By Adam Faughn
When taken seriously, one of Jesus's most demanding commands is found in Luke 9, where He told what it takes to "truly" be a follower of His:
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)
Each portion of that command is challenging, but focus for a few moments on the command to "take up cross daily." It can be easy to downplay the depth of that command and how challenging it really is. There are several ways we can do that, and they all come from a failure to truly remember what a cross was used for and how horrific it was.
At times, we can downplay the command by making the cross commonplace. That is, we just do not see it as anything more than a symbol. Maybe we do this by making it into jewelry or other similar things, which is not necessarily wrong, but the cross can just become a "thing" in our minds if we do not really think about it.
At other times, we downplay the command by talking about regular issues of life and comparing them to the cross. We might go through a surgery or an illness and speak of it as being our "cross to bear." Again, I am not saying this is sinful in and of itself, but that type of language can cause the cross to be something that is more common. It is something that is painful but normal.
What we must always keep in the forefront of our minds is that the cross was a method of execution, and it was meant to be torturous. To state the matter bluntly: people died on crosses.
So, when Jesus said that we must "take up cross," He was stating that we must die! Obviously, the Lord was not saying that we must physically die in order to follow Him (although following Him might lead to death for some people). He was, rather, saying that our former person must be gone, as good as dead. And take note of the fact that Jesus said this was to happen "daily."
Each day, we must die to selfishness. We must die to sin. We must die to the way of the world. So, the cross takes on a whole new meaning in our life because we see it for what it is, and it is not pretty or easy.
Paul gives us the mindset we should have about the cross and what it should mean in our daily walk in one of his most well-known passages. Knowing that the cross was a method of execution, He made it clear that this should be what defines us in our Christian life:
I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live, but
Christ Who lives in me. And the
life that I now live in the flesh I
live by faith in The Son of God,
Who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
That is what the cross should mean. It is dying daily to ourselves so that Christ can live through us. Let's not downplay the cross; let's make it what it is meant to be: the place where we die to self and exalt Jesus."But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)