01/15/17 Take Up Your Cross

READING: Genesis 36-38, Matthew 10:21-42

“And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:38

I remember the hymn well, as we sang it often during the first years I followed Jesus – “Wherever He Leads.” I can still hear the opening words in my mind:

"Take up thy cross and follow Me," I heard my Master say;
"I gave My life to ransom thee, Surrender your all today."

The words and the melody evoke memories of days gone by, but I admit that I did not understand those words back then. I doubt I comprehend them fully now, as the words are deep and challenging. I do know, however, what Jesus taught us about following Him. We must acknowledge Christ before men if we expect Him to acknowledge us before the Father. Our love for Him must take priority over every other human relationship, including our immediate family. Even if faith in Christ creates division in our family, we simply pay that price for that commitment – though that price may not be the final one we pay.

Indeed, crucifixion is the image Jesus used to describe our commitment: “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38). It was a dramatic picture, one that perhaps caught His hearers off guard. Following Jesus meant putting to death one’s hopes, dreams, and self-will, trusting that walking in the will of the Messiah was more important than anything else. If doing so required literally giving up one’s life, that need not be a concern; no one had reason to “fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28).

I think again about the hymn, “Wherever He Leads.” The chorus is repetitive, but it’s those repeated words that might be most convicting and challenging to me: “Wherever He leads I’ll go. Wherever He leads I’ll go. I’ll follow my Christ, who loves me so. Wherever He leads, I’ll go.”

“Wherever He leads” – that might be to my neighbor, or it might be to the nations. It may be within the seemingly safer confines of North America or to the riskier places of North Africa. That commitment may call me to be a fully-committed layperson, or it might mean full-time ministry. It might demand moving away from family. It may require living simply and sacrificially in a world that emphasizes securing wealth. It might even mean death. Whatever the cross is that we must bear, we must do it willingly for the One who loves us so. 

ACTION STEPS:

  • Consider these questions: Am I living a life of sacrifice for Christ? Is my faith costing me anything? 
  • If God is calling you to take a step of faith, follow Him. 

PRAYER: “Father, I will follow You wherever You lead. I will take up my cross.”

TOMORROW'S READING: Genesis 39-40, Matthew 11