The Cruciform God: A Reader’s Question

I get emails.

Please give me an example of how I can take up my cross.

This very brief email refers to this post, where I wrote,

The essence of being like Jesus is self-emptying, that is, kenosis. We see it stated in different words and different ways many times, but over and over, we see that Christian ethics are based on being Christ-like, and to be Christ-like is to pick up  a cross and follow Jesus, because if you don’t have a cross, you aren’t following him.

What’s the answer?

(Mat 16:24-26 ESV)  24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Advertisements

10 Responses

  1. You have the “essence” pegged.

  2. Jesus died on a cross. He invites us to join Him in serving God. He does not want us to die for Him. He wants us to LIVE for Him. We “take up our cross” when we choose to live for HIM unselfishly, regardless of what others may think about our decision. This “cross” is the same for each of us. It’s not a particular burden one gets which differs from what another must bear. It amounts to forsaking selfishness and known sin in order to join Jesus as a servant for God. Our lives and our burdens vary. They are not the same, that’s true. But the decision of taking up the cross and following is exactly the same for every sinner.

  3. There are so many ways to say this — and it’s so difficult to really get it. Here’s my try:

    You take up the cross when you put every person you interact with each day ahead of yourself. When you inconvenience yourself for the convenience of the the other. When you give yourself to someone else, for their good, without expecting or requiring anything back from them. When you forgive someone of every offense towards you, even if they don’t ask forgiveness.

    Aren’t these all the things which Jesus did for us?

  4. This is an excellent question! I have a feeling that this may be the kind of question that had it been asked directly to Jesus, that Matthew or Mark might have recorded the occasion saying something like this: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him”.

    What a wonderful question! It makes me smile….. and think….. How can one order his daily life so as to be certain that he is taking up the cross of Christ? Thousands of words, even thousands of books, could be written on this subject. But no book could say it more fully than Jesus’ brief new command (was this His only command?) “Love one another: in the same way that I have loved you, so you also must love one another”.

    Our talents, our character, our wisdom, our sense of fun, our sense of gratitude, our maturity, our innocence, our shame, our sense of wonderment, our intelligence, our personal histories, and many other qualities all determine how we love one another to such an extent that no two people’s love is alike. We must determine how best to love one another in a way that is congruent with others’ needs, God’s will, and our abilities.

    After having read the hundred replies to Jay’s March 29, 2010 post about the hermeneutics involved in understanding the musical instrument in worship issue, I would offer my opinion that this simple question, – how do I take up the cross of Christ?— is deeper, more significant, more spiritual, and more worthy of prayerful study and meditation, than all the words, theories and books that have ever been written in the last two thousand years about instruments of music in worship.

    Jay, may God bless your correspondent who asked this magnificent question. And may God help him find the very best answer to it in his life. I will pray for him/ her…………dh

  5. I gained some insight into this topic during a Bible study last year. I shared my thoughts at http://adisciplesthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/05/take-up-your-cross.html. (It’s a little long for a comment, so I linked to it. Thanks for allowing me to respond in this way. I’ll go back to being a ‘lurker” now.)

  6. Jay,

    Amazing how the Spirit works, isn’t it? Here’s an article from today’s bulletin at the assembly of saints that I attend…

    Dying To Self
    ~ anon. ~

    When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, and any raiment, and any interruption by the will of God, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

    When you are forgotten or neglected, or purposely set at naught and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

    When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinion ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend your self, but take it all in patient, loving silence, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

    When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder and irregularity, or any annoyance, when you stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

    When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

    When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances. THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

    When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

    So … are you dead yet?

    Luke 9:23-24
    And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

    1 Corinthians 15:31
    I die every day – I mean that, brothers – just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    I first read this piece way back when I was a brick-and-mortar college student. (Too many years ago!) It isn’t going to stand super-intense scrutiny, really, but it is a place to start thinking about how and whether we are even beginning to take up our cross daily. So scrutinize it with a critical eye and compare it to what Jesus taught His disciples to do … and even more importantly, to be. Perhaps something like this can help as we consider what taking up our cross means.

    Some helpful devotionals over the years are also available, if you look hard enough …

    Born Crucified, Who Rules Your Life?, Improving Your Serve, and several others – even A Touch Of Wonder. These books along with The Cost of Discipleship, Spiritual Leadership, and My Utmost For His Highest, can be helpful, as can Hinds Feet On High Places, and Pilgrim’s Progress, and many others. Read the gospels, for your own sake… over and over again. The question may seem to contend that the Savior left the term too ambiguous to be useful … but He didn’t.

    Blessings, and welcome to the Greatest Walk that ever there was,

    Glenn

  7. Glenn,

    Excellent!

  8. Thanks Jay.

    I am a musically minded kind of person, so the words to a song I learned back when now come floating through my consciousness…

    God forgave my sin, in Jesus’ name
    I’ve been born again, in Jesus’ name
    And in Jesus’ name I come to you
    To share His love as He told me to

    He said, “Freely, freely you have received…
    Freely, freely give.
    Go in my name and because you believe,
    Others will know that I live.”

    It is an honor and a privilege to be used and be useful.

    To Him be the glory,

    G

  9. Glenn said it very well. Better than what I was thinking altogether. But as women are ever practical, I was thinking along the lines of what is counter-cultural. It is not all about me! For women it may be taking a job outside our home when we would rather stay home with children but the family needs the money. Or it may mean staying at home with little children because money is not the major issue and having a non-chaotic life is more important than the services and goods that money can buy. It may mean staying with a husband who is not appreciative, it may mean taking care of ailing parents when it would be more satisfactory to travel with your friends, it may mean taking abuse from a boss because you need the job so badly, it may mean praying every day that God help you hold your tongue because someone you work with loves to see your humiliation. If any or all of these decisions are made because we believe with prayer and thoughtfulness that God is calling us to that harder path……….we are bearing our cross. I think that our culture has a phrase that means the same: “where the rubber meets the road.”
    Rose Marie

  10. Amen, Rose Marie.

    It is all about me, though.

    It is about me showing people Jesus when I’d rather show them my boot close up and personal, you know? It is about me sharing Jesus instead of sharing my opinions about whatever is being talked about by my acquaintances/friends/family, etc.. It is about me showing love and getting to the point where I no longer feel judgment or resentment or disdain welling up inside me when someone else makes a mistake I would never make … again. It is about me remembering that I am forgiven with the same measure that I use to forgive others…really. And it is about me forgetting what I want, because it just doesn’t matter in the light of what my Lord and my God want from me and in me.

    It is about me fulfilling what Jesus began in me and doing it so well that everyone else (everyone) who comes anywhere near me sees Jesus loving and releasing and forgiving and celebrating and drawing in the dirt. It is about me, because for me to live is Christ alive and still seeking the lost, the downtrodden, the oppressed and the bruised reeds of this world to rescue and renew and redeem them through me showing Him to them in how I live and act and think and what I can tell them of His grace.

    It pains me sometimes (I can be so petty) to think Jesus probably even likes peas. I do not like the little green veggies much. In fact, I can hardly appreciate them at all. And there is Jesus, the creator of peas, asking me to compliment the cook by eating the disgusting things and by celebrating His creation and the cook’s innovation and love in providing them for me … something I can hardly find anywhere within me to do when it is peas that sit alongside an otherwise perfectly scrumptious entree. And it is about me laughing with Jesus when He sees the way my face looks as I take a healthy bite of those peas and am surprised to find His laughter sweetens them to where I don’t even notice the nasty smell or taste I always used to complain about.

    Worse yet, when I find myself able to walk past the dimly lit wicks and bruised reeds of this world and barely even consider praying for them as I hurry along, it is about me not expecting someone else to do something about those people. It is about me acting like Jesus and doing something, myself, because I am God’s instrument of love in a broken and suffering world that doesn’t even know He cares to be seen outside a church. It is me loving my family when they irritate the pudding right out of me, instead of showing my frustration at the behavior that I probably modelled for them last week. It is about me seeing what Jesus sees and looking past the masks of hurts concealed by the people whose facades have been all I used to know … and being so moved to love them that I cannot help myself finding a way to comfort them, unable to rest until I do.

    And when Christ, who is my LIFE…my everything…is revealed, then the only me worth living will be glorified with Him. And He and I will smile (again) together.

    And what will really make me smile is knowing that I helped you a bit as you were also trying to live Him…because you will be right there with Jesus, making me swell with pride for the love in your eyes and His as you burst out laughing with joy together. What a day! What a joy!

    I can hardly wait … but I will… I will learn to wait….because it is worth it.

    Glenn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: