"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY and Follow me." Luke 9:23.
There will be very little gained by self denial unless you also take up your cross, and follow Jesus.
By the cross I mean that load, or burden, of pain or sorrow or sacrifice which could, if we choose, be laid aside, but which is willingly carried or endured for the sake of others. It is that which in the natural we WOULD lay aside, but spurred on by the realization that there is no other way to bring salvation, deliverance or healing to the lost, the sick and the suffering, we willingly endure OUR CROSS.
"Looking unto Jesus -- who FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM, ENDURED THE CROSS, despising the shame." Heb. 12:2. Jesus didn't have to endure the cross. Even on the night when He was taken, He declared that He could yet, at that late hour pray to the Father, and He would send more than twelve legions of angels, to rescue Jesus from such a fate. (See Matt. 26:53,54.) He went to the cross because he had purposed in His heart to fulfill the scriptures, and to deliver the race of lost and sinful men from the double curse of sin and sickness, by bearing the stripes upon His back, and by being sacrificed, a lamb without spot or blemish, upon THE CROSS.
Moses partook of this spirit, when he turned away from the throne of Egypt to identify himself with his brethren, a race of slaves, that he might through suffering and sacrifice bring deliverance to them all. (See Heb. 11:24,26.)
Paul demonstrated the same determination, when he left his place in the Sanhedrin to join the despised and persecuted sect of Christians, that he might not be disobedient to the heavenly vision, and that he might bring deliverance to the Gentiles. He was following Jesus, BEARING HIS CROSS, when he declared, "I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: SAVE THAT THE HOLY GHOST WITNESSETH in every city, saying that BONDS AND AFFLICTIONS ABIDE ME. But none of these things MOVE ME, neither COUNT I MY LIFE DEAR unto myself, so that I might -- testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:22-24.
When Charles G. Finney left a promising law practice to enter the ministry -- an untried field for which he had no special training -- he took up his cross.
But taking up the cross is not enough. It must be taken up DAILY! It must be taken up willingly, and carried faithfully, without fretting. It is easy to make a consecration -- to take up the cross -- during the heat of an inspiring consecration call, but many fail to take it up again the next morning, or the next.
Christ never took a vacation from His cross. The cross even went with Him on His vacation! Although He stepped aside many times to rest, even then the burden was heavy upon Him.
when He sat down by the well in Samaria, weary and hungry, to rest while His disciples went into the city to buy food, He had time and strength to lead a soul to salvation, and to start a movement which later brought about the great revival, which swept most of Samaria into the Kingdom of God. (Acts 8.)
When He was confronted with one of the greatest griefs which came into His life as a man in the flesh, the sudden and violent death of His cousin and dear friend, John the Baptist, He thought to slip away alone for a little time. (See Matt. 14:13,14.) But the people observed His going, and followed Him even then. When He looked upon them, He was filled with compassion, His own grief was forgotten, and He took up His cross and went forth to heal their sick, and to minister to their needs.
The cross was not an accident which came to Him at the end of life. He was born, and lived and died under the shadow of the cross. He knew it was there all the time, but never once did He shun the cross. Never once did He fail to take up His cross DAILY. There was never a day that He could say, "This day is my own. I will go about my Father's business again tomorrow." Never an experience came into His life which He could say, "This is mine to enjoy. The people must wait until this is over. Then I will meet them and minister to their needs again." Even in His times of sorrow, He could not say, "My own grief is so great. It is no more than right that NOW I should be comforted. Let them minister unto me, now."
It was the night in which He was betrayed, when He knew that the time had come, and that the false disciple who would betray Him sat among those to whom He ministered, that He rose from the table to wash the feet of His disciples, demonstrating the thing which He had said before, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45.
To the eyes of the world it would seem that it was only on that dark day of Calvary that "he bearing his cross went forth." John 19:16. But He had been bearing His cross as he went forth among the people, poor, despised, lonely, misunderstood -- willingly, that He might bring with Him many sons unto glory -- going about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.
The world may not see nor understand your cross and mine. But each of us has his own cross, God appointed, which he can bear or not as he sees fit. This is not sickness which we are helpless to lay aside. It is not those unpleasant circumstances of life which would be ours whether we serve God or not. It is that which we accept willingly, at personal sacrifice to ourselves, in order that we may be obedient to God and a blessing to others. Have you been complimenting yourself on your cross bearing, and is it just a matter of feeling sorry for yourself about the circumstances of your life? Have you willingly taken upon yourself the burdens and griefs and sorrows of others, that you might lift them, and be a blessing -- that you might bring salvation and deliverance to those in need?
You say you want God's miracle working power. Are you willing to pay the price? Are you willing to take up YOUR cross, DAILY, and follow Jesus all the way?
If you follow Christ fully, it will mean following Him to the place where he was filled with the Spirit, then on to the wilderness -- to the hours of fasting and prayer, to the hours of unappreciated service, through the misunderstandings and persecutions, the nights of watching alone in prayer. It will mean following Him into the garden -- bearing the burden of a lost world -- thinking someone nearby is sharing the load, only to find that all the rest have gone to sleep. Then away to the judgement hall -- false accusations, and unjust decisions. Now away to the whipping post, and the cat-o-nine tails -- the vinegar and the gall. It will allow no drawing back, even from the pain and suffering of the cross.
You may say, "That sounds like losing my life altogether."
Indeed it is. But Jesus said, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." Mark 8:35.
This is life more abudant -- the life of POWER! The life of real satisfaction. The life of knowing that your living has not been in vain! Surely it is worth every sacrifice to know that we have followed in the steps of the son of God.
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