Luke 9:18-26.
  The Disciple's Cross.


Luke 9:18-23. 

And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?  They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.  He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.  And he straightly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;   Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.  And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 

"As I was walking down the street one day ..."  These are the opening lyrics performed by a popular band who wrote and published this song in their debut album in the late 1960s.1  Playing trumpet in a band that closely mimicked their songs and style, I became very familiar with their melodies, and their early music still plays in my mind today.  As I was walking down the street of Washington, D.C. one day, with the melody playing clearly in my mind, I started observing the people I encountered.  Though it was the melody lines and instrumental orchestration that this particular band wrote and played that particularly interested me, the premise of the lyrics of this one song arrested my attention.  As I observed people scurrying everywhere, each person seemed fully focused on their destination, with no thought other than to get to their destination as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Their plan of travel seemed to be clear, and their destination well-defined.  On the left there was a young man wearing a business suit and carrying a small briefcase.  As he pressed his way through the crowd he nearly toppled other people as he pushed them out of his way.  On the right a cluster of people were gathered at an intersection, fidgeting as they waited for the "walk" signal to light, watching vehicular traffic to see if they could jump out ahead of the signal.  Like those described by the lyricist, these were people in a hurry to get nowhere.

I have always had a penchant for changing a few words of the lyrics of popular songs to make them speak to my own heart, and as they melody was playing itself out, new lyrics same to mind; words of the LORD as He said, "Does anybody know I'm here?" (changed from the second line of the chorus).  It was a crowd of people who, simply by their numbers include many who share a desperate need for the peace and joy that comes from a relationship with God.  Yet they are as busy as a bees in a bee hive as they seek to run to-and-fro, chasing their worldly dreams, fully ignorant of the true source of the peace and joy they seek.  My heart broke for those people and I wanted to scream out some words of profound wisdom that would turn their hearts.  No words came.  The best I could come up with was to offer the lunch I was carrying to a homeless man who was the only stationary soul in this mad mass of movement.

This ignorance of God's presence and power pervades a society who, without exception, recognizes man's quest for God.  However, to pursue that quest to its full understanding necessitates a life change as one surrenders one's pride and self-will as they turn the helm of their lives over to the God who created them and loves them.  That pride and self-will is a powerful force that not only keeps the masses scurrying on the streets, but also fuels their rationalizations for rejecting God.  A recently published book touts the position that there is no God, and that any interest in deity is common to all people by virtue of genetic programming.  Dean Hamer, chief of gene structure at the National Cancer Institute claims that humans are no more than "a bunch of chemical reactions running in a bag."  According to Hamer, God is a creation of man through a response to genetic pattern.2  Hamer draws his conclusions by comparing the DNA structures of a group of smokers who he interviewed.  He selected his population, he then selected his means of study, and then drew his own conclusions.  Though his conclusions cannot be defined as "scientific" by any modern scrutiny, the media implies that they are, and his statements gain world-wide attention simply because they give the scurrying masses one more rationalization to employ as they reject the One True God.

Luke 9:18. 

And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? 

As Jesus traveled in his three years of ministry, he caused people to question the nature of their spirituality.  People were as ignorant of their need for God two thousand years ago as they are today, and they were just as adamant in maintaining their current beliefs concerning God.  When asked "Who is God?", some people today follow the Marxian viewpoint that religion is simply the opiate of the masses, a fable that numbs people to the real pain of this world.  To some, God is a distant force that once set all of this known cosmos into motion, but is now no longer relevant, (let the force be with you).  Obviously, there is one who is now arguing that God is a figment of our imagination, inspired solely by genetics.  There are many viewpoints and opinions of those who employ any number of arguments that will systematically refute the Word of God as He revealed it to man.  

When Jesus taught His disciples, it was important that they clearly understood who God is, and what His plan is for the salvation of mankind, a mankind that when left to its own nature will always reject God.  God had revealed in his Word through the Law and the Prophets that the Messiah,  the agent of creation and the judge of all men, would come into the world and lead them eternally in peace.  However, just as people do today, many of those who had the opportunity to understand the truth of the gospel, chose to hold to their traditional beliefs and reject anything new.  Jesus used a metaphor of the inability of old wineskins to contain new wine to describe this conflict (Luke 5:37).  When one holds to traditional beliefs, and refuses to acknowledge new knowledge, he becomes unteachable, and consequently unreachable by God.  Those who held to their traditional religious beliefs could not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Their paradigm sought for a messiah who would be a worldly political king who would overthrow their Roman oppressors.  They did not understand the context of the prophesies that revealed a Messiah who would come to save people from the oppression and eternal death that comes from the guilt of sin and transgression against God.

When Jesus came, be brought a bright new model of thought to what had become a dark theological world.  He came doing exactly what the prophesies described as He brought to mankind the good news of God's provision for the salvation of all from the consequences of their sins.  No longer would it be necessary that people live in hopelessness, scurrying around seeking the solution for their spiritual quest in the wrong places.  By showing people who God is, they could set down their idols and turn to Him in faith.  Then, by paying the penalty that is due to mankind for their sins, Jesus provided freedom from that penalty to all who would follow Him.  

Luke 9:19. 

They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. 

So, after Jesus had revealed much of God's plan to the disciples, he asked them, "who do people say that I am?"  His question probed the disciple's thoughts on what those outside the fellowship of disciples thought of Jesus.  Today that same question investigates the opinions of those scurrying masses who reject God.  Few people in today's culture attempt to deny that Jesus existed as a man.  However, most deny His deity as the Messiah, and argue that he was simply a good man, a good teacher, a man with a good message of love, etc.  Some argue that Jesus was a fanatic who died a fools death as he confronted the religious establishment with his heresies.  Many of today's Jews sincerely seek God, but are just as sincere in their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.  May of those of the Muslim religion will agree that Jesus was a great teacher, but not The Prophet.  

One common element in the descriptions that the people of the world attribute to Jesus is that He is defined in terms of that which they already know and believe.  They are set in their world view and cannot see anything from a viewpoint other than that which they already have established in their minds.  They accept the presence of John the Baptist, so perhaps Jesus is representing Him.  They have a tradition that the prophet Elijah will return someday, and maybe it is him, and if not Elijah maybe one of the other prophets.  It is easier for them to accept that Jesus is a resurrected prophet than to accept who He claims to be.  Their prejudices enabled them to rationalize away every fulfillment of prophesy that Jesus demonstrated so that they could reject Him as the promised Messiah.  Likewise, the prejudices of today enable people to reject Jesus as the Christ, as the Messiah.  Rejecting His deity, they see Him only as a man, a great teacher and prophet.  Some may even acknowledge Jesus as the "Son of God" without fully understanding what that means, not really caring to know more than the little they do.  Instead of giving themselves to the LORD, people scurry in a hurried frenzy in their lives seeking fulfillment in the wrong places.

Luke 9:20.

He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. 

The important question for us to answer, is not so much what does the world believe about Jesus, but what do we, individually, believe about Jesus.  Having received first-hand experience with Jesus Christ, Peter answered for the group.  Often we see Peter as the one who is quoted then the disciples are questioned.  This may be simply because Peter's impetuosity leads him to an impulsive answer.  However, this answer does demonstrate that Peter has been able to set aside his prejudices and embrace something that is seemingly impossible:  the man who stands before him is God Himself, the Messiah, the agent of creation who has come to man.

When one considers the depth of Peter's confession, and when one agrees with it, the result is something that is incredible.  It is not surprising that people reject who Jesus is when we really consider Jesus.  How can God become a man?  How can a man be God?  By all of human reasoning, the nature of Jesus is an impossibility.  If one is ignorant of God's Word, the only reasonable response a person can have at such a hypothesis is laughter, as they consider such an idea to be foolishness.  However, when one investigates God's Word one learns of the Messiah, the person of God who created all that is; the person of God who is the judge of man and his advocate before God; the person who was prophesied to come to man and save him from the consequences of sin.  When one understands the prophesies and the scriptural description of the Messiah, one can see that Jesus is indeed the One.  Peter was able to make this jump of belief. 

I can still remember when as a child I wrestled with this same question.  I tried to believe what the church taught as I chose to accept the authority and truth of scripture.  It was easy to believe the stories about Jesus and the details of His ministry.  It was easy to understand and believe that Jesus' death on the cross was done for me.  However, it was still difficult to understand how this man, Jesus, could also be God.  I understood God to be the infinite creator, something that could not be contained in the framework of a human.  If God is omnipresent, how could He be fully in Jesus?  If this were the case, God could not have been omnipresent when Jesus was engaged in earthly ministry.  It was not until I understood the concept of the Messiah that I suddenly understood who Jesus is, and the meaning of the Trinity became more fully known.  God is infinite and omnipresent, and his nature is far too complex to be contained in any single human definition.  God has revealed Himself to mankind through His Word, through His Creation, and through His Spirit.  It is not so much for us to try to figure out how God could send Himself through the person of the Messiah, the Son of God, to man in the form that He chose.  Likewise, it is not so much for us to try to figure out how God communicates to us and works in his Creation through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We many never understand how God has done this.  It is only for us to accept in faith that He did, and to respond in thankfulness and obedience.  Jesus is the Messiah, the person of God who created all that is (John 1:1-14), and by whom all will be judged (John 14:6).  Jesus is fully man as He was born of Mary, yet He is also fully God as He is the incarnation of the Messiah, the Christ  ("Christ", "Christos" "Kristos" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Messiah", "Meshia".  We can stand before Jesus, and yet accept Him and worship Him as our LORD and Savior.

When the writer of the gospel of Matthew records this encounter he adds Jesus' response to Peter:

Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:17-18)

Some have misunderstood this verse, arguing that Jesus built the church upon Peter himself.  However, when we look at the language used here, we may be reminded that Peter's name was actually Simon.  Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, which literally means "pebble" or "little stone."  Jesus used the metaphor of the stone as a proclamation that the faith of Peter, though small, is the foundation upon which Jesus will build the church.  One comes into the body of believers by their profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, just as Peter had just done, a profession that comes, not from the acceptance of any human argument, but an acceptance in the heart in response to the LORD's revelation through the Holy Spirit. 

Luke 9:21.

And he straightly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;  

Jesus' next response to Peter's confession might sound a little strange.  Why would Jesus ask Peter and the disciples to keep this confession a secret?  Referred to as the "messianic secret," it is evident that whenever Jesus was engaged in ministry around Jerusalem or with those who had influence in Jerusalem, he asked those who understood who He is to keep their profession personal.  We see occurrences of Jesus asking those who were healed to tell no one of the source of their healing.  The times we see Jesus instructing individuals to share the news of His identity it is always to people outside of the influence of the Jerusalem Jews such as the woman at Jacob's well (John 4:6, ff.) and the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:1, ff.)  The reason for the messianic secret is simple, and part of the answer can be found in verse 22. 

Luke 9:22.

Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. 

As Jesus was talking with the disciples, it was not yet the time for His passion.  Though these disciples now understood who Jesus is, as well as the purpose of His coming, their knowledge was not shared by the community.  If word had been spread that Jesus was the expected Messiah, those who are waiting for a military and world leader who would free Israel from Roman oppression would come forward and attempt to promote Jesus to this position.  A public outcry for Jesus' ascension to the Jewish throne would confront the authority of Herod.  The political fallout that would ensue is neither the purpose for Jesus coming, nor the intent of the conclusion of His ministry.  One of the characteristics of God's relationship with mankind is His offer of free will.  Man can choose to reject God or turn to Him.  Man can reject God's plan for his life and go his own way.  As God works through people to promote his purposes, those people and others can choose the avenue of disobedience and refuse to do His will.  Because of this, a rebellion against Herod would have been the inevitable result if the general population of Jerusalem came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

Because of this, and the resulting danger posed by the zealous religious leaders, most of Jesus' ministry took place in the area of Capernaum of Galilee, far north of the hotbed of religious fervor that was in Jerusalem.  At the end of his ministry, it was the event of His travel to Jerusalem that brought about the events that he described here.  Not only does Jesus reveal the reason for the messianic secret, He explains to the disciples some of the details of how God's plan for the ministry of the Messiah would differ from that expected by the religious zealots.  Each of the four events that Jesus described are prophesies from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Jesus describes for the disciples how he would suffer His passion, and then be raised again in three days.  It is evident from later events that the disciples did not fully understand what Jesus was describing.  

Luke 9:23.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 

If one cites the 2000 US census, one could stop those busy masses of people on that D.C. street and inquire to find that three quarters of them will tell you that they believe in God, and that they are Christian, though only one in ten is regularly engaged in fellowship and worship with other Christians.  How can 65% of the American population consider themselves Christians, yet remain apostate?  These are people who believe in God, and believe that Jesus is who He says He is, but have never made the commitment to Him.  They would testify that "I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul"3 and give God nothing more than a passing notice, bland appreciation, or little thanks.  As Jesus instructs the apostles, He provides a clear and simple description of the fruit of saving faith:  self-denial, spiritual sacrifice, and allegiance to Him.  

Deny one's self. Some have taken this verse to mean that obedience is characterized by self flagellation, or self deprecation as one denies one's self of the basic needs of life.  Based upon a literal interpretation of the English translation, there is no precedent for such a position from the context of scriptural application in Jesus' time or in the experience of the early church.  To deny one's self according to the biblical formula is to give to God the full authority in one's life that He deserves.  As we hurry around in our hustle and bustle, seeking the best job, making the most money so we can purchase the best toys; as we connive and manipulate our way through the office to obtain the best career position, it is easy to consider one's self the master of one's own life.  As the central authority in my own life, owing no allegiance to God, I make my decisions, am responsible for the consequences, and find no lasting peace or joy in the constant struggle to attain more and more.  To deny one's self is to give that authority to God without reservation.  It is not possible to give God the central authority in your life without continually seeking obedience to Him.  If one does not seek to obey God, then God is simply not the central authority in one's life.  So, the first step is to turn one's life over to God.  This is denying one's self.

Take up his cross daily, a spiritual sacrifice.  There is only one contextual application of the metaphor "take up his cross."  The word for "cross" is a noun that describes the long and massive log that a condemned criminal carried to the site of crucifixion.  It was on this log that the hands and arms of the condemned were usually tied prior to it being lifted up on a vertical post and dropped in place.  This log, the pentabulum, was the cross that Jesus was carrying on His way to the crucifixion.  One can only imagine the thoughts that accompanied Jesus' use of this metaphor as he applied it in the context of obedience to Himself.  In the previous verse, Jesus is recorded as referring to his being "slain," and any reference to his death by crucifixion in this example is unclear.  However, his use of the pentabulum in this verse sets the context of his "prediction" as that of crucifixion. 

Jesus could have walked away from the cross at any time.  However, He following through with the crucifixion was an act of obedience to God's plan.  Jesus' carrying the cross was the supreme example of obedience.  Likewise, Christians have been appointed the responsibility to be obedient to God.  Obedience is found only through faith in God and through obedience to His call.  A life that is obedient to God is characterized by a change of relationships towards at least four constituents, whereby some manner of sacrifice is experienced with each:

1.  God's Word.  One who seeks to be obedient to God's will wants to know what that will is.  God's will is found through a systematic and continual study of His Word, as well as through prayer, listening to the Holy Spirit, listening to wise counsel of other Christians, etc.  However, the primary source of basic and clear information for understanding God's will is the Bible.  The Bible is the only written source that holds true spiritual authority, and it contains the complete revelation of God's plan for mankind.  Taking up one's cross involves establishing a relationship with God's Word, a relationship that invokes its study and memorization that is motivated by a continual and simple desire to know more.  A Christian who desires to obey God will find the scriptures informative, inspiring, and exciting, and the more the scriptures are studied, the more one will understand God, His will, and His purpose for them.  Taking up one's cross involves effort and time.  Spending time in God's Word is a suitable sacrifice.

2.  God, Himself.    Success in any relationship is predicated on communication.  We find that Jesus would often separate himself from others so that He could spend time in prayer.  This passage of scripture starts with Jesus in prayer.  Jesus also taught the disciples to pray both by example and by instruction.  Though God knows your heart and your needs, God still desires your prayers and your worship.  Through prayer you communicate to God those thoughts and needs within the context of His authority, acknowledging Him for who He is as you are granted access to His Throne, a privilege given only by His grace and love for you.  Prayer also involves spending quiet time in which you listen for that still-small voice of the Holy Spirit who communicates God's answer to you.  True worship is also a form of prayer.  Spending time with God in prayer and true worship is a suitable sacrifice.  

3.  Other Christians.  God has created mankind as a social creature.  Community is a basic need of mankind.  Consequently, man has created limitless ways to spend time together in community.  Likewise, Christians gain much by coming together in the community (koinonia) of fellowship.  Christians need one another for support and encouragement as they share God's unconditional agape love with one another.  Together, Christians can accomplish much that they cannot accomplish alone.  The older and more learned Christians can teach the young.  Experiences can be shared to encourage and teach one another.  Resources can be pooled in order to accomplish any number of ministries.  Spending time in fellowship with other Christians is a worthy sacrifice.

4.  Non-Christians.  How does one who is lost find God?  Though God reveals Himself to mankind in many diverse ways so that even though one never hears the gospel he is without excuse (Romans 1) conversions to faith in God do no systematically happen this way.  All attempts to find God fail, as all people fall short of perfection, fall into sin, and face the penalty of separation of God for eternity (Romans 3:23).  People come to the LORD as a result of the testimony of other Christians.  If Christians confine themselves within the walls of their churches and never make any attempt to share the gospel with the lost they become keepers of the aquarium rather than fishers of men.  Any congregation that follows this model will eventually die, and carry with it the responsibility that comes from their failure to save those around them from eternal separation from God.  God places churches in community with lost people, both corporately in the community and individually as Christians interact with non-Christians in the events of their daily lives.  God has called Christians to "go and make disciples" (Matt 28:19).  This was not the "great suggestion," but the "great commission."  It is the commission of the church, and consequently, the commission of every Christian to make disciples, baptizing them (immersing them) in the knowledge and understanding of who God is, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is (Matt 28:19-20). This command is followed by simply spending time with non-Christians, sharing with them God's unconditional agape love, and taking advantage of opportunities to explain the source of that love and inviting them to give their heart to the LORD.  Spending time making disciples is a suitable sacrifice.

To deny one's self and take up the cross involves continual sacrifice.  Though the word "daily" is used in the English, the Greek verb tense clearly indicates that to "take up" is continual.  Denying one's self is not characterized by spending a couple of minutes each week in prayer, spending an hour in church, spending no time in Bible study, and spending no time in evangelism, and unfortunately this sequence of effort describes most Christians.  Obedience to the LORD is found in a continual, fruitful interaction with each of these four sources of relationship:  Prayer, God's Word, fellowship, and evangelism.

Follow Jesus.   It may be obvious that the lost masses of people who call themselves Christians find no peace because they do not take up the cross in the manner describe here.  It is probably less obvious that even those who call themselves Christians and have made professions of faith in Jesus as their personal LORD and Savior often still fail to take up the cross.  The result is that these people may remain in the Christian community, but there is little spiritual growth evident in their lives.  They too find themselves frustrated at the lack of peace in their lives as worldly constituents vie for their attention.  These may be Christians who have "one foot in heaven and one in the world," Christians who will not fully commit to God.   All Christians can look at this description of denying one's self and taking up the cross, and if taken to heart, find a way out of this "Christian schizophrenia" that describes so many. 

Luke 9:24-25.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

Jesus is still speaking of self-denial.  Those masses I have described bustle too and fro in a continual and unending task of accumulation.  They may invest their entire lives chasing a dream of worldly state or status.  The mantra of this cultic is, "he who finishes with the most toys wins."  The truth is, he who finishes with God wins the true race.   "lose his life" does not necessarily refer only to death.  Some would interpret that statement to say that salvation only comes from a death that is suffered for Jesus' sake, a martyrdom.  If this were true, Jesus would be teaching that martyrdom is the way of salvation. There are some religions in this world that have held to such a teaching.  To lose one's life for Jesus' sake is simply to give one's life to Him.  A prayer of such loss is, "LORD, I give my life to you.  I am not keeping it for myself, and the things I have acquired are not acquired for myself, but rather, these are yours too."  

I remember a Christian friend who, after she bought her first new car was just beaming.  Her pride of ownership just filled her statements as she described this car that "God had given" to her. This was "God's car."  Consequently, she thought nothing of handing the keys to someone who needed use of it.  As I observed her interpretation of ownership I saw an example of the type of self-denial that Jesus describes here.  Though she had great appreciation for that car, in her heart it was fully given to God and not kept for herself.  She lost the frequent use of that car for Jesus' sake.  Jesus instructs Christians to have that same character of self-denial, giving all to Him, for what is the point of keeping all of this stuff, if at the end of life on this earth it is all lost in a judgment from a God who was rejected in life?  All of the world's possessions and power become meaningless when one faces an eternity separated from them and form God.

Luke 9:26.

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Fatherís, and of the holy angels. 

Self-denial involves not only giving to God our lives and our means, but giving him our heart and allegiance.  One can give away all that he has in an effort to gain the kingdom of God only to find out that the act was without merit.  It is not the act of giving that saves, but rather the love of God that results in giving that saves.  Denying one's self for God is not a command to someone who does not know Him.  Jesus is demanding this from those who do.  Self-denial is a fruit that grows from a vine of true love for God.  To be "ashamed" of God and His Word is to reject God and His Word.  

Some have used this verse to brow-beat Christians into evangelistic events for which they are not yet prepared.  A young Christian may not yet be confident enough to boldly witness to a stranger, and some witnessing methodologies may not be one's particular gift.  Such fear is not the same thing as shame of Christ.  Christians who put such pressure on other Christians are not demonstrating love as they try to motivate others by impressing feelings of  guilt on other Christians.  Christians who treat one another this way are not the best evangelists.  Jesus' stated that it is better that one have a mill stone placed around their neck and they be cast into the midst of the sea rather than have them cause one who is young in their faith to be so misdirected (Luke 17:2). 

The self-denial that Jesus describes comes first from trusting in God and turning to Him in faith.  One who does this is not ashamed of Him and His words.  Jesus then instructs one who turns to Him to fulfill that commitment in a life that is fully within the domain of His LORDship.  To turn to Christ as LORD is to deny one's self as the central authority of their lives.  A life now so-directed will seek to be obedient to Christ, to follow His command to take up one's cross.  In this lesson we have observed some of what it is to take up the cross:  spend real and sacrificial time and effort in prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other Christians, and sharing testimony with the lost.  This is by no means an exhausting list, but it is certainly a good start.

Invitation

If we go back to that busy city street and observe those who are busy in the chase for worldly acquisition, we will find people who may be making great personal sacrifices.  However, the self-denial that Jesus describes involves spiritual sacrifices that build spiritual maturity, character and wisdom.  It is a safe bet that those who reject God are not busily engaged in the spiritual sacrifice that we have noted here.  It is the opportunity and commission of all Christians to make disciples, and every lost person is a potential disciple.  Let us not be afraid to establish relationships with those who need God, to love them in the LORD, and to look for ways to communicate the gospel so that they can replace their fruitless frenzy of foolish frustration with the true peace and joy that comes from a new hope in the future that is based upon God's promises and power.

Are you living a life of cross-bearing, or are you more like those busy people on the street who scurry from one place to another checking their watches and chasing their dreams?  God has called those who place their faith and trust in him to take on a wonderful sacrifice:  to set aside our dependence upon the authorities of this world and depend upon Him, setting down the secular, and picking up His Cross.

How do we carry the cross?

First we must be a member of the body of Christ.  We must simply turn to God in faith and accept Him as the LORD of our life, professing our true faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Lord.  It is this confession that is the foundation, the rock, of one's individual, eternal salvation.

The Disciple's Cross4                 

As a child of God, we can visualize the task of cross-carrying in the cross itself:

We look UP as we worship God.  Are you worshipping God now?  Is your heart fully embracing God in worship, or are you more concerned about when the study will end and you can go home?  Carrying the cross a spiritual sacrifice that demands worship.

We look DOWN upon God's Word.  Are you immersed in God's Word?  Do you have a love for the Bible and its contents?  If you do, you will want to spend time with it, for it is through the understanding of God's Word that we grow.

We look to the RIGHT upon the body of Christ.  We are to love one another within the body of Christ (John 13:34).  This is an unconditional love.  It is a love that is without hypocrisy (Rom. 12:9).  This love looks past our pimples and warts.  It looks past our errors and sins.  Are you demonstrating that love by encouraging one another, and by praying for one another?

We look to the LEFT upon the lost of this world.  We are also to love these with God's unconditional agape love.  Are you sharing that love with those around you who do not know Christ?  Are you looking for opportunities to express God's love in their life?  Are you looking for opportunities to tell them of the source of the peace and joy that you have in your heart?

Carrying the cross of Christ is not a burden.  It is a joy.  (Matt. 11:30).  It is simply living a life that is dedicated to God.  Is your life dedicated to Him or is it dedicated to the things of this world?


Bibliography

1  ------------. (1969).  "Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?", Music and lyrics by Chicago.

2 Hamer, Dean (2005).  The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes.  New York, NY:  Doubleday. Reported in Time magazine, October 25, 2004.

3 William Henley (1849-1903), Invictus. Modern British Poetry. 1920. Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885-1977).

4 Willis, Avery T. (1996). The Disciple's Cross.  Nashville, TN:  Lifeway Press.