Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Cross part one

As we prepare for Resurection Sunday, I would like to talk about the cross a bit. As we start, I would like to focus on the cross from a different perspective. You see, the cross is probably the biggest difficulty in explaining our faith. Martin De Graff talked to us yesterday about how the cross is the stumbling point when speaking to non Christians. And that it is in fact, not only confronting, but down right insulting. "What do you mean, that someone had to be murdered for me?" And I will get into the cross, and what it means to us, and why its so difficult to understand for those that aren't in our club. But first I would like to look at something from a different point of view. I would like to look not at Jesus' cross, but rather my cross.

In the eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus says that we are to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him. That if we seek to find our life we lose it, but in losing our life we find it. It appears to me that for all of our focus on Jesus' cross, we have a very lacking understanding of what it means to pick up our own cross.

Now before guessing where I am going with this do me a favour, stop and reflect for a second on what your cross is.

If you are like most Christians, myself included the first thing you think of is the difficulties you are experiencing. Or a particular temptation or sin that you are constantly fighting against. Well, this definately is part of our Christian walk. And I believe this is definately what Paul was talking about when he tells us of his "thorn in the flesh", but this is hardly our cross. I have heard people talk about their arthritis as their cross, or their struggle with pornography, or even their spouse. But my friends, this is not even close to being your cross.

Now before I go any further let me not minimize suffering. We must acknowledge that much is gained in our suffering, and as we offer our suffering up to God, we get true fellowship with God, and as we are told in scripture, we participate or have fellowship with Jesus' suffering. And this truely is a beautiful thing, I do not make light of it at all.

However, Jesus cross took His life. And your cross, must take your life as well. There is no difference in our crosses, they all are the death of us. As Jesus said, when we seek to lose our life, we truly find it. The cross I am called to pick up is the one that kills me, so that I may be truly resurected in Christ. I think Paul in Romans summed it up best when he says, the only reasonable way to worship God, is to offer our very lives, as a sacrificial offering. When God sent the once born son, into the world to die on the cross, the love of God was proved. But in the same way Jesus was sent to the world to fulfill Gods love, we are now sent by Jesus, to fulfill Gods love to the world. When I understand, that like Jesus, I am to lay down my life for others, to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave off my selfish ways to serve others, I am understanding the kingdom of God, and violently bringing it into this world. We are called to imitate Christ, not just in morality, but in the very essence of His life, which is the calling of the cross. We are not excused of this. God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son, and my friends, He still loves the world so that He sends His adopted sons and daughters, to give their lives for it as well.

I think that we may understand the legal part of the cross, and the love of God through the cross, but the true disciple of Jesus must experience the cross of Jesus, by taking up there own cross. It is in this, that we truely understand the Christ. I pray I might have the courage, to give up my life, that I might live. And I pray the same for you.

the rev

9 comments:

Gods_Rhema said...

That spoke a great message to me Rev thanks...my heart needed reminding of that sacrifice. To lose my life is to gain it..humbles your heart. Softens the eyes and resinates power to the possessor.

thomas1862 said...

The message speaks at an emotional level and I like that part. I'd like to try a little analysis on the idea of taking up one's cross. This is taken to mean the death of one's selfish ways, to the extent that serving others may lead to one's physical death. But in practice does this really mean putting others' needs ahead of one's own. One still has those "baseline" desires of survival, shelter, friendship, rest, etc. In this sense no-one really "loses" their life. I can't see how the message is really anything more than a recommendation about the appropriate priority of one's own needs.

Is there a deeper message that I've somehow missed?

The Rev said...

No, it means that you actually sacrifice your own needs. I have lived in a barn. With two kids and a wife I have lived under the poverty level for fifteen years. I mean you actually do give up your own life, to the point of death if neccesary.

the rev

thomas1862 said...

So are you saying it's a matter of degree? To continue with your example, if I may, does that mean you could lower your standard of living still further and be even truer to the "take up your cross" message? Let's be ridiculous to illustrate this - you could choose to live under a bridge. I imagine your family would object, but you can understand how you are really indicating that some people will go to a greater extent than others to take up their cross. What is the ultimate extent, and is it different for different folks?

The Rev said...

They will be different, because people are different. And we are all called to different things. The purpose here is to give your life for the sake of others. So that means doing what is required, which may be living under a bridge, or taking in a homeless teenager, or adopting a baby that was going to be aborted.

It means not living for yourself.

the rev

thomas1862 said...

So that would mean letting go more of your own needs each time you encounter another in need. I can see this "exchange of needs" could develop until you reach a point where you have little to give up. In fact, going any further may mean you are of less service to others. So you might reach an "optimal level of poverty" in which you are maximising your service to others in accordance with your skills and remaining assets.

In summary, we are to live the simplest lifestyle compatible with maximising our service to others.

The Rev said...

well that actually sounds like not too bad of a formula, but I don't like formulas. You cannot figure all things out, there is mystery and wonder involved. But that is close.

the rev

thomas1862 said...

Yes and it's only part of the story. Service for others is not just material: offering shelter, food, clothing or money. It's not only assisting on a personal level: helping someone with housework, homework, applying for a job, etc. It could be more general such as standing up for human rights, protesting against war and injustice, running as a political candidate. When you look at a wider context, living the most frugal life may not always be the best way for an individual to "take up one's cross". I agree it can't be reduced to a formula. That formula was just one view point (inspired by your commentary).

David said...

By the way Rev, you were never clear about your concept of hell. Perhaps you could elaborate on this at some time. That is, explain clearly what the current, up-to-the-minute meaning of hell.

Regards
David