Saturday, April 7, 2012
Jesus made it clear: If you're a follower, you carry a Cross. Are you? I am. We're tempted to believe that carrying our "Cross" means the "burdens of life" . . . financial distresses, jobs or lack thereof, illnesses, broken relationships, etc. None of those are crosses. They're burdens. And we were never meant to carry those. Very clearly, God has told us in Psalm 55:22, "Give your burdens to the Lord." So, those are not our Cross. Jesus wouldn't have told us to carry something that we're not to carry. God never contradicts Himself. Here's a clear picture of the Cross: It's walking in God's will, when you want to walk away. It's where your decision may determine the outcome of eternity and someone's salvation. It's self sacrifice for the sake of others. It's going through pain and suffering when you've been declared righteous in the eyes of God. It's living through hell, so that others might go to heaven. That's a Cross. Do you carry one? I do.
On my better days, I carry the Cross with the strength of a thousand men. On others, the weight of the Cross is crippling. There are too many moments when I feel I can't go on. I suddenly realize I'm not supposed to be carrying this Cross alone. With no help in sight, I want to set down the Cross and simply walk away. Yet, I reflect on what Jesus did. I clinch my fists in anger and discontent, experiencing moments of wanting to put down my Cross, but Jesus didn't . . . He opened his hands.
"So the hands of Jesus opened up. Had the soldier hesitated, Jesus himself would have swung the mallet. He knew how; he was no stranger to the driving of nails. As a carpenter he knew what it took. And as a Savior he knew what it meant. He knew that the purpose of the nail was to place your sins where they could be hidden by his sacrifice and covered by his blood . . . And as the hands of Jesus opened for the nail, the doors of heaven opened for you." (Max Lucado, He Chose the Nails)
Willingly, Jesus not only carried the Cross, but was crucified upon it. No one carries a Cross without crucifixion. There's a dying to self. A letting go of all comfort, in exchange for a Cross. Sure doesn't seem like a fair trade. Truth is, it's not. The story doesn't end at the Cross. (We deserve death, but we get eternal life . . . how is that fair?) But, as we're tempted to set the Cross aside, in order to feel the freedom from the weight and the worry and all the pain and the suffering, eternity hangs in the balance. And it might not be your salvation that needs sealed up, (that's already been done-you're carrying a Cross) it may be someone else's. Our family's blood line has evidence of those who have set their Crosses aside. They hastily tossed them. They chose to set down their Cross for the sake of their comfort and happiness, only to sacrifice someone's salvation. I daily see the remnants of the Cross that was tossed. A price is always paid for a Cross that is not carried. Had Jesus not carried His, we would all be sent to hell. The results of us casting aside our Crosses are nothing less than hell on earth. When we cast aside our Cross, others get the message: the Christian life is too hard, it's not worth it, and faith in God means nothing.
If Christ would not have carried the Cross to the point of crucifixion, how would the thief, in his final moments of life, have had the opportunity to be saved. Hanging in the balance was a man's soul and the saving of souls for countless others. In his pain and suffering, the thief turned to Jesus and said, "Aren't you the Messiah?" The other thief, rebuking him, said, "Don't you fear God?" One of the thieves made a choice, in that very moment and cried out, "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom." And with that, Jesus stated, "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23) The thief had moments to live; God would not keep him from dying, but He could give him the ability to keep on living through His sacrifice and the man's belief in Him. He'd live forever in paradise with Jesus. In final breaths, in final moments, the Cross mattered to this thief. We have a choice to carry our Cross . . . it gives others the choice to embrace it . . . it's their opportunity to see Jesus. Yet, some don't. The other thief, on the the other side of Jesus, chose to mock him. The Cross always leaves us with a choice.
I really don't like carrying a Cross. I'm sure Jesus didn't either. We're told he learned obedience through the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8) My life is no different, and neither is yours. I learn obedience through suffering and so will you. As the blood, sweat, and tears consume me, and the Cross I'm carrying has brought me to my knees, I suddenly feel a weight lifting . . . I look over and it is Jesus . . . He is there, just as He promised . . . He helps me carry my Cross. He leads me forward. Although I want to leave the Cross and just walk away with Him, His eyes pierce my heart into knowing that I must go on. Not in my own strength, but in His. I must carry my Cross all the way to the end. And there will be those that will have to make a decision because of it. My Cross will stand strong, tall, and mighty, and it will point to Christ . . . I will have done my part, God will do His, and the rest is up to the souls of the lost. They must choose to see Jesus or mock him. But that is none of my concern. Jesus has only required one thing of me: to follow Him. And follow Him I will.
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