As a teenager, I once heard my pastor say that Jesus has many admirers, but not enough followers. That statement stuck in my mind. There are many who attend church weekly, but their professions of Christianity may be lived out superficially, or at any rate at their convenience. Following Jesus is not merely acknowledging His existence, or “agreeing” with His teachings. Following Jesus means to walk in His footsteps. It means to take upon yourself His purpose and mission in the world. It means braving the dangers of an evil world for the sake of an unbendable love for God and for people. Take up your cross…
The Christian lifestyle can be validly called “the lifestyle of the cross” because, just as it is impossible to take the cross out of Christianity and still retain true Christianity, so we cannot take the cross out of our Christian lives and live as genuine Christians.
It is true that the cross represents victory over sin, and the Christian life is indeed characterized by joy, peace and power, but it also represents suffering. The cross represents God’s love and redemptive plan, a plan that was accomplished through suffering. Jesus rose and lives, but still we cannot deny the cross its full meaning; and so, as we talk about abundant and victorious living, we will also see that we cannot escape the quality of sacrifice found in true Christian living in a sinful world.
The message of the cross was never sad or negative for the first Christians. They rejoiced in it, even in the midst of suffering. They were so in love with the One who died for them that the suffering they endured for His name was considered entirely worthwhile. They were not lovers of pain, but they loved God and knew the only meaning their lives could have was in Him. If sinners, out of hatred for God or the message of salvation from sin, inflicted pain on them, the disciples of Christ remained undaunted.
When many think of cross bearing, they think off an attitude of resignation to human frailties (which all too often leads to excusing ourselves from being all that God has made it possible for us to be in Christ). Instead, the Bible is speaking of the complete and loving identification of our lives with Christ, what He stands for, and what He wants to accomplish through us in this dark world. The gospel of health, wealth and prosperity may attract some people by appealing to their desire for pleasure, comfort and success, but it will not convict them of their sins.
Today, our hope lies in the cross. We must not try to change it.
This article is an excerpt from Dr. Robin A. Riggs’ book, The Lifestyle of the Cross, available at Amazon.com