Quoting Jesus, William Macdonald wrote this: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross... " (Mathew 16:24) The cross is not some physical infirmity or mental anguish; these things are common to all men. The cross is a pathway that is deliberately chosen. It is, as C. A. Coates put it, "a path which so far as this world goes is one of dishonour and reproach." The cross symbolizes the shame, persecution, and abuse which the world heaped on the Son of God, and which the world will heap on all who choose to stand against the tide. Any believer can avoid the cross simply by being conformed to the world and its ways."
Let’s take a quick tour through the pages of scripture and wonder at the end of some of our heroes -
Isaiah was sawn in two with a wooden saw, Amos was tortured and afterwards slain. Habakkuk was stoned by the Jews in Jerusalem. Jeremiah was stoned by the Jews in Egypt, because he rebuked them for worshipping idols. Ezekiel was slain by the chief of the Jews, because he rebuked him for worshipping idols.
Zechariah the son of Berachiah, the priest, was from Jerusalem. Joash, the king slew this (prophet) between the steps and the altar, and sprinkled his blood upon the horns of the altar, and the priests buried him. From that day God forsook the temple, and angels were never again seen in it.
The first apostles - Andrew: Martyrdom by crucifixion (bound, not nailed, to a cross). Bartholomew (Often identified with Nathaniel in the New Testament): Martyrdom by being either 1. Beheaded, or 2. Flayed alive and crucified, head downward. James the Greater: Martyrdom by being beheaded or stabbed with a sword. James the Lesser: Martyrdom by being thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple at Jerusalem , then stoned and beaten with clubs. Jude (Often identified with Thaddeus in the New Testament): Martyrdom by being beaten to death with a club. Matthew: Martyrdom by being burned, stoned, or beheaded. Peter: Martyrdom by crucifixion at Rome with his head downwards. Philip: Martyrdom. Simon: Martyrdom by crucifixion. or being sawn in half. Thomas: Martyrdom by being stabbed with a spear.
Stephen was stoned to death. Paul was likely beheaded in Rome. Lastly, our Master: Jesus went about healing the broken-hearted, setting at liberty the oppressed and in the process tipping idols, poking strongholds and shaking cages. Jesus was beaten within inches of His life then crucified by Pilate, through the protests of the chief priests. True love got Him killed in the end.
A servant is not above his Master.
Now, to be celebrated and honoured by our fellow man is a godly desire but not when it is put in first place. When it becomes a need and driver, in the absence of God’s love, then, as the scriptures tells us, the fear of man becomes a snare. We must receive our identity in the Father first, receive His pleasure over us and let any further celebration from man comes as the trimmings.
There is a man-pleasing, platitudinous idolatry passed off as ‘Christian wisdom’, which stops the Daniels of our day from speaking out and being thrown to the lions - the consequence of which produces outrageous miracles, the repentance of kings and the releasing of entire nations from slavery. Babylon never has the last laugh – her lion’s den is the gateway to national revival. If you do a study from the New Testament of characteristics of people filled with the Holy Spirit you will find two chilling traits. John the Baptist (filled from birth), Jesus, Peter, Paul and Stephen were
1. All people of plain speech.
2. All martyred.
In other words, the Holy Spirit doesn’t endorse wooly talk. He is never political.
Mark Batterson writes:
"I wonder if our culture of political correctness has left us too thin skinned. Again, I'm not advocating for careless, thoughtless, heartless insults. But when political correctness becomes the Golden Rule, speaking truth becomes bigotry. Truth is crucified in the name of tolerance, undermining civil debate, conscientious objection, and religious conviction.
We live in a culture to say it's wrong to say something is wrong. And I think that's wrong! Remaining silent on a thing that God has spoken about isn't loving - it's cowardly. And when we fail to use our voice, we lose our voice. We as the church should be more known for what we're for than what we're against. But playing the man requires standing up for what you believe in, even if you're standing alone.
A few diagnostic questions: When was the last time you were criticised? If it's been a while, it should make you nervous. Why? Because it probably means you're maintaining the status quo rather than challenging it. You can't make a difference without making waves, and some people in the boat won't like it. So be it. Rock the boat anyway. Also, how easily offended are you? If the answer is easily, then you need to man up. When you take offence, you become defensive. And the second you become defensive, the kingdom of God stops advancing through you." (‘Play the Man’)
Jim Elliot (1927-1956) was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. Jim prayed this; “Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”
If you are a born again believer, an ambassador for heaven, the cross-shaped life of sacrificial love that you are called into makes you His crisis man or woman. Do you accept?