Yesterday I read the following verse:
Matthew 16:24 [HCSB] – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”
And I realized.. fasting and praying is also denying myself. Denying myself of that what I normally do and now choose to leave behind. Choosing not to do things that distract me or keep me or take me away from God. Choosing to leave that life, that old life and those old ways behind, so that I can follow Christ and be in God’s presence. Oh, how I love His presence. Oh, how I love being here. Near Him. Learning, writing, hearing and disciplining. Disciplining myself and being disciplined by God. Learning to hear, recognize and obey. I’m being molded.. ‘again’ I was going to say. But actually it’s ‘still’. I’m still being molded. God is not done with me yet. And if He’s not done with me than I’m not done with me.
Breaking these old habits and going through the struggles of breaking them has been me taking up my cross. Carrying it on my back and sweating the work out.
Then today, this morning I read Luke 10 and read how a deaf and mute spirit is cast out of a boy. And I wonder, what is it that makes me not hear well or see well. What makes these thoughts come into my mind. Could that be a spirit too? And God answers me that the thoughts in my mind are temptations. The enemy tempts us. And God reminds me of the time Jesus, Himself, got tempted by the devil. So we too will be tempted and just like Jesus we need to resist and rebuke the enemy. Later that day I want to read more about taking up your cross and what it means. And the text I find adds it up nicely: when we rebuke the enemy we need to say a firm “no” in our mind.. And right away it becomes my new exercise. Every time an unwanted thought pops up, I firmly say “no” in my mind and place the cherry on top by following the ‘no’ with an “in Jesus’ name”. Making His name known, allowing Him to fight and giving Him the praise at the same time, for He is victorious. The Holy Spirit strengthens me pushes me on to continue denying myself. And each day it will become easier and easier, until it ceases. Until it dies on the cross and is no more.
May these following parts of the full piece I read that day fuel you as it fueled me.
Luke 9:23 – “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’”
What does Jesus mean when He says that you should take up your cross daily? To “take up your cross” is something that has to take place in your thoughts. When thoughts that aren’t pleasing to God come to your mind during the day, you “put them to death” on an inner “cross.” A judging thought toward your friend crops up, for example, or perhaps a grumbling thought of dissatisfaction for what you have to do today. As these thoughts come up in your mind, you choose to deny them. Your mind stands guard at the door of your heart, and you get to decide what comes through. When a sinful thought pops up in your mind the first time, it is only a temptation – a “suggestion” from Satan. But you can choose to deny that thought access to your heart! In practice, that means that as soon as you become aware of the thought, you disagree with it. You don’t dwell on it. The thought meets a firm “no” in your mind. You don’t permit the thought to pass through your mind and come into your heart. Denying these sinful thoughts is how you take up your cross daily.
Suffer in the flesh – cease from sin! It hurts to go against what you are naturally drawn to – to deny the thoughts that you naturally tend to think. Just like a physical cross causes suffering for the body, this metaphorical cross also causes suffering – for your flesh, that part of you that is drawn to sin, and which is denied its demands. But you have a good reason to choose to do this, and that is what is written in 1 Peter 4:1:“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
Let this be your motivation! This verse promises that when you suffer in your flesh, that is to say, when you take up your cross and deny the sinful thoughts that come up in you during the day, you will actually cease from sin! And it is not just a promise that will be fulfilled some unknown day far in the future – you see progress as you go. Perhaps you have a particular tendency to be harsh and cold to your peers. As you say “no” in temptation when these negative thoughts come, you notice as time passes that those thoughts don’t come as often anymore. It becomes easier for you to be good and warm and kind to the people around you. This is the fulfillment of that promise – you are becoming free from sin in that area!