Last weekend, we looked at the gospel of Mark, chapter 8, in which Mark records this remarkable, line-in-the-sand moment where Jesus called the crowds to lay down their lives for Him in love and loyalty!
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34
Let’s be very honest...we have no idea how far Jesus’ call will go in our lives, do we? For His first followers as well as for many of our brothers and sisters around the world, Jesus’ words are not figurative at all, but literally words of life and death.
For Jesus, the cross was a place of weakness, suffering, and sacrificial love for the good of all humanity and God’s glory. On the cross, Jesus lost to win our freedom.
For those of us who have the gift of living in a country that guards our individual rights and religious freedom, we must press deep into Jesus’ call to discover what it means to “carry our cross” because His words are no less penetrating or powerful than when first spoken.
I encourage you to listen to last week’s message in its entirety, where I explain in greater depth some of what it means to carry our cross in the 21st century. In the meantime, let me suggest three areas where Jesus’ call has pressed deep into my life.
Jesus’ call has pressed into our marriage.
Though Beth and I argue far less than we did fifteen years ago, we’re still equally as stubborn at times and far more committed to winning arguments than we should be. Now, to be fair...most of the time when we disagree, it’s because Beth is wrong. I’m joking! Oftentimes, I’m a stubborn punk who cares more about winning than I do about Beth’s well being, and that’s sin.
Now, according to Mark 8, if all we care about is winning, even if we win, we lose. True victory in marriage does not come by winning battles, but by losing our arrogance and pride to listen to, honor, and respect one another. You might say, “That’ doesn’t sound very fun!” You’re right...Jesus says it might feel like dying, but it’s the only way to honor him and have a marriage that’s truly alive.
Jesus’ call has pressed into my heart as a husband.
Men, the culture will tell you that to be a man you must work long hours, be successful, win the esteem of your peers, and earn enough money to secure a comfortable lifestyle and secure future. And if you have a wife, love her, but don’t let your marriage hinder you from playing golf and watching ESPN on the weekends.
But Jesus says, next to Him, she’s your greatest treasure (Ephesians 5). What do we do with things we treasure? We cherish, care for, and protect them.
I’m all for hard work, paychecks, ESPN and golf, but not if those things keep you from giving your wife the very best of your time, mind, attention, and affection. She’s a treasure, and to love her like Jesus loves her, you must be willing to die to certain things in order to listen to, care for, encourage, and romance her in the hopes that she will fall more in love with Jesus and become the woman God created her to be.
Jesus’ call has pressed into my money.
Now, Jesus isn’t suggesting that we shouldn’t make money, but that we must die to allowing wealth define our affections and ambitions. A Mark 8 economy is marked by radical, Jesus-honoring generosity. The way to know whether you’re carrying your cross economically is to ask yourself, “Does my generosity hurt? Is it comfortable, or does it cut into my lifestyle?” If your giving doesn’t hurt, then you haven’t applied Mark 8 to your resources yet.
Jesus’ call presses into everything from our closest relationships and careers to our finance, romance, and sexuality to our hopes, dreams, and ambitions.
And according to Jesus, a Christian considers his entire life and says to Jesus, “I am yours and all of these areas in my life belong to you. Everything!”
Now, if you’re really listening to Jesus’ words you’re probably thinking, “There’s no way I could ever do what Jesus is asking of me. It’s too hard!”
And you’re right. We’ll never live a life of whole-hearted, joyful devotion to Jesus unless we first see that He’s only asking us to do what He’s already done for us.
Earlier in Mark 8, Jesus turned to his disciples and said:
“Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise form the dead.” Mark 8:31
On the cross, Jesus made good on his word. He died. Took rejection, criticism, lashes, thorns, and nails...all for you! His beauty in exchange for our ugliness. His strength for our weakness. His wholeness for our brokenness. His agony for our joy. He got death, we get life! He got punished, we get freedom. He got hell, we get heaven!
When you finally see that Jesus loves you this much, and that he is ferociously committed to your beauty and wholeness, your heart will be melted and you’ll be able to say, “Jesus, I’m all yours...I place my life in your hands.”
If I were to ask you what area(s) of your life Jesus is pressing into today, what would you say? Your marriage? Your money? Sexuality or romance? Affections or ambitions?
Go to him...confess the areas of your life that you struggle to relinquish, and then by the power of Christ in you, take up your cross and follow Him. I pray that God clarifies this in your mind, and fills your heart with the joy and peace that comes from walking with Him.
I love you all and look forward to the weekend ahead!