“Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13 NKJV).
The Lord Jesus is certainly not expecting anyone to take up daily a replica of the wooden vertical stake on which He was crucified. The Lord Jesus surely does not command anyone to bear or wear daily the cross as a religious emblem or as a physical ornament, adornment or jewellery on his body in order to follow Him.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus has not called or given anyone to bear, embrace, or endure sickness, infirmity, failure, poverty, temperamental weakness or negative emotion as his cross. These are the works of the devil. The Scripture clearly states that the Lord Jesus came into the world to destroy all the works of the devil and deliver us from them all (1 John 3:8).
Sadly, many zealous but ignorant believers today are bearing, embracing, and enduring daily the works of the devil (sickness, infirmity, poverty, oppression, affliction, lack, failure, etc) as their cross, and even rejoicing in them.
Having carefully examined the wrong cross that the born-again believers must not take up daily in our last piece, let us now consider the right cross that the Lord Jesus commands and expects us to take up daily in order to follow Him.
First, the cross is a choice:
The cross is not anything forced upon you without your permission or cooperation. But, it is something you personally, voluntarily and deliberately choose to bear, take up, endure, or experience for the sake of Christ. If it is forced upon you, then it is no longer your cross!
Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).
It is you that must take up your cross willingly or voluntarily!
The Lord Jesus was not forced either by His Father or by any man to bear His cross and die on it. He personally and deliberately chose to suffer and die for our sins, not out of pity or a sense of obligation, but out of His selfless and pure love for us.
Jesus reveals this in John 10:17-18:
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
18 “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (NKJV).
While Apostle Paul was staying in the house of Philip the evangelist, the Holy Spirit through Prophet Agabus clearly revealed and described to Paul the cross (the suffering or persecution) awaiting him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-11).
On hearing this prophecy, all the brethren around Paul pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem so that he might evade his cross. But what was Paul’s response?
The Scripture reports, “Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13 NKJV).
Paul apparently had a choice in this situation. He could choose not to go up to Jerusalem and thus evade persecution. But, Paul chose willingly or voluntarily to embrace suffering, persecution, imprisonment and death so that he could finish his race and the ministry he had received from the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:24).
Paul took up his cross willingly, nobody forced it upon him!
Taking up your cross speaks of your unwavering decision, fixed resolution, and strong determination to choose to obey the Lord and do His will wholeheartedly, eagerly, and gladly notwithstanding the outcomes or consequences of your choice.
God didn’t force the cross on His Son, Jesus Christ, or on any of the early disciples and apostles (Acts 4:19-20). Therefore, don’t expect God to force your cross upon you. You are the one to choose whether or not to take up your cross.
The cross is a choice; you can either take it up or evade it through compromise or conformity with the world. You will always have to choose either to be separate from the world and thus face hatred and persecution from the world, or to compromise and conform to the world and thus escape hatred and persecution from the world (John 15:18-19 NKJV).
Second, the cross implies submission:
The gospel without the cross is without any power to save any soul. The gospel is actually the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18). The way of salvation is basically the way of the cross, for it was the cross that paved the way for us to be reconciled to God. The cross is God’s plan, process or way for our salvation.
While the Lord Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, His flesh protested passionately three times against drinking the cup of trembling and fury for our sins, but three times the Lord released and submitted Himself to His Father’s plan, process, will and way for redeeming us, which is to taste death for every man on the cross.
The Scripture records, “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39 NKJV).
Bearing the cross is a perfect submission to God’s plan, process, will and way in spite of the protest of the flesh and the outcomes of your submission. It implies willingness to embrace with joy whatever comes out of your complete submission or obedience to the Lord and out of your pursuit of the ministry you have received from the Lord (Acts 20:22-24).
You are not yet ready to be a disciple of Christ if you are only willing to gladly and eagerly obey or submit to God’s will when you know the outcomes will be good and beneficial to you.
Third, the cross speaks of sacrifice:
God’s redemption plan is incomplete without a sacrifice for our sins. God’s righteousness and justice demand that He fully punish any transgressor of His Law. We all are transgressors of God’s law and thus deserved to receive the wages of sin (death).
However, God’s love and mercy prepared a perfect substitute for us as a propitiation or atoning sacrifice for our sins. The cross was the altar where the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, was slaughtered and offered as a sacrifice for our sins (John 1:29, 36, Heb. 10:10-14, 1 John 2:2).
While the cross was the place of ultimate sacrifice, the Lord’s journey to the cross from the very start was full of unimaginable sacrifices. Although the Lord Jesus was fully God in every form, yet He emptied Himself of His attributes, privileges and glories as God (Philip. 2:7-9).
We might never be able to conceive or imagine all that Jesus sacrificed for our redemption until we reach heaven.
Nobody can be a disciple of Christ without imbibing or learning the art of sacrificing. It starts with you presenting yourself daily as a living sacrifice unto the Lord for Him to do with your life as it pleases Him (Rom. 12:1-2).
Taking up your cross daily implies willingness to sacrifice all, including your physical life, if need be, for the sake of Christ!
If there is anything that you hold so dear to your heart that you cannot sacrifice or give up for the sake of Christ and the gospel, then you are not yet ready to be a disciple of Christ. The early Disciples of Christ gave up all, including their physical lives, for the sake of Christ and the ministry they had received from the Lord (Mark 10:28-30, Luke 5:5-11, 27-28, Philipp. 3:7-8).
That is what you also are called and expected to do!
Fourth, the cross denotes death:
The cross is symbolic of death. In those days, anyone seen bearing his cross was already condemned to death by the Roman authority. Even now, wherever you see the cross, whether on a piece of land or on the pages of newspaper, you first think of death; for it is often used to mark that death has occurred.
The cross is an evidence of death. It is the fruit you bear that clearly reveals or shows to the world that you are indeed crucified with Christ.
Are there any fruit in your life that truly validates your claim that you have been crucified with Christ?
If not, you are not bearing your cross daily!
Much more than being a symbol, mark, or evidence of death, the cross is also an instrument of death. Natural life is terminated through the cross. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave up His life for us on and through the cross.
Paul testified that he was crucified to the world and the world to him through the means of the cross. He said, “But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14 ASV).
The cross is God’s instrument for terminating our sinful and self-life and also for releasing the supernatural or Christ-life in our mortal body. Your old man or corrupt self was destroyed through the instrument of the cross (Rom. 6:6).
If there is no death, there can be no resurrection. The end of the old man marks the beginning of the new man. The end of the self-life marks the beginning of the Christ-life. Therefore, you cannot experience or walk in newness of life without first experiencing death through the cross (Rom. 6:4, 7:4-5).
Bearing the cross daily is reckoning yourself to be dead daily to sin, self and the world, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). It is walking in the revelation knowledge that you are not anymore a debtor to the flesh to obey or gratify its passions, lusts, dictates and desires. It is learning to deny self daily, to say “No” constantly and continuously to the flesh.
While in Gethsemane, the flesh wanted to dictate to the Lord Jesus but He totally refused. Three times the flesh prompted Him to rebel against His Father’s will, but the Lord ignored the flesh constantly until the flesh was subdued. Having subdued the flesh the Lord Jesus arose in victory to accomplish His mission on earth (Matt. 26:37-46).
That is what it means to take up your cross daily!
You must never get tired of saying “No” to the flesh and saying “Yes” to the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus said you must bear or take up your cross daily, always, or constantly.
Beloved, manifesting Christ-life is absolutely impossible when the self-life has not been terminated and abolished through the cross. These two kinds of life are parallel; you cannot experience or express both at the same time.
It is only as you daily reckon, consider or regard yourself as being dead to sin, the flesh and the world, but alive to God in Christ that Christ can live, work and manifest Himself in and through you (Rom. 6:11, Gal. 2:20).
Until you truly and clearly see yourself as one who is dead with Christ, you cannot see yourself as one who is resurrected with Christ and alive with Him. You have to see, know and understand that you are no longer a debtor to the flesh before you can be bold to say “No” to the flesh whenever it tries to dictate to you, influence, direct or control you (Rom. 8:12-13).
Find out more about the cross you are expected to bear daily in the next piece!
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for terminating my sinful and self-life on the cross. Dear Holy Spirit, teach and help me to allow the cross to work daily in my life so that I may daily manifest the supernatural life (Christ-life) in this world, in Jesus’ name. Amen