This week’s devotions are based on Week 3 of the Series “Fresh Start” – I Have a New Purpose! (WATCH HERE)
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
The world offers us many ways to spend our life. We have opportunities to affect change, gain status, advance in a career, and find success. The question we must pose is this, “At what cost?”
As Jesus invites us to follow him, he later explains that following him comes at a cost. Truthfully, not all are willing to bear that cross…perhaps even us at times.
Last week in our small group we were reading part of Jesus’ crucifixion which included the portion where Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus’ cross the rest of the way to Golgotha. My daughter asked, “I didn’t realize he was forced to carry the cross. I thought he volunteered.” The Roman soldiers didn’t ask for volunteers for Jesus cross and I don’t think many would have volunteered to willingly do that. Carrying a physical cross is hard and those that carried one were not the best liked in the community!
So would we be willing to take up Jesus’ cross? Perhaps the better question is, “ARE we willing to take up Jesus’ cross and follow him?” Jesus is not forcing us. He is inviting us. Yet he is also being truthful with us to say that following him does mean taking up the cross, the suffering, the challenges that come as a result of being a follower of Christ. You can’t do one without the other.
And it can be hard.
When we take up the cross and follow Jesus, when we embrace his purpose as our own, it often means giving up things maybe from a secular point of view seem more important. If we are committed first to following Jesus, we may encounter times in our pursuit of a career that we have to give up a promotion or a job because it conflicts with our ability to practice the Christian life or impedes too heavily on our time to spend in worship with others. As we follow Jesus, we may have to give up friendships and relationships that are pulling us in a direction that is not honoring to the Lord. As we take up the cross of Jesus, we may be in a position to speak an unpopular truth about behavior done by society or individually which leads to discipline or termination at our employment. Sacrifice for the purpose of following Jesus and changing lives with the power of the Gospel is a given. Are we willing to embrace it?
To make it easier, Jesus reminds us that if we gain everything in the world and forfeit our soul, our relationship with him, we lose eternally. If we make our life’s focus following Jesus and engaging in his mission, we may lose temporally at times, but we win eternally. Embracing Jesus’ purpose as our own entails short term sacrifice for long-term, eternal rewards.
So with a smile on your face and confidence in your heart, enjoy taking up your cross and following Jesus today!
Apply: What is the hardest “cross” you have had to bear because you are a follower of Christ? What led you to bear the cross? Or were you strongly tempted to give up the cross?
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for carrying your cross and my sins with it. Only through what you have done for me am I able to carry the cross you privilege me to carry and keep my focus on following you. Pick me up and forgive me when I fail. Strengthen me for the journey ahead. AMEN.