At this Easter Season, let me ask you a question: What did Jesus mean, when He said, “Pick up your cross and follow Me?”
People have wrestled with these words for years. Some have suggested that whatever burden you are carrying in your life is your cross. This would mean that, if you had a disability or a great loss, you would consider that to be the cross you had to bear. Was this really what Jesus was referring to when He said those words?
What some well-meaning people have failed to take into consideration is: Where was Jesus going when He said those words to His disciples? He was going to the cross! He expected those who desired to follow Him to go to the cross with Him. This meant that each one of them would have to die the death He was about to experience.
Here is another thing to consider: After Jesus died and rose again, none of His apostles ever told anyone to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. We do not see this in the Book of Acts or in any of the letters written afterward. The work of the cross was completed in the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Apostle Paul did write, however:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
If you have never considered this verse before, it can be a startling statement to you. Paul claimed that when Jesus was crucified on the cross, he was crucified with Him. How can that possibly be true?
We can get some insight into the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, when we consider these following words, also written by the Apostle Paul:
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV)
This means that when Christ died for us on the cross, all of us died in Him. We were all crucified with Him, because He died as our substitute. When He died in our place, He took our sins upon Himself as though they were His own. This means that all of our sins became His sins upon the cross. Isn’t that amazing?
Jesus took upon Himself our sins, so that we could take upon ourselves His righteousness. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“For He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV)
Now there are those who have also stumbled over this truth. They feel that if Christ died for all, and everyone died in Christ, then everyone is saved. This belief is known as “Universalism.” However, what some people fail to realize is that, what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, does not go into effect until we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. When we were saved, the Holy Spirit set us apart from the world and put us in Christ. At that moment, the work that Jesus did upon the cross became our new reality – we became crucified with Christ. All of our sins were removed, and we became clothed with the righteousness of God in Christ.
Now that we are in Christ, we need to realize that the old person, we used to be before we were saved, is now dead. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:6 NKJV)
The Old Man is dead! We must have a clear image of this in our mind. When our Old Man died, then all the sins and desires of that man also died. This means we are no longer slaves to sin. We have been set free from sin:
“For he who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7 NKJV)
If the Old Man is dead, then God will no longer deal with that man, or the sins of that man. He now deals with the New Man – the man or woman who is clothed with the righteousness of Christ! That is the image we need to have of ourselves. We need to see ourselves as God sees us.
Every day we can live the crucified life, by considering the Old Man dead once and for all. We now live the life of the New Man, who was created in the image of Jesus Christ Himself. As a result, we talk like Jesus, walk like Jesus, and love one another just as He loves us.
You are holy, dear saint!
P.S: May you and your family and friends have a wonderful Easter Season. Please also remember the people of Belgium in your prayers. I will be visiting that nation in April.
[All Scripture quotations have been taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc.]