The way of the cross

For the Christian, everything that we are, all that we understand in Christianity is surrounded by the cross of Christ. The sacrifice Jesus made at Calvary to save men and women from a life of sin.

For about 30 years, I have been preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the significance of the cross of suffering by Christ.

That leads me to this verse in Scripture that I want to share with you and also some thoughts.

Matthew 10:34-39, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

"And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy (deserving, comparable or suitable) of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Verse 38 says, "And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

In light of this verse, I have a couple of questions for you to think about. In your own life, have you counted the cost of what it means to be a Christ follower? And are you suitable for him?

This is one of the "hard sayings of Jesus." This verse, along with many others means, to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand or to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.

And the second part of the verse implies the need to be worthy of Christ. Our lives lived in a way that is worthy of Christ.

The problem today in Christendom is the way a verse like this is interpreted. At any given time there are six generations living at the same time.

As of 2015, here are the generations and age designations:

4The Greatest Generation born before 1927 to 89 years old and older;

4Mature/Silents - 70 to 88 years old;

4Baby Boomers - 51 to 69 years old;

4Generation X - 35 to 50 years old;

4Generation Y/Millennium - 15 to 34 years old; and

4Generation Z/Boomlets - birth to 14 years old.

The problem is that each generation has different values and would look at these verses in Scripture, especially the hard ones, and have a very different take on the interpretation.

I want to be clear, this demand or command is after salvation, this is not an issue of grace or forgiveness; this is after what has already happened in one's life with regard to surrendering to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

A person who is now a believer, one who has been washed in the blood of the lamb, one who is redeemed, who is a new creation in Christ.

If you notice, this verse is couched in the context of the family. Jesus is talking about loyalty to him first. The greatest commandment Jesus said is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength."

I am afraid in today's world that love for our families might be an extension of our own personalities as parents. When we say how we love our families, is it just a form of self-love?

I would also ask you these questions and I hope you will search your souls, "Do you love Christ more than your children?" "Do you love him more than your spouse?" "Do you love him more than other family members?"

It is only natural for us, as parents, to make what provisions are necessary for those who are nearest and dearest to us.

That is a God-given responsibility and certainly a part of our spiritual lives and I know many who do that very well. We at times have to make great sacrifices for family and relatives. If you indeed do that, God bless you.

The question however, is not whether or not we are willing to take care of those nearest and dearest to us and that includes our church family, but rather have you taken up the cause of Christ, and does your loyalty lie with him first?

Matthew 10:38 states, "And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

About five years ago, if the news reports were accurate, several Coptic Christians, Egyptian Christians were beheaded.

We here in America know nothing about them with regard to their backgrounds, their families; we don't know anything about their spouses, or their children that will have to go through the rest of their lives living with this burden that their loved one paid the ultimate price to be a Christ follower.

At least here in the USA we have not had to go through anything to that degree to "take up the cross of Christ" and to follow him.

I know we are living in difficult times, times that none of us have ever experienced, but as Christians, we have a responsibility to be "worthy of Christ."

God bless you.

Rev. Bruce Wilson, pastor of Trinity Point Church of God in Clarion.