The Cross: An instrument of destruction.
One arm of the Cross: To have your hopes and desires deferred indefinitely, especially when it is in your power to provide for yourself the very thing you are being denied.
The Other arm of the Cross: To be forced to stay in a situation that you can’t stand, and yet you could break free from if you wanted to.
The Purpose of the Cross: To kill you.
So many things in life are a study in opposites. Take the human body - at once incredibly delicate and amazingly durable. It can withstand (and recover from) incredible physical abuse…but one small air bubble in a vein, one small blood vessel breaks in the brain, one small blood clot, one unchecked virus…the end, roll credits.
The body is at once very simple to grasp, and yet impossibly complex. We look at a person and we see: head, arms, legs, some level of beauty and/or physical condition (fat, skinny, tall, short, in the middle). And yet, there are millions of things happening within that body, at any given second, which we are near-completely unaware of. Chemical reactions, impulses, transactions, independent movements.
Look at your hand for a moment…flex your fingers. Make a fist and release it again. You see fingers curling and straightening…simple, yes? And yet, if you even began to understand all that is necessary inside your body to perform those simple movements, it would literally boggle your mind.
There are many things that are likewise a study in opposites when it comes to the Body of Christ. A disciple is commonly defined as, and understood to be, a follower of Christ. In this way, it is understood that all Christians are disciples. You pretty much find your own level in your relationship with Christ, learn at your own pace, and roll with the punches. It is a simple, basic approach, that works well with just about any type of life.
This understanding would be enough…if it weren’t for the cross.
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Matthew 16:24
As a disciple (and thus, a Christian), we must lay aside our hopes, our intentions, our desires, our gifts, talents, habits, idiosyncrasies, even our words, thoughts and deeds in deference to Gods’. I don’t mean empty yourself and become a shell, waiting to be moved by some invisible hand. I mean hold everything that you are in an open hand before the God that created us. This is death in the purest form of the word; if you don’t think this is a death, you haven’t tried it.
Every day, I must give God access to everything that is me: my material possessions, my relationships, and every aspect of my personality – so that He can change me and recreate me as He sees fit, weeding out the sin, and recreating me in the King’s image. This takes a level of trust that can only fully develop from a lifetime of interacting with Him. This is how we learn from Him, how we follow Him, how we become His disciple.
The purpose of the cross is to kill you. The whole body goes down into death – the good things (friendliness, warmth, loyalty, etc.) and the not-so-good (short temper, selfishness, greed, etc.). The sinful parts of us remain in the grave; the worthwhile parts of us are renewed in Jesus, and made eternal. This death route is the only way to life. It requires our participation, our permission.
We can chose to embrace the simpletons’ definition of discipleship, and continue to coast through each day on cruise-control until we look up, and find ourselves in a nursing home - or we can fix our eyes on our King, even right now, and ask Him what He would like to teach us today…about Him, about ourselves, about what He is doing. In this way, we lay down our life, take up the cross, and follow Him. We touch eternity. We become disciples.
See you there!