Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Cross

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (KJV)  The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
 
That verse, while having nothing to do with the original intent of this post, clearly expresses my experience with song titles.  I had a topic in mind, based on lyrics from a worship song that was performed in my church recently.  I called one of our worship team members to get the song title.  He told me it was “This Is Our God”.  Go to Google with that title, asking for lyrics, and we discover there are two well known songs by that title.  And neither was the right one. 
 
Maybe I misunderstood and it’s “This Is My God”.  There are several of those.  And the one that appears to be the one I was looking for, by Don Moen, doesn’t have the full lyrics online and no recording to verify that’s the right one.  It’s never dull.  But let’s get to the subject at hand.

The part of the song that brought about today’s thought was the phrase “accepting our cross”.  It spoke of Jesus taking on the punishment we so rightly deserve.  And it made me think of Luke 9:23.

Luke 9:23 (KJV) 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.
 
That statement is repeated in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34.  So, it’s important to God to follow it and understand it.
 
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard preachers talk about our need to take up our Cross as if it’s something we have to do in order to be right with God.  Described in a way that might just as well have us beating ourselves with a whip.  And that concept is as far from God’s heartbeat as you can get.
 
Remember that Jesus was Jewish and willingly followed Jewish law.  There were certain requirements to be Jewish in faith that carried over to Christianity.
  1. Becoming Jewish or Christian has to be done willingly with a sincere desire.
  2. The believer has to renounce past error, self dependence, selfish motivation.
  3. For the Jew, submission to the law was a requirement.  For the Christian, we embrace whatever God gives us and become more Christ-like.
That could sound like a set of “must do” activities.  But consider the great commandment:

Matthew 22:36-40 (KJV)  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Jesus was very clear.  As we’ve described it before, it boils down to loving God, loving people and keeping the first part the priority.  With that in mind, taking up our cross can never be consider a form of punishment or anything we can do to justify ourselves.  Which makes those three steps really interesting.
  1. We willingly accept what was done for us at the Cross.
  2. We recognize that our previous path deviated from God’s way.  That our righteousness is less than worthless (see Isaiah 64).  That the “goodies” we’ve sought after on earth are meaningless without God being our main focus.
  3. We allow God to set our priorities, to direct our steps, to cleanse our shortcomings, to work on our thinking.
When we think in those terms, and put that in the perspective of the two great commandments, then the call in Luke 9:23 isn’t one that’s a chore and a punishment.  Rather it’s a call to spiritual joy and freedom.  Unavailable in any other way.  And it clarifies that salvation isn’t some shift to a life that’s dull and boring.  Instead, it lifts a spiritual weight off our souls.

Salvation allows us to take on the righteousness and mind of God.  It gives us the opportunity to experience peace, freedom from fear, and to have joy in all circumstances.  We can experience life instead of mere existence. 

If you’ve never accepted Christ as your savior, you can gain all of that in your life by doing so.  If you’ve already become a Christian, but maybe lost the focus you need, you can renew that experience by recommitting yourself to moving forward with God.  Either way, what are you waiting for?

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