The Disciple's Cross
Supernatural Empowerment for New Life!
This teaching on the disciple's cross is a practical application that companions the lessons set forth in "Matters of the Heart," our free eCourse for spiritual growth and emotional transformation.
All scripture citations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.
It Takes 2 Crosses to Save You
The disciple's cross also saves us. By now you may be thinking: "this is a lot of work!" True, it is hard dealing with emotional strongholds, but it is harder still letting them rule over us unopposed. No one wants this battle. It is a genuine cross to bear, but because it is a cross, it is also the power of salvation. And that is because there are two crosses that save us.
The cross of Jesus saves us by getting us to heaven. The disciple's cross saves us by getting a heavenly life into us down here - it is a major key of entry into His Kingdom's way of living. We need to understand, recognize and appreciate the disciple's cross and why the Lord allows it.
We Stumble at Accepting the Cross
Pay careful attention to the 3 steps Jesus mentions.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him (1) deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-26
1) Deny Himself
We are to trust and submit to Jesus letting Him be Lord'not self. Self wants comfort and immediate gratification, no challenges, struggles or risks. Self wants to be in charge and be at the center. It is only hard to surrender if you have a poor image of God.
2) Take Up His Cross
The cross is where your will and God's will cross. We can recognize the cross by what it costs us. Suffering is having what you don't want and wanting what you don't have. (Elizabeth Elliott). The cross is never a person, but it may be a way about them that you don't like and can't easily live with. We take up the cross by accepting it.
3) Follow Me
If we are not willing to do 1 and 2, we will be unable to do 3!
The disciple's cross is hard to recognize. Jesus says that in order to become disciples we will have to deny self and take up the cross and follow Him. How can we do that if we cannot recognize the cross or understand what taking up the cross means? The cross is hard to recognize because it looks like death - not life!
Death by the Cross versus by the Enemy
Did you know that both the devil and the cross are trying to kill you?
1) The devil wants to kill all that is good and of God in you.
2) The Father wants to bring to death all that is wrong—all that is not of Christ in us.
We are to resist the devil with all that is in us. We are to submit to the Lord entirely. How do you know which is which? How do you know when to submit and when to resist?
We resist the devil in order to embrace the cross.
The cross helps me to say no to myself. The cross includes learning to endure grief, shame and rejection. It hovers between self-sacrifice and self-denial. Through the cross I learn to say no to self (deny yourself) and yes to God (take up your cross) in order to keep walking with my God (and follow Me). The cross looks like it is bringing death, but it really leads to life. A prayer before the cross:
I praise you Lord: This cross (problem) is not going to kill me, it is going to bring me to greater life.
How the Cross Works
The cross identifies and raises up your (hidden) flesh so that you can deal with it if you want to. The enemy will take opportunity by the cross to try to get you to go the wrong way in response to it. Usually, the hidden side of our fallen nature or self life just seems like us or like common sense thinking in us, but the cross identifies it as not of God or anti-God. Under the cross our spirit man wants to fight Satan even if we don't. Likewise, our flesh will often want to fight (resist) the Lord, even when we want to submit.
What the disciple's cross reveals: The cross reveals my pride, self-will, self-love, self-righteousness and self-protectiveness. So, I hate it. It is not much of a cross if I readily embrace it. Not much of a cross if I don't truly hate and fear it at first - and all the more so because of what it makes me see in me. It is so easy to want to give up or turn back whenever the cross is in our path that we really will need to grow in patience, perseverance and endurance.
How God uses the cross: We hate and fear the cross. We hate and fear the struggle, pain, loss, and risk that comes with it. But God is using the cross two ways:
1) To bring something good into our life we could not have received in any other way
2) To bring to death that life of self in us which hates and fears the cross because this is a part of the self life in us that doesn't trust the Father's love and wisdom. It needs to be exposed and brought to death for us to live free of those fears. We say "it's killing me," but whatever it is in us that is resisting the cross, needs to die.
How to Recognize the Cross
- You can't get rid of it faithfully - legally in the law or honorably in the Lord.
- It seems to be killing you (you hear yourself saying: this is killing me!).
- You have to say, "Not my will, but yours be done" in order to find any peace and freedom.
- There is often a restless looking around for a way out or around the problem, rather than an acceptance of what cannot be gracefully removed.
- In the absence of something better, we have to accept what is given or presented to us. In the way of things, the cross will either be accepted (now) or repeated (in a later trial).
The great danger in refusing the cross: Jesus goes on to say that whoever seeks His life will lose it (Mt 10:38) - if we seek self and self's desires we will lose His kind of life. If you try to save your life you will lose it. If you try to protect your life from pain or from the call of God or from loving others or from risk and challenge, you will lose it. If you try to take charge of your life (rather than trust to God), you will lose it. Why are you here? What is your purpose in being here? To cater to self? Or have you come to do His will?
True Submission to the Cross
Since anything less than complete submission, is a step towards the Great Rebellion, let us pray for greater grace to live in full surrender and submission.
Send whatever You want to send (of blessings - He is the giver of all good gifts).
Allow whatever You want to allow (of pain or problems--He allows free will to operate).
Ask of me anything you desire to ask.
Withhold from me and withhold me from anything you desire.
Father, if it is your will take this cup (the disciple's cross) from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done. I want to surrender to You in complete confidence and trust, willing to obey and follow Jesus in whatever He asks of me.
We Need Inner Healing and the Cross
Inner healing is very necessary and important, but it cannot take the place of the disciple's cross, not does it remove the pain of the cross. No amount of inner healing will keep us from encountering the disciple's cross in small ways or large or remove our need for such crosses.
However, the healing that comes to us, helps restore our trust in the love of the Father, and that does make it easier to see the cross as life giving - so that we can embrace it more readily. The things that we need healing of are themselves forms of the disciple's cross (while the pain is with us) that He does desire to "train" us by and ultimately lift off of us.
Little crosses prepare us for larger ones. All of the little crossings of our will throughout the day prepare us for the larger crosses of life and keep us in training at surrendering. Otherwise the flesh would quickly take over with its desire to have everything geared for its own comfort and pleasure. With wisdom we accept the cross for the same reason Jesus embraced and endured His - for the joy set before us!
...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
One More to Explore
Contrasting the Head and the Heart Why "head knowledge" alone can never be enough.
Interested in Going Deeper?
Consider taking our free eCourse for Healing. We have designed a complete series for personal transformation, "Matters of the Heart," to help Christians gain emotional freedom and inner healing. In all there are 24 Main Healing Lessons and 24 Head to Heart Guides to help you bring your heart to God and receive His Great Heart for you in return!