The Way of the Cross

“Some people have been misinformed about the Christian life and living the crucified life. For some reason, they think that it is an easy path. They believe that God will take away all of their problems and difficulties and that they will be able to live their lives without any kind of distraction or disturbance.”     A.W. Tozer

In His public ministry, Jesus made some points so clear, they really are not debatable.  One of them was the call to all true followers to live a crucified life, to walk in the way of the cross.  Jesus was unequivocal on this: only those who daily live lives of self-denial, lives characterized by dying to the self-life, are true followers of the Master. 

Matthew 10:37-39 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

These words of Jesus have been treated oddly by His church over the years. For though the message is quite clear, the meaning has been explained away, redefined, largely ignored.  We do well to explore what the Bible says about the crucified life – walking in the way of the cross – for scriptures make it clear that our responsibility to these teachings is undeniable.

Some have mistakenly thought that “taking up our cross” refers to difficult burdens we carry, that someone going through difficult experiences “has their cross to bear.”  This is not a fully accurate understanding.  If, in the days of the Roman Empire, you saw a person carrying a cross, your most likely impression would not be, “Gee, that looks like a heavy burden to carry!”  Crucifixion was public execution, and your thought would most likely be, “Gee, that person is about to die!”  The crosses we are to carry are the crosses on which we die to self and deny all claim to self-oriented living.

In Matthew 10, Jesus is telling His followers what it takes to follow Him in the Kingdom of God on earth.  “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”  To follow Jesus requires our death to self, the crucifixion of our self-will, self-service, self-determination, and self-fulfillment. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”  He is speaking here of actively surrendering control over our living for His sake.

Alexander MacLaren, the great Scottish preacher, had this to say on losing one’s life to Jesus’ sake.  Now we shall very much impoverish the meaning and narrow the sweep of these great and penetrating words, if we understand by ‘losing one’s life’ only the actual surrender of physical existence. It is not only the martyr on whose bleeding brows the crown of life is gently placed…but there is a daily dying, which is continually required from all Christian people, and is, perhaps, as hard as, or harder than, the brief and bloody passage of martyrdom by which some enter into rest. For the true losing of life is the slaying of self, and that has to be done day by day, and not once for all, in some supreme act of surrender at the end, or in some initial act of submission and yielding at the beginning, of the Christian life. For, by natural disposition, we are all inclined to make our own selves to be our own centres, our own aims, the objects of our trust, our own law; and if we do so, we are dead whilst we live, and the death that brings life is when, day by day, we ‘crucify the old man with his affections and lusts.’”

The essence of the crucified life is that we no longer are concerned about the “me,” for our God supersedes the “me” in our daily priorities.  We are dying daily to the self-life – our self-direction, self-protection, self-promotion – so we might be free to fully focus on our God.  This is our created purpose, and we will never find rest, clarity of purpose, and fulfillment until we are walking on this path.

“The more my trust rests in God, the less I trust myself. If we truly desire to live the crucified life, we must get rid of self-trust and trust only in God.”    A.W. Tozer

More on the way of the cross to come.

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