Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Sweetest Burden

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NLT)

We seem to have lost the meaning of the cross today. It has become a mere religious symbol, an icon shrouded in religiosity.

But in the first century when someone was carrying a cross through the streets, it meant only one thing: that person was going to die. So, when people heard Jesus say, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me,” they would have easily understood what He meant.

Sometimes we think of a cross to bear as a trying relationship, a health problem, a challenging job, or some other tough circumstance. Those may be difficulties in life. But they are not our crosses to bear.

The cross we must bear is the same for each of us. It speaks of dying to ourselves. And what that means, simply, is laying ourselves at the feet of Jesus and saying, “I want Your will more than my own.”

Of course, when we talk about bearing the cross and living a crucified life, it sounds morbid and unappealing because we have a false concept of what it means.

We think it means isolating ourselves in an ivory tower somewhere and never having fun, smiling, or laughing. That is how we imagine ourselves living the crucified life.

But is that what it really means?

Writing to the churches in Galatia, the apostle Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT).

As Jesus said, if you want to find your life, then lose it (see Luke 9:24). Thus, when we live the crucified life, it isn’t a morbid, miserable experience. It doesn’t mean that we’ve ruined our lives when we start walking with God.

Rather, it’s when life begins to really happen, when life becomes full and meaningful. Because we want God’s will more than our own, we’ll have the abundant life that Jesus promised, (see John 10:10). We’re living life as it was meant to be lived. It is life to the fullest.

Samuel Rutherford, a seventeenth-century theologian, said, “The cross of Christ is the sweetest burden that ever I bore. It is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or sails to a ship, to carry me forward to my desired haven.”

And he was right. The cross of Christ is no burden because God’s will is better than our own.

Are you bearing the cross and following Jesus? For some, this could mean suffering persecution. For others, it could mean a major change of lifestyle. It could cost us friends. But we will live life as it was meant to be lived: in the perfect will of God.

So let’s commit ourselves to being disciples of Jesus Christ—not mere fair-weather followers, but true disciples.

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