I don’t know if you are like me, but getting the kids up for school is a bit of a headache. If you were to ask my kids if they see Christ in me, most mornings, they would probably say, “no.” It starts off very politely with a “Good morning. Time to get up.” Then about five minutes later, it turns into, “OK, get up!” A few minutes later, it then turns into full-fledged Marine drill sergeant mode. Short of “Reveille” being played, boot camp is probably where my children think they have been transported to. Now, I don’t take any pleasure in intimidating my kids. In fact, I would love to be able to start the day without such a display. We, as humans, are naturally hard-headed. It started in the garden and continues to this day. We like to work at our own pace, in our own time and without any sacrifice.
Sacrifice is indeed what God is looking for in his children. Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. We think that means play some “Jesus music” and go to church, but it means so much more. When someone was going to be crucified, they were usually beaten and tortured beforehand. When it came time to carry their cross, they knew that death was soon to come. So, when Jesus tells us to pick up our cross, He is in essence telling us, today you will be taken through the streets, mocked and persecuted. John 15:18 says, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” The world around you will hate you, not because of what you have done, but because He lives through you.
Isn’t the purpose of life for people to like you or even admire you? Shouldn’t they see you and want to be like you? Besides, look at celebrities; they have popularity, money, houses and cars. They don’t have to worry about when the next bill will come or if they will have enough money to cover it. Certainly, that is what Jesus would want for my life, which brings us right back to the whole pick-up-your-cross part. A person being led away to be crucified had no possessions. In fact, what he did have was probably already being distributed among his family members. They weren’t admired, in fact, they were counted as cursed. It doesn’t sound like Jesus wants to be rich and famous.
Wow, you may be saying to yourself, “I usually read these articles to be encouraged!” Believe it or not, I am encouraging you. If you are a Christian, you serve a God that sent His Son to die for you. His Son not only died for you, but He did everything that He commands us to do. He experienced the mocking, the persecution and the crucifixion. He felt, not only the weight of the cross, but the sins of the world. He felt the sins of people He knew would never turn their hearts to Him, but He still took them anyway. He is the one and only; He is the Lord. He didn’t have to do it; He could have commanded us to take up our cross without any actions on His part, and we couldn’t have argued. However, He humbled himself, He lead by example and He took it all for us.
Even as Jesus hung on the cross between two criminals, His holiness convicted even the condemned. Luke 23:40 says, “But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’” Like the thief on the cross, you recognize that you are sinful, yet He is innocent. He shouldn’t be hanging on the cross next to you. That is an eternity-changing observation, one that I guarantee the thief on the cross is rejoicing in today.
Psalm 130:4 says, “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” I thank Him every day for His forgiveness. I thank Him when we have a particularly bad morning at my house. I thank Him when my attitude is Christ-like toward those who need to see Christ in me. Most of all, I thank Him for His forgiveness over eight years ago when He revealed Himself to me and took me in and when He washed me and made me new.
It seems fitting to end with these few verses from Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” And all God’s people said, “Amen!”