Written Word

A Cross-Carrying Disciple

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)

It is only the passage of time that has made the cross acceptable in our society. We unashamedly display it in our churches, our homes and in public places. We even wear it as jewellery. It is respectable, inoffensive. But it was not always seen in such a favourable light. Placing the cross in its historical context, we see that it was a cruel instrument of execution. And it was to this that Jesus referred in teaching about the cost of being his disciple.

Common Misunderstandings

It is not uncommon to hear people speak about the cross the Lord has given them to bear as they endure an unhappy marriage, tolerate a delinquent child, struggle with poor health or worry over a financial crisis. While sympathy must be given to those for whom life is difficult, this is not the cross Jesus was referring to in his teaching on discipleship.

A Scenario

On a practical level, how do we go about carrying our cross and thereby following Jesus? A scenario: You are happily married, blessed with a lovely wife and family. You have a job that brings fullfilment. Life is going well for you. Your recent conversion to the Lord has brought blessings in abundance and you wonder how you could ever have lived without the Lord in your life. Then one day, quite by accident, you meet a former girlfriend you have not seen for over ten years. She looks great! And I mean grrrreat! ‘You haven’t changed,’ she says, ‘you are just the same as when we were last together.’ (She is too polite to comment upon those extra pounds that have gathered around your once pencil-thin waist).

The trip down memory lane continues over lunch, recalling old friends and events. Turning the clock back has been fun. No doubt about it, they were good days. But the past cannot be recalled without reference to how you once felt about each other. It was real love. ‘I continued loving you even after we broke up,’ she says. ‘ In fact, our meeting only confirms how much I still love you.’ Her dreamy blue eyes are moist and she says, ‘You know the flame never went out. It still burns for you.’

Flattered and inwardly pleased with this boost to your ego, you are reluctant to bring the conversation to a close. You’ve been flirting and now you are drifting into dangerous waters.

She extends an invitation to visit her apartment ‘anytime’. What is a boy to do!? How are you to handle it? Let’s face facts: the temptation to be immoral is very, very strong. Satan is working overtime, filling your mind with an assortment of reasons why you should accept her invitation. You rationalise, but you know your are deceiving yourself. Even the idea of going back to her place and sharing the news of your recent conversion with her rings hollow. She is not interested in having Jesus in her heart. You know that! What she wants is you – the husband of another woman! And what you are being tempted with is a sexual encounter with a woman you have no right to have! A civil war is now raging within. Part of you is saying, No! Never! I can’t do this! And part of you is screaming, Yes!

Resistance Requires that a Death Occur

There is only one way to conquer this situation – you must crucify the sexual passions and desires that are seeking gratification outside the parameters of God’s will. You must die to what you want to do so you can do what God wants you to do. If resisting such temptation were easy, Jesus would never have spoken of having to put to death, on a daily basis, the sinful desires we sometimes have. He would never have spoken of having to carry our cross. Resisting this sexual invitation involves you in a major battle and the enemy is within. ‘Resist the devil,’ the Bible says, ‘and he will flee from you’ (James 4:7). This scripture is filled with a divine guarantee. There is nothing passive about resistance. On the contrary, the word ‘resist’ brings to mind a fight, a struggle, an act of self-defence against an adversary. You must resist. You must crucify. You must, by the power of the Holy Spirit, put to death the evil that wants to express itself. You must draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:7).

The invitation from your former girlfriend (and any other temptation to sin for that matter) can be declined and your marriage vow honoured by making it a daily practice to carry your cross. This is living the crucified life. Don’t live life without it. This is the type of discipleship Jesus taught.