take up your cross

by Pastor Mark Jordan

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“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV)

I experienced a head-shaking moment the other day. I was getting ready for worship and dressing in the dark. I was fumbling around trying to find my cross necklace, which was not on my dresser where I leave it overnight. I gave up after a few moments and decided to grab it later in the day. The head-shaking moment came a few minutes later as I got in my car and buckled my seatbelt, feeling my cross necklace right where it belongs…around my neck.

The backstory here is I was asked to chaperone a trip with a private school to a viewing of The Passion of the Christ (2014). The intent was for me to counsel and pray with students who were impacted by the film. No one came to me. Everyone remained in the theater even after the credits rolled, sitting in stunned silence. The visual depiction of Jesus’ torture, crucifixion, death, and resurrection was a visceral experience. In those still moments, my faith deepened as I considered what God did for me in Christ Jesus. I went home and found my cross necklace and committed to wear it every day, next to my heart, as a reminder to follow Jesus’ teaching to deny myself, pick up my cross, and follow him. In the years that followed, I could probably count on my fingers the number of days when I didn’t wear one of my cross necklaces.

Carrying a cross to follow Jesus means a lot more than wearing a necklace, though. It is a calling to a lifestyle of service, sacrifice committed to love God and others with all we have and are. We don’t like to think about denying self, but I think Jesus’ teaching is clear: we need to experience that power of humility where we aim to love and serve God and others first. Is it easy? No. Is it God’s way? You bet! My donning a cross necklace is simply a daily tangible reminder for me to take up my cross and follow Jesus. And you know what? I need that reminder. Desperately.

How about you? What can you do to remind yourself daily to take up your cross, follow Jesus, and live your day serving the Lord? It can transform the way you live your day, transforming all of your life. Give it a shot. Take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for what you did for me in Jesus. I know my natural tendency is to deny you and live for myself, when you call me to deny myself and live for you. I’m sorry for all the times I get this backwards and seek your forgiveness. Help me by the power of your Spirit to live for you, sacrifically serving you and others after the example of Jesus. I lift this prayer in his holy name. Amen.