Our Daily Cross; Our Daily Joy

Sometimes our eagerness for practical bible application becomes woefully misguided. When we hastily push a text into our own respective situation we may blunt its force. This is a sad exercise, because the word is a sword that slices our soul, not a butter knife that scrapes our skin. Take Jesus’ words:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must take up his cross daily and follow me Luke 9:23

It’s not a terribly bad interpretation to say this verse applies to harvesting an habitual practice of self-sacrifice and self-denial. But when we accept such vague terms before long such “sacrifice” begins to look like fasting for a day or being nice to mean people. Pretty soon we’ve decided we are almost martyrs for enduring such “crosses” as headaches and past due mortgage notes.

At times we can be so ego-centric in our eisegesis we begin to sound like the deacon who said to his counseling pastor, “Pastor, I guess my anger is just the cross I’ll have to bear the rest of my life.” The pastor replied, “No, your anger is the cross your wife will have to bear the rest of your life.”

Application of a text means nothing if the meaning of a text is not unearthed first. Diluted milk is bad for the body, especially the bride’s.

The shocking force of the words would not be lost on Jesus’ first century audience. What they heard was, “Follow me, and you will be signing your own death sentence in your own blood.” Or in more contemporary speech, “Follow me and you will be tying the hangman’s noose around your own neck everyday of your life.”

This heavy rhetoric is no way to grow a religion or church. I’m sure our modern church growth experts could school the Son of God in “proper contextualization.”

In the Roman Empire, the cross was the beam condemned criminals carried to their place of execution. These words had haunting applications for a first century audience that we miss in our daily grind of skinny lattes, gas prices, and Facebook drama. Jesus was not metaphorically calling his disciples to daily tidy acts of servanthood and patience, though we should do those.

The proper response to Jesus’s strict call would sound a lot like Paul when he says “I count my life as nothing….”(Acts 20:24)

Everything in my old nature rails against the clear penetrating words of Jesus. That’s why God gives us the grace to present ourselves again and again as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:2)

Jesus was enlisting men and women in an impossible undertaking that would defy all odds and likely leave them dead by way of excruciating means. This could happen any moment. Under Roman and Jewish persecution it was a given to the early Christians that they would have to prepare literally “daily” for their own trial and funeral arrangements. To follow in Christ’s footsteps means to set one’s face like flint to Jerusalem, and to count it as an honor to die outside the gates like a street dog. He is our reward, and as long as we are with Him it is more than worth it.

I love the words of GK Chesterton: “Jesus promised the disciples three things-that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.”

Completely fearless because Christ was with them. Absurdly happy because Christ loved them. In constant trouble because Christ called them to fight for a different Kingdom.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

43 thoughts on “Our Daily Cross; Our Daily Joy”

  1. Wow. I know what it is to constantly dilute this. Thanks for the force: “Follow me, and you will be signing your own death sentence in your own blood.” Or in more contemporary speech, “Follow me and you will be tying the hangman’s noose around your own neck everyday of your life.” … To follow in Christ’s footsteps means to set one’s face like flint to Jerusalem, and to count it as an honor to die outside the gates like a street dog.”

    For a year now, I’ve been telling myself and others that Christian baptism is letting oneself drown, that true conversion and death to self are assisted suicide – with Jesus as Dr. Kevorkian – and jumping into a bottomless pit. Why? Jesus did all these things on the cross; he’s our example. I even point others to Florence + The Machine’s “What the water gave me” and one of my movie reviews (below). Yet I haven’t taken my own advice. I haven’t died to self. It’s knowing without doing.

    http://voices.yahoo.com/titanic-1997-evening-2007-refusing-8647279.html?cat=40

      1. Yes! I’ve been in love with Chris Tomlin’s “Here for you” for weeks now. I realized something today while listening: fire purifies and cleanses! In order for the fire of God to fall down on us, we must offer our bodies as living sacrifices, like a baptism. We must sacrifice our sins – the good, the bad, the ugly. We must come to Christ just as we are. Christ then gets rid of what’s bad and fills us with what’s good! Read Judges 13:15-20 + 1 Kings 18. They’re so rich!

  2. Quote: “Completely fearless because Christ was with them. Absurdly happy because Christ loved them. In constant trouble because Christ called them to fight for a different Kingdom.”

    Absolutely love it! 🙂

    Love & Peace
    Ama

  3. Thanks for your brutal honesty. We in America are spoiled, and to make it worse, some pastors will not preach meat because they are afraid they will “offend” someone. The last time I looked, the cross was offensive. Don’t get me wrong, there are many who are carrying their crosses, but they remain in the shadows because we don’t want to look at evil. I’m talking to myself here as well as others. We need to pray for those people.

  4. “the word is a sword that slices our soul, not a butter knife that scrapes our skin.”
    This is excellent! I had a dream once in which I was sitting by the fire in full battle gear sharpening a sword, and a friend comes up to the fire in an apron and hands me a cake! It is a comical image, but I remember looking at my friend in utter amazement and saying don’t you know what time it is? So much of Christianity is consumed in cookie cutter conventions instead of preparing for the battle of the ages in which souls hang in the balance. I love that quote from Chesterton…I find it to be absolutely true! Thank you again for a great post! Keep the whet stone handy brother. You are doing an awesome job.

    1. Suddenly I get a feeling that we have forgotten that Jesus was a man of Peace, not of battle. He fought no one. He harmed no one. While brandishing our swords, sharp edges, or sharp words, keep in mind that one thoughtless cut could destroy someone.

      I am a soldier for God, truly recognised, but we are meant to bring PEACE.

      Love & Peace
      Ama

  5. As always, your blog is a joy to read. I also enjoyed the Chesterton quote. You don’t happen to know where he said that, do you? I was curious and did some searching in google and google books and wasn’t able to find a reference to any of his works. There were a good number of people who said he said, but then there were also a good number of people who attributed the quote to F.R. Maltby. Of course, no one seems to know anything about him either. It could be that Google’s Chesterton collection is just not complete and that the Internet is a mass chaos engine that quotes like a steamroller but doesn’t care to reference. But perhaps you know the reference?

  6. Bryan, I don’t know you, but I think I’d like to.

    Churchianity has accepted the Lord’s call to discipleship all too hastily and then too lightly. Discipleship has been turned into a daily devotional reading, a few minutes in prayer and writing in a journal and a weekly group meeting at Starbucks. That’s not what Jesus had in mind and that’s not what He said. These men and women in the New Testament were willing to surrender everything that stood between themselves and following Christ fully.

    I’ve often been baffled at how we’ve turned the cross into a beautiful work of art that we hang on our walls and put around our necks. Imagine a gallows on the church steeple or guillotine pendants as Christmas gifts; but this is the call of Jesus to us. Take up your cross and follow Me.

    Great post!

  7. I think there is great merit in what you say, and it is food for thought.

    I have a parallel interpretation of this verse in that, if Christ is fulfilling his ultimate purpose on the cross, then could he also be calling us to daily take steps to fulfil OUR ultimate purpose? The call to align yourself with God’s will for your life daily, to the point of suffering.

    What do you think?

    J

    1. Certainly it is God’s will and purpose for our lives to follow him on the road to death and suffering. Otherwise he wouldn’t have said “Follow Me.” I agree!

  8. A truth the modern “purpose-driven” church is in dire need of grasping! In this world you will have tribulation! God never intended us to have our “best life now”. That comes later. Keep on keeping it real and thanks for liking my Ecclesiastes 12 post the other day!

  9. Bryan, I couldn’t help but feel convicted as I read these words: “Sometimes our eagerness for practical bible application becomes woefully misguided. When we hastily push a text into our own respective situation we may blunt its force.” Good insights and reason to pause and think carefully about how we go forward. Thanks for the post. Shelley

  10. Beautifully written. I cringe every time I hear someone say, “We each have our cross to bear,” in reference to a minor inconvenience, while our brothers and sisters around the world are truly laying down their lives.

  11. Great post! It is striking how easily we can forget that Christ is our reward for eternity, not the materialism emphasized by the world. Keep up the good work.

  12. “I love the words of GK Chesterton: “Jesus promised the disciples three things-that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.”

    Completely fearless because Christ was with them. Absurdly happy because Christ loved them. In constant trouble because Christ called them to fight for a different Kingdom.”

    These last few sentences are beautiful. I hope to be fearless, happy, and in trouble! Thanks for a great read.

  13. Thank you for such a compelling picture of what that verse really means. You’ve given me quite a bit to go to Him in prayer with. God bless you!

  14. Wow, Brother! Looks like you and I were thinking along the same lines today with our blogs. But you are a much better writer than I am. Really good blog. Stay blessed.
    J D Stone

  15. Chief, Thanks for visiting my site. It’s been an encouragement to me today that I have had people who enjoyed reading my thoughts. Thanks again!

  16. Good to know the American church is beginning to understand this…our brothers and sisters oversees are told at conversion their lives will probably be at risk and to be excited if they are found worthy of it!

  17. Praise be to God! It took me a while to find your blog, but after reading your profile (we mutually liked another blog recently), I felt compelled to see what your latest musings might hold… So glad I kept at it until I found your page!

    While I don’t have (or don’t take/make) the time to blog as often as I might like, my thoughts run deep along the lines of yours shared above. I will enjoy following your postings from across the world in Hong Kong, where the air is thick with more than just the pollution & the incense. Our work here is stacked high against us, & yet Father always provides a way by which to knock the walls down… Thank you for your beautiful portrayal of our journey with Christ – we are absurdly happy to share the load & we too write our own death sentence in our own blood.

    Praying for you brother – Joy

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m very glad you tracked me down too! God bless you and your ministry in Hong Kong Joy! I know He is using you for His glory there!

      1. Your welcome & blessings to you also!!! Would sure appreciate your prayers & such (we have a prayer list on the blog), most of what we do is just live our lives sold out for Jesus… Thanks again for saying yes when He calls you, edifying & blessing others as you do!

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