TAKING UP YOUR CROSS?
By Rodney W. Francis
It is interesting to note that Jesus Christ taught His followers that from the very beginning of their walk with Him they had to be born-again of the Holy Spirit in order to see and enter the Kingdom of God (John 3 ); that our old way of life is totally unacceptable in God’s Kingdom. Jesus also used other terminology so that we would be in no doubt as to the need of a total new life in Him. He talked about taking up a cross: When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38 ; Luke 14:27-29 ; John 12:24-26 ).
IT IS THE KNOWING OF THE TRUTH THAT SETS US FREE!
Jesus made it very clear as to what is expected of His followers. Our old self is corrupted by a sinful nature; hence the need to be born-again, born-anew, and a total new start. When we obey the teachings of Jesus, He comes in and changes us into a new creation, a new person; He gives us a new heart that desires to love, follow and obey Him. Once that miracle of the new birth takes place, we are then taught that we should be baptized in water (Acts 2:38 ; Romans 6:1-11 ; 1 Peter 3:21 ). Water Baptism is about a death experience ~ the ‘old man’ being buried in order that we may walk in the new resurrection life and power of Jesus Christ. Water Baptism is a testimony, an evidence to an unbelieving world that we have been changed by Jesus Christ into a whole new creation: “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:15-21 ). To stay living and walking in that new creation we have to take up our cross (which speaks of death to selfish living), and keep listening to the voice of Jesus to lead and guide us into all truth. It is the knowing of His truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32 )! Christianity is a whole new way of living ~ and it has to be on God’s terms, not ours.
A dead person cannot raise him/herself up again. It takes Jesus Christ with resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to do that. And there can be no resurrection until first there has been a death or a crucifixion. The self-life does not want to die and so battles this truth. But crucifixion is worse because you can see who is nailing the nails into you (and that really challenges the power of one’s forgiveness towards that person or persons)! We will never know the resurrection life and power of Jesus Christ until we enter into the reality of taking up our cross, dying to self, and yielding all to the Lordship of Jesus. Until this happens we will never experience the true realm of Christianity ~ the resurrection life realm.
PAUL LAID DOWN EVERYTHING OF HIS OLD LIFE
Consider again the testimony of the Apostle Paul (Philippians 3 ). He laid down everything of his old life, heritage, culture, learning, etc., in order to gain or win Christ. In his words he counted those things as “rubbish, dung” (Philippians 3:8 ). Why was that? He had experienced the resurrected Christ in such a way that his life would never be the same again! Hanging on to the old only restricts us in our walk and relationship with Jesus.
Jesus taught us that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:16-17 ). If we try we will only have disappointment and disaster, because the new and the old cannot mix together. New wine must be put into new wineskins! This explains why there is so much heart-ache and confusion in Christian circles these days. A “watered-down” Gospel will never meet the needs of the people, nor will it satisfy the heart of God for His people. He desires that we experience His resurrection life in such a way that we can never be the same again! It is religion that pulls us down to a natural-minded concept of Christianity and turns it into a powerless tradition.
THE CROSS SEPARATES US FROM THE WORLD
The truth is: If Jesus Christ taught us of the need to take up our cross ~ and He did ~ then we need to take up our cross! There is no other way. The “old man” with its sinful nature can never grasp or understand the ways of God. The cross separates us from the natural ways of man. And it is only Jesus Who can give us resurrection life once we have died to ourselves, i.e. taken up our cross. We cannot resurrect ourselves. To die to self and then to be resurrected by the power of the Living Jesus Christ means we are now living in a total new realm than we have ever known before. It is living on God’s territory . . . with Jesus Christ indwelling us . . . through the power of His Mighty Holy Resurrection Spirit! It is very different to the ways of the world.
IT IS A TOTAL SUBMISSION TO JESUS CHRIST!
You might be asking: “How do I die to myself?” The best and only way is a total submission to Jesus Christ. Developing a listening ear to His Voice and Holy Spirit, and live with a commitment to doing whatever He asks of us (John 2:5 ). In learning obedience to what He says to us, He will give us experiences that will “crucify” the old nature and help us to walk more and more in His new nature. It is my experience that every time God speaks to me and asks me to do something for Him, that I have to respond with a physical action. I cannot simply “commit it to prayer”. There has to be an action on my part. I have to mix faith with the word heard (Hebrews 4:2 ). Faith is an action. Faith demonstrates to God that we believe Him; that we believe Him enough to totally commit to whatever He asks of us! When we learn to live like that we will experience a “death” experience, because so many of those who know us will not understand what we are doing ~ and often feel obliged to tell us so! That can hurt, especially when it comes from friends.
It is the doing of the will of God in our lives that causes the cross to be a very real experience in our day-to-day lives. We should not fear that, because the results of obedience to God are far, far better than anything our natural minds can give us. I am so glad that I have lived my life for Jesus! My only regrets are that I did not learn some of these principles sooner! God has been so good to us and enabled us to touch many thousands of lives around the world over many years! It could not have happened if we had not learned to listen to God and do what He asks of us. His ways are much higher than our ways ~ and they work! If Jesus Christ is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. God bless you!