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Posted: October 2, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Grace Notes: God’s Grace for you to carry your cross

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Jesus said that. And remember, in his day, when you heard the word "cross" you weren't thinking jewelry or art. You were thinking torture and blood and suffocation and death. All that considered, his recruitment pitch seems to leave something to be desired, doesn't it? But that's what he said.

In fact, in the words we're looking at from I Peter, Peter even goes a step beyond that and tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, rejoice as we bear our crosses. And believe it or not, what he says actually makes sense, if we understand what the cross of the Christian is. You see, the cross is not the result of our mistakes (see v. 15). Jesus' cross paid for those. The cross of the Christian is, instead, the difficulty we have in living like Christ in a world that doesn't want to. The cross of the Christian is trying to love when everything in us tells us to live for me first. You notice the difference between live and love is the first has the "I" in it while the second is for "O"thers.

Love realizes that it's not about what "I" want.
But even so, how can sufferings (whether that be outward persecutions or internal battles) be good for us? Listen to what God's word says that makes bearing your cross a good thing.

Peter starts out, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (I Peter 4:12-13). Already there you've got two of the reasons the cross is good for us.

First, he calls it a "painful trial" or, literally, according to the Greek, a "burning fire for testing." Earlier in this letter, he had compared our crosses to the purifying fire for gold. That fire was necessary to get rid of the extra junk in there and let the gold fulfill its purpose of being beautiful. Our trials do the same. Haven't you found that your sufferings have a way of removing from you all the distractions, all the extra junk? Instead, trials draw us closer to our Savior - the only way through those trials.

Then, the word tells us that our crosses remind us that we're connected to the cross of Christ. Jesus denied himself perfectly for us, putting aside his wants and comforts and putting us first. He picked up his cross for all the times we throw ours down and do what we want. He loved so perfectly to fill us with love and make us want to do follow that love. So, yes, following him, we should expect the cross. Love isn't easy. But when we remember what bearing our crosses means, it is reason to rejoice. So go ahead, take up your cross and follow Him.

Check the full sermon on the Web site for more of God's Word on carrying your cross in Christ.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.


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