It’s not a pretty subject or a popular topic for speakers. Few audiences would plunk down their dollars to hear even the most renowned Bible Study teacher present a sermon on “taking up your cross daily and following Jesus.” While it might not be a crowd pleaser, it is a crowd freer.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34 NIV
I just returned from a Bible Study lesson on “The Freedom of Abandonment,” from the book, Becoming a Woman of Simplicity, by Cynthia Heald. In her video presentation, she picked up an imaginary cross, rested it on her shoulder, a reminder to carry our cross throughout the day so that each time a situation arises where we need to die to ourselves, we can make the choice that brings freedom. Stick that old flesh on the cross! Many times a day.
Not a pretty sight. Not an easy action to take. But what freedom and joy it brings.Cynthia makes a point of letting us know that God asks us to do this because He loves us and knows what is best for us.He is not trying to just torture us.
Think of the many opportunities we have each day to that choice. Our children taunt us with a disrespectful answer when asked to do a simple chore. The anger spreads splotches of red through our necks and into our eyeballs. We can give into the anger or choose to die to ourselves and reply with a gentle answer that still expects them to perform the task and to do so respectively.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger..” Proverbs 15:1 NIV
Someone reveals another’s deep, dark secret and you can hardly wait to share this information with your friend and prayer partner. Afterall, your desire is to pray for the Lord’s grace in her life–or is it?
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13 NIV
Chocolate calls my name. I’ve had a sweet tooth since I was born. Moderation is usually the key unless there are health reasons that require more diligence. But having sweets as often as I do or sometimes in the quantity really abuses my body, this temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Imagine Him being dosed with chocolate every day when I should be showering Him with praise and yielding my body to the Lord for His service.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 NIV
So many situations hit us each day with the temptation to surrender to our feelings. We buy the lie that this is freedom. If you feel it, then do it–that’s the world’s thinking. Giving in to our desires leads us into captivity. However, taking the difficult step to say, “No. I am going to live by God’s standard, deny myself, and take up my cross,” brings freedom to our hearts, souls, and lives. The Holy Spirit who lives within us was sent by Jesus to give us the grace and strength to take up our crosses–the crosses that bring us life and freedom.
It’s a paradox worth pondering. That in dying with Christ we are raised to New Life. A thought well worth meditating on as we head into the Lenten season before Easter.
So let’s heave that cross onto our shoulders and march through the day.