Will you take up your cross and follow the example of Jesus? Perhaps you will never be required to suffer for your faith in Christ, but the question we should all settle in advance is... would I, if called upon, pay the ultimate price?
"Then he said to them all, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self"? (Luke; 9:23-27)
There are at least three conditions in the above scripture that must be met by those who follow Jesus. We must be willing to deny self, take up our crosses, and follow him. Anything else is superficial lip service.
When Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me," his disciples understood what he was saying.
Crucifixion was a common Roman method of execution and condemned criminals had to carry their crosses through the streets to the execution site. Following him meant making a true commitment, the risk of death, and no turning back
Christians follow Christ by imitating his life and obeying his commands. To take up ones cross means to carry your own cross to the end, even if it means death, for your faith in Christ.
We must also deny our selfish desires to choose our own direction in life without regard to Christ. Following Christ requires dying to self; which may seem costly now, but in the long run is well worth the pain and effort. Nothing can compensate for the loss of eternal life.
A good example of how to take up your cross is found in Acts 16:22-25. Paul and Silas had been severely flogged and thrown into prison, yet were praying and singing hymns to God. They were praising God even in the most difficult circumstances.
Another instance is when the people close to Paul learned that he was going to Jerusalem where he would likely be thrown in prison; they pleaded with him not to go.
"Then Paul answered, why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:14)
Yet, according to Paul, the Christian life is the best life there is. It is true that when you take up your cross there will be a burden to bear, but the benefits far out weigh the costs.
Not even life itself can compare to what we gain with Christ. Jesus wants us to stop trying to control our own destiny and to let him direct our paths. He knows better than we do what real life is about.
When we give our life in service to Him He will send the Holy Spirit to comfort, instruct, fill us with joy, and guide us through our troubles, and onto the path he would have us follow.
We then discover the real purpose of living, and a brilliant future, not only in this world, but also for a glorious eternity, so fantastic it defies description.
As you take up your cross, remember that there are Christians in over 40 countries who face daily persecution, imprisonment, and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ. We must pray for these persecuted Christians that they will remain strong in Christ as they take up their cross.