“Anyone who does not carry his Cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luk.14:27)
Greetings Friends! As we approach the time of year when we commemorate the passion and death of Jesus Christ, let us dwell on a topic that’s relevant: the Cross! The Cross is the symbol that is central to the Christian faith. What does the Cross mean? How does it affect your life as a person who wants to follow Jesus, or, have been a Christian but struggling to find meaning in life? Let’s answer that question in this post.
“Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their Cross daily and follow Me” – Matt.16:24. (By James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum, Wiki Commons)
There are some passages of the Bible which are unique in it’s presentation for the meaning they convey they leave a lasting impression upon us. One such passage is about the Cross of Jesus taken from the Gospels. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their Cross daily and follow Me” (Matt.16:24, 25-27). There is no denying this passage presents that over-arching and comprehensive mandate to Christians and believers . The statement carries such weight and conveys a powerful effect that the whole meaning of the Bible and the Gospels can be said to be encapsulated in that one verse. Another passage like this where you could almost compress the message of the Bible is John 3:16. Luke records Jesus’ statement about the Cross in a more urgent stance, “Anyone who does not carry his Cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple” (Luk.14:27). Jesus is saying we cannot claim to be a Christian, our faith walk is of no effect if we are not “carrying our Cross daily,” or at least until we are prepared to carry Jesus’ Cross. But what does it mean really?
It is so vital that we understand the meaning of this passage, or else we may be believing, much worse living, a pseudo Christian life. Can we articulate the meaning of the Cross? Are we truly followers of Jesus Christ? Or, are we Christians by name only? My hope is by the end of this post you can come away with a fresh understanding of what it means to “carry your cross daily,” and a whole new world it opens up with the blessed life.of a true Christian. What is the Cross?
The primary meaning of the Cross common to all believers is its portrayal of the Love of the Father who gave His only Son to enter our human existence, live a perfect life, and ultimately die as a sacrifice for our atonement to make possible the forgiveness of human sins, was resurrected and ascended to heaven and thereby open the way to human immortality as God’s gift to mankind. (John 3:16-17,15) That is the default position believers have about the Cross.
The historical silhouette of Calvary with three Crosses is symbolic which reveals the one-ness of death of God in His Triune Being (By James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum, Wiki Commons)
So, the primary meaning of the Cross is forgiveness and freedom from the prison of sin. It was upon the Cross that Jesus was crucified and shed His blood and died for the atonement of all human sin in perpetuity. So, “carrying your Cross daily” means the carrier is in a state of ongoing forgiveness and renewal so peace with God is attained and maintained continuously. However, there is a flipside to forgiveness, it is called repentance. Forgiveness springs from the gift of repentance. Without repentance of personal sins there is no forgiveness and renewal. Yes, repentance is a gift we can request and receive it, for no one is sinless. (Luk. 24:46-47; 2 Tim.2:25; 1 John 2:1; Rom.3:22-25)
The words “must deny themselves” in this passage is synonymous with repentance for it depicts the believer taking responsibility for one’s actions. So, “carrying our Cross daily” depicts a state of ongoing repentance, forgiveness, and freedom through the Cross of Jesus. But as we shall see, the Cross is the doorway into a deeper Loving relationship with the Triune God which brings about the blessed life we would not otherwise know and apprehend.
It is interesting to note that many believers think “carrying your Cross daily” means to carry the problems, trials, and burdens of life upon their backs as Jesus did with His Cross. Is that what it means? No, the Cross means we carry the responsibility of an ongoing repentant attitude so we are in a consecrated condition of forgiveness and freedom through renewal always. So, we will examine how we become blessed recipients of being in a sacred state of being sinless through constant daily forgiveness and renewal (Cross). (1 Cor.1:30; Matt.6:12).
Think about this for a moment, before we became believers, prior to Jesus giving us the command to “carry our Cross daily,” we were laden with the trials and tribulations of life either way, so what difference does Jesus’ Cross make? The explanation above appears to be saying that Jesus is merely a cheerleader encouraging us on to bear the weight of the burdens in our trials and tribulations. Is that all Christ means to us – a cheerleader, rather than an unwavering problem-solver? Friends, Christ came to remove our burdens. As our Savior, His role is to save us! The Cross is about alleviating our burdens and bring healing and freedom.
Am I saying that once we become believers our trials and problems are supposed to magically disappear into thin air, and we are freed from all our burdens? No, not in the least! Upon conversion something changes…while we use to carry these burdens under the mindset of the unbeliever, now we do so with the mindset of the repentant believer who “carries the Cross daily.” Keep this in mind, all the trials we face, all the problems, hardships, heartaches, and pain we undergo, are all symptoms and consequences of sin that Jesus died on His cross to remove. Make no mistake, we still have the pains we suffer as the result of our daily battle with sin. (Eph.6:11)
We carry with us the wounds and side effects of sin. The magnitude of sin weighs us down and they leave battle scars in our lives – emotional problems of guilt, anxiety, depression, anger, suicidal tendencies, and whatever else we have. But, as “we carry our cross daily” we are “nailing” all sin and its aftereffect onto the cross rather than “carrying” and being permanently bogged down and hurt by them. Rather, the Cross pictures not only forgiveness but renewal through the work of the Spirit or sanctification. We “carry our cross” so we may find rest in Jesus from sin and its repercussion.
In a world ruled by the devil we take sin so much for granted that sin has numbed our sensibilities to the good and inspirational qualities in life. Hence, the Cross is so vital which brings an alternate reality in Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Cross, through repentance and forgiveness, destroys sin and opens the door to the miraculous life in the Spirit which alleviates and remove our trials and tribulations which are consequences of sin. That is the connection between the two – it is an exchanged life of transposing light in place of darkness, good in place for evil. And it comes through the repentance and forgiveness we “carry in our Cross daily.”
As I said, it’s experiencing an alternate reality in Christ through His Cross. Hence, we read Paul’s words in this regard, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Phi.3:10). Can we see how vital is Jesus’ command to “Carry our Cross daily?” His desire is to bring us freedom and joy in a alternate life He wants us to live in Him and He in us.
Simon The Cyrenian Compelled to Carry the Cross With Jesus. (Wiki Commons)
The trials and problems don’t disappear for two obvious reasons: first, we are still living in Satan’s evil world that is dominated by sin, so much so that sin still has its direct and secondary effects upon us all. We are all by-products of Satan’s world that was sold to sin at the hands of Adam, until Christ the second Adam came to save us. (1Cor.15:22, 45) Second, in our former life as unbelievers, everyone of us have formed stubborn habits that’s molded by sin into our rebellious, depraved, self-centered nature and way of life. That will take time and effort with the inspiration of the Spirit to eradicate and bring about the change in line with God’s fruits of Love. But change we will – as we “carry our Cross daily” with the help of the Spirit’s power.
To the ancient Israelites, the Cross was presented to them in the picture of the Passover when they slew an unblemished lamb as the expression of their faith and desire to be delivered from bondage in Egypt. (Exo.12:21) The Israelites commemorated the Passover ritually each year to remind them of one thing – the basic craving which defines our humanity – personal freedom, and for Israel the Bible states,”But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today” (Deut.4:20). Yes, it was liberty from Egyptian bondage that was sure to bring death. Also, Passover had its prophetic relevance to the true Messiah to come who will bring genuine freedom from bondage to the devil and eternal death. Passover reminded them of the power of God’s Love which was unleashed upon Egypt in order to free them from the bondage of suffering and death. Likewise, Paul said, “Get rid of the old yeast (sin), so that you may be a new unleavened batch–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor.5:7).
Christ our Passover came so we can obtain freedom from the personal spiritual bondage of sin which brings on trials, tribulations, suffering and pain. It is a lame excuse to say that God tempts His people. No, our own rebellious nature try us, and this finds its origin from the devil, not God. The Bible says, “He (God) tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (Jam.1:13-14, NAS).
It is impossible to imagine a world free of all the spiritual bonds of sin and its repercussion, but that was Eden in all its glory. Adam and Eve were the only humans ever lived who knew what it was like to live under God’s perfect world. God promises to bring humanity back to that lost paradise through the second Adam, Jesus. (Luk.23:43; Rev.21:1-7)
If the Cross brings such a liberating experience, how exactly do we make it part of us and enjoy the blessed life it brings today and forever in His eternal family. So what does “Carry your Cross daily” mean? To begin with, this is not our Cross, but the Cross of Jesus. It becomes “our” Cross when we took ownership of it by virtue of becoming believers and followers of Jesus. There is only one Cross – the Cross of Jesus. Paul speaks eloquently of what it means to “Carry your Cross daily.” He said, “I have been crucified with Christ (Cross), and I no longer live, yet I live, but not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20). There is so much packed in that one verse that to unpack its meaning is imperative to our understanding of the subject of the Cross.
There are three elements of the Cross Paul gives us: crucifixion (repentance and forgiveness), resurrection, and faith (sanctification/renewal). So, here we see two escalating steps we have been made to climb through the door of repentance and forgiveness: resurrection and faith. First, by saying “I am crucified with Christ” Paul’s meaning is that since Jesus died for all my sins, (past, present, future) then He essentially took my rebellious depraved self with Him to the Cross where I was nailed with Him and no longer live. That is the only legitimate way that we can explain how past, present, and future sin is kept in check and forgiven – because we are “carrying our Cross daily.” This is the process of the Cross (repentance and forgiveness), resurrection, and faith. This rebellious self (false self) is the root cause of sin in my life, and all the repercussion sin generates.
This is vital to the message of the Cross which Paul expounds further to the Romans, “We (the depraved sin-self) are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?… For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His (true self). For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (Rom.6:2, 5-8). That makes the first lesson of the Cross abundantly clear: “Our “false self” was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” through the gift of repentance.
From the passage we read in Matthew, Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life will find it” (Matt.16:25) Here, “life” is not our physical life, but the “false self” that is housed in the body and dictates the body’s actions. We lose our “false self” on the Cross, in order to gain our “true self” in a resurrection, which brings the next element.
“If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His” Rom.6:5 (By Car Heinrich Bloch, Wiki Commons)
The second element shows we have escalated to the resurrection: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, yet I live, but not I, but Christ lives in me” (true self) (Gal.2:20). To the Romans, Paul said, “If we have been united with Him in a death like His (false self), we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (true self) (Rom.6:5). Apparently, in Paul’s writing he speaks of the resurrection in a two-fold reality; one that is present bodily, commonly called, “born again.” (John 3:3, 7) Then there is a future spiritual-bodily resurrection at Christ’s second coming. (1 Cor.15, esp. V.51-54). So, in this bodily earthly existence the resurrection means to exist in the “true self” in Christ.
Again, as we look at the passage about the Cross from Matthew, Jesus said, “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?” (Matt.16:26). We ask ourselves, are we going through life with its usual trials and hardships to gain the material wealth we seek and crave through the “false self” who does not “carry his Cross daily?” If so, then we are living at the expense of sacrificing the “true self.” Then no amount of worldly possessions will ever bring us to a place of peace, joy, and the blessed life which only one who “carries his/her cross daily” can authentically generate. (Matt.6:33; Prov.10:22) Paul said, “Do not think about how to gratify the natural desires of the flesh, but instead clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom.13:14). This is the path to true abundance in God’s Love.
The third element is the aspect of faith, the faith of Jesus, to be exact: “…and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who Loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20). The aspect of resurrection goes hand in hand with the aspect of the faith of Jesus, because it is impossible to live life in this resurrected “true self” without the living faith of Jesus. We experience the bodily resurrection which Paul expresses this way, “…yet I live, but not I, but Christ lives in me” – through the faith of Jesus.
This is not our human faith that’s limited by our five senses in our finite world, but the very personal faith of Jesus who lives in us and takes us beyond the curtain into His divine infinite world in heaven. The Gospel speaks of how we enter the heavenly reality through the curtain of Jesus’ resurrected body. (Matt.27:51; Heb.9:3) Paul tells us this about faith, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph.2:8). Of course, if it is not our faith then it has to be a gift from God our Father. Just as the Cross is not ours, so also we must speak of the faith of Jesus that’s equally not our own.
Let me ask a pertinent but equally life-altering question: what gives us the conviction that we are actually living this alternate reality we have in Christ which makes all the difference in the believer’s life? It is simply faith! But not human faith because it is entirely powerless in the spiritual realm concerning the things of God. Only the living faith of Jesus, personalized the believer by the Spirit, can make possible what is humanly impossible. Paul said, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor.1:18).
We are compelled to ask one strategic question, how does this faith of Jesus enter our human life which makes the resurrected life in the “true self” possible? Answer: through the presence of the Holy Spirit! Before Jesus was crucified He told His disciples it was beneficial for them that He returned to His Father; that way, He will send the Holy Spirit or Advocate to be with them forever. (John 16:7; 14:16-18) Jesus told them clearly what the role of the Spirit will be, “He will glorify Me, because He will take what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14, ISV). By saying the Spirit will declare what belongs to Jesus, that speaks of the Spirit proclaiming and personifying the faith of Jesus in us, and more. This is the miraculous life we are privileged to live with the Triune God.
From the foregoing we are seeing how the believer is made to enter and live the “Triune Life” of God, where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are proactively involved in the salvation of the believer with a singular motivation of Love.
The Tri-Personal God – Proactively Involved in Man’s Salvation (Wiki Commons)
The Spirit is the new life who takes up residence in us replacing the sinful and depraved “false self” that was crucified with Jesus on His Cross, and inspiring and renewing the “true self” through the Cross. Paul said, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price (of the Cross). Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor.6:19-20). When a new Friend and Confidante becomes a roommate in my life, my first reaction is to take responsibility for the home (body) and ensure the Spirit and I can live together harmoniously. That is what “honor God with your bodies” mean as it relates to my personal responsibility. (Amos 3:3) The purpose of the Spirit is to sanctify and renew the believer in his/her “true self” in Christ. (Tit.3:5; 1 Pet.1:23) Paul said, “I myself am a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom.15:16).
Then Paul explains how we take responsibility for our body (home) honoring the Spirit, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship” (Rom.12:1). Did we get that, by “offering our body as living sacrifice” we are taking responsibility for the new life (“true self”) in the Spirit and enter into God’s majestic presence equipping us to offer “true and proper worship.” Since Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross, we see scripture equates “offering my body as a living sacrifice” with the act of “carrying my cross daily.” Whatever it takes to give ourselves so Jesus can live in us, the net result is we will have a life of overwhelming victory through His Love. Victory means all of the elements we see above brings us to one sacred end: “my true and proper worship” of God in heaven, from whom all good and perfect gift originate. (Jam.1:17)
To “carry our Cross daily,” in its simplest form, means we experience an ongoing forgiveness because we no longer live to ourselves in our “false self” which has been crucified with Jesus on His Cross, but Christ now lives in us through the “true self” by the Spirit’s enduring presence. With Herald’s* help we are led to offer our life as “living sacrifice” empowered by the living faith of Jesus through the Spirit who unites us with Jesus in heaven. And this three-fold activity of the Tri-Personal God is what keeps us holy and sinless. Since the Cross we are carrying belongs to Jesus, and since the Spirit is indivisibly One with the Father and Son, while residing with us simultaneously, then He is always transporting us spiritually before Jesus as High Priest in heaven. Here, the Cross has been eternally laid upon the altar of sacrifice in the heavenly tabernacle in order that all humanity may receive ongoing absolution for sins and trespasses.
The Bible says this in Hebrews, “We have such a High Priest (in Jesus Christ), One who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a Minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. For every High Priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices” (Heb.8:1-3, my emphasis). We are the subjects of this scenario offering ourselves as “living sacrifice” upon the Cross we carry before the Father in our act of “true and proper worship.” The Book of Hebrews speaks about Jesus and His High Priestly office before His Father in heaven.
White Dove, Symbol of the Holy Spirit, and Activator of the living Faith of Jesus in Man and the Power be “Living Sacrifices” (Wiki Commons)
Now, the High Priest and His altar (tabernacle) are synonymous. A priest without an altar or tabernacle is like a person without a profession. Much like a pilot without his plane; or a captain without a ship. One cannot do without the other, both go hand-in-hand. The role of the High Priest is to be an intermediary between God and man, offering sacrifice so peace between the two continues unbroken by sin. There is only one worthy eternal sacrifice for sin which has been laid upon the altar of sacrifice by the High Priest – the Cross of Jesus which we are privileged to carry by dying daily with Him upon it. (Gal.5:20; Rom.6:5-10; 8:36)
Therefore, each day as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” (Matt.6:12), we are “carrying our Cross” and surrendering ourselves in the tabernacle of the High Priest in heaven to receive ongoing atonement, absolution, and sanctification in order that we may be joined and made one with the Father in divine completeness. (2 Cor.5:21; 1 John 1:9) For this has been the Father’s desire from the start – to be one with His human children whom He created in His own image and likeness. (Gen.1:27) This was His plan and His yearning from the beginning of time which He makes plain in His covenant promise to man, “I will be their God and they will be My people” (Jer.31:33; 2 Cor.6:16; Heb.8:6-13)
The writer of Hebrews speaks poignantly of this divine environment we are privileged to enter in heaven through Jesus, “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our times of need… You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God Himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the One who mediates the new covenant between God and people” (Heb.4:14-16; 12:22-24). O, what a place that no words can describe. What a wonderful company to be with and to keep. And herein lies all our answers to life and its fullest expression of living joyfully which is carried through in the presence of our heavenly Father, God Almighty!
Though man’s existence is temporary and ends in death, he has the potential for eternal life in the resurrection and to share eternity with the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit. Man’s immortality is secured in Jesus who is Himself the Personification of the resurrection. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25a). What will be the fate of sin? It took paradise from us, and alienated mankind from God, the source of true life and Love. It has brought untold suffering and pain upon mankind throughout human history, and continues to this day and will in the future. It had to take the Son of God sacrificing Himself as a sinless substitute to atone and restore man to God. Sin is the cause of death, but ironically death will be the final blow to sin. Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.6:23).
When we will have been resurrected into bodily spiritual beings like Jesus, Paul says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor.15:51-57; Rom.8:29). Yes, the final deathblow to sin is human immortality when God’s original purpose for creating man in His likeness will at last become reality. (Gen.1:27). The Bible says, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phi.1:6).
If there is a Higher Power who calls man to the noblest quest of being fashioned into the very divine image of God, who will judge all mankind and confer immortality, then there is moral palpability in all we do in this earthly life. Jesus ends His discourse in Matthew saying, “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” (Matt.16:27). In other words, all our actions in this life and the motivations which trigger them, have eternal consequences. We either live life “carrying our Cross daily” or we fail to do so. We either exist in the “false self” or the resurrected “true self” in Christ through the power of the Spirit.
I hope you can see the good, the glory, and the honor of “carrying your cross today” and every day, so we may be in a condition of forgiveness, renewal, and unity with God our Father. And here is the greatest take away – we take ownership of the Cross and share it with the world that’s alienated by sin and become ambassadors helping reconcile people to God. (Matt.28:18-20; Rom.15:16; 2 Cor.5:20) There is no more nobler act a person can do for his/her fellow human than that.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to write to me in the space provided below, or email me on email@example.com
The Three Crosses of Easter Depicting the death of the Tri-Personal Being of God in Jesus (Pic: Wiki Commons)
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessings of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you always. May the Spirit enliven your spirit and make all things concerning you possible as you live the “Triune Life”** as a Bulamanriver.*** Be strong in the Lord’s joy.
Kiang, (Your Servant in Christ)
*Herald: is the name I have come to use to personalize my Friendship with the Holy Spirit.
** Triune Life: means a life lived according to the image and likeness of God. (Gen.1:26-27) It means a believer who lives the 3-dimensional life with the Triune God, as opposed to the ‘solitary’ 1-dimensional life man lives in himself. It means God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, lives and walks in you the Bulamanriver*. Man’s union with the Triune God, or “Triune Living,” is made possible by Jesus, who Himself, is one in substance and reality with the Triune God, who took our humanity into the very Being of the Triune Godhead. To live the “Triune Life” is the miraculous expression of the Spirit in us. The miraculous life is the promise of the New Covenant, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them” (Ezek.36:27) You can read more at: http://bulamanriver.net/?p=8036
***Bulamanriver: To read the different facets of the life of the Bulamanriver, go to my website, www.bulamanriver.com, where you can order a copy of my book, “Bulamanriver – The Miracle of Triune Living” Or, you may go to the directory banner at top and click “Mission” where you will find more information.
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
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