Cross-bearing

The information below is taken from James Boice’s book, “Christ’s Call to Discipleship.”

The idea of a cross itself indicates what cross-bearing involves. Walter J. Chantry presents the demands of cross-bearing. I draw on his outline.

1. The demand to take up the cross is universal.
In previous chapters, when I spoke about the offer of the gospel to people of every conceivable type and background, I spoke of a “universal” offer. But that is not the sense in which I use the word here. The universal offer of the gospel means that the way of salvation is offered to everybody so that “whoever wishes” may come to Christ (Revelation 22:17). Not all come; in fact, only those whom the Father draws come to Jesus (John 6:37, 44). But all may. Salvation is a universal offer. When we say that the demand to take up the cross is universal we mean something different. This demand is for all who follow Christ.

2. The demand to take up our cross is perpetual.
Earlier I said that following Christ requires perseverance for the reason that discipleship is not simply a door to be entered but a path to be followed. Having entered upon that path, the disciple proves the validity of his discipleship by pursuing it to the very end. Taking up the cross is like that. But when Jesus uses the word “daily,” saying, “take up your cross daily and follow me,” He is saying something stronger in that the cross must be taken up afresh each day.

But in addition to that, taking up the cross is also consciously to take up the self-denials and opportunities for serving others that each day brings. Chantry says, “Bearing a cross is every Christian’s daily, conscious selection of those options which will please Christ, pain self, and aim at putting self to death. It is a teaching for the recruit, not merely for the seasoned warrior.”

3. Taking up our cross is intentional. This is the point I made earlier when I spoke of saying no to self in order that we might say yes to God. It is implied in Christ’s command: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” No one may take up the cross for you. A grandmother cannot take it up. A husband cannot take it up. Your children cannot take it up. You must do it. Furthermore, you must do it willingly. The soldiers of Christ are not slaves. They are freed men and women who count His service their greatest joy.

4. Taking up our cross daily is painful.
In Jesus’ day crosses were not the beautiful, polished, gold and silver ornaments we frequently see today. They were made of rough wood crudely shaped. To pick up a cross hurt the hands. To carry it on one’s back meant working the splinters of the wood into the skin of one’s shoulders. There was nothing pretty about a cross. A cross hurt. So does Christian service—at times.

5. A cross is mortal.
That is, it has one purpose and one purpose only—to put the crucified one to death. Death on a cross is a slow death, but it is a certain one: “death to self-importance, self-satisfaction, self-absorption, self-advancement, self-dependence. . . . Death to self-interest because you serve Christ’s honor!”

The third part of Christ’s description of discipleship in Luke 9:23 is the command “Follow me.” Having spoken of self-denial and cross-bearing, we find ourselves looking about for some motivation that will bring us to that commitment. The cost seems high. In most cases, the only thing that will ultimately get us going along this path of self-denial and discipleship is following after Jesus, which means setting our eyes on Him as He has gone before us.

Jesus is the model for our self-denial. He is the image of cross-bearing.

Seeing this was the turning point in the life of Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the Moravian fellowships. In a little chapel near his estates in Europe there was a remarkable picture of Jesus Christ. Underneath it were the lines, “All this I did for thee; what hast thou done for me?”

One day Zinzendorf entered the chapel and was arrested by the portrait. He recognized the love of Christ that had been painted into the face of the Master. He saw the pierced hands, the bleeding forehead, the wounded side. He read the couplet, “All this I did for thee; what hast thou done for me?” Gradually a new revelation of the claim of Christ on his life came upon him. He was unable to move. Hours passed. As the day waned the lingering rays of sunlight fell upon the bowed form of the young nobleman who was now weeping out his devotion to Him whose love had conquered his heart.

That is what moves a person to follow after Jesus in the path of denial. It is what moves one to be a Christian in the first place—not the promise of rewards (though there are rewards) or an escape from hell (though following Christ does mean deliverance from hell). We are moved by the love of Jesus, for which He endured the cross. People won by that love will never cease following after Jesus.