The last post by us was about taking up your cross and following after Christ. I would like to go a little more in depth this time by exploring what it actually means and looks like to do this. If you haven’t read out last blog, you can find it here: Your Own Cross To Bear
So this past weekend Jake and I went with our college youth group on a retreat to a cabin near Caberfae Lodge and Ski Resort. We spent time relaxing, skiing, eating some pretty darn good food, and also feeding our souls. This weekend retreat was not just a time to chill and play games, it was also meant to be a time of spiritual growth. We spent time each day asking questions and then finding the answers in our Bibles.
This wouldn’t make any difference to you, except for the topic being discussed. It really struck me considering the last post by Jake.
We talked about our calling as believers.
Now you are probably thinking, “What does this have to do with taking up your cross and bearing it?” Well, bear with me and I’ll tell you.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (ESV)
We are called to take up our cross, which is our faith as believers, and follow Christ. But what does it mean to follow Christ? How are we supposed to follow Him?
Our pastor, Matt, laid it out in three simple steps.
- We should do what we see Him doing
- We should hear what He is saying
- And our response is then to act
At first this sounded much too simple, like making a to-do list and then checking each thing off as I do it. It didn’t make sense. If it was really just this simple, then why aren’t we all following Christ?
The truth is, as simple as it may seem this way, it’s really not. So let’s break it down further and see why.
First off, Christ is no longer physically on earth. We don’t have a physical body that we can see and touch. And since there is no physical body, we also cannot hear an audible voice. This limits us from the first two points.
What to do? If we can’t see or hear Him, then how do we know how to respond?
The one thing we tend to forget at this point, is that we actually do have a physical representation of Christ here on earth.
We have the BIBLE.
That book that sits on your shelf collecting dust for most of the year. That book that has stories about a bunch of old dead guys that just confuses you so you don’t bother to try and read it. We forget because sometimes trying to understand the Bible can be frustrating. But let’s talk about that some other time. Back to the Bible.
The Holy Bible. You know, that sacred book that we refer to as the Word of God? Yeah, that one.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” John 1:1 (ESV)
In the last section of the verse, it says He. The “He” is referring back to “the Word”. Therefore, this is talking about Jesus Christ being the Word. Since the Word of God was sent to earth in a physical human form(known as Jesus) this means that the Bible, or God’s word, is our physical representation of Christ.
So, if we have the Bible, then what? Well, since Jesus’s life and ministry was recorded in the Bible, we should look – to see what He did and what He said – in the Bible.
Whoah! Looking in the Bible to find answers? Revolutionary.
More specifically, where should we look to see what He is doing?
Any of the gospels would be a great place to start; Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Jesus’s life during His ministry is full of examples of Him traveling around to different towns and healing people. He also spends time with the kind of people who are shunned or excluded from society, such as criminals, or any so called “rough characters”.
One of the most important things Christ did, was praying. He would often go off on his own and pray such as Luke 5:16, Luke 11:1, and also in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36.
These are just a few examples of His actions that we can look to for guidance and application. The next step is to hear what He is saying.
Again, we can find Jesus talking to us in the gospels. Starting in Matthew chapter 5, we can read what Christ is telling us concerning topics such as those in need, worrying, fasting, materialism, our attitudes, etc. This is also the passage where He gives us the Lord’s Prayer.
Other good examples are the many different parables that Jesus tells to the disciples, or even His responses to the disciples’ confusion. Like when Jesus eats with Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke ch 19, or when Jesus tells the disciples to allow the little children to come to Him in Luke 18:15-17.
These are just a few of the many examples throughout the entire Bible where we can see and hear Jesus. Our last step is to respond with action, by doing what He did and said to do.
So let’s recap.
- We should do what we see Jesus doing: find specific passages where He deals with people and look at his actions to see what and how we should be doing things.
- We should hear what Jesus is saying: again, look to the scriptures to find the parts where God, or Christ, is specifically speaking(it’s usually the red text) to “hear” what Christ is saying to us about specific topics.
- And lastly, We should respond with action. Now that we’ve found examples of His actions and His words to us, take a brief moment to see how your own actions and words are different from His, and then change them. Go and do what He did.
A few quick examples before I finish.
If your words or actions towards the lonely and hurting, the sick, widows and orphans, strangers, heck, even your own family and friends, are in any way not what Jesus has said to do or did himself, then you can start by changing that fact. Make your actions line up with those of Christ, and make sure that what you are saying is not contradicting those actions either, and there you go; one small step towards actually following Christ.
Since our calling as believers is to take up our cross (our faith) and to follow Him, then how are supposed to do that? What does it look like?
It seems so simple when you lay it out in just three easy steps. It gets more complicated by the fact of not having Christ here on earth with us physically. But we do have a tangible representation of Christ’s body called the Holy Bible. We can turn to the scriptures to find examples of what Christ did, and said, and then act upon those examples by making sure our own words and actions line up with His.
And if you ever get stuck and need some guidance, Christ is always right there in the Bible, waiting to help you get back on track. It won’t be easy, but that’s why it’s called “bearing your cross”.