I have been thinking about what it means to take up your cross as Jesus talks about in Matthew 16:24.
It says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
For the early followers of Jesus to take up their cross was a big comitment. It was total commitment. It was not entered into lightly.
When Jesus asked his followers to take up their crosses and follow Him, the disciples knew exactly what He was talking about.
In Roman times Crucifixion was a common form of execution. If you were condemned to die on the cross, you would have to carry it through the streets to the execution site.
Everyone in town would know. Everyone would see. There was no way to hide it.
For the Disciples, following Jesus meant a true commitment, the risk of death, and no turning back. Anyone who put his hand to the plow and turned back was of no use to the Kingdom (Luke 9:62).
For us today we don’t have to carry a heavy wooden cross on our backs through the streets to our execution, but we do have to carry the message of the cross wherever we go.
The cross of our faith should be recognisable by our love for Christ, in our devotion to Him, in our commitment to His Kingdom and by our love and service to others.
Take up your cross today. Put your hand firmly on the plow. Don’t look back and be totally committed to Christ and His Kingdom today.
Just a quick post to let you know we have revised and updated our discipleship booklet.
I have rewritten the introductions to each section, added a key Bible word explanation section in each study (eg Inspiration, Messiah, Intercession) and added a new study titled, “Having a Right View of Jesus Christ”.
I am in the process of re-recording the audio and will soon be adding a video of each study. That should be completed in the next few months.
In the meantime you can use the booklet as a stand alone study book or you can take a new Christian through it.
As with all things we do at http://www.passionaustralia.org it is free for personal use and for the use of your small group.
You can find it here – http://www.passionaustralia.org/DiscipleshipBooklet.pdf
I just read this from the Life Application Study Bible notes on 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NLT. It is the verses from my previous post. I thought I would share it…
6:11, 12 Paul uses active and forceful verbs to describe the Christian life: run, pursue, fight, hold tightly. Some think Christianity is a passive religion that advocates waiting for God to act. On the contrary, we must have an active faith, training, working hard, sacrificing, and doing what we know is right. Is it time for action on your part? Christian service, like athletics, requires training and sacrifice. Our discipline and obedience largely define whether or not we will be contributors or merely spectators. How would other believers rank your contributing role on Christ’s team?
I love the Apostle Paul’s final instructions to Timothy at the end of his first letter to this young Pastor whom he influenced so much…
But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11, 12 NLT)
There is so much in these two verses. He tells him…
1. You are a man of God
2. To run from evil things
3. To pursue righteousness, a godly life, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness
4. To fight for true faith
5. To hold tightly to the eternal life which God has called you.
In these two short verses Paul reassured Timothy who he was in Christ, how he should be living and to hold firm to the hope and eternal life he has in Christ.
It is interesting to note the original Greek word for fight is agōnizomai (ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee). This means to struggle, to compete for a prize, fight, labor fervently, and strive.
Let us purpose in our hearts today to take Paul’s final words to Timothy and apply them to our own lives. Let us do the things Paul urged Timothy to do and be.
One thing I have found that I do since I finished my Bible studies is that I tend to pause for a longer time on Bible passages.
Rather than read a new one each day, I might read one and it might stay with me for a few days. Sometimes I might read the same passage for a week.
I find that by doing this I allow it to percolate inside me and sink deep into my spirit. It allows God to speak to me via His Holy Spirit too.
As I pause for a time on a passage I am able also to read commentaries or other books I have on the passage too or look over any Bible college notes that come to mind.
I have found that it gives me a much fuller picture of what God may be wanting to say to me or to those around me… or for this blog!
In saying this though, I still do have times where I read one chapter or a passage a day as a part of a reading plan.
But now I am not afraid to pause the reading plan to get the fuller meaning of the reading. I don’t worry about getting “behind”, it is more about getting “into” the passage.
Carrying passages for longer is like having a three course meal, rather than drive through takeaway. You feel way more satisfied.
I have been thinking about this today… The more you read the Bible, the bigger God becomes to you.
It is not that God’s size or strength or ability changes, but our perception of Him does. The more we read and try to understand God, His creation and His plan of salvation, the more in awe of Him we become.
I think we all need a bigger view of God. We need to be constantly reminded of His greatness, His power and His eternal love for us.
If you have found that your view of God is not what it once was, try re-reading the creation stories and the passages that talk about God setting the sun, moon and stars in place.
You should also try re-reading about a God who made man from the dust and came and died for him.
God is a big God. The more you read the Bible each day, the bigger He will become in your eyes.
Another reflection from Joshua 1:7-9…
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I love the way God told Joshua to read and meditate on the Word before He told him to be strong and courageous.
As a result his courage would be built on God’s Word and who God is, not just being strong and courageous mentally or trusting in his own skills.
We should get things in the right order too…
Read the Word, meditate on it, obey it… then you are in a good position to be strong and courageous in God’s strength.
In John 20:26-27 we see that Jesus appears to Thomas. Thomas had said he would not believe Jesus was alive until he saw the nail marks. As we know Jesus then appears and shows Thomas the scars.
When we look at the Greek word used for nails in that passage it is helos (hay-los). It is not a little nail that you use to tack a back on a bookshelf. It is more like a large peg or nail used to hold railways tracks down to a railway sleeper. They are huge.
After a little more research I found that a typical nail used in a crucifixion was between 10 and 20 centimetres long.
When I think about that I can’t imagine that being driven through my hands or wrists or my feet or ankle bones, depending on how one was crucified. I can’t comprehend someone doing that for me…but Jesus did. He endured the nails of love.
Jesus could not live with the idea that your and my sin separated us from God. He endured the nails of love.
Jesus could not live with the idea that you would not be redeemed and set free from the curse of sin and death. He endured the nails of love.
Jesus could not live with the idea of you not experiencing abundant life now. He endured the nails of love.
And Jesus could not live with the idea of you not spending eternity with Him. He could not live with this so He endured the nails of love.
Let us remember today the love Jesus has for us and the lengths He was prepared to go to for us to be in relationship with Him.
James 3:1-12 NLT talks about controlling our tongues. It says the power of our tongue is like a bit that controls a horse, a rudder than controls a ship and a tiny spark that starts a forrest fire.
It paints a picture of just how powerful this tiny part of our body is. In verses 9-10 it says…
“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”
We see in these verses the sam tongue can be used for good and bad. Good in that it can praise and worship God. Bad in that it can curse a child of God who is made in His image.
I am with James at the end of this where he says, “Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”
If we are honest we all do this at times. We might worship God at church and then afterwards speak harshly, or even curse, one of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Again… “Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”
Heavenly Father, I pray from this moment on I will be someone who praises and worships You with my mouth and speaks well of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that if I don’t have words that will build up and encourage that I will not speak at all. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.