With all the turmoil going on in the world, especially with the financial impact of the virus pandemic on the western nations, the practice of cross-bearing is more important than ever. It was once the central theme of the true Church: those who worship in Spirit and truth, and who understand that the Church’s unshakeable foundation is revelation directly from God the Father about His Son Jesus Christ (Yeshuah HaMashiach in Hebrew) (Matthew 16:17; John 4:24). The more that we embrace a personal revelation and experience of the cross in our own lives the more we are able to successfully withstand the greatest trials to come in this world.
Jesus said “If anyone would come after Me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for Me will save it” (Matthew 16:24-25). He said “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). And 1 John 2:6 says “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” Yet much of what is currently taught in western churches, including in ministries that are considered to be cutting edge, carefully side-steps all of this. Instead they promote a gospel that tells us we have a right to prosper unconditionally in God’s will, and to name and claim whatever we want accordingly.
With no teaching about how to truly find peace and prosperity God’s way, through the cross on a personal basis, we are left with powerful delusions that actually lead us astray from God’s best at these turbulent times. The main reason is that rather than becoming proactive in the love of God this way, we are left to simply react to the latest upheaval, and struggle with fear, as the powers that be decide how to control and manipulate the masses. When we shrink back and look out for ourselves only we allow fear and unbelief to grow and our faith to stagnate. But to look for opportunities to walk the way of the cross with Jesus has a way of magnifying the love which casts out all fear. Then we become the solutions to the challenges arising from godless people in various places of authority.
The Bible says “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. … There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16-18).
Love is perfected at the cross. About this, Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). When He stated that whoever wants to follow Him must take up the cross, He was not trying to instill fear. He was issuing a challenge for courageous people to rise up in faith and experience life in this world as one big adventure in learning how to love God and each other. At the end of our life’s journey one of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves is ‘Did we learn to love?’
The more we love others in a sacrificial way the more the Light of Christ dispels the darkness. Fear turns into hope, and when we put our hope in the One who brings justice to victory, it does not disappoint. Regardless of circumstances all around us, by His Holy Spirit working within us He uses US to become a source of His light to a hurting, dying world. We become His Light to an increasingly dark world. It gets to the point where many who originally caused great evil and darkness, find themselves on such a downward spiral that even they will run to the Light to learn how to repent and be part of the solutions to the problems them caused. None of this is possible if nobody carries the full gospel to the nations by taking up the cross to walk as Jesus did.
There are many ways to follow Him the way of the cross. We’ll recognize them when they present themselves in our unique situations. They come with a choice – to look out for ourselves first at the cost of someone else’s well-being, or to ask ourselves what we can give of our lives to make someone else’s better. The choices that face us will prompt us to prioritize. We will need to learn to put first things first according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. He said “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
He taught us to break life down to one day at a time only and not to worry about tomorrow because when tomorrow comes He will be there with answers for that day’s challenges. It changes our lives in a huge way to be able to do this. With practice, we can learn how to be Spirit-led in helping others cope with overwhelming problems by sharing what we have available to us, one day at a time, and trusting God is true to His Word. He will be there tomorrow to meet our needs as well, and to measure to us with the same measure we use for others. This is absolutely essential to avoid the depths of despair about to come on the world with crashing economies, diseases, natural disasters and more. It’s the key to finding life to the full in the Kingdom of God.
Another priority mentioned by Jesus is the first and greatest commandment: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ He quoted Moses when He included a reference to Israel in this, saying “Hear O Israel …” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:28-30). To uphold this commandment is to do things God’s way and heed His commands. As 1 John 5:3 says “This is love for God: to keep His commands.” We learn to apply them to our lives rather than rejecting them because we think it’s too demanding and difficult, by understanding that the work is done by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He is able to transform us in ways that we can’t do in our own human strength, when we do things His way. He raises us up as overcomers of all evil so that we bring His love and His light into the most daunting circumstances. We become participants in His covenant of love that regenerates up to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands (Deuteronnomy 5:10). The blessings continue to our children as we learn to put first things first. As Isaiah 54 says “All your children will be taught by the Lord and great will be your children’s peace.”
We become cross-bearers in the sense that we willingly take the heat and the backlash for introducing His life-giving ways in situations where people would otherwise lose their lives in hopelessness and despair. We become Kingdom shock-absorbers that don’t shrink back from this world’s darkness but presume to turn on His Light in the midst of it, to restore hope and happiness in the lives of others. None of this can happen if the churches don’t even teach about the way of the cross let alone demonstrate how it’s done.
Ironically, the more the nations are thrown into turmoil the more tempting it is to let fear tell us what to do. The way to overcome it takes faith in the Living God on a national level as well as personally. He is true to His Word which says “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to cloth him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing with quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will said ‘Here am I’ (Isaiah 58).
This is a key passage that shows how a nation’s security is not about turning people away and looking out for ourselves only, but learning how to maintain secure boundaries while also ministering the love of God to as many as possible. It takes cross-bearers to accomplish this: those who know how to do both at the same time. It takes humility before God and willing hearts to learn how human compassion alone can go horribly wrong due to the sinful nature of humanity, while heeding His scriptural precepts about morality keeps us in a place of mental clarity so we can accomplish much good in an orderly way.
The way of the cross maintains law and order in Judeo-Christian societies while advancing the Kingdom of God. To shrink back and try to create a different gospel leads to chaos and the breakdown of those societies due to so much compromise. The reason some will choose the latter anyway has to do with the influence of money and their status in this world. When we need to look out for ourselves first as we think best, instead of seeking first the Kingdom of God, the compromise and chaos begins.
Following the way of the cross on a personal basis is not about gloom and doom. Ironically, it can be a joyful experience much like the labour needed to bring forth new life. As Hebrews 12:2 says “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” There’s a great reward for being willing to follow Him the way of the cross. It’s the Light at the end of the tunnel that becomes greatly magnified as His love abounds in our hearts. Now more than ever, the true Church needs to stop focusing on how great the darkness of this world appears to be and recognize how the Kingdom of God is infinitely greater when seen through the lenses of the cross, personally applied.