Encouraging cross bearing

I’ve been thinking about the necessity of cross bearing the last few days.

As I often do when pondering such things, I’ve been reading John Wesley. Here is his word on the topic from his sermon “Self-Denial.”

The denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after Him and following Him; insomuch that, as far as we do not practise it, we are not his disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him; we are not treading in his steps; but going back from, or at least wide of, Him.

I’ve been thinking about these words and thinking about being a pastor.

When someone comes to me as a pastor and shares a word about how hard it is to follow Jesus, to really follow, do I lose faith in the virtues of cross bearing? Often, I fear, I do. I am good at extending a word of consolation and solidarity. Yes, yes, that is difficult. I struggle with that, too.

But what I fail to say is that, yes, God is calling you and me to do this very thing we find so hard. It is in taking those steps that we discover that we have faith. God will give you grace to bear this burden. Trust him.

I fear my failure in this area is a sign of my own need for spiritual growth. I cannot encourage a practice that I avoid.

7 thoughts on “Encouraging cross bearing

  1. It is difficult to encourage cross-bearing in a postmodern age in which religion consists of personal preferences, not crosses. The idea that one should deny the prerogatives of the self (to bear the cross) is contrary to the Zeitgeist of the “selfie” age. Paul’s repudiation of selfie boasting and his embrace of the cross (Galatians 6:14) subvert not only his own vanity but also those ideological mandates that governments (including our own) seek to impose with coercive powers. We should sit up and take notice of what’s really at stake today.

  2. OK, bear the cross. But how much bearing the cross must we do? Where is the line drawn?
    Some are pleased to sit in their own comfortable homes with good food and wine in the fridge, and 2 nice cars, and gold jewelry, etc. and tell people who are caring for others, and who are without health insurance or jobs to ‘bear the cross’.
    How can you fault these unfortunates if on occasion they fail to ‘deny themselves’ and give way to some simple ‘fleshly’ pleasure?
    Call me a devil if you will, but where is Wesley’s compassion and empathy here?

    1. I guess Jesus is the one to answer the question. How much cross bearing did he advocate?

      As for Wesley, he would say he would rather we be troubled by his preaching today than troubled in hell later. In other words, he would argue he was being empathetic.

    2. I guess Jesus is the one to answer the question. How much cross bearing did he advocate?

      As for Wesley, he would say he would rather we be troubled by his preaching today than troubled in hell later. In other words, he would argue he was being empathetic.

      Of course, he would not have gentle words for the gold jewelry and two car set either.

  3. I wonder if we are missing the meaning of “cross bearing”. If one thinks that the problems we may need to face in this life, or adverse circumstances that arise, is the “cross bearing” Christ is referring to, then we’ve missed it. Unemployment and the lack of health insurance is not something we voluntarily choose to carry for Jesus, they are simply unfortunate life circumstances. When someone takes up his cross and follows Jesus that someone is saying to the choice Christ gave us, I choose you, Lord over myself. We voluntarily give up our entire life for Christ. It is an absolute necessity in order to follow Christ because if any “self” remains we will never be able to share the joys or the sorrows of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the way Christ is able. We will never be able to love another enough to be compelled to pray for another with weeping and a heart with the greatest desire to see God’s love intervene in their lives for what ever their needs may be. And even after making this decision to give up all of the self that is deep within us and follow Christ we may one day find ourselves without a job and without health insurance. However, we have the promise of God, if only we truly trust Him, that we can carry this burden without needing to turn to any fleshly desires of relief.

    There is no need to question how much “cross bearing” Jesus advocates. I think He made pretty clear what the price was to bear the cross. It wasn’t giving up your two cars, comfortable chair in your nice home, or your gold jewelry, though at some point you may by Christ’s leading. It wasn’t suffering through circumstances of unemployment or any other adversity we may face, though at some point we may by Christ’s leading. The price is you. All of you. Denying your self entirely for the entirety of Him. He doesn’t bribe you to do this, or mislead you into any false idea of a life without troubles. He presents each of us with the opportunity to take up our cross and follow Him and it is entirely up to us to decide. Christ advocates all. Christianity has since the beginning been an all or nothing proposition.

  4. OK you guys, just please forgive me. Just the very next day after I posted what I did, the Holy Spirit served me up a lesson.
    I was out driving and came up to a stoplight and a beggar. I just kind of waved him away, you know like all of us at times. Then I watched him. That old frail black man was the real deal. I mean he could hardly walk. Somebody ahead gave him some change, he actually stuck his cardboard sign in his mouth to hold it cause he apparently could use just one arm. Fumbled the change and it fell on the ground. Lord, I wanted to cry. I gave him a couple of bills, he could hardly speak, but tried to thank me.
    May God forgive me.
    I thought, what’s he thinking? ‘here’s this man in a comfortable air conditioned car, who’ll be eating out at a restaurant tonight and sleeping next to his wife in a bed, while I’m in rags and stumble and fall in the heat and humidity on the side of the road begging.’
    And I dare complain. Yes, I’m laid off, the sole financial support of my family, with debt and illness among us to contend with….but…that’s no excuse for sin. And I’m just as haughty and cold-hearted as any rich sinner.
    God have Mercy.
    And look, that man could have been Jesus, was Jesus…and I almost turned my back on him.
    Yes John, Wesley was compassionate, concerned as he was with our eternal good. I understand.
    Forgive me.

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