Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

Take up the Cross

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV)

The Cross
The cross in the Bible is a place where criminals (or those judged to be criminals) lost their lives.  Most would say that they perished there at least in a physical sense.  But the ones who are really perishing (and in this case for all eternity) are those who consider the message or preaching of the cross to be foolishness.

What is the Message of the Cross?
The cross was the place of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There men showed their cruelty and rebellion against God, but there God allowed His Son to become the sacrifice that put away our sins.  In Philippians 2:8 we read, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”  But that isn’t all that is involved in the message of the cross.  The Lord says that we cannot be his disciples unless we take up the cross and follow Him.  So, the cross saves us and then we who believe are asked to “lose our lives” in order to find them. In Matthew 16:24-25, the Lord says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

We tend to spiritualize the teaching about taking up the cross.  We assume that means turning our back on the world and its gods and its pleasures.  Or we assume it means bearing burdens which may include sickness and may include rejection.  While these things are certainly the experiences of those who follow the Lord, we probably should take the teaching of taking up our crosses more literally.  Nearly all of the apostles were martyred because they followed the Lord  Judas obviously is an exception and John the apostle was banished to the isle of Patmos after he had survived an attempt to kill him by being thrown into a vat of boiling oil.  The early disciples all knew that when they publicly identified with the Lord in baptism, they were likely going to die for their faith.  Obviously, not all died; but if I am reading the Lord’s teaching to his disciples right, we who are saved need to be WILLING TO DIE for our faith. 

In the Gospels the word witness most often refers to evidence or a record.  But in many cases, the word that is used for witness could be translated martyr.  This is particularly true in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Lord Himself is a faithful witness or martyr (See Revelation 1:5).  I am not enough of a linguist to sort all of this out, but I think the implication is clear. When we say we are the Lord’s disciples, we should really be willing to turn our backs on our fathers and mothers if they reject the Lord.  We should be willing to die for our cause.  We should be willing to take up our crosses and follow Him. 

Practical Application
The five missionaries that died at the hands of the Auca Indians in January of 1956 certainly were willing to take up their crosses and follow the Lord.  The early apostles and disciples were also willing.  I must admit, it never occurred to me that I might need to give my life for the sake of the Gospel when I trusted the Lord and was saved.  Nor did I consider that possibility when I sold my business and began a full-time preaching and teaching ministry.  Maybe I should have.  I took all these Scriptures as symbolic teaching. 

We who are Christians and not just religious people who use the name of Christian as a meaningless umbrella term that distinguishes us from other world religions may yet find ourselves tested as to whether we are disciples who would be willing to die for the Lord who died for us.   I freely admit that I hope that test does not come in my lifetime because I think it is coming.

Bruce Collins

Meditation for the week of February 9, 2020

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