What does it mean to take up your cross daily and follow Him?
In previous blog posts, I have discussed the topic of discipleship but today, I’m going to delve a little deeper into a topic that I feel we as Christians talk about but don’t explain. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus makes three separate references about carrying your cross and following Him, but He warned us that by following Him; we would face persecution.
As Christians, we shouldn’t be surprised when we find ourselves a target of ridicule for our willingness to follow Christ, but then, why are we as Christians and people so surprised when we all Christ asks us to do is take up our cross and follow Him? Well, in Mark 8:35-37, Jesus tells us what we could lose or gain if we choose to follow Him.
“35. 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. 36. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37. Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Taking up your cross and following after Christ is more than words; it’s a way for Christians to live and know that whatever suffering we are facing due to following Christ; we know that God will use our suffering to make us stronger in Him. For me, taking up our cross and following Christ is about bearing the pain, the loneliness and even the persecution that we as Christians face and shouldering it; even if the weight of our cross is more than we can handle and we stumble along the way.
As Christians, we must remember that although we fall, God will continue to give us strength in order to bear our crosses in life, just like Jesus did when He carried His cross. WordPress blogger Joseyphina wrote a blog post entitled, “The Christian’s Conditions of Service” where she focuses on this topic. In the blog post, she said, “More often than not, you would have to sacrifice your comfort and convenience to help others” and that couldn’t be truer in today’s society.
As Christians, God will sometimes put us in uncomfortable situations that will have us sacrifice our own self-comfort and luxury in order to make us stronger in Him. Also in the blog post, Joseyphina said a statement that I think we as Christians and people should ask ourselves, “The focus changes from what ‘what would give me pleasure?’ to ‘what will give God the glory?’”. In the Bible, there are references to Christ calling us to follow Him, one of them being Matthew 8:19-22.
“19. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20. And Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21. Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22. But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
The conversation that Jesus had with these two followers should be a mirror image of what the conversation with Jesus is like when we are unsure of where we are in following Christ. For instance, the scribe that came and said to Jesus, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go” was willing to follow Jesus, but it was the other disciple that said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” that really struck me as odd.
Why would a disciple of Christ go and ask Jesus to allow him first go and bury his father? But, it wasn’t until I read verse 18 that I realized that it was what the disciple said in the beginning that resulted in Jesus’s response.
“We all have our cross to bear on Earth. The question is: Are You Willing to Bear the Cross all the way to the finish line?”
The disciple said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father”, but if we become like the disciple that places material possessions first and put God second, we won’t be able to truly follow Him and take up our cross. In my opinion, when Jesus said, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead” what He means was that we should let what is dead inside of us stay dead and not resurrect it and follow Him.
Tamara Lee of The Way Online wrote a blog post called, “Reproducible Walk with the Lord” where she too talked on this topic. In the blog post she said, “Being a disciple of Christ takes discipline” and I think that statement should apply to us as Christians today; because so often we feel that following Christ is going to be easy but it’s not; it’s going to require discipline and being able to follow Christ even if it means being beaten because of it.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God.”
I think as human beings, when we hear the saying, “Take up your cross daily and follow Me” that Jesus is just asking us to follow Him, but no; that’s where we’re wrong. Taking up our cross and following Christ is more than just following Christ, it’s also about knowing that by choosing to follow Him, we will be judged and ridiculed by others but we have to be spiritually equipped to be able to handle the persecution.
Charles Spurgeon said a quote that I feel all Christians should take to heart if they are following Christ saying, “There will be no crown-bearers in Heaven who were not Cross-bearers on Earth.”
Efua, blogger of Grace over Pain wrote a blog post entitled, “Denying Myself to Follow Christ” where she said, “I cannot be a true reflector of Jesus Christ here on earth if i don’t deny myself of certain things” and I think that this should be a reminder to Christians of why we chose to follow Christ in the first place; not to gain rewards in Heaven by doing nothing but by suffering and even willing to die for Him on Earth.
In the blog post, Efua has several statements that I feel we as Christians and people can reflect upon when we are going through the process of carrying our crosses.
- “I like the process written in the above bible verse. Deny myself – Take up my cross – Follow Jesus.”
- “I can’t focus on carrying my cross when I am distracted by everything that passes.”
- “My cross” can be very heavy for me to carry if i am not dead to my flesh. For this to happen, i need to deny my flesh of what it craves for.”
- “But this cannot go with the spirit of God. The Holy Spirit wants me to have self control, show forgiveness, show love and discipline my flesh so i can hear Him clearly.”
- “Following Jesus isn’t always fun. Sometimes it looks stupid. However, it is the right and only way to eternal life and victory.”
- “As a christian, I need to deny myself of earthly pleasures that can pollute my mind”
- “I can’t follow Jesus if i want to do everything and have no discipline in any way.”
- “I can’t follow Jesus if i want easy, challenge and stress free life because just the fact I am a Christian makes me a target for the devil.”
- “I can’t grow in my walk with Jesus if i don’t have the discipline to seek His face, wait on Him and trust Him totally.”
- “OK Jesus you know i love you, but i’m not about this whole denial life. I want to follow you and still do everything i want – no boundary”.”
- “He never tells me to do what He has not graced me for…”
Fellow blogger SpaniardVIII wrote a blog post focusing on this topic but in a very different way. In the blog post called “Stronger Faith through Tribulation” he said, “God allows tribulation, afflictions and troubles to come our way so He can train us to rely on His strength instead of ours and building up our faith in the process.”
I feel that this quote is a great example of why God allows us to suffer certain things in our lives in order to strengthen us and put our faith in Him. SpaniardVIII has several quotes in his blog post that I feel we as Christians and people should use when we ask God, “Why are you allowing this to happen?”
- “Don’t lose heart because of the affliction the Lord has allowed in your life.”
- “The end result of your suffering when it comes to its fulfillment would be glorifying God and for your benefit, a time of preparing you for a strong attack from Satan.”
- “God wants to build up your faith for the big storm (strong demons) headed your way.”
James 1:2-4 shows us that we can rejoice through the pain because we know as Christians that we will only be made stronger. James 1:2-4 says, “2. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3. knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience. 4. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
I recently read a devotional by Lizzie Milani entitled, “Live Authentically – Part 6” where she focuses on taking up our cross and what it means to live authentically for Christ. In the devotional, she said, “To offer your life as a gift is to be the best YOU you can be to the betterment of others and the community around you.” I think that this is a very inspiring quote because when Christ asks us to follow Him, He is also asking us to step out of the crowd and become different from society and be willing to be judged by others.
Lizzie Milani said a quote that I think we as Christians should to take to heart with the understanding of what it really means to take up our cross daily and follow Him saying, “Take up your cross” – drop the borders and identity markers and shoulder your common ground with all humanity. Open your heart and serve rather than dominate and oppress. It’s not about winning and losing.”
Frank Chan said, “Jesus didn’t say that if you wanted to follow Him you could do it in a lukewarm manner. He said, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me.'”
In the end though, taking up our cross and following after Christ is more than words; it’s a way for us as Christians to really identify with the eventual ridicule and suffering that we might face because Jesus Himself went through the same thing carrying His own cross towards the salvation and redemption of the world.
So, what will you do?
Will you take up your cross and follow Him?
Will you be like the disciple who turned his focus off of following Christ?
Or, will you be the disciple unwilling to deal with suffering despite the greater reward in the end?
Please comment below and join the discussion.
Chan, Francis. “Jesus didn’t say that if you wanted to follow Him you could do it in a lukewarm manner. He said, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me.’” http://www.azquotes.com/quote/873045 . Accessed 17 Oct 2017.
Joseyphina. “The Christian’s Conditions of Service”, www.joseyphina.wordpress.com, 10 Aug 2017, https://joseyphina.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/the-christians-conditions-of-service/ . Accessed 20 Oct 2017.
Lee, Tamara. “A Reproducible Walk With The Lord”, www.thewayonline.wordpress.com, 5 Oct 2017, https://thewayonline.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/a-reproducible-walk-with-the-lord/ . Accessed 21 Oct 2017.
SpaniardVIII. “Stronger Faith through Tribulation” spiritualminefield.wordpress.com, 25 Aug 2017, https://spiritualminefield.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/stronger-faith-through-tribulation/ . Accessed 27 Oct 2017.
Spurgeon, Charles. “Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God.” http://www.azquotes.com/quote/895929 . Accessed 17 Oct 2017.
Author Unknown. “Accidental Cross” http://www.christianity.com/dr-ray-pritchard/accidental-cross.html . Accessed 23 Oct 2017.
Author Unknown. “What Jesus Did! ‘The Hard Follow’ — Matthew 8:19-22” 8 Apr 2017, https://www.heartlight.org/wjd/matthew/0408-wjd.html . Accessed 25 Oct 2017.
Author Unknown. “Just Jesus” http://slideplayer.com/slide/8853138/ . Accessed 26 Oct 2017.
Author Unknown. “Cross Bearers = Crown Wearers”, https://ebcjust4u.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/cross-bearers-crown-wearers/ . Accessed 27 Oct 2017.
Author Unknown. “James 1:2”, 25 Oct 2013, http://www.gracefox.com/2013/10/25/discovering-joy-in-lifes-tests/james-1-2-2/ . Accessed 27 Oct 2017.
Cliff. “Carrying your cross”, 14 Sep 2012, https://communityjournal.net/carrying-your-cross/ . Accessed 10 Aug 2017.
Roberts, Scott. “For Whoever Would Save His Life Will Lose It…”, 5 Jan 2017, http://bibleinspirations.org/for-whoever-would-save-his-life-will-lose-it/ . Accessed 22 Oct 2017.