In the last two months, I have had two false prophetic words given to me. I know they are both false because neither of them lined up with the Word of God! One of them was given by a lady who I did not want to promote to a leadership position in the church, and the word was essentially that God would take me out for standing in the way of their destiny. The other word was that I was going to do through a painful pruning to get me where I want to be. Neither of those words reflect our Father, neither of those words reflect Jesus – they are coming from sincere hearts, and genuine people, but the people giving those words have not yet discerned the difference between the Old and New Testament, not fully, and if we do not rightly divide the Word of God, it colours our soul and infects when God wants to use us to speak to others.
Now I kindly (but firmly) insisted that I have judged these words and I will not be receiving them, and if either of those people are Biblical they will obey the Scripture to “let the others judge” when they prophesy, and leave it at that. One of the people while discussing that God is not going to prune us asked about the fact that Jesus said we are suppoed to take up our crosses. And the idea behind carrying our cross often is that we have to carry heavy burdens as Christians, that being a Christian is tough and painful and God will crush us to remake us, and of course prune us painfully. It’s a hotch-potch of ideas that just do not line up with Scripture, so let us examine what the Bible says:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16.24, NIV)
Now Jesus definitely said that, but did He mean that He wants us to carry heavy burdens around, have a tough life, be painfully pruned in this verse? The way to understand this verse is to go back in time and understand what it means to the people who were there in Jesus’ day. Not one of them viewed a cross as a heavy burden to carry around day after day, no – they knew the truth – the cross is an instrument of death. It only had one purpose: to make you dead. You didn’t carry your cross day after day, you carried it and you were nailed to it and you died. Someone carrying a cross was a dead man walking.
This verse is not saying at all that to be a Christian you would have to live a life that is burdensome, carrying a heavy thing around all the time. The Christian is not called to a life of sickness, poverty, struggle and pain. Now, do not get me wrong – if you shine for Christ, the world will hate you and reject you and sometimes even throw things at you, and that isn’t nice. And actually if you start living the full Christian life, enjoying the presence of God, walking in the promises of God, being the head and not the tail, a whole bunch of Christians who do not understand what Jesus came to do will hate you and reject you too. But the truth is that although there is a cost to follow Jesus,, the reward is always always always more than the cost. I am glad I am following Jesus, I love it. I wouldn’t swap it for anything, far from being burdensome, the truth is that His burden is light.
I have heard people say their difficult circumstances are their cross to bear, their sickness is their cross to bear, I have even heard people do foolish, sinful, selfish things and then call the consequencs their cross to bear! They claim they are living a hard life because of Christ, but it is their own selfishness and foolishness that gave them the hard life! This coronavirus is not your cross to bear – it doesn’t even come from God.
No, there is no heavy burden in the Christian life and this verse does not mean this. So what does it mean? Take up your cross to everyone in the ancient world, Jewish, Roman, Barbarian – it only meant one thing: die.
Now, let’s start with a foundation we are all aware with: everyone reading this post has been born at least once – the flesh birth. You were a flesh baby born to a flesh mother. That is the first birth. But you need a second birth, you need to be born again (John 3.3-5), two births. The first is flesh, the second is spiritual.
But you have to realize that the new birth is also the new death. Romans 6 says that when we believe in Christ, we die with Him. We died to sin, we died to self, we died to sickness, we died to poverty, we died to the curse, and we were born again – born to life, to abundance, to righteousness, to kindness, to love, to peace, to joy.
Paul sums it up like this: “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2.20). Now Romans 6.3 says we died with Christ, Paul says he has been crucified. It is not an ongoing thing, it is death. Matthew 16.24 says if you want to follow Christ you have to die with Him. You have to be on the cross with Him, you have to die with Him and be crucified with Him. This is just the other side of saying you must be born again. You die to the old, the old has gone, the new has come and all things are made new. This is about being saved, not carrying a burden.
And you can only be crucified once. Paul does not say “I am always being crucified with Christ”, he says “I have been crucified with Christ”. He tells us you died with Christ, not you are always carrying a giant burden around with you with Christ. Matthew 16.24 does not teach that we must carry the cross around with us every day. We get on it, we die to self, get born again and live the new life.
The problem is not that we need to keep dying all the time, or keep carrying a burden all the time, the problem is bad teaching that teaches us that the Christian life is a burden and hard, and that we need to be “painfully pruned” – and it all fails to see how good God is as our Father, and that we are born again. We do not need to die painfully to grow in Christ, we need to know that we are dead in Christ and alive to Christ:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6.6-11)
You need to read these verses carefully and realize what they are saying, and you need to accept the Bible as truth, not our religious opinions:
- We are crucified with Christ. The work of the cross in our spirit is absolutely complete. We do not need a daily crucifixion. We have been crucified.
- We are dead. We are “he that is dead”. We are free from sin because the new birth is also a death to sin.
- If we are dead (which we are), we live with Christ. You cannot live with Christ unless you get born again and get dead to the old you. You must be born again, you must die in Christ, you must take up your cross.
- When Christ died He died once, but He lives every day for God. In Christ, we died once and for all when we got born again, but we can live for Christ every single day.
- We now do not need to die, we need to reckon ourselves dead the same way Christ died once – we died once, but every day we are alive to God. Today is not a day for dying to this or that, you are dead to it, today we live for God.
Some people think the Christian life is mountains and valleys, and they climb the mountain and then go into the valley, and it’s up and down. It’s not how the Christian life should be lived, that is not Biblical, it is people labelling their inconsistency and immaturity. The Christian life is just a path of righteousness getting brighter every single day.
What we need to do is reckon that we are dead. We need to remember what happened at the cross, we need to remember what happened when we got born again. We need to remember. The problem is that a lot of Christians have the cross obscured from them by religion, and are trying to obtain what Christ has obtained for them. We need to know Christ died for us, but we equally need to know we died with Him, and we need to recognize that truth, and reckon it. That word reckon is an accounting term, you need to put it in the account of your life that you are not dying daily, you are not lugging your cross around, you are dead. You are already dead to sin, you are already pruned, and you are right now as righteous as you are ever going to be. Isn’t that good news?
Now when I teach like this, people will mention that Luke 9.23 where Jesus says exactly what is said in Matthew 16, but it – in some Bibles – says “daily”. Well, the truth is that the most reliable sources do not say daily in Luke 9.23, and most commentaries will tell us that the original copy of Luke should not have “daily” in. Now, if you don’t accept that, and you think the daily should be there, either you think Luke is saying we should die daily, and means we need to pick up our cross and have a burden every day, cutting across the rest of the New Testament. Or if that word is there, it means that every day you should remember and reckon you are dead in Christ. Every morning you get up you remind yourself: I am dead to the past, I died in Christ, I have been crucified with Christ and I live today to God, and it will be awesome.
We do not die daily any more than we get born again daily. Do not trust in your ability, your works, your ability to die every day, but trust in the fact that in Christ you died once and for all – and live for God, live in righteousness, live in victory.
The cross is not your heavy burden, it is the instrument of death for you. You die in Christ and you are born again, and you are now righteous and full of life. The cross is the way to life, not the burden of your life.