Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
What does it mean to take up your cross? Seriously? In the western Greco-Roman church mindset, what does that statement even mean? We don’t crucify people these days, public executions are a thing of the past, and today with the large mega churches, personal accountability is even hard to find. So what did our Savior mean when He spoke those fateful words?
In the past I have heard and read this verse dozens of times, in fact you will find this command in three of the four Gospels. And to be completely honest, I never had a true understanding of those words until recently. As a former member of the Baptist faith, I cannot recall a single time that I had ever been persecuted or ever ridiculed for my faith as a Baptist. Sure, some may have been uncomfortable talking about religion with me at times, and other may have felt that they had to be “good” around us because we wouldn’t like it (as if it our place to pass judgment). But how did that affect me? Honestly, it didn’t.
It wasn’t until we finally stepped out in faith and decided to walk according to God’s Law or Torah, that we started to get a taste of what it meant. Since we started walking in the “Way”, myself and several others in our group have been alienated by our friends and family. Long held relationships have been strained if not severed and we often find ourselves alone. Many (including pastors) have tried to correct our supposed error, telling us that we are wrong but offering no real evidence to support their claim. And when that fails, things generally tend to go from bad to ugly.
When interacting with certain individuals in person and on various forms of social media, I have been called all sorts of names, like a Judaizer, hypocrite, false teacher, idiot, fool, God hater, Bible denier, etc. I have been accused of rejecting the Gospel for the works of the flesh and putting myself “under the Law”.
I have even been accused of denying my Savior because I choose to call Him by His Jewish name Yeshua rather than the transliteration “Jesus” or Iesous, which by the way has no previous meaning or origin in the Greek language prior to it being transliterated from the Hebrew. But honestly, if you are serving the One True God, the Elohim of Heaven and Earth, YHVH, I could care less what you call Him, that’s between you and Him.
Truth is, I have never been stronger in my faith, and I would rather die a thousand deaths than deny my Messiah. By looking through the lens of the Tanakh, I have found that the truth of the Gospel has never been clearer. And as a result, the richness and depth of the Scriptures has literally overwhelmed me at times. What was once obscure, has been made clear, and what was once closed has now been opened. Gaining a deeper understanding of the Torah and the Prophets has literally opened the Word of God in such amazing and profound ways I can hardly find the words. Yet there are some that would condemn us because we dare to submit ourselves to the authority of God’s Word because we are now “under grace”.
Of all the people that have given offence, honestly, it is the so called “Christians” that are by far the worst. Is it not the Christians that should have the greatest desire to serve and honor God? Yet when you present the idea that God’s commandments and statutes are still applicable today, they grow fangs and their claws come out. I don’t understand why some people get so offended by the idea that we should be obedience to the very God we claim they serve.
Galatians 4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
As I hit twitter after a visit with family to lament the fact that I wish people could just see the truth, someone said “Sadly, what keeps most people from the truth is simply that they love their sin. It is likely that “seeing” the truth is not as much a problem as “rejecting” it when they do see it. This is a day when people are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Even many Christians.” – Jim B.
Could it be that simple? Do they really they love their sin more then their Savior?
You know, if you examine scripture you will see that this very topic (people loving their sin) is a common theme that is dealt with over and over again. When people turn from following God, and follow after their own lusts God blinds them to the truth.
John 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
So with that in mind it’s no wonder the vast majority of “Christendom” rejects the statutes and commands of God saying “they have been done away with“. They often use Paul to justify all their ungodly deeds, and their blatant disobedience and disregard for anything holy, screaming “We are under grace“, “the Law has been nailed to the cross“, “we no longer need a schoolmaster” etc…
Take away the teachings of Paul and you will never encounter even the slightest idea that the “Law” would be done away with. Not in the whole of scripture will you find even the faintest notion that even one word would fail. Even Yeshua Himself states this as a fact.
Matthew 5:17-18Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Yet the vast majority of Christians still believe this is exactly what Paul taught. If that’s the case then Paul was a heretic and a false teacher, and according to Torah he should have been stoned to death. After all, this is the very accusation that Paul (then Saul) approved of when they went about to stone Stephen. (Acts 6:8-7:60)
However, by his own admission, and evidenced by his own example, this is simply not the case. Paul did not teach the abolition of the Law, rather he established it in all ways. He was a Sabbath keeping, feast honoring, clean eating, circumcised Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, and he never hid that fact. Moreover, he encouraged others to be like him. He even encouraged those from Colossi to hold when others judged them for keeping the Sabbath and dietary laws. He didn’t come teaching “another Gospel” but rather “he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus (Yeshua), both out of the law of Moses (Torah), and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.” (Acts 28:23)
What Paul was teaching is that righteousness was not to be gained through the deeds of the Law, but through faith in Yeshua. Yet I admit, Paul can be hard to understand at times, and in some places, he does seem to even contradict the very teachings he claims to uphold. Peter even warns us of this.
2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
I take comfort knowing that even Peter may have struggled with Paul’s teachings at times. The fact remains that we have to have spiritual discernment when we read and study or else our doctrine will be flawed. And just a few degrees off target can eventually lead to serious error down the road. So we must be careful to ensure that every doctrine that we adhere to is supported through the whole of Scripture. We cannot take a sampling of verses found in the apostolic writings and build upon them a doctrine which undermines the rest of God’s Word. God is not the author of confusion.
So, back to what it means to “take up your Cross”.
I truly believe that we are to count all things as a loss; family, friends, employment, health, and even happiness as it is usually defined. Everything that we are should be surrendered unto Messiah regardless the cost. If that means that our parents reject us, fine, if we are cast out of our circle of friends, fine. If we even lose our jobs because we hold fast to the commands, fine. Bear the burden, and know that “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Yet even with the minor irritation, and the emotional pain of strained relationships, our trials pale in comparison to what many of our brothers and sisters are facing across the world. It is not uncommon for them to be completely cut off from society, shunned by family, fired from their employment, and even executed in the streets for their faith. Since the time of the inquisitions, the genocide of Christians has never been worse, and sadly it goes mostly unreported. My heart truly breaks for these people.
I feel that our understanding of what it really means to be persecuted is sorely lacking. But the book of Hebrews has a great commentary of this very subject.
Hebrews 11:33-38 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of ions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight armies of the alien.
Woman received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance: that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds of imprisonment:
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wondered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy) …
For those of us who live in a society, that for the moment is somewhat tolerant of the true faith; hold fast, speak out, and stand up while you can. We are called to be the light, not just bystanders. Yet the world hates us because we stand as the example of how we should walk before God. Yeshua says that “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” So it becomes obvious that since their hearts are predisposed to sin, they will seek to justify their actions by any means possible. Unfortunately, that justification often turns into the persecution of those that are trying to lovingly share the truth.
Come what may, I for one cannot turn back, I will not back down, and I will not cease to speak up when faced with unrighteousness. I have made a vow to God that I will follow Him, and walk in His statutes, for as long as He gives me the strength to do so. So for me to do so would be unthinkable.
Luke 9:62 …No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
As followers of Yeshua, I believe that we are on the brink of experiencing trials such as the world has never seen. As prophecy unfolds around us, and the time of the end draws near, I think it is imperative that we are prepared and grounded in our faith, so when the real persecution comes, we can hold fast, knowing that our redemption draws nigh.
Persecution is real, and if your are walking in the Way it is to be expected. In 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul says, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shallsuffer persecution”.So with that in mind, let us lay aside the things of this life and boldly take up our cross, counting all as lost, as we walk faithfully in obedience to our, Master, our Savior, and our Elohim.