Learning to Die: What does it mean to take up your cross?

A talk in church challenged us about “enlargement” from Isaiah 54. The talk left me with one key question:

What, actually, do I desire?

Until I can answer that one, all the others (such as “What steps do I need to take?” or “What’s getting in the way of doing this?”) are academic. The Bible says that if I “delight myself in the Lord” He’ll give me what I want. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that much of what I desire is more about delighting myself in me rather than in Him. Oops.

Beyond that, the talk urged us to consider our priorities, stop making excuses, stretch ourselves, and more. (Go to www.newsprings.org.uk to download the full talk.) But I need to get past that first base of desiring stuff that delights Him, rather than me, before those things become relevant.

I had a bit of a thinking / praying / writing session about this and scribbled all sorts of things about various aspects of life, the universe and everything. At the bottom of the page I wrote “Mark 8:34 – I haven’t done this”. The verse is something Jesus said:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

You’d think that after 29 years as a follower of Christ I’d have done this / grasped it / worked it out. But no. Not really. Not if I’m honest.

To delve a bit further into what Jesus meant I looked at the New English Translation notes. They say this:

To bear the cross means to accept the rejection of the world for turning to Jesus and following him. Discipleship involves a death that is like a crucifixion; see Gal 6:14.

And Galatians 6:14, in turn, says:

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

Ouch. Double ouch. Triple, even. The NET notes go on to say this about Mark 8:35:

The point of the saying “whoever wants to save his life will lose it” is that if one comes to Jesus then rejection by many will certainly follow. If self-protection is a key motivation, then one will not respond to Jesus and will not be saved. One who is willing to risk rejection will respond and find true life.

See, here’s the thing. I know I’m saved. And when I was saved I never gave a moment’s thought to the fact that I might be risking rejection. So in that regard I kind of have to disagree with the commentator. But they do use a key phrase that resonates with me:

Self-protection.

‘Tis me all over. So I think I have a choice to make. Am I going to keep the mindset of “thus far and no further”, or decide to embrace discipleship that “involves a death that is like a crucifixion”? I know the choice I ought to make, of course, though I’m uncertain as to exactly what I do about it – other than telling God that’s what I’m doing. I’m afraid of empty declarations, responding to altar calls and suchlike. There needs to be, as they say, a paradigm shift – one that only the Holy Spirit can bring about.

So here I am, Lord. I know it’s a no-brainer really. Help me make that choice.

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A Place to Stay and Some Things to Do on a Short Break Near Matlock: I liked it and you might too

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Snappy title, huh? By way of an explanation, we recently enjoyed a two-night break in Derbyshire, and while I’m far too lazy to write the detailed reviews and travelogs with which the Internet is amply blessed, I thought it worthwhile to give a bullet-point version of our itinerary for your consideration and future reference.

  • Disclaimer: If you hate any or indeed all of these places don’t blame me.
  • Tip: Since I’m also too lazy to give relevant links you’ll have to look them up yourself by the wonder of Googleology.

So…

Chatsworth House: Think grand, sweeping gardens with a few surprises, historical house, nice place for a picnic. Teenagers would definitely love it *cough*.

Willersley Castle Hotel: Bargain B & B (via LateRooms.com) with pool, table tennis, woodland walks and decent breakfast if slightly disorganised service. Only two-star as there’s no TV in your room but who cares? Beautiful setting, big, comfortable room.

Matlock Bath: Home, it seems, to its very own illuminations, not to mention the Heights of Abraham. But we ignored that, and stared for a minute or two instead at the fairly well-stocked fishpond, opposite a pub called, aptly enough, the Fishpond. The pub boasts a decked beer garden with its own (admittedly smaller) fishpond fed from the spa spring. And it sells Thatcher’s Gold cider, which led to me having my first ever pre-midday pint.

Cromford Mills: We walked back from Matlock Bath to Willersley Castle by road to Cromford, where you can explore the history of Arkwright’s pioneering cotton mills, if you like that sort of thing – which, in these middle-aged days, we do.

The Greyhound, Cromford: A decent dinner for less than £5 each (before 6:30 p.m.). An old coaching inn with articles about its history on the wall. Gives you something to read while waiting for food 🙂

National Stone Centre: A low-key visitor centre a few minutes outside Cromford built in quarrying country. Walks, a shop selling minerals and, wait for it, The Millennium Wall – samples of over a dozen different styles of dry stone walling from all round the UK. For some reason our children couldn’t quite believe we found it interesting.

So there you have it. A successful expedition, even if marred by hearing reports of street riots. The afternoon rain also didn’t spoil our fun, the time being filled with table tennis, swimming, backgammon and chess. Just don’t ask me if I won any of the games.

Until the next exotic travel report, farewell.