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Taking Up Your Cross


By Benjamin H. Liles

          Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. ~ Luke 9:23-24

          Taking up the cross and following after Jesus the Messiah is not an easy task. It means a denial of self and laying aside what I want for the sake of someone else. It looks like when someone has done wrong to me that I return good instead of allowing my desire to come back out at them. Jesus, in His earthly ministry, never returned evil to those who mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted Him. He laid down His life to set people free from their burdensome sin.

          The writer of Hebrews wrote, "Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore" (Hebrews 13:13, Berean Study). I tend to forget a lot of the time to do this kind of thing. I think a great deal of time I spend in Him and His word, when I put myself in that place to do so, I find Jesus doing those things the Father delighted in doing. Whether it was restoring someone's eyesight, to raising a son or a daughter from the dead, Jesus did it.

          "He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life" (John 12:25, World English). This is the same thing the Messiah endured, even before ending up on the cross. Twice we read of the Messiah, "He fell face down and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will'" (Matthew 26:39).

          Jesus cried out the words, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling!" (Matthew 23:37). He was willing to not just take the cross, but do the full will of the Father. He didn't want to remember the sins of His people any longer. He desired to love Israel, His people, to gather them in as a hen does with her chicks.
       
          And it comes down to this, when we come to Christ and accept the free gift of salvation through His blood, we ought to lay down our past and the sins thereof. Paul says this, "I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me, and the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, Holman Christian Standard). Therefore, the life lived is that of Christ within and to live it as if He is you; not you as Him.

          Whenever we feel an urge to return evil for evil we're allowing for our desire to be met. What can be done about this? If we truly follow after Jesus, we not only take up our cross and bear it for a moment, but we say and do nothing as we remain there in His shadow. It doesn't mean we're weak, but that we're allowing God to pass His just and loving judgment on the whole ordeal. Jesus, although He never sinned, became our sin offering--pleasing God the Father--allowing us to be cleansed from our unrighteousness and therefore taking His righteousness for ourselves.

          Father, I thank and praise You for all You have done for me and in my place. Enable me to face my cross and its burdens. If Your Son, Jesus, can face His, thus bringing us into a right relationship with You, how much more so can You bless this world when we choose to do the same thing for this world? I long and desire to be right with You, as scripture declares, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21, New American Standard). Keep allowing me to do this daily, Lord. I want to show others what it means to be walking and living in You. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.