Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Never once does our Lord say, “Stoop down and let me lay a cross on you.” Jesus is not in the drafting business; his army is all volunteer. Not all Christians carry crosses. You can be a believer without carrying a cross, but you cannot be a disciple.

I see many believers rejecting the way of the cross. They have opted for the good life with its prosperity, its material gain, its popularity and success. I’m sure that many of them will make it to heaven—they will have saved their skins—but they will not have learned Christ. Having rejected the suffering and sorrow of the cross, they will not have the capacity to know and enjoy him in eternity, as will all the cross-bearing saints who have entered into the fellowship of the suffering.

You will have to carry your cross until you learn to deny. Deny what? The one thing that constantly hinders God's work in our lives—self. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). We are misinterpreting this message if we emphasize self-denial, that is, the rejection of material or unlawful things. Jesus was not calling upon us to learn self-discipline before we take up our cross. It is far more severe than that. Jesus is asking that we deny ourselves. This means to deny your own ability to carry any cross in your own strength. In other words, "Don't take up your cross until you are ready to reject any and every thought of becoming a holy disciple as a result of your own effort."

Millions of professing Christians boast of their self-denial. They don't drink, smoke, curse or fornicate—they are examples of tremendous self-discipline. But not in a hundred years would they admit it was accomplished by anything other than their own willpower. They are practicing self-denial, but they have never denied self. In some ways, we are all like that. We experience "spurts" of holiness, accompanied by feelings of purity. Good works usually produce good feelings, but God will not allow us to think our good works and clean habits can save us. That is why we need a cross.

I believe Jesus is actually saying to us, "Before you take up your cross, be ready to face a moment of truth. Be ready to experience a crisis by which you will learn to deny your self-will, your self-righteousness, your self-sufficiency, your self-authority. You can rise up and follow me as a true disciple only when you can freely admit you can do nothing in your own strength—you cannot overcome sin through your own willpower—your temptations cannot be overcome by your self-efforts alone—you cannot work things out by your own intellect.

Your love for Jesus can put you on your knees but your cross will put you on your face.