Richard Baxter offers good questions: “God is in earnest with you. Why are you not so with him? Why trifle with God?”
He goes on to tally the reality of Jesus’ earnest life on earth and in death. He describes how distracted Jesus was in ministry that He forgot to eat and how He prayed all night. He was willing to suffer in fasting, temptation, betrayal, mocking, and ultimately crucifixion. Jesus modeled the Christian life for us as one of such deep trust in God that He was willing to ignore all the good things of the world. He had no home on earth; His true home was heaven, and He lived contrary to the religious people, the pagan, all of them. He showed us a whole new way to live in the world. He taught us where abundant life is found. He exposed the emptiness of the beliefs we have developed since childhood of where life and love are found.
The best kind of living, according to Jesus, is to follow Him in denying your basic human instincts and pick up the cross God designed for you with faith, hope and love. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
If you are serious with God, then you will be able to recognize ways you deny yourself. How did you deny yourself today? Also, God will place a cross before you, and you will pick it up. What is the cross God asks you to pick up?
Your cross is not the now extinct Roman cross of human suffering. Jesus doesn’t mean that. He alone could pick that one up. It was a cross too big for us and beyond our ability because of sin. Yet, He promises that those who are truly devoted will be carrying crosses that will require denial of themselves.
Peter’s cross was to establish a church, to endure the persecutions and never give up their faith as they passed on the Gospel to the next generation of churches. Matthew’s cross was to write a gospel that we would refer today. My cross is to lead others to pray, connect with God’s Word, minister to brokenness and help the poor. Though self-denial is implied by the cross God designed for me, it gives my soul such meaning and purpose and energizes me for the sidetracks into self-denial. Yes, my self-denials in the process hurt and make me mad, but the reward of obedience far outweighs anything that I must deny of myself of. I don’t mean to imply that my tasks of self-denial are easy and pleasant—they are not. I am trying to say that when I accept the suffering and cry to God in my grief rather than self-pity, I am rewarded with a peace that passes understanding.
God is serious about you! Are you serious about Him?