does this mean?
We all have our hopes and dreams. We all have our wants and desires. These often don’t line up with the will of God. We want what we want, when we want it, and how we want it! When I get cut off in traffic … when someone hurts my feelings … when I can’t have something that I want NOW, my will often conflicts with God’s will and character. When I ask God what He wants or how He wants me to respond, and then do it, I am denying myself and choosing His will. I am “nailing” my will, my selfishness, to my cross. Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said to His Father, “Not My will but Yours be done.” Little by little, as we choose His will over ours, our wills become more aligned with His. He says in Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” (NLT) I used to believe that meant that He’d give me what I wanted, but it actually means that he will change my heart’s desire to be in agreement with His will and character… so He can give me my heart’s desire.
There are other things that need to be nailed to our cross. Shame! Guilt! Regrets! Our enemy loves to remind us of our past failures. All these were paid for ON JESUS’ CROSS. Someone told me years ago, Satan made xerox copies of all my debts…sins…failures. The originals were thrown into the “sea of forgetfulness.” But the enemy keeps presenting us with the copies to torment us. Don’t accept his copies. He is a liar and a forger!
But, I think there is still more here.
We know that God has a plan for us… a good plan. He placed us in this place, in this time, in our families, for a reason. He didn’t say it would always be easy. Jesus said we would have tribulation in our lives, but “be of good cheer,” because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) He also knew we would have trouble with people. He said to live at peace with all men, “If possible, so far as it depends on you…” (Romans 12:18) That means sometimes it is not possible!
But I can’t find anywhere that Jesus says, “sometimes I’ll give you sickness, because that is the cross I’ve chosen for you.” I can’t find any place where someone came to Jesus for healing and was told, “Not now, you have much to learn first… or you deserve to be sick.” On the contrary! He healed them! We know that our bodies will someday die. But there are so many places in Scripture that speak of health and healing.
Romans 8:11 tells us, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Also, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2) The word “health” here means wholeness. That includes our bodies, our minds, our emotions and our spirits. And then Jesus told all of us, in Mark 16:15-18, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature… and these signs will follow those who believe: In my Name they will … lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Does it make sense that God would give someone “the cross” of illness, and then tell someone to pray and lay hands on them to remove the cross? Yes, people get sick, but I don’t believe their sickness is a “cross to bear.”
There is another reason to “carry our cross.”
If I am carrying my cross, I’m not ON IT! Jesus was crucified for me … He died for me, in my place! Paul tells us in Romans 6:11, “… count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” When we carry our cross, it reminds us that we are dead to sin and alive in God, because Jesus bore His cross for us. It reminds us of who we were without Jesus; it must also remind us of who we are now with Jesus. We are no longer sinners, saved by grace. We WERE sinners, but we are now children of God, saved by grace … who still fall short and sin.
Remember, carrying our cross gives us a place to nail our willfulness, our selfishness, our regrets, and all the shame that the enemy throws at us. It also reminds us that we are not on it – because Jesus was.