Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The recognition, part 9: the Joy

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NASB)

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)

The cross of Jesus was a terrible thing. It was viciously brutal, terrifyingly painful, and sickeningly shameful. We have become so accustomed to the fact of Jesus's death on the cross that we no longer see it as unconscionable that the Spotless Lamb of God should suffer on the cross in our place. Jesus did not endure the cross for fun or because of a whim on the part of His Father. He endured it because we could not, we would not. We, who are so enamored of sin that we do not avoid it, had a death-deserving sin penalty that only He, who was so deeply enamored of us, could pay. It was His love for us that required the cross. 

The only sensible, reasonable response to that kind of love, that kind of sacrifice is deep, abiding gratitude and love in return, as well as a desire to follow wherever He may lead. What Jesus has said is that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. Why would we refuse Him? Why would we dare?  This One who has done so much for us asks us to do so little in comparison to His own sacrifice. We must not fail in obedience. 

The enemy of our soul would have us believe that this cross-taking is too burdensome, too painful, too terrible.  It is not. Our Lord, who despised the shame of the cross, endured the whole terrible ordeal because He knew that, at the end of the hard time, at the end of His suffering, was JOY. Who would expect the outcome of the cross to be joy? Only Jesus. 

If the outcome of cross-bearing is joy, and the writer of Hebrews tells us it is, why would we avoid it? Dear ones, the time for reckless abandon of our own cross is long past. The time of accounting draws near, when we will give an accounting of all that we have done and not done. We will account for our cross-bearing and our lack of it. We must embrace the cross to which God has called us, and we must follow Jesus. There is no other option that will give us joy in the end. 

Press on. Press on with your cross and endure all the way to the joy that waits ahead.