Almost everyone is familiar with the words of Jesus when He said: "Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39). These directives have been interpreted to mean that you are to have no ideas, thoughts, or personality apart from what the Lord gives or decides. While that sounds spiritual, I don't believe it is the meaning Jesus intended to convey. To find out if you agree or not, you will have to read on.
WHAT IT DOESN'T MEAN
Perhaps the best summary of how people interpret the words in Matthew 10 is found in John the Baptist's words when he stated, "I must decrease, but he must increase." The NIV quotes John this way: " He must become greater; I must become less.” John wasn't referring to the fact that his personality had to diminish when Jesus came on the scene. Picking up the cross for John was not being quiet; it was removing himself from a public role so Jesus could be front and center.
It is interesting that John's next assignment wasn't to retire and write his memoirs. He was sent to the most hardened apostate Jew there was by the name of Herod. John's cross was not to become less than who he was; it was to express who he was in a situation that eventually cost him his life.
THE END OF SELF IS . . .
I have been reflecting on a thought that I want to run by you for your feedback, and it relates to what Jesus said in Matthew 10. The thought is this: The end of self is the beginning of self. When I die to myself, that doesn't mean that I was once in love with writing, but now I don't write. No, it means that I write what and where God wants me to write. The end of myself - my plans, my desire to do it my way - is actually the discovery of true self. It is then that I can be the fullest, best expression of who God intended me to be because I have been set free from a stubborn individualism that says, "I can handle this. I can do it the way I want with whom I want where I want."
My cross doesn't destroy my personality, it sets it free from the things that would mar it. My cross sent me to Africa, to urban communities, and to churches to be who God intended me to be. I went with my humor, my creativity, my insight, my competitiveness, and my prophetic insight. The cross didn't change those traits; it purified and refocused them. It didn't mean I sit and wait for the Lord to give me a new personality; He has already made me a new creature with an enhanced personality similar to the one I had before I met Him. When I picked up my cross, it set me free to be me, not to be some religious semblance of who I thought I was supposed to be.
You can come to Jesus and still not pick up your cross. The cross is where and how you fulfill your purpose, but your purpose remains an important part of the equation. This has serious implications, for if you are going to find your life, you are going to have to lose it in the way God wants you to express it. When you allow that to happen, you will find the real you, the beginning of self, and then God will partner not with a hologram of who you appear to be, but with who He intended you to be in the first place.
Feel free to comment on this entry on the site where it is posted.
KENYA: I depart for Kenya on March 2 and, as usual, I need your help. Please read my latest blog entry about little Felix and then give generously toward the funds I need to take with me to help our partners. You can give through PayPal on my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for your help!