The Voyager: Encouragement for Life's Journey
Below you will find articles from our Church's leadership meant to encourage you and give you insight into questions about life, faith, and God.
“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23, NLT)
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24, NLT)
“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.’” (Mark 8:34, NLT)
“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.” (Matthew 10:38, NLT)
“And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27, NLT)
In the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that the reality of carrying one’s own cross is a vital, defining aspect of being His disciple. Jesus makes it a nonnegotiable part of following Him.
What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
Basically defined, a disciple is one who follows a teacher. The reality of a disciple encompasses far more than just learning from someone. A disciple is one who emulates the life of his or her teacher, making the teacher’s character, priorities, ethics, and philosophy a tangibly applied pattern for one’s own life. A disciple adopts his or her teacher’s worldview, reflecting that worldview in how that disciple lives. All this is enabled by and accomplished within the context of personal relationship with the teacher.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:6–11, NLT)
The above passage reveals the unique nature of being a disciple of Jesus. We have the opportunity to be in right relationship with God by the initiative of His love expressed by His grace. It is not something we have earned or deserved, but that within which we are positioned by faith. Romans 5:1 declares, “Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of
what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (NLT). By trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are positioned in right relationship with God.
Justification by faith means that being a disciple of Jesus is the reality of identity that produces activity, not activity that earns identity. We obey Jesus because we are His disciples, we do not obey to earn the position. Our obedience to Jesus is the vital outflow of relationship with Him in which we are progressively and continually learning who we are as disciples of Jesus. When we see Jesus’ statements in the light of the biblical truth of justification by faith, we see that Jesus views the carrying of one’s cross as a central, identifying characteristic of His disciple; it is not the means by which discipleship is earned. Obedience is the required effect of identity, not the cause of it.
What does it mean to carry one’s cross?
The answer to this question is revealed when we look at the context in which Jesus carried His cross.
“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21–25, NLT)
The cross Jesus carried was a practical expression of His choice to endure the offenses of others against Him. When others acted offensively toward Him, Jesus did not internalize those offenses and allow them to motivate His actions. He chose to trust Himself into the hands of God the Father. Why did He do this? He did it to be the means by which life was made available to all humanity!
The offenses that Jesus endured were not simply from those who were there at the time. They were not just the insults that He heard or the physical abuse and torture He experienced. The offenses that He carried were those of all humanity, including your sins and mine. He suffered the underserved insult of our rebellion, the disrespect of our presumptuous pride. In the face of our offenses against Him for which we deserve His judgment, He acted with love and grace.
“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:19–22, NLT)
“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4–6, NLT)
No one forced Jesus to carry His cross. Jesus made this clear in John 10:18 when He stated, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (NLT). In the midst of all the unjust treatment by others, Jesus focused on the goal of our salvation. Instead of reacting to the mistreatment, He acted to fulfill divine intent. He viewed the context of offense as a strategic, not-to- be-missed opportunity for the expression of God’s character and the fulfillment of God’s purposes.
This is the example that Jesus set for us as expressed in 1 Peter 2:21; these are His steps in which His disciples are called to walk.
How do we do so?
This is the question we will answer in Part 2 of this blog. We will learn from God’s Word how to use the context of offense as a strategic opportunity to join God in the reflection of His character and the fulfillment of His purposes. Together, we will see the footsteps of Jesus defined before us and learn how to depend on the Holy Spirit to walk accordingly.