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The Light Burden of the Christian Cross

August 20, 2012

In Luke 9:23 Jesus says to the crowd, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In Matthew 5:11 he says to His believers, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Despite some preachers teaching that the main message of the Bible is worldly happiness and success, Christians are not promised easy worldly lives. In fact, the more we set ourselves against the mainstream values and priorities of society, the more pressure, criticism and outright attacks we are likely to receive.

And yet in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus states “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Is this contradictory to what we experience as believers? Does it describe the Christian life as easy or aimed at comfort? Hardly. In fact both of the verses are true.

The Christian life is at once a challenging denial of ourselves and a light burden. How can this be?

Before we are saved we are trapped in sin; we are selfish and greedy for what we want, and the cross of Christ is the most difficult thing we can imagine taking up. How can we love others as we love ourselves? How can we follow God’s commands and not pursue our own desires for reputation, position and possessions? It is beyond being a “heavy” burden – it is impossible for us.

But when God saves us from our sin and changes us, those selfish and greedy temptations start to fade from our mind completely, replaced with a desire for the things of God and to understand His Word. The “burden” of our self-denial and the worldly persecution we receive from that start to feel lighter, and continues to lighten the more we understand and rely on God. We learn that He will empower us to handle any trial He allows to happen to us; we learn the truth of James 1:2-3, that we should consider those trials as joy, because they strengthen our faith and draw us closer to the Lord.

The cross of Christ ultimately becomes an easy yoke and a light burden when we are finally able to give ourselves over to Him completely, and realize that our very lives belong to God. If we live long lives or if we are taken from our families early, if we are blessed with wealth or are given only life’s necessities, if we’re given houses full of children or must endure infertility, if we’re allowed to live our lives in peace or if we’re persecuted in evil and injustice – we can accept God’s will for our lives and desire only to serve Him. Richard Baxter stated that once a Christian truly understands this powerful truth, the yoke of Christ actually becomes part of us, and we fear nothing. Man cannot take from us anything of any true value, and we know that God will provide for us and protect us until the point when He is ready to bring us home.

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. — Romans 14:8

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From → Bible, Worldview

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