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Called to the Cross

July 14, 2010

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23)

Jesus is not very good at leading an altar call.  He tends to break every rule in the “get ’em down the aisle” book.  Maybe we should set him straight on this matter.  He is supposed to invite people to follow him by showing them the benefits this will produce in their lives.  He is supposed to give the sales pitch to those interested: “be saved from your problems, be healed of your diseases, be freed from your guilt, and be prepared for the best life possible.”  I’m not sure that Jesus is going to amount too much if he doesn’t change his ways.

For instance, it is ok that Jesus speaks about the cross, but he needs to learn to speak more about its benefits.  He would be much more effective if he would give a “what’s in it for you” version of the cross.  Instead, he invites us to carry our cross.  Instead of selling us on the cross he calls us to it.  I liked the cross much better when Jesus was hanging on it, not when I am called to live it.

We love the benefits of the cross but neglect its calling.  Just so you know, I am not opposed to knowing and speaking about the benefits of the cross.  The Bible does this and so should we.  However, are there really benefits from the cross if there is not also a calling to it?  Can you have one without the other?  Jesus apparently doesn’t think so.  After inviting us to the cross, he tell us that if we resist its calling by trying to save our lives then we will actually lose it and if we embrace the cross by losing our lives we will actually save it.  Even more, in verse 26 Jesus warns us that to avoid the calling of the cross is to be ashamed of him and if this happens then he will be ashamed of us.  That sounds like a warning about our eternity.  You cannot have the benefits of the cross without its calling.  Spurgeon once said, “there are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below.”

What is your cross?  I’m afraid many have missed the boat on figuring out exactly what it means to carry the cross.  Most of us define it as bearing the trouble of life in this world.  We claim that our divorce, depression, financial trouble, or disease is our cross.  The problem with this sort of thinking is that non-believers have these same problems but they are not carrying a cross.  Another problem with this sort of thinking is that life’s trouble comes upon us involuntarily while the cross was a voluntary act by Jesus in which he proclaims that he laid down his own life and no one takes it from him (John 10:18).  The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that life is full of “toil.”  Can we really equate toil with the cross?

We are cross bearers when love motivates us to live a life of sacrifice for the sake of broken and lost people in the name of Jesus who is the Christ.  This definition is congruent with the logos of the cross.  It is voluntary.  It is suffering for the sake of others.  It is fueled by love for people and obedience to the Father.  We are the body of Christ and when we operate by the same philosophy of the cross, we are re-enacting the drama of the crucifixion so that the world sees evidence to our message that Jesus reigns.  We embrace the cross believing that it is wisdom even through the world calls it foolishness.  We embrace the cross and pattern our lives after it because we believe that it is glorious and powerful even though the world thinks it is weak.  We embrace the cross believing that it yields the reward of resurrection while the world can only see death.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. micki bishop permalink
    July 15, 2010 8:50 am

    this is speaking very deeply to me as I have very recently begun to experience the true “death” to my old self even though I was saved (and Baptised at Heartland) a few years ago. It has been bittersweet and breathtaking. I’m not even quite sure how to describe it, but you have helped me a great deal, thank you.

  2. Bob permalink
    July 16, 2010 8:30 am

    The image of my friend and savior on the cross breaks my heart, but also fills it with forgiveness, hope and joy at the same time, does that make sense? thanks for keepin me thinkin

  3. Richard S. permalink
    July 16, 2010 12:38 pm

    Nathan
    Love you sharing your thoughs with us. Please continue to teach us what God is teaching you.

  4. Dale R. Yancy permalink
    July 20, 2010 8:56 pm

    Nathan,

    Really good series and some thoughtful insight into what is our “cross”? You’re so right that we want the cross to be something like enduring a “hangnail” for Jesus’ sake. I think my cross may be that Renee & I moved to western KY. to help take care of my mom, and we left our church family in NH, and our denomination and ministry there. Often, we feel isolated and cut-off here, with very few friends. But hoping that that will change down the road as we remain and become more involved at Heartland.

    Continue to preach and teach the truth of God’s Word, and don’t allow yourself to ever succumb to “tickling our ears.”

    One last thing…the way we do altar calls in most churches, even the rich young ruler would’ve been “saved.” He would’ve run forward with tears and great earnestness, and we would’ve said, “this young man means business with God.” How interesting that Jesus didn’t look on outward appearances like we so often do, but looked at the heart.

  5. danny rose permalink
    August 7, 2010 8:42 am

    i am so excited about ever message i here at heartland…it challenges be to go out an share jesus..PRAISE THE LORD…..the world is in desperate shape to know jesus i cannot wait to see what happens at heartland the next few years…i believe we are on fire to see this region change…..LETS GO GET THE LOST amen

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