Seek the things above: Take up your cross meaning

So, we’re continuing on in the “Seek the things above” series for Wednesdays … and actually, this time delving into a verse I mentioned last week, but as one of the comments from that post was mentioning an interest in a printable of this verse, I wanted to dive into it a little more.

Luke 9:23 … it’s such a fundamental passage to follow Jesus, and we have heard it so many times. And to us, the cross immediately makes us think of spiritual things. But have you ever thought about the fact that at the time that Jesus said this, it was *before* he died on the cross, and so when he mentions it here, it wouldn’t have had and religious significance to them? What would they have thought of a cross? A form of execution. A means of punishment. It would be like someone today saying, “Take up your electric chair.”

And this really sheds some interesting light on the meaning of the passage, when you stop and think about what a cross is. It is something on which a person dies. Sometimes you’ll hear people mention this verse when talking about various incidental problems in their life … maybe their boss is rude, maybe they have headaches, and they’ll say, “Well, that’s just the cross I have to bear.”

But is that really what this verse is talking about? Is that what the take up your cross meaning is? If you think about the context in which Jesus spoke it, that doesn’t make so much sense. Just like saying “take up your electric chair”, wouldn’t make you think of everyday type problems, it would make you think of death.

So if we’re supposed to take up our cross DAILY, though, how can that be? How can I die daily? Well, Paul actually said in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.” Physically? No. But let’s look at a couple passages to see what this could mean…

Romans 6:1-11: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:19-24: “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Colossians 3:9-10: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

There is the continuing thought of an “old self” of ours who we crucify and put off in order to follow Christ, and a “new self” we become to follow him. Luke 9:23 is something much more profound than just dealing with the hassles of life, it is a choice of who we will be – it means we have to give up having everything my way, like in the days of the Judges where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 ESV), and instead living our lives God’s way. It’s denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following after him. And it’s doing it every day. It’s not sugar coated, and it doesn’t mean life will always be easy. But it is always worth it.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
(Romans 8:18 ESV)

Leave your thoughts and comments below! As always, my goal isn’t to convince people of my opinions, but instead to take a look at the Bible itself to see what it teaches. :)

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10 Comments

  1. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    hi April!
    so happy that you do this… and so quickly!!!
    i save it, and think to use it as my cell’s screensaver…
    and thanks for share your opinion! never think about it that way… is something like make die the bad part every day, for let only the good one, so that every day we are more prepared to do what He want us to do for reach Him… got something to reflect on today :)

    • Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:42 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Fede! I hoped you would see this post since you were the one who mentioned the verse last week! As always, feel free to get in touch with me if you want to talk more, or anything. :) Thanks for stopping by! :)

  2. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful observation you are so right! : )

    What a blessing this dying has been in my life. Hebrews 12:11 says

    “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” NKJV

    “New self” training is often chastening I’ve noticed. This “putting off” the old is sometimes painful but the “peaceable fruit” cannot be compared with any other joy in my life!

    I love it that the Lord promises that the work in our new self is His to accomplish and He will do it! (Phil 1:6)

    yeah God!! : )

    Have a blessed day April.

    • Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, the putting off can be definitely be painful – and that “old self” tends to try to pop back up all the time! Which is why we have to take up our cross daily.

      The promises of God to take care of us spiritually if we submit our will to God’s and choose to follow his commands, are definitely beautiful! Like in Matthew 7:7-11.

      Thanks Patti :)

  3. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Such a great reminder, as always :). It can be so hard to remember this when I let daily life crowd my thoughts for attention. I’m going to print this out and put it somewhere I will see it often, so that hopefully I can do a better job of keeping things in perspective :)!

    • Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, I hear you! So easy to not deny self, especially when we’re busy and thinking about everything we want/need to do! I definitely lose sight way more often than I should. Thanks, Jess :)

  4. Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Funny, I’ve been discussing those same above verses with my sister in laws in a conversation we’ve been having about what it means for someone who is Gay and is a Christian and what that might mean to them. What that must mean to them to have to deny themselves in order to follow the will of Christ. Anyway it just always amazing me how you can spend time in one section of Scripture only to have it pop up in different places in your life regarding completely different topics.

    Thanks for sharing again April, I have a feeling eventually I’ll have all your Bible verse printables all over my home.

    • Posted April 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s definitely true. And an encouraging thing to point out when it comes to someone who struggles with homosexuality is in 1 Corinthians 6, where it makes a list of various sins, including homosexuality, and then in verse 11 it says, “And such WERE some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” So there were those among the Corinthians who had been homosexuals, but it was in the past. Just like any of us, there are things we have to put off … and it’s encouraging to see others who have struggled, and overcome through Christ, before us. :)

      Thanks, Hilda. :)

  5. Posted April 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Love this. I’d never thought about the fact that Jesus spoke that verse to the disciples before he’d died on the cross. Definitely alters my perspective of what he was saying. Thank you for writing!

    • Posted April 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      Interesting, isn’t it? I remember when I first heard that pointed out, and it definitely did put it in a different perspective for me. I think it’s amazing how you can hear a verse for years, and can still learn more from it. Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie! :)

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