Areas where the Cross affects us
In Luke 14:25-33 Jesus set and explained the standard of Christian living to His followers. This standard is nothing more than the application of the cross in each area of our lives. In this text, Jesus emphasizes three basic things when He expressively repeats the same phrase three times, “you cannot be my disciples”. Every time Jesus spoke about taking up the cross, he also spoke about denying oneself. The two concepts go hand in hand – denying oneself is to take up the cross. The cross is nothing more than obeying the will of God and there is no way to obey the will of God without denying our own will.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26
The first point speaks of my need of acceptance of honor of respect and love. It relates to the fear of rejection and of being forgotten. The cross in action implies our renouncing of love and unconditional acceptance of others. It is not that I no longer want others to love me, but that I will not demand love at any cost. If in order to receive love, I need to reject Jesus, relegate my faith to second place or even renounce the truth, then I will choose to not be loved.
When we take up the cross, we need to disregard the world’s opinion of us, even if the world accuses us of being crazy, fanatical or stupid. We will be better off clinging to the cross.
Just as God required Mary to conceive Jesus as a virgin, He may require something of us that will bring struggle and distress.
Think about how hard it must have been for Mary to become God’s instrument in bearing the Messiah. She could have been stoned to death as an adulterer. However, she disregarded the need for worldly acceptance. Today God may ask us to do things in the church for which many others will misinterpret and even reject us.
We need to be free from the opinions of others. We have no need to seek the approval, compliments, recognition or acceptance of others, even from our closest brothers. We must offer our love, our compliments and our unconditional acceptance, without the hope of receiving any of these things in return. It is necessary for each of us to apply the cross to our relationships.
And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27)
To take up the Cross implies doing God’s will instead of our own will. We all have the natural tendency to avoid pain and seek pleasure. The will of God many times comes accompanied by pain and we should take hold of it instead of our own desire for pleasure and comfort. The cross speaks of giving up our rights, recognition, opportunities and so forth. When Jesus was under the burden of the cross, he said, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)
Several times in the life and ministry of our Lord, Satan offered an easy way to power without going through the Cross. The temptations to escape the cross were numerous. Especially as He drank of the bitter cup of Calvary, the temptation to step down from the Cross was tremendous. We know that Christ had the power to forgo the Cross if He so chose. He chose to do the will of His Father instead of His own. However, we cannot say the same of ourselves. How many times have we stepped down from the cross, thus losing our power and authority?
What does it mean to step down from the cross? Stepping down from the cross implies any attitude that we have of preserving ourselves, or our own ego. Anytime you take the easy way instead of God’s way in the application of spiritual principles, you are stepping down from the cross. Let us be even more exact and explicit. Every effort to defend, excuse, protect, justify or save the ego is a step down from the cross.
Self-pity is a form of stepping down from the cross. Self-pity is what you feel when you find yourself wronged by another person and you start to feel sorry for yourself because you cannot do anything about it. You say to yourself, “How could anyone treat someone as wonderful as I am so badly?”
Resentment is also a manner of stepping down from the cross. The person that becomes irritated when wrongfully treated because he unable to do anything about it expresses resentment through phrases such as, “I, the wonderful person that I am, treated like that? Someone like me should never have to suffer like this.” Can you recognize the ego here?
Refusal to assume blame is yet another way to step down from the cross. “Everyone is guilty except me, or at least everyone is more guilty than I am.” Self-vindication and self-justification are ways of stepping down from the cross. Entire churches are destroyed because someone insisted on taking revenge.
However, perhaps the greatest way of stepping down from the cross is when we try to force our cross on others. The carnal person asks, “Why do I always have to be the one to carry the Cross?” Each of us needs to take up our own cross and never force it on others. Have you ever seen a lamb die? A lamb humbly advances to its own slaughter and when the executioner takes the knife to it, it does not let out the slightest whimper. A lamb meekly yields its own life to the will of the executioner. In contrast, when a pig is slaughtered you can hear the squeals from blocks away. Have you ever heard the phrase, “die, you gravy sucking-pig!” A pig has a tremendous will to live out his sorry existence! Two thieves were condemned next to Jesus on the cross, but Jesus went to the cross voluntarily like a lamb. Do not take up your cross like a squealing pig or a raving criminal, but as a lamb.
So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)
There is no Christianity without the cross only religion. Our ego needs to lose its place of centrality and give way to the will of God. I must renounce the desire to live for myself and, even more, I have to give up my own possessions. For many, giving up possessions is more difficult than giving up oneself. The Cross is intimately related to our lifestyle. Prosperity is part of the Gospel, but it is only one part. The principal emphasis without a doubt is a generous and sacrificial life style. The cross makes us sensitive to the necessities of the world around us.
Many people embrace the verse that says that Christ was made poor so that we could be made rich through His poverty (2 Corinthians 9), but they reject the command of Jesus not to accumulate treasures on earth. It seems contradictory, but the paradox disappears when we understand that God gives us so that we can give it back to Him. Prosperity is simply having more than is necessary.
We must allow the Cross to deal in the area of our finances. The Lord requires complete control over our bank account. We must not allow the materialistic mindset that has taken hold of our generation to drag us away. We are a prosperous people whose possessions are subject to the cross.