Taking up your cross as discipline
Over the past week, as my prayer focus has been discipline, I've heard this same verse (Matt 16:24) from multiple sources. So, as the week progressed, I've considered this concept of taking up my cross, as a form of spiritual discipline. To do this, I've drawn some parallels using the two requirements for becoming a follower, and two definitions of discipline.
In Jesus' words, in order to be one of his followers, one first had to deny oneself. What does that mean, anyway? The first definition of discipline I looked at was in the context of being disciplined, that is, being punished or penalized for the purpose of training or control. Denying myself means giving God the control, and recognizing that his will is now my will. Denying myself is acknowledging that his ways are higher than my ways, and his thoughts higher than my thoughts (Isa 55:9). It is not hating God's discipline, or getting tired of his reproof (Prov 3:11). It is living out Paul's words in 2 Cor 4:7, knowing that the treasure that I hold in this clay jar of a human body shows that the power that I have comes from God and not from me.
The next part of becoming a follower of Jesus is taking up my cross. Crosses are large, heavy and conspicuous. If you're going to consciously, consistently and constantly carry one, then you must be disciplined to do so. That is to say, taking up my cross is a daily practice, which I continuously train for, by both instruction and exercise, which is the second definition of discipline that I considered in my prayers this week. You carry your cross on your way to your death, and every time I pick up my cross, I acknowledge that today, I will die. But we know to fear not, because we have been given, instead of a spirit of fear, one of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim 1: 7). The ability to take up my cross has been already given to me!
Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
And finally, having been disciplined by the Lord, and discipling myself, I can follow Christ with all confidence, setting my hope on the grace that Jesus Christ brings when he is revealed (1 Peter 1:13). The discipline in which we train ourselves gives us consistency in our walk. So the question is, what are you training yourself for in your walk? Is it to deny yourself and take up your cross?
Be blessed and shine with discipline!