While our entry into the family of God through Jesus Christ is a free gift of God for all who believe, we must remember that there is a cost to follow Jesus. The Scriptures are filled with exhortations from Christ to take up your cross, deny self, lay down your nets, and follow Him.
The cost to follow Jesus is first a call to take up our cross and follow Him. It used to be that in my own walk with God, the cross of my choosing was a gold and silver ring with a cross on it. Purchased for my birthday at Neiman Marcus, it was designed by the Greek jeweler Konstantino. Many people purchase James Avery jewelry with crosses on them, and some people even buy diamond encrusted crosses and crosses made of fine stones. Many of us have crosses of every size and shape and design covering a wall at home. It’s as if the more crosses we put in our homes and wear on our hands and necks, the more holy we are. I will be the first to admit that I like taking up these crosses, and raising my hand in the sanctuary with my gold and silver cross ring to praise the Lord.
But the last three years of battling stage 4 lung cancer and 20-plus years of urban community ministry with H.I.S. BridgeBuilders have taught me about a completely different cross to carry.
Jesus asked His Father if there was any way other than the Cross for Him to bring redemption to man. The answer was clear—He endured the Cross, with the joy of knowing that His sacrifice would lead to our eternal life for the payment of our sins.
Walking through chemo wards with an IV in my arm and a tower of chemotherapy changed the way I walked. It was not a secondary issue, making sure that while I was ministering the tower was attached and functioning properly. No, the weariness that I felt and the side effects were all planned to help me identify with the needs of those around me, the fellowship of suffering that built a bridge of Christ’s love to those battling cancer.
The cross that Christ is speaking of is a weight that will take all of your focus to balance and carry in His strength to advance the will and glory of God. It is not convenient or comfortable, but it costs us greatly. The disciples each gave their lives or were exiled, left their families, and laid down their professions to follow Jesus. His Church today has been given the same call—to take up our cross and deny self and follow Jesus.
What dream or vision has God given you that will require your full focus and attention to accomplish … and will cost you greatly? What hardship or illness has been entrusted to you? Whatever it may be, it is your cross to bear, to die to self and to advance His Kingdom. Don’t run from your cross, but rather, embrace it with joy for the eternal impact that is waiting through your life. Turn what the enemy has intended for evil into good. Use what appears to be the end, to be the end of self and the beginning of the Lordship of Christ and all that He has planned to give us … abundant and eternal life.