(Luke 9:23 NKJV) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.Contrary to popular opinion, the cross is not some "burden we bear" in life - some difficult aspect of our daily lives. The cross was something far more sinister. The cross was the implement of execution. The purpose for the cross was to complete the act of self denial by death.
(1 Corinthians 15:31 NKJV) I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.I died this morning, did you? I also let my son die. I also let my wife die. In fact I let all of the people who are dearest to me die.
Do you think it hurt? It sure did!
Death hurts whether it is your own death or the death of someone you love. We are born to live. Our whole experience is life. We naturally struggle toward life and away from death. But in our calling to follow Jesus Christ we are called to death.
(Luke 9:24 NKJV) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.Following Jesus Christ involves embracing death here and trusting Christ for a greater life in exchange. He died and rose again. We follow him to death on the promise of resurrection.
(Galatians 2:20 NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.How did I die this morning? I died when I prayed with full understanding, "Let your kingdom come and let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
I died because I understood that I was yielding myself completely to God's will. Life or death. "Not my will, but Thy will be done."
I let my son die today when I prayed with my full understanding, "Lord, I yield him to you for your glory - whether by life or by death."
(Galatians 6:14 NKJV) But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.We need a cross daily, because every day we need to execute ourselves again. We are attached to this world and the pleasures of this world. We are attached to our loved ones - it tears us apart to think of something happening to them. We fight against death and strain to maintain control and achieve safety.
Then we come to our face time with God. Who will be in control? Whose will do we really want done? What will we withhold from God? How much are we willing to give to God's glory? Who are we willing to yield to God's glory?
What does it mean to follow Jesus, if we are not willing to imitate His complete obedience to the will of the Father - even when it meant incredible pain and suffering?
Does this strike you as morbid? Perish the thought! In fact, this daily cross means wonderful peace and great blessing! Every morning you go through the searing pain of yielding up your life and the lives of your dear ones to the glory of God. But then we get what we have requested - glory to God - and it is worth everything. We have no worries. We don't need to scramble about like we need to control the universe. Nothing that happens can shake us - we already went through the pain. Having given up everything in the morning, we are often blessed to have it returned to us later in the day for our enjoyment. (But of course, tomorrow will be another day - to yield these again.)
I am afraid that too often people want "heaven on earth." We want everything to be perfectly calm here on earth. We want all of our loved ones to live forever right here with us. We want to escape from every trouble and enjoy all the pleasures this life affords.
But this world is not heaven, and if you lived 1000 years and never had a dear one get sick or die or lose a job or have a problem... it still is not a speck on what heaven really is.
Heaven is the presence of God and the glory of God and the will of God and the praise of God in perpetual perfection... But you can't have heaven and this broken, dysfunctional, sin sick world too. Don't even try! Give yourself and all of your loved ones to God. Trust God more than you trust yourself.
(Colossians 3:1–4 NKJV) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.