This is a post by Barnabas Piper. Piper serves as the Brand Manager for the Ministry Grid at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, TN. Piper blogs at The Blazing Center and is the author of The Pastors Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and the forthcoming Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy of Faith.
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“Take up your cross, and follow me,” said Jesus. Follow Him where? And why do we need this cross? I thought He bore the cross so I don’t have to.
“It’s my cross to bear,” said the Christian. What is? That job he hates, the nagging spouse, the contentious deacon, an illness, a rebellious child. In religious nomenclature we have substituted common frustrations of life for the cross and bear those instead.
Christians, the cross we are to bear is the same Jesus bore, a symbol of death and a tool of destruction. It is the cross on which we lay down our lives for our friends and love our wives as Christ loved the church, on which the old is killed and sin is put to death. We take up the cross so that we can give up our lives. What is crucified is our own lordship over ourselves, the god of self that was born in Eden and has controlled humanity since. Each day we bear our cross and follow Jesus, and in so doing that self-god is killed day-by-day.
A crucified people is the most Christ-like of all because they walk so closely in Jesus’ footsteps. Ephesians 5 tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. How did Christ love the church? By being crucified for her. Husbands, do your wives see you being crucified for their sakes, to help them grow in holiness, their own Christlikeness, and thus deeper happiness? The same passage speaks of wives submitting to husbands as the church submits to Christ. How do sinful people submit? By crucifying their self-god. Such submission is not demeaning or lessening for it is first submission to Christ and then to a Husband who is likewise putting his self-god to death. Husbands and wives are called lay down their lives for each other, for the good of the other.
Hebrews 12 encourages believers to not grow weary in doing good because “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” This is no mere hyperbole or bombastic pep talk, some sort of “no blood, no foul” machismo. It is a look directly at the One who did resist sin to the point of shedding blood and did so without fail to his last breath. In his blood our sin was killed, and in our lives we must continue to crucify it daily. Doing so may hurt terribly because of the depth with which sin penetrates our hearts, almost like killing a part of ourselves. But that is why we carry a cross with us, to kill those bits of ourselves that keep us from following Christ.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” We know what this meant for Jesus, the one who said it. What does it mean for us? It is a willingness to sacrifice anything necessary for the good of others, to show them Jesus, to bring them to Him by the giving up of our rights, properties, privileges, and resources. Jesus did not go to Golgotha kicking and screaming. He went willingly with the burden of the world’s damnation on Him. To be a crucified people means we bear the burden of others’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs willingly and at any cost. We cannot save them, and we do not have to. Jesus did that work once for all, and our self-sacrifice may be the means by which they see that.
A crucified people lives in peace because our sin has already been killed and in exertion because we are still killing it. We live in humility because we lay down our rights and honors the way our King did and in boldness because we are His and have nothing to earn or prove. We love our spouses, our friends, and our neighbors with utter selflessness because each day we imitate Christ by taking up our cross, his cross, and nailing our self-god to it. Crucifixion of soul is the mark of a believer, the defining characteristic of the people of God because by it we exhibit the most of Jesus.