Strength To Take Up the Cross
To save my life there is a simple solution: deny myself, pick up the cross and follow Christ—simple, straight forward and to the point! Wow! The statements made by Christ were in complete opposition to the hearts of mankind and were opposite of what everyone was living by and by all means are not simple to live by. We of this world had been, and are conditioned to live in the world. We do not trust anyone. We do not love people who do not love us. We do not help unless we are helped. We want vengeance on those who hurt our families and loved ones. We kill, lie, and steal. We commit adultery, we envy the rich for what they have—everything we do we do because it seems like the right thing to do.
I know for myself, when I am about to commit a sin—an action I know is wrong—my heart pounds rapidly, my mind turns and my whole body is put into a state of panic. I commit the sin and then I have regret and seek repentance. Then again, the same stream of conscientiousness happens the next time I fail committing the same offense against my soul. But then something strange happens, each time I commit the sin, I get less agitated, I get less panicked and eventually I am comfortable with the sin I commit.
How on earth did I allow myself to become friends with the enemy? How on did I become calloused and hardened against the prompting of the Holy Spirit? I still know that sin is wrong, but still I fail. I understand that I am taking my life into my own hands—but yet I get strangely comfortable with particular sins and when I try to break the demon’s hold—I get agitated and I feel a sense of loss. How strange the soul is. How we become accustomed to evil and corruption and it becomes common in our minds, hearts and lives. The demon sets up a stronghold in our minds and hearts and we become accustomed to the failure.
I know that I have called myself a Christian and I believe that I am a good friend and person. I know in my mind that I try my best to do what is right. But most days I wonder to myself—How am I a good Christian, friend and person when I commit these sins not matter how small? I know every time I do this or that I push the crown of thorns a little deeper into His head. I am the one that is spitting on Him and casting the insults. I am the one that has the hammer in my hand pounding the nails into His wrists. How can I have the gall to call myself, "Christian" and "friend"—when I am inflicting pain upon my Best Friend!
I don’t know if anyone will understand what I am writing here, I don’t know if anyone can relate to what I am saying, but I wanted to express how sad I am at the state of the world. We believe that Christ died for us all—He died for the ones who lived at that time, and for all those who came before and for all those who would live afterward until Judgment Day. If that is what we believe and we believe that He took on all our sin from that time until now—WE ARE STILL INFLICTING WOUNDS ON HIM!
Isn’t there a small chance that when Christ told us to 'deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him' and He is telling us—I died for you and I suffered for you, now is time for you to give Me a hand. It is a battle cry! It is a call to arms!
Christ paved the way for us to fight in the war against the enemy of our souls. He gave us the weaponry and showed us what we need to do.
A good general makes plans, and puts them into effect by giving the order and having those under his command carry out his will to ensure victory. The soldier must give up his own will and believe that the person who is leading the way has the knowledge of warfare, experience and tactics that will not only be victorious but keep him alive.
A great commander is a man who has done all of what is listed above and is not afraid to lead on the forefront. Christ came to earth and led His troops by giving instructions and teaching us what we must do. To deny my natural impulses to sin ensures my victory. To deny my worldly impulses helps me stay focused on my Commander and gives Him the aid He desires to have. Does He need me—NO! Does He desire to have me by His side—I would say that is a definite YES! He died for all of us and wants all of His creation to be saved. He created us because of His great capacity to love, and He died for us because of the same reason. He went first into the battle and died a glorious death—so that we may gain paradise.
Pick Up the Cross
Today, the cross is a symbol of victory, a symbol of hope and a symbol of greatness. The cross is a trophy of holiness and is used in combat against the enemy during exorcisms and we—who believe in the power of the cross—wear it as a standard of protection. It is almost hard to imagine that the cross was once a symbol of terror and evil. It was used to kill countless thousands and instill fear upon the populous.
Christ came and WILLINGLY took up His own cross and carried it to the Hill of the Skull. His plan all along was to end up on the cross and die for His creation. Did He want to die? NO! He wanted to live! Did He want to save us from ourselves—YES! It was the only way to break the hold that the enemy had had on His creation since the fall of mankind. It was the only way to show us that He was willing to do anything to bring us back to glory and honor - heirs to the Kingdom. What a leader! He showed us honor, justice and integrity in His conscience decision to give His own life up for us. He knew what He was doing even though we had no idea what we were doing to Him.
We are called to do the same. The once symbol of terror, the cross, remained the same symbol of terror against Satan and his minions. We are called to carry our own cross to the hill. It is a great honor to die for a commanding officer and to sacrifice yourself to save another. A soldier that sees a grenade land before him will willingly jump on it to save the other men and women in his unit. Why would he do this? Every soldier who denies himself and is willing to die for the people around him is a powerful foe against the enemy. He knows that grenade would have killed and wounded so many people - those who the soldier called a friend or brother - that it would make the unit weaker and more vulnerable, but in sacrificing himself, he keeps the others alive and strong to carry on the fight—because one of the men or women he saved may just do the same thing again another day and save others.
When I see others carrying their cross with joy and honor—it gives me the courage I need to continue carrying my cross—and in turn, others see me and I am able to give them courage to keep going also.
The final part of Christ’s statement, 'Follow Me', is a powerful statement. Christ died for us, and showed us the way—now He is asking us to do something. He is not only showing us the way, but showing us the road ahead. We, as Christians, know what it means to sacrifice, and if we do not then we truly are not Christians. Christ is the focal point in history. The cross He hung on sits in the center of time and we all are to follow Him there with our crosses. Imagine an army holding their crosses carrying them to the victory of life. Through the crucifixion, Christ conquered death and secured the victory—the same He wants for us. By denying ourselves, by picking up the cross and by following His example—He is showing us the way to heaven. And our example, can lead others to Christ. When others are led to Christ, they in turn lead more to Christ.
We are called to victory over our own deaths. Death is not finality, it is a mere stepping stone toward the promise of forever. No, what Christ asked us is not simple—it is hard, some days downright impossible. No one wants to suffer, and be in pain. None of us want to carry the burden of the cross and none of us want to hang on it, however, we Christians want life everlasting. We want the promise given to us—I know I do. Are we willing to lay down our lives for our families and friends? Are we willing to lay down our lives for our enemies? That is when it gets hard. The words of Matthew 6 tell us what we must do: Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and His righteousness, and everything will be added unto you. The promise of life is ours for the take, we just need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.