“ ‘Take up thy cross and follow me.’ I heard the blessed Savior call; how can I make a lesser sacrifice, when Jesus gave His all?” (A.H. Ackley – taken from the hymn “Take up Thy Cross” in 1922)
"One thing you knew about a man walking down the road carrying a cross; he wasn’t coming back.” (Leonard Ravenhill)
"The principle of the gospel is this... it always brings life to the receiver and death to the giver. If the gospel brought death to our Lord Jesus, why would we think that in preaching the gospel it would mean any less for us? In following Him, it still requires us to take up our cross and crosses are for dying." (Jackie Pullinger)
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Jesus - Matthew 16:24&25)
When Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him, His plan for us is death. For those who are looking for the abundant life, there is only one road; Calvary. To those that don't know God, this is foolishness, yet to follow in The Way (Acts 9:2), one must die before they can live. There can be no resurrection of life without a Garden of Gethsemane and a bloody cross.
Yes, Gethsemane comes first. It should have come on the day of our conversion. The day we wrestled with God and lost. The day we bid your old man good-bye. The day we surrendered to the will of your Creator. The day we wept bitterly, first in shame, then in joy. Yes, Gethsemane comes first.
Then we are invited to take up our cross and join the Lord on Calvary’s hill. To carry our cross in this pilgrim’s path is joy unspeakable, for there is a joy set before us. The joy of serving our Lord selflessly in the work of His kingdom. The joy of living a life that is well pleasing to Him.The joy of knowing that we have everlasting life with Him.
But you say, “Tom, there is no joy in that! Didn’t Jesus come to make us happy? It doesn't sound like there is much fun in that!” No one is truly happy when they try to live the Christian life without dying to self. Some of the most miserable people on earth are those who know how they ought to live and don’t do it. Death to self is the only way to obtain the life worth living.
Our flesh is a thief. It does everything it can to hold on to the world and all its allurements and in that, true joy is stolen. We would all do well to attend our own personal funerals today and die to self. It is only in dying that we can truly be born again and to walk in newness of life. That is the secret of Christian Joy.
The journey won’t be long, for as one man once said, “life lived at it’s best is still brief.” The man who dodges the cross has no hope of a resurrection. Let's not kid ourselves, "death to self!" is the battle cry of every true follower of Jesus. Come on... let's take up our cross!
By Tom Zurowski