Monday, April 06, 2015

Cross-bearers are the Ones Who Will Ultimately Wear the Crown

Worshiping at Redeemer, 4/5/15
Resurrection Sunday was beautiful at Redeemer yesterday, ending in a spontaneous burst of worshiping, dancing, laughing, and joy. I loved seeing and being part of this. It was, as one of our Redeemer family members told me, "organic!"

Now it's Monday morning, in the aftermath of the cross and the empty tomb. This means everything has changed. Life will never be the same again. That's how it was for me 45 years ago; that's how it is for me today. My life is different because of what God has accomplished, in Christ. 

Now I am one of Jesus' many followers. Jesus said“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me."  I do want to follow. Therefore I must:

1. Turn from my selfish ways.
2. Take up my cross.
3. Follow Jesus.

Amazingly, Jesus did not live for his own self. He not only spoke words of other-centeredness, he lived these words out. Jesus gave his life for the sake of others. This is what any real follower of Jesus must do. This is the great imperative. And it happens now. Today my life is a life for God, and for others. a) God. b) Others. c) Self. That's the Jesus-follower's ontological order of priorities. I am going to live for others, today. There will be plenty of opportunities. 

Just as I wrote these sentences an email came to me. A friend is requesting prayer. I will contact them and pray with and for them. My plans are interrupted because there is a cross to bear. This is a microcosm of the greater life God has called me to, and for which Christ died and eventually rescued me. 

I am a follower of Jesus now. Therefore I must turn from my selfish ways and take up my cross, daily. Darrell Bock writes: "To pick up a cross means walking against the grain of cultural values, so that our expectations and needs take a back seat to God's call... Bearing a cross means leaving behind dreams created for us long ago by a citizenship we have now left behind." (Darrell Bock, Luke)  Cross-bearing never takes a holiday. Every day becomes a holy day set apart for the cause of Christ and his kingdom. 

"If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, 
but of other masters. 
If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, 
but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. 
If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him; 
we are not treading in His steps, but going back from, or at least wide of, Him."
John Wesley, "Sermon 48, Self-denial." In The Works of John Wesley

To take up my cross is to walk "a path of opposition to all that is evil, even though that evil may appear respectable and even legal." (Justo Gonzalez, Luke, 122) While I am to pray for my government leaders I must remember that I am not governed by them, but by Christ. I follow Christ, not human leaders.

How do I know what "taking up my cross" is? What will this look like, today? Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: "But how is the Christian to know what kind of cross is meant for him? He will find out as soon as he begins to follow his Lord and to share His life." (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of discipleship, 74)

Sharing the life of Christ via daily cross-bearing. It may sound burdensome, this "bearing the burdens of others" life. But it is ultimately burden-removing, for the both the cross-bearer and the captive. Cross-bearers are the ones who will ultimately wear the crown.