We have talked about Discovering God through his love and his holiness. Now, it is time to move forward. Hopefully you know God is there and that he is the creator, sustainer of everything. His love is perfect, He IS PERFECT. Why?
Because even the demons believe, and shudder.
Just acknowledging that God is there is not enough. We have to exercise faith. We have to have a faith that moves and works. Think of it like this: We do what we believe. We can say we believe something, but our actions truly speak louder than our words. If we really believe something we will do it. Period.
Jesus put it like this in Luke 9:23-24,
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (ESV)
You see, here's the thing about crosses. They're heavy. They hurt. They are a burden. They lead others to ridicule you. Crosses are not attractive to modern culture. They weren't attractive in Jesus's day either. Yet, here is Jesus saying "You want to follow me? You WILL carry a cross." It is not optional and it isn't going to be easy. End of story.
I recently heard a story of a Marine recruiter who was supposed to make a presentation to a group of men about why they should join the Marines. He didn't have much time for his presentation after previous speakers had gone over their allotted time so he simply stepped up to the microphone and said something to the effect of "in this group of men, only a few of you are actually strong enough to be a Marine. Come talk to me." Guess what? His booth was swarmed. Why? Because those attending heard the call of a challenge. They wanted to be one of those who are strong enough to make it.
Jesus basically said the same thing. While his call is universal, there are only a few who will respond. Why? Because it means carrying a cross. It means sacrifice. It means change. It means pain. It means giving up one's life so that Christ can find it. And it isn't easy. In fact, it is so hard that Jesus likened it to travelling a small road with a narrow gate that only a few will find. The rest will take the easy way.
So which one are you? Are you taking the easy way or the hard way? Are you carrying a cross? Is it heavy? Has it caused you pain, suffering and separation? If it hasn't then you aren't carrying a cross. You may be carrying a superstition or a discipline. You may even be carrying a religion, but you aren't carrying a cross. You know when you are carrying a cross because it leaves splinters in your back. You know you are carrying a cross because you are dying to yourself with every step taking you closer to crucifixion.
This is purpose.
This is why you were created.
Not for happiness.
Not for pleasure.
Not for success.
But to carry the cross of Jesus Christ and serve God with everything you have. But we must count the cost first. What will it take for you to fully pick up your cross and follow Jesus?
Jesus said it like this in Luke 14:33 "any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." Is following Christ more important than anything else in your life? Are you willing to give up EVERYTHING to follow him? If you are not, then you are not carrying a cross.
Do not misunderstand this. Jesus is not saying you must be desolate, divorced, homeless and broke to follow him. He is saying that nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, can come between you and Him. If you are not ready to sever a relationship that is coming between you and Him, you are not carrying a cross. If you are not ready to give up a lifestyle that is coming between you and Him, you are not carrying a cross. And if we are not carrying a cross, we are not his disciples.
If we are not carrying a cross, we are not his disciples.
This is your purpose as a Christian. As a Christ follower, a believer, your life now belongs to Him and you must pick up your cross and follow Him. Anything less, and you are deceiving yourself. It is only by carrying the cross that Christ commands us to carry that we can rise above reality.