As teenagers, several of my friends in our youth group and I have committed to daily Bible reading and prayer for each other and our school. We are accountable to each other and often share what we have learned and any questions we might have. One such question has come up regarding Matthew 16:24—“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’.” We understand the first and second part of this verse about following Jesus and denying self, but help us to understand what it means to “take up his cross and follow Him.” What is our cross? We desire to understand and live what we are reading.
What an insightful question, and I commend you and your friends for your commitment to reading, understanding, and desiring to live out God’s Word in your daily lives!
It’s important to note that Jesus did not tell His disciples to pick up His cross and follow Him, but they were to pick up their own crosses and follow Him. Let me also refer you to a similar verse in Luke 9:23. Luke records an important word for us here: that we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him. Our walk with the Lord is not just on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, but daily—24/7!
Now, what is our cross? If we are determined to deny self and follow Jesus, then our “cross” is whatever God has called us to do. For example, you and your friends have committed not only to study God’s Word and pray for each other and your school, but to daily live out your Christian walk in your school. That can be a heavy cross at times; you might have to suffer for what you believe from fellow students and faculty who might challenge your beliefs. Your cross might often be extremely heavy, but Jesus has promised that He would never give you more than you can bear, and that He would be with you always. He promised His Holy Spirit to lead and guide you into all truth, and all He calls you to do is to be a witness to what God has done in your life and “bloom” where He has planted you.
I was in Jerusalem a number of years ago visiting the site of the crucifixion and the Garden Tomb area. These holy sites were surrounded by a large wall, and outside the entrance to this area were children hawking “cheap crosses for sale.” I thought then, as I still do today, there is no such thing as a “cheap cross.” The cross cost Jesus his life for our sins, and our crosses, which we pick up daily, will often cost us a great deal—perhaps even our lives as we have seen missionaries give their lives in serving the cause of Christ on the mission field, or in a high school in Colorado where youth were killed for affirming that Jesus Christ was their Savior and Lord.
What are some examples of crosses you might have to carry?
- Living a Christian life in a non-Christian home
- Being kind to a brother or sister who might be unmerciful at times
- Going against the “group” at school that might not do or say things that are Christ-like. For example, we will not listen at a joke that might be “off-color.” I will not participate in gossip or spreading rumors that seek to hurt someone else, or attend movies, listen to CDs, or watch DVDs that are not appropriate.
- It could mean giving up your comfortable surroundings to go on a mission trip to a third world country, or even serving a meal at the community kitchen.
- A prolonged illness might possibly be a heavy cross you must carry. I currently work in the Emergency Room and ICU units of a trauma one hospital and am constantly seeing young people and adults who were seriously hurt in an auto accident and must spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair or with the loss of a limb. Just this week, twin teenagers were in a serious wreck, and the twin that was the passenger was killed. This will be a most difficult cross for the other twin to carry, as she was the driver. You can certainly add much to this list, but it gives you an idea of the crosses we must carry. Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Doing the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect! Don’t hesitate to pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus Christ; it will be good and acceptable and perfect! God bless.
Rev. Sam Harris studied theology at the Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, VA. He was a contributing guest author to The John Ankerberg Show in the late 1990's and early 2000's. His ability to concisely and clearly present the Gospel in a easy to understand, relatable manner has continued to be an asset to the ministry. Sam is currently retired in Lookout Mountain, Georgia and lives with his wife of 50 years, Sandy Lee.
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