Daily Devotional for 04.05.2020
RESURGAM 2020 - Journeying through the 14 Stations of the Cross
Station # 8 - Simon carries Jesus' Cross
They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15: 21)
Jesus staggered on towards Calvary carrying the cross.
It was Jesus’ cross to bear, his burden, his torture, He embraced it with all His strength because without it there could be no Salvation. He must reach Calvary and be nailed to it, He must be lifted on high, so all men could be drawn to Him. John 12:32 The cross was central to the plan of God from before the creation of the world, Rev 13:8 It was the focus of Prophetic declarations throughout the Old Testament. The cross was the most precious thing to Jesus, He hung on to it with all His strength, even though it crushed Him, even though it tore Him, even though it took every ounce of strength He had, He still hung on to it, He still loved it. It was the Father’s will and for love of the Father, he struggled on.
There came a point at which He could not continue, His strength was gone, the pain too intense, His legs gave way and He fell to the ground, the weight of the cross crushing His back. The soldiers whipped and kicked Him, demanding He continue, but He could not move. His strength was gone.
Immediately, forceful military hands seized a man from the crowd, a visitor to Jerusalem, a man from Cyrene, Simon. The soldiers demanded him to carry the cross of the condemned man. We do not know if Simon knew Jesus, had heard Him speak, or witnessed His miracles, all we know is that he was a pilgrim visiting Jerusalem from the city of Cyrene in Northern Africa (modern Libya). As Simon knelt beside the crumpled figure of Jesus his eyes were met by tortured and bloodied eyes of such love, such compassion, he knew at that moment what Jesus was saying to him, “will you help me carry this cross, will you love it as I do, will you take its weight for love of me and love of the Father, will you suffer for it, will you give everything you have for it, it is the tool in God’s hands that will offer Salvation the whole world. Simon, will you do it for me, will you carry my cross?”
Simon at that moment was transformed, love had dealt him a devastating blow, he had been shot through the heart with an arrow from Heaven, he could never be the same. His life now belonged to another. He said to Jesus, “yes, whatever the cost, I will bear it out of my love for you” He put his arms around the rough timber, splinters tore at his skin, it was heavy, much heavier than he thought, and as he struggled to find a way to carry it, he reminded himself, ….. for Jesus, for love.
Can you imagine if Simon had said, "Jesus, I love you, I will do everything to help you get to Calvary, rest all of your weight on me, I just cannot carry your cross". Jesus would have stopped him cold, “Simon”, He would have gently said, “to love me is to carry my cross, I am intimately connected with it, I cannot move on without it, it is God’s plan for the Salvation of the world, if you refuse to carry my cross, you cannot walk with me”.
In this instance, Simon had no choice, he had been forcibly enlisted by the soldiers, but it was love that reached out to him, engaged and constrained him, Simon took the weight of the cross not because of force but because of love.
The call of Christ is a call to sacrifice. Jesus told His Disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”. Mat 16:24-25 To be a Soldier of Christ requires that we embrace a way of life that is fashioned and directed by God’s Word, a life that reflects our love for the one who gave up His life for us on the cross. We are called to deny ourselves, to be givers and lovers, to lay down our lives for the Gospel. Yet many Christians fail to understand what this “cross” is that Jesus is referring to.
The cross is the Church.
One of the greatest deceptions of the last 30 years has been wrought on individuals by the enemy as he has increasingly convinced them that they don’t need to “go to Church” to be a Christian. And as with all his deceptions, that is partly true. Salvation is personal, it connects us individually in a relationship back to God, it is by our personal confession of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are fitted to become Born Again by the Spirit of God. Our ongoing relationship with God is personal, the maintenance of our walk with God is determined by what we do or do not do. It is I who must pursue God with all my heart, to be a lover of God, to be a true Worshipper, but there is something greater still.
Through the Spirit, we as individuals are adopted into the worldwide, mystical Body of Christ. However, this mystical union is not the end of things, for God has determined that each person should be part of a physical family of believers, a local expression of this mystical “Body”. God sets us as individuals in a family Psalm 68:6. God places us in a family of believers to live out our lives with others so that we can fulfill our destiny in Him. We can never fulfill this destiny alone. Others cannot fulfill theirs without us. This joining is supernatural, God joins us with the people we need and connects us to those who need us. In every sense, God creates a family. Each family is distinct, it has a call and a purpose and is propelled by Heavenly vision.
The Church is the cross we are called by Jesus to bear, it is the tool in the hand of God for the Salvation of the world. Jesus loves the Church, He died for the Church, it is His beloved, His bride, His darling. The Spirit created it, Angels attend it, Heaven awaits it, the Church is God’s delight on earth and soon will be in Heaven.
Today, the Church is under attack, not from the world (though the Church will always suffer the world’s rage) but from an army of unconnected believers. Many have retreated into their own space creating walls made from well-reasoned arguments that justify their separation from “Church”. They fire questioning arrows over the walls of their strongholds at Jesus’ beloved and invite others to embrace their philosophy of individualism and "freedom". They love Jesus …. They just don’t care for the Church. They have been wounded, used, taken advantage of too many times, they have given everything for no reward and now they are tired of it all. They have put down their cross for an easier life.
There have been many occasions in 40 years of ministry when I have wanted to quit. Many times I have presented my resignation letter to Heaven and complained, “I just can’t do this anymore, it’s just too hard”. I have been used, abused and wrongly accused, I have given everything and received little to nothing in return, I have spent hours, days weeks, crying out for people and their circumstances to the Throne of God, I have loved them, given everything to them and have seen them walk away mumbling a string of “complaints”. Yet, I cannot quit. The Church is my cross and each day I must take it up again and bear its burden ….. for the love of Jesus. To love Jesus and yet reject this cross is a mistake. Like Simon, we cannot walk with Jesus and ignore our responsibility to carry His cross.
Lorna and I have sacrificed everything for the Church. We have given everything we have, wherever in the world we have been to see the Church built. We have little in the way of possessions or wealth, nothing much to hand to our children as an inheritance. It has been our cross, it has been a painful and exhausting journey, but we have born this cross for Jesus. In our teens, we were both called by Jesus personally and He asked us to walk with Him in ministry and carry His cross. We have been faithful and will be until we die. Our reward is in Heaven, but let me tell you this, I would not change the life we have lived for anything - and neither would our children! For us both, this has been a wild, exciting life, we have seen God’s power transform lives, we have witnessed countless miracles, we have met with the great and the small. Yes, we have given and given, but He has given so much more back in return.
Right where we are today, we are so, so grateful to God for the people who are a part of our Church in California, individuals who have become our family, our friends through the power of the Gospel. Wonderful people, walking with us along the path He has laid before us to see revival come in this region. How has this happened? We carried the cross, we loved the cross, we cherished the cross …. For the love of Jesus.
I wondered for years about Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ I would pray and say to the Lord, “Jesus, I love you, keep me from being one of these, after all, I prophesy, I cast out demons, I call you Lord, ….. don’t let me become one who is turned away because I don’t “know” you”. Then I realized, the qualification is outlined clearly …. “but He who does the will of my Father in heaven”. What is God’s will? It’s simple, take up the cross, embrace your call …. build the Church. It is our mandate from Heaven and we have been commissioned to do it. There is nothing more clearly outlined in Scripture to be the "will of God" for our lives. Jesus is building His Church, that's where He is, we have no other choice but to join Him.
But Lord, do I need to be in Church to Worship every Sunday? …..
Take up your cross and follow me.
Give up my time and strength and abilities and receive nothing back? ….
Take up your cross and follow me.
Serve others continually even when they take advantage of me? ….
Take up your cross and follow me
Give my hard-earned money and goods in tithes and offerings? …..
Take up your cross and follow me
Deny myself for others? …..
Take up your cross and follow me.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her Eph 5:25 Jesus gave up everything for the Church because of love. Through blood-stained, bloodshot eyes he looks deep into your soul today and asks, “my friend, will you carry my cross, will you bear the shame, will you yoke yourself with me, will you build my Church?”
Jesus is doing one thing until He returns …. He is building His Church. Today, will you take up His cross and follow Him?