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What is your Cross?

And How do you discern God's will?

by Jacques More

For quite some time I have known that when Jesus said:


. . . he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

Matthew 10:38


Jesus was not referring to some persecution or suffering of that kind (per se), but to God's call and purpose on your life. Persecution comes out of going for that purpose and call, but it is not the persecution we carry and follow after, it is the purposes of God in our lives that we go for. Now this purpose is two-fold: the purpose of God in witnessing to others and, the actual purpose or call of God, His plan for the life of the individual believer. I wish to concentrate on the one that is sometimes missed when reading this passage, the very plan God has for each believer. We can see this with Jesus.

Jesus' own life purpose and call was to go to the cross. In other words His cross (to bear) was to go to the cross. His cross was the cross. This is not so for us.

John the Baptist announced Jesus like this:


Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:29

And Jesus also said:


. . . as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up . . . For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .

John 3:14 & 16


This is something Jesus understood, but His disciples did not. So much so that they were uncomfortable with that and reacted to the idea:


From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer . . . and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!' But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.'

Matthew 16:21-23


Jesus' cross to bear was the purpose of God which was that He was to give Himself on a cross. So that He knew that He had to oppose anything that would stop or hinder that goal: hence His reaction to Peter. Knowing that Peter was not speaking from His Father (as he did a few verses earlier), but from a human standpoint: what was comfortable: what seemed right and good…

The above passages show that Jesus life purpose was to go to the cross: it was His cross to bear in His life. He didn't actually bear it on the day of His crucifixion (Matthew 27:32). But, in His life the perceptions of those around Him were sometimes a hindrance to going to do that work and purpose for His life. We can see this from the context of the verse I started with, but this time I will take it from Luke's version:


If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple . . . So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Luke 14:26-33


Jesus did not let anything get in the way of the purpose for His life.


• Others tried to kill Him (ahead of time - Luke 4:29)

• Peter opposed the very idea that Jesus was to do it (Matthew 16:22-23).

• Satan tried to tempt Him (Matthew 4:1-11).


And Jesus knew in our doing His will for our particular lives, there would be times of opposition from our own families, from our friends, from our very partners (Luke mentions 'wife' - as quoted above). Let alone our very selves in terms of what we prefer for comfort and 'our flesh'. This kind of commitment is the context in which Jesus says:


Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.' And 'a man's foes will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 10:34-39


This is a passage where Jesus is sending out His disciples. If we are disciples of Jesus, then we must face the reality of opposition to the specific plan God has for our lives (let alone anything else we clearly do for Him e.g. witnessing). For that is 'the cross' that we are to bear in 'the face' of such opposition.

So, in finding a life - with someone, in a career, a hobby, a home, a teaching even . . . - to make that your goal, is not to follow Jesus' purpose for you. But instead, to enjoy and benefit from the life He gives you (with any of these things), whilst Jesus' purpose is your goal, then you will find real life and fulfilment (purpose in that sense).

As Jesus said:


. . . seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Matthew 6:33


To go after your own plans, if they do not fit in the plans God has for you is to find your own life, not to lose it (using Jesus' words). To lose your plans and life in following after God's plans, you find the life He has for you and you will have peace and be satisfied.

Will you take up your cross?

Will you do His purpose for your life over and above everything and everyone else?


Knowing what 'your cross' is
Now it is one thing to be committed to Jesus, and be willing to sacrifice all for Him. It is another thing to actually know and understand His will and purpose for your life. To know indeed, what is the very 'cross' you are to bear.

We are told by Paul to comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted.


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4


And to be comforted best is by being told a truth that restores our hope and strengthens our faith. It is to be fortified. And 'fort' is central to comfort. So I will share how I came to appreciate and understand God's purpose for my life. And I pray that by this you may obtain help in your need to know God's purpose for your life.


Different witnesses
The way I have come to know my God's will for me are 3-fold in 'witnesses' and 2-fold in 'method'. The first is about the voices that God uses to speak to us with:


1. His voice inside of us and the dreams He imparts in one's heart, our very aspirations.

2. The 'words' and pictures, dreams, prophecies given to others for us.

3. The life circumstances and things that 'fall into your lap'.


There is also some overlap. Because the Lord may speak to us in a particular dream, a 'word' into a particular event.


The methods are to pray and to discern in line with the Word of God the bible. For example doing God's will requires us to honour our parents (Ephesians 6:2 - no unnecessary offence) and also this is true of any rule of man which we break or do not conform to (Romans 13:2-5). It is one thing to obey God to witness to someone; it is another to break the law which is not directly contradictory to that: speeding to a rally: excessive noise in a concert, etc. But, also any prophecy given which goes against the bible is to be doubted as to it's source (in part, if not in whole: e.g. it is from flesh, or the enemy). The prayer ('method') is the most clear-cut route to know because in asking the Lord direct questions, His response in any of the 3 'witnesses' mentioned will be an effective reply to that question.


Life examples
Back in the late 1980s I went to an event organised by Pioneer where the minister John Barr preached about praying your call into being. The Elim church to which I belonged at the time was invited to this event and I had met John on a previous occasion. My dilemma was that I knew and believed in a 'call', a plan for my life from God, but I didn't know what it was in any clarity.

It had previously been suggested to me that I go into lecturing and this had some appeal to me. This is a witness from outside, tying up with a possible aspiration: an internal witness. So I prayed and asked the Lord to speak in a 'gift of the Spirit' (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) and mention the word 'teach', if He wanted me involved in 'any form of teaching'. This then occurred that evening in the home-group I belonged to when the worship leader had a 'prophecy' in which every other word 'felt' as if it was 'teach' : (there were not a few: 'I shall teach and you shall teach, etc...'). So I then had a 2nd sign of the witness by an outside source. The life circumstance in this case was that I applied for a lecturing post which had been advertised and even had a pre-advert interview and all seemed great. But, when the ad came out the very qualifications for the post changed and it was clear this was a 'shut door'.

After a little time and another such attempt at an advertised post, but this time my internal witness was that it was my 'trying' to make this happen, I then asked the Lord afresh. "If you want me involved in some form of teaching, then what is it you want me to teach?". Now, this time the reply was clear and in His still small but direct voice. He said, "You know about deception". This then set me thinking on that line of things and made sense in view of my experiences of the previous decade. But, the timing was important too. I will now go back to this meeting with John Barr mentioned and return.

At the meeting John preached about people praying their call into being. I went forward for prayer afterwards and a very tall guy called Steve prayed with me. He didn't ask more than necessary: my name and why I came forward: My name is Jacques and I have a call on my life, but don't know what it is. He prayed in tongues for a bit (a good sign since he was not trying to work it out with his own mind), he then said he received a few words 'that I would be part of an administrative team'. This was different from anything previously 'given' to me. But, I kept it in my heart. And this is something that is important to do. Just as Mary did in regards to the things she heard about Jesus (Luke 2:51). I later heard more from the Lord in regards to this.

But one thing I committed myself to doing after this meeting was to fast on a regular basis until I saw some movement in these things. I aimed at fasting one day or one meal a week. I can't recall exactly. But, I do remember that a fortnight after I began this process my wife announces suddenly (not having discussed it) that she had handed in her resignation of the Elim church we were a part of. Now, I had mixed thoughts about this, but here for me was an outward (a 3rd) witness. It was in direct line with my fasting time: to me a direct reply to that enquiry.

And, later as I sought the lecturing post and asked my new question to the Lord, it was also a week prior to our going away on a holiday time. We were going to a Christian camp with Good News Crusade and John Barr was also there. His teaching role that week was on a seminar on "truth versus error". I certainly wanted to attend these. But, even before we did, during the 1st evening celebration I met someone from John's church whom I had not seen for many years, but knew well. We had previously been in a fellowship together (for about 9 years) which had gone off the rails. We were real glad to meet up and she said "You must meet John". As she introduced us, John recognised me from having visited him with my wife for a counselling session. He did not know until that point that I had been a part of the old fellowship. And this being fully in line with what he was speaking on that week he asked if I was willing to share something at the same time as expressing his thought this was the Lord bringing us together. So, here I had another pointer to this 'teaching' call and what it consisted of.

Now, this fitted in with a word of prophecy given me in a public event a few years before in which the Lord said I was to 'search the Word of God and learn from it'. This encouraged me to go to Christian Life College (a Bible and life training establishment) a few short years later, but now as I began to write of my experiences in regards to deception and counterfeits the Lord impressed on me that I was to teach 'the real thing' before 'the counterfeit'. This clarified things further. A step by step attempt at fulfilling what one perceives is what God wants, leads us to clarify further what He actually wants. This is what was happening. I then began to write about salvation and in particular what happens to those who never hear the gospel: for this is something which unwittingly (without my recognition of why this was) I had been learning this from reading my bible. It had been the Spirit of God teaching me all along and preparing me. I had not attached the importance of these things to what He wanted me to do: His goal for my life. Now I did. During this time I was a self-employed car mechanic and now during the times of waiting for a car to arrive or a delivery of parts I would begin to write and put my thoughts down on paper.

Summary
So, here are examples in real life to help in getting to know what God's will and purpose is for you. Prayer and asking God in general for His will is good. Added to that a particular recognition that you do not really know and thereby need to see His hand and to hear clearly, fasting can dramatically improve that event. Natural events and others' suggestions discerned can speak. Asking direct questions are important. And for me access to the 'words' (the 'gifts of the spirit') with others involved when they don't know in the natural what you are asking is very telling. All words are to be tested the bible makes abundantly clear (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21) and anything received contrary to scripture is to be rejected. See also my article entitled The Characteristics of Deception.

Conclusion
Knowing what you know to be what God wants, it is then possible and imperative in order for it to occur, that you not only pray for it, but that you are steadfast in it being your priority in your life. That you realise it is 'your cross'. And let us not forget that it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured His (Hebrews 12:2). And it is in playing our part in ours that we are fulfilled and find peace and rest in God. We are restless without it: for He has made us for this very purpose. As Jesus said, to do otherwise is to be unfit for the kingdom. He also said:


. . . For many are called, but few are fit for it.

Matthew 20:16 JM


See my article The meaning of Eklektos for the accuracy of that translation.


But, along the way there will be opportunity for many things as there was with Jesus. He did do a carpenter's job and did not 'hit the road' (Jack?) until He was 30. But, to be fair for Him that may have been because that is also the age a priest is recognised as beginning his ministry (Numbers 4:3).


 

Ref. M.019

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 2002. All Rights Reserved.

· The Early Church Fathers and Predestination
· The Impossibility of Evolution
· Harry Potter - The Catalyst
· Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
· The Characteristics of Deception
· What About Tithing?