Everyone has a cross, the instrument of our own destruction. We were made to die as a result of our fallen human nature. We may live seventy years or so, maybe a little more, but our body and/or mind begins to breakdown. The stress of life finds the weakest and most vulnerable point and that is where the serious trouble of death begins. Just forty years ago it was not uncommon to here that a person died of old age, now doctors give a more specific reason, but it’s still the same root cause. This is just the natural consequence of living – we die.
However, physical death is not the death to which Yeshua is referring when He addressed His disciples, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10: 39-39). He again told them, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matt. 16: 24-25). These statements are very similar in that they talk of taking up our cross as we follow Yeshua and our life must be lost to be found.
It is clear to a believer that Yeshua died on the cross, so in being like Him we too will experience a death on our own cross. This is clear in scripture, we are to be conformed to the likeness of our Messiah, to follow Him and His ways. He told us that if He was persecuted, we should not be surprised when it happens to us. Apparently, teenagers have one thing right, when they admire someone they start looking and acting like them. The surface meaning is clear, a student must be like his teacher, but I think the practical application is much deeper.
Yeshua is life itself and did not need to lose His life to find it. The death He died on the cross was not for Him, but for us. The theological term for this act is His “substitutionary” death on the cross. Nevertheless, He tells us that to be His disciple we must take up our cross. Our individual cross which we must bear to follow Yeshua is the death to our self or ego, the fallen nature of Adam the every person is born into. This does not have anything to do with obtaining righteousness or salvation. We can not become good enough to earn salvation. However, it is necessary to follow Yeshua, who is the only way to be reckoned righteous and to be given the amazing grace of salvation. Our pilgrimage along the path of Yeshua will be imperfect as we are, but the teacher helps the student along the path of learning – we are not alone.
Our cross is specifically designed for each believer, to produce death to the selfishness that is particularly our burden. Yes, at the cross of Yeshua all our sins were rolled away and we were made clean, as pure as snow. However, we still have a life to live out and as believers it is the life of Yeshua in us. Therefore, we must lose the life we were seeking, fashioning, and planning before we believed and started our journey with King Yeshua. If we were to keep that life founded in the fallen nature we would be lost, but by losing the old natural ego based life, we will find the Spirit led life inspired and granted to us as Children of God. It is the hidden life that our cross produces; death to the old sin oriented man and life in the Spirit. Paul describes it best: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3: 1-5).
In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Mr. Potter offers to buy George out and pressures him by saying, “Don’t you know when your ship has come in?” In his natural selfish nature George would have taken the money, but as he thinks about all the others for whom the loss of the Building and Loan would impact, he chose the life of humility, service, and surrender. George gave up every personal dream, every selfish opportunity, every plan he had made for himself, but in the end George finds that his was a wonderful life and he is recognized as the richest man in town. This little movie has no reference to Yeshua and just a little to God, but it is a desperate prayer that makes all the difference.
Lord, Yeshua, give us strength to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow you into the Spirit led life of righteousness, peace, and joy. You are our good and you only want to give us the kingdom with life abundant. Teach us to lay down all that we have grasped in the natural and let us believe you completely so that rivers of living water will flow out of our innermost being.