Embrace the Cross

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"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 16:24-25

Shortly after the Lord gave me these verses from Matthew as a type of “motto” for both the Christian life and daily ministry, he began to speak to my heart in greater depth about the profundity of the meaning behind this passage.

Jesus’ exact words to us were, “Pick up your cross.” When we look to the Scriptures, we're able to see that Jesus did this both figuratively and literally.

The night before our Lord was to be crucified, he was met in the Garden of Gethsemane with a burden he had to bear. As Jesus prayed to the Father in the Garden, we are able to see that he was overcome with unfathomable amounts of fear and stress. However, through this, his prayer and heart attitude remained, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Jesus had an unimaginably heavy cross to bear. Still, he willingly accepted it and picked it up. Despite the fact that it was in his power to discard this burdensome cross in order to seek out another of lesser weight, Jesus still picked up the cross out of love for his Father and love for each of us. Figuratively, Jesus was given a cross to bear, and he bore it incredibly well.

Less than a day after praying that prayer in the Garden, Jesus met with yet another cross to carry. This time, the cross was tangible and could be physically borne. The trek to Golgotha was long and cumbersome. Jesus could have easily used his power to throw the cross to the ground and seek a more comfortable path, but he didn’t. Instead, he continued his walk with the cross on his shoulders. Along the way, he needed help carrying the heavy load, and help from the Father was provided. But, this did not prevent Jesus in any way from continuing on in the task that the Father had placed before him. The Savior pressed on in his walk and chose to bear his cross while doing so.

As I pondered these two examples of Jesus picking up his cross, I came to realize that in both situations he did not merely take a cross into his hands and continue on in his journey. No, Jesus fully embraced the cross that was given to him and he obediently pressed on in the calling that the Father had set before him.

A cross has been set before each of us. It seems that far too often we do not obey the Lord's instructions to fully pick it up. It would appear that many of us are unsatisfied with the crosses we have been given, so we seek other ones to bear. The cross that the Lord is asking us to take up might not be as pretty as someone else’s cross, or it may be heavier than we like it to be. But, it’s the cross that God has given us to bear, and to not embrace it would be to disobey the Lord.

Some of us are not willing to take hold of the crosses before us, while others are. Sometimes, although we are willing to take hold of our crosses, we are dragging them around with us—we are not fully embracing them. You may be willing to accept what God has for you, but are you willing to dive completely in and give him your all?

Christ calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him, but the fulfillment of this commandment requires one-hundred percent dedication. Ninety-nine percent of our obedience looks almost perfect, but that one percent hinders us from being true disciples. Touching our crosses or even holding them in our hands is not enough—we have to pick them up and embrace them.

We call ourselves Christians, and the very definition of that word is “a little Christ” or “a follower of Christ”. If we are to be true followers, then we need to completely obey what he asks of us. What better way to do this than to look to the example Jesus Christ set for us? When Jesus had a cross to bear, he bore it in full and he embraced it with a heart of obedience.

Each of us has a cross to bear, and each of our crosses look different. Some of us may bear crosses that resemble delicate pendants, while some of us may bear crosses that resemble burdensome timber. Regardless of how beautiful or miserable your cross may be and regardless of how heavy or light your load to carry, my hope is that you would fully embrace all that Christ has for you.

Fear or stress could have kept Jesus from embracing his Cross in the Garden, but he didn't let it. Difficulty or pain could have kept the Lord from carrying his cross to Calvary, but he didn't let it. __(fill in the blank)__ could keep you from embracing the cross set before you, but please do not let it.

As I daily serve the Lord in ministry, I want to be all in with him. I don't want to give the Savior of the world ninety-nine percent. I want to give him my all.

Carrying a cross is not always easy. It is what the followers of Christ have been called to do, so I want to do it with a heart that is committed to full obedience and full dedication. I'm sure your cross differs from mine. I'm also sure we have different burdens to carry. I hope that--through it all--both of our hearts will always seek to fully follow after Jesus Christ and completely embrace the crosses set before us.

by Elli Jejeran, CCEA Missionary to Romania