By Emily Rose Massey
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”- Matthew 16:24 ESV
The late British Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill once said regarding evangelism in America, “We take people to the cross, but we don’t put them on the cross.” This powerful statement can evoke a range of emotions regarding the state of Christianity in Western nations- from offense to righteous anger. For me, personally, it evokes the latter. When my husband and I met fifteen years ago, I was exposed to the worldly teachings found in the health and wealth gospel, which exalts man over God, using the cross of Christ as a means of forgiveness of sins plus worldly possessions. Sadly, because I didn’t have a solid theological or biblical footing, I was tossed to and fro by these false doctrines and embraced it all as gospel truth.
I want to lovingly warn that just because someone quotes from the Bible and uses the name of Jesus in their speech, it doesn’t mean that we get to check our discernment at the door. In fact, those who claim to preach Christ are the ones we need to make sure what they are saying lines up with scripture contextually and historically. Brother Ravenhill’s quote hits home because we see how this distorted gospel of forgiveness of sins without forsaking the world has infiltrated so much of Christianity today. When we look at the cross, do we see a life of ease and comfort ahead of us or an instrument of death (not only to Christ but to ourselves)? The gospel is good news, but first, it is a call to die so that you can truly find life eternal. We see Christ’s call to die to self in the gospel of Matthew:
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24, ESV
It’s important to remember that to a person in the first century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by crucifixion. To carry a cross was to face the most painful and humiliating means of death human beings could develop.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Jesus’ command to “take up your cross and follow Me” is a call to self-denial and self-sacrifice. One must be willing to die in order to follow Jesus. Dying to self is an absolute surrender to God- forsaking your old, sinful ways and trusting in God’s ways. After Jesus commanded cross-bearing, He said,
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” – Matthew 16:25–26
Although the temptations are strong, the world has nothing for us as followers of Jesus. An eternal reward (one rust nor moth can destroy) awaits us when we lose our life for Christ’s sake.
Are you ready to take up your cross and follow Jesus no matter the cost? Following Christ means you may lose your closest friends. Following Christ means you may be alienated from your family. Following Christ may mean you could lose your job or even your life. Although martyrdom may seem extreme, in some parts of the world, this is a serious reality. To be sure, disciples of Christ must be willing to suffer loss. If faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which one do you choose? Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, and even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ- the very opposite of what the popular prosperity gospel promotes, which is no good news at all. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the cost. May we, as disciples of Christ, be willing to follow in His sacrificial footsteps and lose our life. We are promised that is when we will find it. In Christ, we not only find forgiveness of our sins, but we find life eternal, life abundant.
Emily Massey began writing short stories and poetry as a little girl, entered the blogging world in her early 20s, and published her first book in 2015. She enjoys being a stay-at-home momma while still being able to pursue her passion as a writer. Believing she has been forgiven much, she loves much, and desires to point others to Christ and His redemptive and transforming power, especially by sharing truth found in God’s written Word. If you would like to connect with Emily, you can visit www.emilyrosemassey.com