Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coming After Christ (Part 2)

Taking up your cross daily, image courtesy of photobucket.com
Take up your cross daily

One of the most difficult things for me to do was to take up my cross daily; I was always looking for my own personal Simon of Cyrene. Those who know me easily recognize that I don’t care for manual labor. As a young boy I had a summer job picking up trash in the neighborhood. It was hot and tiring work and it was that summer that I decided I would do anything other than manual labor. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to work in the IT profession.

When I think about these words of Christ, I realize that this involves a kind of death march of one’s self; understanding the march ends in crucifying my earthly ambitions. Hmmmmm…you can see how difficult it was for me to get to this place when I couldn’t even deny myself. The idea of someone else carrying my cross seemed perfectly acceptable, especially if they were willing to. I remember one of my younger brothers bought a car and in my mind I knew I now had wheels to go where I wanted. I remember times I would just grab his keys and leave. It never occurred to me that I needed to correct my behavior towards my brother.

My real problem here is that I was irresponsible and accepting Christ didn’t change that attitude initially; because I didn’t want to carry my cross. I look at carrying my cross daily as practicing personal responsibility. I once commented on another blog that discussed the need to trust God. In my comment I acknowledged the need to trust God but I found myself asking, Does God trust me? When God needs someone to demonstrate the power of His forgiveness, His immeasurable grace and love, His unsurpassing goodness, His righteousness and truth, and His holiness, will He call on me? Am I being responsible as a servant of God? Am I being accountable to God?

Carrying my cross daily is that aspect of me putting to death my selfish desires to gratify my own wants and replacing them with a genuine desire to offer myself up as a living sacrifice. The bible says,

…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.1

Presenting myself as a living sacrifice becomes a form of worship offered to God. The understanding finally dawned on me that doing so is reasonable because worship requires sacrifice. This parallels what occurred in the Old Testament references to worship.

…’When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or flock…And he shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.'2

The sacrificial offerings of animals were consumed by fire. The fire that consumes me is the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the offering was sacrificed by the priest but it was presented to the priest by the offerer for their sins. In doing this, the offerer gave up any claims, rights of ownership or vested interest in the offering (animal); it belonged to God. This was symbolized by placing their hand on the head of the animal to indicate a transfer of:
  1. Ownership rights
  2. Sin
Taking up my cross daily is a voluntary act on my part, not as an act of atonement such as what occurred in the Old Testament; Christ has once and for all atoned for me. Taking up my cross daily is the act of a free-will offering, a sacrifice of praise, and a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto God.

Each day as I choose once again to take up my cross, I recognize it is a conscious decision on my part to abstain from sin and be an instrument offered to God for whatever He purposes. I have in truth, given ownership rights, claims and all vested interests of my life to God; I am no longer my own.

This is for me, taking up my cross daily.

Footnotes:
  1. Romans 12:1, KJ
  2. Leviticus 1:2,4, NASB
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


5 comments:

Sharon Kirby said...

MTJ,

Your post today had perfect timing for me. Lately I've really been struggling with issues of control. I know that underneath my desire to control things is pride. Pride that somehow, in my abilities, I can do everything. And yet, I know that I can't. BUT, instead of really trusting God, I seem to revert to my "worrywart" ways. It's taken me a while to understand that fear is also a form of pride.
So, taking up my cross is SO hard, because for me it means trusting God, letting go, EVEN IF it means hard and difficult (or scary) circumstances.

What will resound in my soul today are your words:
I AM NO LONGER MY OWN.

May those words become more than words to me, as I struggle to take up my cross and TRUST HIM FULLY!

p.s. Thank you for your faithful comments on my blog - you will never know how much they mean...

THE OLD GEEZER said...

The unholy trinity,(me, myself and I) hates to take up the cross daily. After all the cross is an instrument of death and my flesh is only interest me and my agenda. I agree with you, It's a daily battle. But didn't Jesus say we could do "ALL" things through Him?

MTJ said...

Sharon: I admit that in my flesh, I fear the cross but the need for Christ now overshadows my fear. Taking up my cross daily is a battle of my will against the Spirit of God within me. I'm reminded that on the way to Golgotha, Christ fell which tells me that despite His willingness to be crucified, He was in a physically weakened condition. I am spiritually weak so despite my willingness to crucify my flesh, I still fall.

Ron: I have no real strength or ability on my own, it is as you say, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Dean Spencer said...

MTJ -

You always find a way to challenge me. I'm not saying I haven't heard or studied about taking up my cross daily, but whenever Scripture becomes personal like this, it gets right to the heart. And this must be one of those times because I am feeling convicted.

I agree putting to death selfish desires is required. The hard part is doing it. Like you mentioned in your previous post, I love myself. I've thought about that since I've read it a couple days ago. I find it difficult to stay mad at me. So, it's only reasonable to assume I would have a difficult time "putting to death selfish desires to gratify my own wants and replacing them with a genuine desire to offer myself up as a living sacrifice."

Great post MTJ. Thanks for sharing from the heart. God bless and have a great weekend!

MTJ said...

Dean: You always manage to impart something that makes me thankful to be a fellow brother in Christ. At the time I began writing this post, my intent was an examination of my personal relationship with Christ. The realization that others can identify with it only exalts Christ even more to me. I give Christ all the praise that so many believers have a passion to follow Him.

That we can acknowledge our recognition of attitudes and behaviors in us says to me that the Holy Spirit is openly operating in our lives; not in a manner that brings discouragement but giving us a sincere desire and empowering us to truely live for Christ.

Just know my brother you bless me tremendously.