The Crossroads to the King’s Highway, Part 1 of 2
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
What does it mean when Jesus called every disciple to deny “self”, take up our cross, and follow him? What is harder to hear? His conditions of discipleship or “I assure you, I do not know you!” (Matthew 25:14)
However, hope rests within those of us who willingly listen and choose to follow the Gospel message that Jesus shared that led him onto the cross. We who choose to follow faithfully will not fear everlasting separation from God on our day of judgment. It is then that all who have in their lifetime conformed themselves to become a reflection of Christ crucified who will draw near to the Judge with great confidence.
God’s own Word declares that if we confidently proclaim the message we have received in our heart from Christ, whether convenient or not; rebuke and encourage others with great patience and teaching, we will see our Lord as our gracious and righteous judge who will welcome us at the end of the journey of this lifetime. For this reason, why should we fear to take up the cross that leads us to heaven? The cross we are offered to take up offers salvation, life, and protection from our enemies, infusion of heavenly sweetness, strength of mind, joy of spirit, height of virtues, and the perfection of holiness. (Thomas a’ Kempis, Imitation of Christ)
There is no salvation of the soul or hope of everlasting life but through the message of the Cross. Therefore, take up our cross is the call of Christ to follow him, and enter into eternal life with him. He went before us bearing his cross and died upon it for us, so that we may also bear our cross in our lifetime and desire to die spiritually upon that cross. Assuredly, through the message of the Cross, if we have died with him, we will also live with him. Death will no longer hold us captive in fear, and if we will share his suffering we will also share his glory.
Everything is in the Cross and depends upon our dying upon its message to our lives, for there is no other way to life and true inward peace but by the way of the message of his cross and the daily discipline it demands of us. Taking up our cross means simply that we are willing to seek after God’s will alone, no matter the circumstances or consequences; setting our will down, denying self, willing to suffer now to be able to rejoice with him who revealed the way, life and truth that leads to the Father. No matter where we go, seek what we will, we will not find a higher way above or a safer way below than the way of the Cross that Christ revealed for us.
Set in order all things according to our will and judgment, and yet we will always find that it is necessary that we suffer somehow, either willingly or unwillingly. We will always find the Cross of Christ there waiting for us as a marker pointing to the King’s Highway. For either choice we find at the crossroads in this life, we will find physical pain or suffer spiritual tribulation, or both, in our soul. We may even feel forsaken by God, troubled by others, or even burdened within ourselves, but as God pleases, we are called to endure it patiently, trusting his will for us. The choice at the crossroads is which offers eternal peace after the pain is behind us?
My daily prayer: Lord Jesus, my Savior and my Salvation, in you alone I realize my hope, my faith, and my love, truly rests. It is because of the message we find at your Cross that the Gospel has the power of God for our freedom from sin, and for salvation. It is by the Cross I have assurance in my heart, soul, mind and strength that declares the courage to face the obstacles that stand before me, risking suffering and grief for your sake. I know that even when my eyes have fallen off the Cross as my guide and I have stumbled, You have remained faithful and Your glory encouraged me to look upward again and seek your grace and mercy, restoring onto the path that the Cross leads me. Lord Jesus, thank you my Savior, and I seek daily to understand the message to deny my “self” and to take up my cross daily, and then follow you. If I try to follow before I have done what you have asked I will never ever be able to follow: the Cross will not be evident in my life. Thank you Lord for sharing that message within my heart, and please reveal your Cross and the Gospel message upon the hearts of my family, and keep them in your eternal and righteous care. Amen
For additional reading: Mark 8:34-35; Matthew 25:14; 25:41; 2 Timothy 4:1-2; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; Colossians 1:20; Romans 6:6-9; 8:16-17; Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 1:29; Luke 14:29