02/20/Th – Taking up the Cross

Exodus 1:1-2:10; Matthew 16:21-17:9; Psalms 22:1-18; Proverbs 10:6-7

OT: “A new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we are. Come, let’s deal shrewdly with them; otherwise they will multiply further, and when war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.” So the Egyptians assigned taskmasters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor. They built Pithom and Rameses as supply cities for Pharaoh. But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. They worked the Israelites ruthlessly and made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them… Pharaoh then commanded all his people, “You must throw every son born to the Hebrews into the Nile, but let every daughter live.”” (‭‭Exodus‬ ‭1:8-14, 22‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

While it may sound far-fetched to many, there is a kingdom of darkness that is actively 24/7/365 working to thwart and destroy the redemptive plan of God on the earth.  As a result, following the purposes of God isn’t going to rainbows and unicorns all day long. There is going to be resistance – sometimes heavy and painful resistance to the purposes of God in your life. While the blessed life promised by God is a gift, it comes at a cost. The good news is that if you are surrendered to God, He will give you the grace to withstand the resistance. God worked mightily through the surrendered life of Joseph to preserve the lineage of Abraham and ensure that His redemptive plan would continue. Yet, as soon as Joseph was removed from the scene and doors were opened to darkness, the enemy of humanity began working through the powers-that-be to try and snuff out God’s plans. The harder the enemy attacked, the greater God’s life-giving glory shone through His people – and He made a way where there appeared to be no way.

NT: “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.” 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 ‭16:21-26‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

Ultimately, there are 2 kingdom purposes at work in the earth: The kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Anything that is not aligned with and submitted to the Kingdom of God is ultimately, though often times unwittingly, in league with the kingdom of darkness. That is why Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” Peter was looking at things from a human perspective and was therefore standing in opposition to the purposes of the Kingdom. Being a part of God’s kingdom purposes is costly – it requires you to sacrifice your human plans and desires for His divine plans and desires. To gain the life that God has for you, you must be willing to lose the life you desire for yourself. Most people either don’t trust God’s purposes or their desire for immediate gratification outweighs the promise of eternal blessing and glory. Thus most decide not to pay the price and follow Jesus fully. Are there things that I am not willing to give up? Am I following Jesus fully? Am I even willing to ask Him to show me the things that I’m not willing to give up for fear of being accountable for that revelation? People call those dangerous questions – but they aren’t truly dangerous to your soul – just dangerous to your flesh and the enemy’s purposes for your life.

Psalms: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning? My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest. But you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you; they trusted, and you rescued them. They cried to you and were set free; they trusted in you and were not disgraced… Everyone who sees me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads: “He relies on the Lord; let him save him; let the Lord rescue him, since he takes pleasure in him.” …I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed; my heart is like wax, melting within me… For dogs have surrounded me; a gang of evildoers has closed in on me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people look and stare at me. They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭22:1-5, 7-8, 14, 16-18‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

What an amazing psalm this is. It is both an example of David honestly dealing with his feelings before God, and also David seeing through his experiences a picture of the suffering Messiah. Feelings are real, but they don’t always portray the truth. So David honestly submits his feelings before the Lord while also recounting the truth that he knows about the Lord. He starts out by saying, I’m crying out to you all day long, but I feel like you aren’t answering me. I toss and turn all night long, and it feel like I’m being ignored. But this I know: You are Holy – and You are enthroned (Your throne is established) on the praises of your people. When Your people put their complete trust in You, You rescued them. Wow! So what do we do? No matter our feelings, we lift up praise to God and trust that as we praise Him, our words of praise will build up faith and trust in us… then our faith and trust gives place for God’s rule to be established in the midst of our circumstances… and we will be helped. The interesting thing about this psalm is that Jesus quoted the first verse of this psalm while He hung on the cross: My God, My God, why have You forsaken (or abandoned) me? Then as David goes on to graphically describe poetically how he feels, we see in His words what literally happened to Jesus on the cross. Following God’s plans and being submitted to His purposes is not always rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns – but if we continue placing our trust in Him and remind ourselves of His truth, He will grace us to overcome the challenges and stand as a victor on the other side.

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