The message of the cross: practical Christianity

The message of the cross: practical Christianity

An incredibly rich life that can be lived by anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you are willing.

The word “Christian” means “follower of Christ,” and in Luke 9:23-24 Jesus Himself tells us what that means: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” This is the essence of Christianity, and it applies to every true Christian, regardless of age, gender, personality, background or circumstance.

Jesus knew what He was talking about

We can follow Jesus in this, because it is what He Himself did while He was on earth. As a human being, He was tempted. But because He denied Himself and took up His cross, He never committed sin (Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 4:15).

It is very clear that Jesus knew the human condition, not only as a theory, but from first-hand experience. He uses practical examples about what it means to be tempted: to envy, to irritation, to lust, to judging, to anxiety, to pride, to hypocrisy etc. But every day of His life, Jesus used the “cross.” This was the place where sin met its death. In practical terms, this meant that He said “No!” to the demands of the flesh and, by the strength given to Him by God, He endured until He won the victory, which was death to sin. This meant that He had to suffer in His flesh, and that He had to cry out to God for help, but it also meant He never sinned (2 Peter 4:1; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 5:7).

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We actually stop sinning!

The “word of the cross” is extremely practical. It can be applied to daily life, by anybody, regardless of age, gender, personality, background or circumstance. It can be applied in any situation, to any temptation. When we take up our cross daily, we do not give in to feelings of anger, irritation, or envy. We do not give in to temptations to be proud or spiteful or lazy. We do not entertain impure thoughts. We refuse to be slaves to low self-esteem or discouragement that would cripple us in doing the good. We become doers of the word (James 1:21-22).

With the cross we “put to death” the lusts in the flesh before they become sin (James 1:14-15; Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:24). Paul says that the word of the cross is a power unto salvation for those who believe, and that it is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). We see this in practice! Through use of the cross and power from the Holy Spirit, a transformation takes place.

Where we were bitter and demanding before, we become a blessing. Where we were anxious and discouraged, we become full of faith and power for action. Where we once judgmental and full of spite, we learn to forgive and edify. Instead of causing arguments and strife when our feelings are hurt or our opinions defied, we become examples in mildness, kindness and patience. As our own lusts are denied, we acquire the virtues of Christ.

Amazing results

Apart from ourselves, the first to benefit from this transformation are our nearest and dearest, and the effects spread out like ripples from there. What a joy when fathers, mothers, children, colleagues and neighbors stop being harsh and become gentle, thankful instead of bitter, cheerful rather than grumpy. What a relief when we stop being overbearing and start supporting the others. What a blessing for society when lazy people become diligent, when righteousness, honesty and loyalty prevail.

As Christians we become examples and champions for righteousness, compassion and high morals. We are a city set on a hill, a light which cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16). Wherever we are, whatever we meet, however we feel, whatever our disposition, whomever we are with, the word of the cross will always work, and always bear fruit. It is Christianity in practice.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.