by Wade E Taylor
“And He said to them all, If any man will (willingly choose to) come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
Each of us who desires to personally know and serve the Lord must first make this life changing decision to “take up our cross.” When we willingly do this, our present relationship to the Lord, and also, our eternal position in the ages to come, will be greatly affected.
If we accept this challenge (If anyone will come after Me), the taking up of our cross must become a practical, daily reality in our lives. Many do not realize, or take seriously the tremendous value of all that our Lord will make available to us as a result of the “willing” submission of our lives to His Lordship.
“Come, My beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give you My loves.” Song of Solomon 7:11-12
The Word of God tells us that our salvation is through faith, and is a gift of God.
“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Once we have received this “gift” of eternal life through the blood of Jesus and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, we will begin to face choices that affect our rate of spiritual growth, as well as our position in the eternal ages before us. Therefore, we must recognize that there are spiritual laws which apply to our spiritual development.
“If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” Isaiah 1:19
The “if” indicates there are “conditions” that must be met before we will be enabled to partake of the spiritual nourishment which is promised. To be “willing and obedient” is to become “one” with our Lord in both thought and action. This means that we must set the direction of our will away from disobedience, and toward being obedient – our will merged into His will. Only to the extent that we have died to our “self-life” can our lives reflect His life.
The “good of the land” that we are to partake of, results from this identity with Jesus. He will then be able to invite us to enter with Him into an active personal relationship – “Come My beloved, let us get up early to the vineyards.” Here, in union with Jesus, we will receive spiritual understanding and strength that will enable us to fully follow Him and expand spiritually.
The Lord is much more interested in our coming into a “quality” relationship with Him than we are, but He is a perfect gentleman and will not force either Himself, or His desire, upon us. Thus, He begins each of these promises with a conditional “if.”
The Lord has placed within us not only the capacity for obedience, but also the potential to rebel. We may shake our fist against Him, if we so choose. Therefore, when we submit ourselves in joyful obedience to Him, in anticipation of all that will follow, we are not responding as puppets; but rather, out of a willing desire and love for Him.
We have within us this “power of choice.”
For example, at times we may not feel like worshipping the Lord. But during these times, as we set the poise of our will toward the Lord, and give to Him our sacrifice of praise, our worship is especially appreciated by the Lord. Usually it is after an act of obedience such as this, that the Lord will pour out His grace upon us, and an overflow of blessing will emerge.
This can be applied to any aspect of our lives where obedience is required by the Lord. Yet, if we look only toward being blessed, or the reward, we will miss something. We must press on, for it is in the sufferings of the “refiner’s fire” that the pure gold, His Divine nature, is brought forth in our lives.
The Lord has shown us how this is to be accomplished. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” If we truly desire to follow the Lord, then we must actively resist our flesh by denying all carnal desires, and take up our own cross in obedience to His Word.
What is this cross, and how do we take it up?
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary (cross) the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.” Galatians 5:17
There is an ongoing warfare, a struggle between our natural desires and His spiritual desire for us. Thus, there are two contrary wills at war with each other – “I will” and “Thy will.” When the “Thy will” (His purpose for us) is contrary to and crosses out the “I will” (our own wants), our cross is formed. (To better picture this, draw a horizontal line, showing “I Will.” Then draw a vertical line through it, showing “His Will.” There is a visual rendering of the cross.)
As we die to our own self-will, and then submit to and come into alignment with His will for us, we are indeed taking up our cross, thereby becoming one with Him (because our life is merged into His life, only the vertical member of the cross is left, we have become one with Him).
We are to overcome all self-centered feelings, such as spiritual indifference, laziness, self-will, and rebellion, and then apply these to the cross, that we might prosper in the outworking of His will for us. We then become an upright, fruit-bearing branch on the tree of life, as a reflection or extension of His life and purpose. We are doing as He would do.
The Apostle Paul cried from the depths of his being:
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12
Notice that Paul said, “That I might apprehend.” He understood that he had a choice to make. We too have a responsibility to apply the cross to the very root of our self-lives; our hungers, fears, and our reactions, that we might better follow Him.
“…The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matthew 11:12
There is a spiritual battle to be won in entering the Kingdom realm. Those who truly love the Lord, and who desire to be rightly related to Him in His Kingdom will press through every hindrance or obstacle.
The most important time for us in all of eternity is “right now.” We are making choices and decisions today that will affect our eternal position and reward. Eternal life is not future; we have that now as part of our redemption. “Where” we will be is a settled fact. “What” we will be in eternity will be the result of the accumulated choices and decisions that we are making now, in our daily life experiences.
Our “new creation life” is as a “seed” that has been deposited within us, which is being formulated and developed into completeness. When eventually it is released into the “soil” of eternity, it will unfold, revealing the full manifestation of what it had become during our present life experience.
Any seed, when planted, grows to express its particular nature. We need not add anything to it, but simply expose it to the right elements. Then, it will develop into the fullness of what it is. The extent to which we spiritually develop in the “here and now” will become our “measured state” (30, 60, or 100 fold) for all eternity.
Our present life (our spiritual development), primarily involves the formulation of this seed through the outworking of our willing obedience to Him (overcoming) in taking up our cross daily. Then, when we find ourselves in the “atmosphere of eternity,” the life that had been developed within this “seed” will be released into its full expression, in His eternal presence and purpose.
The promise of the Lord is “To him that overcomes.” As we overcome through our willing obedience to the Lord (taking up our cross), He will bring into our life experience this “good land,” providing the atmosphere to fertilize and water the soil of our obedience. This will prepare us for the coming harvest, in which that which we have become will be lifted up from the earth into His higher purpose.
We must allow this process to find its full outworking in our lives. Then, when we stand before Him in that day, He will look upon each one of us and give us a new name, according to what He sees.
“To the one overcoming, I will give him to eat from the hidden manna. And I will give to him a white stone, and on the stone a new name having been written, which no one knows except the one receiving it.” Revelation 2:17 Literal translation
As we look back over our lives, the price that we paid will be as nothing, as we will be satisfied and fulfilled as we enter into our eternal relationship of communion and fellowship with Jesus.