Thursday, June 2, 2016

Day 81: Mark 8:22-9:1 & Psalm 82 - Why Must We Take up a Cross?

Today's Reading: Mark 8:22 - 9:1 & Psalm 82

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Why Must We Take Up a Cross?

“If anyone would come after me,
let him 
deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. - Mark 8:34, ESV

Jesus makes it very clear in Mark 8:33-38 that the way of following Him is the way of the cross. Now, today, we think of taking up our cross in metaphorical terms and it can seem very abstract and removed from the reality of our lives. But in Jesus' day, the cross was a very public, visible and well-known instrument of brutal execution. More importantly, in just a little while, Jesus Himself would take up a very real cross and die on it for His people. This was no clever metaphor for Him.

In response to Peter's clear confession, Jesus began clearly telling His disciples God's plan for their redemption through His death. Peter responded to this news by taking Jesus aside and trying to correct His thinking. But Jesus would have none of it. The only voice that would seek to offer Jesus a kingdom without a cross was the devil himself, so Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan!"

Today, some preachers and television charlatans preach a Gospel without suffering for the Christian. To these health-and-wealth prosperity preachers, we need to speak the words of Jesus, "Get behind us, Satan!" This slippery deception of false teachers is designed to keep the church from her real calling. We must take up our cross and follow Jesus.

But why?

We can deduce several reasons from this passage and from the rest of Scripture:

1. We must suffer because of sin, sin in our own hearts and lives and sin in the world. The sin in our hearts means that we must reject our selfish desires, including our desires for a comfortable and easy life. The sin in the world means that the world will always excuse and persecute at some level those who are seeking to honor God with their lives.

2. We suffer because we are followers of Jesus, and He suffered. Jesus suffered in obedience to His Heavenly Father. he entrusted Himself into the hands of God and was willing to do His will, whatever the cost. Likewise, if we follow Him, we will trust God no matter what, even when that trust costs us dearly in this world.

3. We suffer because doing so overcomes the devil;s schemes. Submitting ourselves to God and resisting Satan's temptations to sin and complacency leads us to a place where we find freedom and peace.

Is it worth it? Of course it is! Remember Jesus' words, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" If we understand the real value of the world, our souls and the kingdom of God, we can respond in only one way: We take up the cross and follow Jesus, no matter the cost!   

Prayer Based on Psalm 82:

Heavenly Father, You are right to judge Your people, for we have failed to uphold justice for the powerless and the oppressed. We have chosen to give into the lies of this world that regard the powerful as more important than the widow and orphan. Father, when we follow this world and its ways, we are weak and ignorant. We walk in the darkness of deception and fail to walk in the light of Your truth. Forgive our sin. Have mercy on Your people and restore us to a right understanding of You and Your ways. May Your kingdom come among us and through us to the nations! In Jesus' name, Amen. 

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