The Light of Life Magazine
A ministry of Christian writing

Light of Life: March 2012

Editorial: POPULATION - P. Abraham

THE CHALLENGE OF THE CROSS - P. Samuel Manoharam

THE CROSS, THE MISSION OF RECONCILIATION - Peter S. C. Pothan

ABIDE IN ME - K. V. Varghese

PROMISES OF GOD AND PRAYER - Mathew Paul

Bob's Banter - THE WHITE CASSOCK..! - Robert Clements

Jesus Asks... "IS THAT YOUR OWN IDEA, OR DID OTHERS TALK TO YOU ABOUT ME?" (JN. 18:34) - Vijay Thangiah

Your letters

Contents page

March 2012

THE CHALLENGE OF THE CROSS


P. Samuel Manoharam

To follow Jesus, we must willingly give up our self totally.

The impact of the love of Jesus, which was demonstrated on the cross at Calvary cannot fail to spark the glow of its glorious beauty and power in the minds and hearts of His believers, to comprehend what was on the heart of God when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth, to sacrifice His life for the sins of the entire humanity.

Merely delving into the Scriptures and plumbing their profound depths and significance will not be enough. It is how passionate we are in our love for the Lord Jesus Christ who is the central figure in these Scriptures, how truly intimate we are in our personal relationship with Him and how sincere we are in faithfully following Him, that really matter. This is the challenge of the cross, which is seen in the call of Jesus when He said, "Those who would come after Me, must deny themselves and take up the cross and follow Me" (Mk.8:34).

The Call Of Jesus
The call of Jesus is to everyone who desires to follow Him. It is a basic, central and foundational message of Jesus. It demands us to live as radical Christians, with a new set of values and total commitment to the way and the will of God. He asks us to deny ourselves and to take up the cross. This means suffering and self-sacrifice, which is involved in following Jesus. This is taking up the cross. We are to deny all of self. To deny self means detesting the self or crucifying the self in us, making it powerless and subordinate to the divine Spirit in us, to become spiritual in nature. The cross becomes significant only when we make it our own, through crucifixion of the self willingly. The cross is the supreme symbol of self-sacrifice. It has the liberating effect of Godís power, if we apply it in our lives by crucifying ourselves.

What Is Self-denial?
This is crucifixion in our inner life, detaching us from self and all its manifestations. Self is sin and it manifests itself in many ways such as self-will, self-love, self-seeking, self-righteousness, self-glory, etc. This is what Jesus desires from each one of us, if we want to be His followers. The cross challenges us to live a life of self-sacrifice or crucifixion of self. This is the basic concept of Christianity. Jesus exemplified this concept in His own life. We need to practise this in our daily life, through inner-crucifixion. This is a slow process involving much suffering, which we must endure, until we are lifted up by Him from self and sin.

Self needs to be crucified. This means putting self to death or emptying ourselves of all the selfish ways of living. Without death to self, no one can experience the love of God in his or her life. The cross revolutionises everything concerning us, our old ways, our old relationships and all worldly connections.

The cross spells the end of our old way of living. Through the dislocation which the Holy Spirit effects in us, as we open ourselves to Him, we are cut off from our old ways and opened up to the power of the new life in Jesus, resulting in our eternal life. This is a quality of life which comes from having an intimate relationship with Jesus, after our inner-crucifixion. This new life starts now and goes on to eternity. Our life on earth is relatively short, but eternity is vast. Through Jesus, we can not only enjoy the fullness of life on earth now, but also be sure that such a beautiful life will never end.

Taking Up Our Cross
This means standing up for Jesus with total commitment to His principles and ways, by willingly bearing all the pain and shame for His sake. For example, when one takes a stand for true Christian principles, he totally accepts all the consequences, such as persecutions, criticisms, scorn or any loss. It may even cost his own life. He may have to end up finally as a martyr, as happened to early Christians. We have many opportunities to bear the cross joyfully, particularly at the present time, when there is so much antagonism against Christianity. Let us avail it, if we really love Jesus, and if we care for the souls of many unbelievers, who need the message of salvation. These unsaved and lost souls, for whom Jesus has great concern, will have to be drawn to Him for salvation. This can be done only when we demonstrate the power of the cross in our daily lives, displaying joy and peace in our sufferings for Jesus, with a radical change in our lives. Should this not be our concern too? Let us question ourselves, "If Christ died for us, what are we doing for Christ?" Every Christian has to answer this question on the Day of Judgment.

Taking up the cross or cross bearing is Godís school of discipline, to bring us glory finally. God refines us through pain and suffering while following Him. For what Jesus had done for us on the cross at Calvary, whatever we do for Him now in our life is only a small sacrifice on our part. We must know that the greatest reward in our life comes from cross bearing. What had happened to Jesus after His crucifixion and resurrection? He received great glory in heaven. Jesus said, "Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven" (Matt. 5:11,12).

A person who bears the cross is one who commits his total life to Jesus. He is available to God for His use. Such a person has to follow Jesus in pain and suffering, totally denying himself. He has to walk in Godís ways and in Godís direction. Without the cross, there is no Christianity. It is the cross which makes Christianity quite different from other faiths. It is because cross has the supreme power to take the sinful man back to the Holy God gloriously, thus making Christianity quite unique.

Conclusion
Christian life is very hard because it calls for self-denial and cross bearing, in order to follow Jesus with total commitment. This may mean going through many persecutions, hardships, sufferings, losses, humiliations and discouragements. But those who willingly embrace the cross will bear them, rejoicing in Jesus, and crave to finish the earthly race joyfully by the power of the Holy Spirit, to receive the crown in heaven, like the Apostle Paul. Following Jesus is always right, though not easy. This is essential for us, because the cross is the source of all the glory. It makes us Christ-like in character and nature. It demands from us total obedience and full surrender to God.

Many people live with Christian morals, good deeds and all kinds of ministry work, but fail to surrender to God. They have no real fellowship with Him. They do not relish the call for a total loss of oneís self, with all its pleasures, desires and comforts. They do not even feel any need for preparation of their souls for eternal life in heaven. This makes them false Christians. Christ said, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Matt.16:26). Material things and values will pass away, but spiritual things and values will last forever.

The Christian life is a canvas on which others can see the masterpiece of the picture of the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus reflecting His image. This is being painted by God gradually, as we continue yielding to Him, looking unto Him every moment. This finally leads to transformation of our self-centred nature to Christ-centred nature, making us born again Christians. It is a deep and mysterious phenomenon, through the mighty work of the cross, bringing about such a radical transformation in our inner being.

Godís way may seem absurd to this world. But it is the only way. Unless we become nothing, God will never make us something beautiful, to have His fragrance and power in our lives. To follow Jesus, we must willingly give up our self totally. This is the challenge of the cross, for our dynamic living as radical Christians.

Let me end this message with the inspiring words of godly Scottish preacher, George Matheson, who was blind. He prayed, "Lord, I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my Ďthorn.í Teach me the glory of my cross; teach me the value of my Ďthorn.í Show me that I have climbed to Thee, by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow." These beautiful words say that we can thank God even when we are pierced by thorns, as the Apostle Paul said, "I take pleasure in infirmities and distress." The path of the cross is a path of pain.




© Light of Life