Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Jesus had told His disciples that He must suffer and that He was ready and willing to do so. Here He is showing them that they also must be ready and willing to suffer also.
What is your cross? IF you are following after Him, then you are to carry a cross … the cross designed for you not someone else.
Does this mean to pick up a literal cross and carry it? Is it enough to wear a gold one around your neck, one in each ear, tattooed on your back? No. How do we know what our cross is?
It’s different for each one of us. A private pain? A public shame? A difficult choice that put you on a different path? Choosing God over public opinion? Rejection you live with? A spouse’s desertion? An unsaved mate? Children that have walked away from God? Sickness?
How do you carry your cross? With a solemn expression and a downcast soul or with joy knowing “this is my cross”?
I dare say Amy Carmichael’s cross was a sick bed for years. Would she have chosen that? Would Paul have chosen his “thorn in the flesh”? Would Peter have chosen prison? Would Corrie ten Boom chose a death camp?
We don’t get to choose our cross. It is most often one that we have to pick up and carry whether we want to or not!
It’s interesting in the verse above that there is a sequence …
Our choice, a deliberate one, is do we want to come after Him, to follow Him? There will be a price to pay! It’s a serious decision. Following Christ wholeheartedly is not for the faint hearted! Follow means exactly that … FOLLOW … not lead! If we do sincerely want to follow, then we …
Deny ourself. Of what? Could be from making our own decisions! Jesus is the leader, not you! I could make a whole list of things that perhaps we would have to deny but for each of us it would be different (there are SOME things in scripture that would apply to all however!) The Amplified Bible says regarding deny, “disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests”. Self denial goes against the flesh and in so doing we crucify the flesh daily.
We take up the cross! If we really truly want to follow Him and deny ourselves of whatever He is asking of us to give up, if we are allowing Him to be our Leader then we willingly pick up the cross to follow Him.
Follow Him where? Wherever He leads! Carrying a cross is difficult but we must look to Jesus and take encouragement. HE will help us! He will not give us more than we can carry.
An old chorus comes to mind … “Where He leads me I will follow. Where He leads me I will follow. Where He leads me I will follow. I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.”
Your cross may be persecution (by family, by political correctness, by friends) suffering, sickness … no two carry the same cross. Mine is mine and yours is yours. Just because mine is different than yours doesn’t mean it isn’t as heavy or painful.
The cross Jesus carried was not beautiful. Rough, splinters, heavy, jagged. He was bloodied and bruised and carrying it was both heavy and painful. Yet He did it for me, for you. It was a part of the price He paid. What price are you willing to pay?
“Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus. Anywhere, everywhere I will follow on. Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus. Anywhere He leads me I will follow on.”
In 1922 Alfred H. Ackley wrote the following song:
I walked one day along a country road,
And there a stranger journeyed, too,
Bent low beneath the burden of His load:
It was a cross, a cross I knew.
“Take up thy cross and follow Me.”
I hear the blessed Savior call;
How can I make a lesser sacrifice,
When Jesus gave His all?
I cried, “Lord Jesus,” and He spoke my name;
I saw His hands all bruised and torn;
I stooped to kiss away the marks of shame,
The shame for me that He had borne.
“O let me bear Thy cross, dear Lord,” I cried,
And lo, a cross for me appeared,
The one forgotten I had cast aside,
The one, so long, that I had feared.
My cross I’ll carry till the crown appears,
The way I journey soon will end
Where God Himself shall wipe away all tears,
And friend hold fellowship with friend.
Lastly, we don’t go around showing our cross, bemoaning our cross, trying different ways of getting rid of our cross, succumbing to long faces and joyless living. No, Jesus is the JOY of living! He gives us grace to put on a smile, to close our mouth to complaining and murmuring. He will put joy in our hearts in the midst of our pain.