Taking up my “cross” means a life voluntarily surrendered to God. As the act of wicked men, the death of Christ was a murder; but as the act of Christ Himself, it was a voluntary sacrifice, offering Himself to God. It was also an act of obedience to God. In John 10:18 He said, “No man taketh it [His life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” And why did He? His very next words tell us: “This commandment have I received of My Father.” The cross was the supreme demonstration of Christ’s obedience. Herein He was our Exemplar. Once again we quote Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” In what follows we see the Beloved of the Father taking upon Him the form of a Servant, and becoming “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Now the obedience of Christ must be the obedience of the Christian—voluntary, gladsome, unreserved, continuous. If that obedience involves shame and suffering, reproach and loss, we must not flinch, but set our face “like a flint” (Isa. 50:7). The cross is more than the object of the Christian’s faith, it is the badge of discipleship, the principle by which his life is to be regulated. The “cross” stands for surrender and dedication to God: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, your reasonable service (Rom. 12:1).
The “cross” stands for vicarious service and suffering. Christ laid down His life for others, and His followers are called on to be willing to do the same: “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16): that is the inevitable logic of Calvary. We are called to follow Christ’s example, to the fellowship of His sufferings, to be partners in His service. As Christ made himself “of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7) we must not. As He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matthew 20:28), so must we. As He “pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3), no more must we. As He ever thought of others, so must we: “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves in the body” (Heb. 13:3).
“For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake, shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). Words almost identical with these are found again in Matthew 10:39, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24; 17:33, John 12:25. Surely, such repetition argues the deep importance of our noting and heeding this saying of Christ’s. He died that we might live (John 12:24), so must we (John 12:25). Like Paul we must be able to say, “Neither count I my life dear unto myself” (Acts 20:24). The “life” that is lived for the gratification of self in this world, is “lost” for eternity; the life that is sacrificed to self-interests and yielded to Christ, will be “found” again, and preserved through eternity.