- Eternal life
The list of blessings, of course, is virtually endless. Indeed, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). Having been raised up, cleaned off, and brought in, we simply cannot plumb the height and depth of the blessings that we have received in Christ. But we must remember that the Christian life is not an endless parade of balmy days and delightful, cool breezes. We will spend days on the other side of shadow of the cross, where the sky is bronze and brittle, and a scorching sun beats pitilessly down on us—on that side of the cross is suffering. And in that suffering we also need to live, and live well, as a witness to the One who hung on that cross in our place.
To be sure, it is always easier to live in the shade of the shadow of the cross. This is the place where we find the sky is always blue and the clouds are always fleecy. But on the other side of the shadow we find suffering . . . and this is part of taking up our cross and carrying it for Jesus.
He said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
The cross is not only our greatest source of blessing, it is the source of our heaviest burden. Jesus was a cross-bearer, and all those who would follow Him must be cross-bearers too. If we will one day receive a crown, it will only be by way of the cross. The Via Crucis, or the Way of Sorrows, is the only way to the place of blessing; it must be walked by every follower of Christ. Jesus carried His cross to the Hill Golgotha to be crucified and to die upon it. Will we not submit and surrender our shoulder to our cross to be purified on our way to eternal life?
If you keep the promise of the glorious life to come in view, your present burden will be greatly eased. Jesus willingly gave Himself to a cross He did not deserve. God forbid that we would shrink back from the cross that had our name carved into its side. To know the Father’s love—a love that gave His only Son to be nailed to the cross to pay for all our sins—is to know enough to receive our cross as a badge of holy honor. The apostle Paul’s prayer was that he would
. . . [B]e found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:9-10)
Paul believed it was an honor to share in the sufferings of His Lord, because Paul knew what His Lord did for Him on that cross. He knew “the incomparable riches of [God’s] grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7-8 NIV). He stood in the glorious shade of the shadow of the cross on the road to Damascus, and in that moment when Jesus raised Paul from death to life, Paul stooped to surrender his shoulder to the glories of its suffering too. Paul wanted nothing more than to be like Jesus. To live like Jesus . . . to suffer like Jesus . . . and to die like Jesus!
The more deeply we understand the Gospel, the more delighted we are to carry our cross. Both blessing and burden live beneath the cross, and it is the call of every follower of Christ to take it up daily, regardless of the cost or circumstance.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!