Although we have turned it into a pretty picture, a piece of jewelry, and a steeple topper, the cross is and always has been a symbol of death. Crucifixion is the cruelest means of execution ever dreamed up in the demented mind of a depraved world.
To Christ, the cross meant more than indescribable suffering and physical death. It also meant, as we saw in our devotion on Day 29, dying to His will in order to submit Himself to the will of His Father. As Hebrews 5:7-9 teaches, Christ’s supreme act of obedience has resulted in Him becoming “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” In other words, only those like Christ—willing to take up the cross, deny themselves, and do the will of God—will be saved by Christ (Matthew 7:21).
This explains Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as cheap or costless Christianity (Luke 14:26-33). Neither is there such a thing as a “crossless” follower of Christ, as Amy Carmichael once poignantly pointed out in a poem:
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow me;
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?
There is no easy road to Calvary, but there is no other way to Heaven. Like our Lord, we too may sweat blood as we contemplate the cross and stumble beneath it as we bear its heavy load (Luke 22:44; John 19:17; Mark 15:21). Still, bear it we must if we hope to live forever, for “whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for [Christ’s] sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Whereas this initial taking up of the cross is mandatory for our salvation, our continual taking up of the cross is essential to the calming of the soul. Our Lord taught that the cross had to be taken up “daily,” not just initially, and the Apostle Paul taught that the Christian life necessitated a daily dying to self in order to live for Christ (Luke 9:23; 1 Corinthians 15:31). Only when we are bearing our cross moment by moment; that is, dying to our will in order to fulfill Christ’s will in our lives, will we ever know true spiritual serenity and the calmness of the soul.
The daily calming of the soul requires a daily taking up of the cross.