“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?’” Mark 8:34-36
Jesus went to the cross for our salvation. We must go to the cross for our sanctification. This is a painful and difficult process that requires our participation. We must take up (embrace) the cross for God to do His transforming work in us. When we resist the cross, we change very little over time even though we are Christians. Maybe an illustration will help to understand this.
When my mom reached 80 she began seriously considering moving to an apartment which would require her to sell her house. To prepare the house for a sale she thought that a new dining room floor would be nice because the old one was visibly faded. This change would require minimal cost and could be done fairly painlessly.
Then she brought in a realtor and asked this woman, who was a trusted friend, what she thought needed to be done. Getting a new floor in the dining room would be a good start, this woman advised, but really, all the floors needed to be changed. And not just the floors, but the counters, the cupboards, the appliances and the lighting. All of this would be very expensive, but this woman, who was the professional, felt these things would be the minimum changes needed to get the house ready for a sale.
The realtor didn’t demand these changes, but only recommended them. The final decision belonged to my mom because she’s the one who would have to pay the price.
God wants to change us for our good and His glory but He won’t do it without our participation. He brings difficult circumstances and difficult people into our lives so that they will help us see what is left undone in us. When we embrace the cross by trusting God and asking for His grace in the midst of our trials, His beauty begins to replace our ashes. We can’t change ourselves any more than my Mom could rip up flooring and lay tile, but we can invite Him to do whatever it takes.
Let’s embrace our cross and let Him do the difficult work of change in us. We’ll enjoy the results and so will everyone around us.