Take Up Your Cross
Lk. 9:23-26: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.”
The change from the dispensation of law to grace brought about significant change for the disciples. With the benefit of hindsight we sometimes wonder at their slowness inunderstanding, but alas, we are often like them. Peter had just acknowledged the Lord as “the Christ of God” (Lk. 9:20) and though the 12 knew his true identity they did not know how thisaffected them. They expected a role in the kingdom with a reigning Messiah, instead the Lord was about to show them their role on earth with a rejected Saviour. This is the principle of suffering before glory.
The valley experience for them and us is one of shame and cross bearing. Before we reign with Christ we must suffer with him. The Lord Jesus explains why, saying “the Son of man must suffer many things ... and be slain” (Lk. 9:22). We learn that before the crown there is the cross and before reigning - humiliation. This was shattering news for the disciples who did not yet understand the shift in God’s dispensational dealings; we with a completed New Testamentshould know better.
The Lord says that every Christian has to follow in his steps. We like the disciples are prone to forgetting this, but the Lord is clear: “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The person that does not take up their cross is not a follower of Christ, there is no halfway house, there is no middle ground, he is presenting salvation and discipleship in black and white terms.To deny oneself is to say no to self, it is to disown the old way of life and every subsequent day to bear a cross.
Our culture is self-centred and narcissistic. The spirt of the age is to live for self, indulge self and worship self. The Lord Jesus says - No. Paul agrees saying “we died with Christ” (Rom. 6:8, NKJV) and that we should “put to death (our) members which are on the earth” (Col. 3:5, NKJV). We cannot have our own life, because Christ is our life (Col. 3:3). I wonder if this describesus? Or have we fallen into the trap of cultural Christianity that is marked by lukewarmness, comfort and ease? We all feel the pull of the world in our own hearts, but this verse is apointed reminder that “the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
The Lord then moves on from the fact of Christian living to the mathematics of Christian living. He is essentially telling his followers to ‘do the maths’ presenting salvation in terms of profit and loss. What is the point of having everything in this life only to be lost in the next? In our materialistic and possession obsessed world we also need to ‘do the maths’. The equation is fairly simple inPaul’s mind; he said: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8, NASB). Let’s be like Paul.
Finally the Lord reminds us that our verbal witness is all-important because it is “out of the abundance of the heart (that) the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34, NKJV). This verse is speaking about people who are permanently ashamed of him; to them Christ is a disgrace. It arises from an un-regenerate heart, full of unbelief.
If you’ve ever failed to speak up or testify for Christ when an opportunity presented itself then join the club, but this verse exhorts us to do better. In a secular world that preaches at the Christian every day and yet expects the Christian to keep silent, this verse is a poignant reminder that we are to testify of Christ.The world wants us to have a private faith, but the Lord tells us to have a public faith - silence is not an option.Though we have failed in the past, may we resolve to do better and testify boldly for him in days to come.
Though the Lord told his disciples of this valley experience, Luke introduces the mount of transfiguration exactly at this juncture. Luke is reminding his gospel readers of glory after suffering. As we bear reproach for the sake of Christ, may we also keep our eyes on the king of glory.