The meaning of taking up your cross is mostly misunderstood as putting up with and enduring the hardships that come along in life. Certainly there are hardships, frustrations and problems in life that must be worked through. Avoiding these things only creates more troubles. Problems and hardships come to everyone whether or not they are Christians. Therefore, saying that bearing your cross means just having to live through hardships secularizes the saying. What, then, does taking up your cross mean in the Christian context? Jesus said, “Therefore, whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 14:25-34). Luke adds Christ’s words that anyone not bearing his cross and following Jesus cannot be His disciple. Reading Matthew and Luke together shows that those not bearing their personal cross and following Jesus is not worthy of Him and cannot be His disciple, and therefore are not Christians. They are not saved.
This does not mean that salvation has anything to do with works, but rather, works are the natural consequence of being a Christian: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Notice the order here: (1) you at saved by grace alone through faith alone; (2) you are recreated in Christ Jesus to do good works; (3) That the Father has predetermined what works you are to do for Him. No matter what you do for a vocation, whether a doctor, bus driver, lawyer, carpenter, barber, butcher, baker or candle-stick maker God has work planned for you that fits you to bring others to Him. The Great Commission was given by Christ to His apostles, disciples, and by extension to us just before He ascended back into heaven.
Jesus said that those who lose their lives for His sake will find them. That doesn’t mean you have to be martyred to gain salvation. It means that those who humble themselves and give up their will and what they think is cool to do, and change their world view and allow Jesus to preempt control of their lives will gain eternal life with Him in heaven. Jesus said this isn’t easy, and life as a Christian will cause you problems: ” Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. for I have come to set man against his father, daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”. And, ” He who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life [in this world] will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (See Matthew 10:32-42).
Paul tells us that you are “a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Him through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” ( 2Corinthians 5:17-19). God has given us the means through Christ’s work on the cross to bring others to Him ( John 3:16; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 4:17-24). Paul continues, “Now, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, to be reconciled to God”. (2 Corinthians 5:20,21; NKJV).
The Greek word for ambassador, presbeuo, means to be a senior, a representative, an ambassador or preacher. Reconciled in the Greek means to change mutually, to compound a difference. Christians are changed into the spiritual likeness of Christ because they were recreated in Him and He in them. The conflation of our will with God’s will works to set Christians apart from the unsaved people, and it is our responsibility to draw them to Christ. This doesn’t mean all Christians have to be preachers, evangelists or missionaries. It does mean that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and should live our lives so that the unsaved will see Christ beautifully presented though us, so they will want what we have. The best way to do that is to treat others as Christ treats you. It means living your life as Jesus lived His-because of what and who you are.
Witnessing is easier than you might think, because just living a life in Christ is a witness. But you do need to let people know that you’re a Christian. You can do this by witnessing, wearing T-shirts, caps, or other clothing with Christian messages, or carrying a Bible like carrying an American Express card: Don’t leave home without it, or any combination of the above.
Trying to reach the lost will be frustrating. Not everyone you interact with will become a Christian. One high-school student was saved at a revival. He started carrying his Bible to school and witnessed to all his friends. He became frustrated when his best friend refused to listen to the word. The student rolled up his new leather-covered Bible and said, “Have you ever felt the power of the word”, and clobbered his friend across the side of his head with the Bible. That’s not a recommended witnessing technique! Don’t worry about how to present Christ. He was the light of the world while He was in the world, and now you are the light of the world because His light shines out through you. The Holy Spirit has given you gifts that will enable you to reach others in the manner God has intended you to use. And, He will give you opportunities to reach the lost. All you have to do is listen to Him and follow His lead.