Cross Avoidance Techniques

The Scripture says that the free gift of God is eternal life. The good news of The Gospel is that Jesus Christ did absolutely everything that was necessary to redeem us from our sins and to bring us into a relationship with God. But for those who have received that wonderful gift — a gift which costs us nothing, but cost Christ everything — there is a divine call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. One of the reasons that this is essential is that we cannot fulfill the call of God in our own strength. It can only be done through our dependence upon God. And that’s the only way that God will truly be glorified. The Apostle Paul said, “So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.  He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:8-10) The cross is a place where our will and God’s will collide. When Jesus was facing the cross, He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) The Bible says that, as followers of Christ, we should “. . . adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when He had come as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) The cross is also a place of suffering. It is natural to want to avoid suffering, but there are times when it is absolutely necessary if we are going to fulfill God’s purposes. When Jesus began to explain how it was necessary for Him to suffer, Peter pulled Him aside and rebuked Him: “From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, ‘Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!’ Jesus turned and told Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns’” (Matthew 16:21-23). From his human perspective, Peter had good intentions. But, from God’s perspective, Peter was actually promoting Satan’s plan. Without God’s perspective, we can end up doing things that we think are in line with God’s will when we are actually fighting against Him. We embrace God’s perspective when we embrace the cross. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone wants to follow after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26) We may want to “have our ears tickled” — just wanting to hear what we like to hear — but, if we are truly wise, we will embrace what Jesus calls us to do. If we truly have God’s perspective, we understand that there is a great reward for those who choose to follow Jesus. When we read on in Philippians chapter 2, we see that the cross was not the end, but the path to a glorious destiny: “For this reason [that is, Jesus’ willingness to humble himself to the point of death on a cross] God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Scripture also says, “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up” (Hebrews 12: 2b-3). It is clear that avoiding the cross, a cross that God has called us to endure, is not a wise course of action. The Bible promises that we will reap we sow, so we should be careful to choose wisely. But, because of our natural tendency to avoid suffering, conflict, and whatever difficulty may arise from obedience, there are many techniques that we employ to avoid the cross. We are just going to consider a few of them here. In choosing to go to the cross, Jesus had to choose God’s will over His will. In that sense, self will is the opposite of taking up your cross. What is ironic is that some people think that dying to themselves will make them miserable. But the truth is that people who are self-centered are usually the most miserable. Jesus promised that if we try to save our life, we will lose it, but if we lose our life for His sake we will find it. The more fully you surrender your will to God, the more fully you will experience His joy. The call of God to take up our cross and follow Him is a call to humble ourselves. Hanging on to our pride is another way that we avoid the cross. This is often seen in refusing to admit when we are wrong. The Bible says that in many ways we fall short. (James 3:2) Hebrews 12:1 speaks of sin that so easily entangles us. Many Christians will admit that they are sinners in a general sense, but when you bring up something specific that they need to correct in their life, they will often become defensive or try to pass the blame onto others. They are choosing to avoid the cross, and in doing so they are refusing to know God in a deeper way. I get the impression that a lot of Christians are more concerned with avoiding suffering than they are with obeying God. They think that it will cost too much to do what God calls them to do. They forget that it costs a lot more to live in rebellion against The Living God. If you want to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit, you have to embrace all that God calls you to. I remember as a young believer being told, “Don’t ever pray for patience because God will send you trials.” But I realized one day that without love I am nothing, and that God says that love is patient. So I decided that I wanted God to bring me through whatever I need to go through to become a patient person. I was learning to have a heavenly perspective on life. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5). We are called to be a heavenly-minded people. When we are worldly- minded we value the temporary things of the world more than the eternal things of God. Paul was able to say, “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16- 18).