From the moment you understand Jesus is the Christ, he immediately speaks plainly of the cross and begins leading you to the place of surrender into the hands of God. Every step forward into the fullness of Christ will bring you back to that place where Jesus is pointing you to the cross again. The cross is inescapable if you will truly be His follower. The cross of Christ is the linchpin of your life and freedom. It is the place where you will transition from penalty to freedom, from surrender to power, from obedience to favor. When you embrace the cross, you embrace the resurrection power of the Spirit of God to make you His own.
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:27-35
Revelation & Requirement
Jesus asks you, “Who do people say that I am?” This is where you begin to face the decision you must make. The kindness of God has wrecked your ability to walk away from Him without knowing who He is. And then he looks you squarely in the eye, and asks, “Who do you say that I am?” He is the center of everything, the full expression of the light and the glory of God. He is the eternal One, God manifested among us as a man, living under the limitations of mankind, yet uncorrupted by sin. Exposed to all and tempted in every way, yet he never surrendered to sin. Finally, in one profound act of absolute surrender, He took your place, paying the price of death that must be paid for your own sin. He is your Christ!
From the moment you realize who Jesus is, He turns and points up that dark and lonely hill where He laid it all on the line, speaking plainly to you for the first time about his suffering, rejection, and surrender. He talks openly about the incredibly steep cost. Just like Peter, your initial response is, “Why? It don’t understand. This cannot be right! It doesn’t make sense.” You fight with the inevitable truth, wrestling with everything you thought you knew. And just then, He leans in close and compels you with the words, “Follow me!”
He said those words to you once before when He called you aside from your meaningless life, grabbing your attention with hope. He urged you to believe His words and works. He caused you to let your walls fall down and take a chance at believing for something good again. In all of this, He required little of you. He asked only that you hear his words and take them to heart. Now He sees that you have seen the truth of who He is, and He calls you to follow further. He shows you His cross and tells you that it is yours as well. You must deny yourself to follow Him. You must surrender control of your life to God in faith that He will raise you up and awaken you to a new life — a life not your own.
It is here that your desire for self-preservation overwhelms you, and you fight for your very life. You see the severity of your own sin, the darkness of your own heart. You look for the hope and happiness that once filled your vision. You recoil suddenly, taking a step back in shock and horror. You assume that either it is not really God’s will, or you simply misunderstood. After all, you learned that He is bringing you hope, not death. You find a way to justify keeping things as they have been. You even go so far as to rebuke the very plan of God, expecting Jesus to pat you on the back and tell you it is okay. But instead, Jesus rebukes you and tells you sternly that you are living your life for yourself. You are setting your mind on the things that you desire. He brought you to the intersection of the rest of your life, His cross, and here He requires denial. You must either deny him or deny yourself. You have no other option.
Relent & Awaken
When you walk away, you convince yourself that you are not denying him. You told him so boldly, “I will never deny you! I would even die, but I would not deny you.” And yet, you face the cross and lose your resolve, walking away in shame, anger, and turmoil. You go home and go to sleep, hoping to wake up and find that it was all a dream. You never fully wake up, walking around in a daze while Jesus yells to you, “Wake up! You’re sleeping! Wake up from your daze and slumber! Return to My cross and follow Me.” You try not to hear but His tugging on your heart plagues you. You go back to doing all the things you first did when you began following Him. You remind yourself of all the good times, the times when you begin to see a whole new hope, feeling only His gentle love. You surround yourself with people who haven’t yet encountered the cross in their life. You try to behave and think like them, putting all your energy and thoughts into it. You try to forget the cross, but your joy steadily melts away. Your pursuit of God becomes an attempt to maintain positivity, happiness, and emotional calm.
You wander in this aimless game until, by the grace of God, you find yourself at the foot of the cross again. Suddenly you hear His words echo in your heart, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me!” It will never make sense until you relent, saying as Christ did, “Not my will, but Yours, oh God.”
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18
Steps Ordered By God
As you yield in surrender, you find rest from your striving, fighting, and aimless wandering. As you give up and fall backwards into His arms, He catches you because you are trusting Him. It is in this sacrifice of surrender that you find complete acceptance and approval from God through Christ. The pleasure and power of God touches the core of your life and you wake up to a whole new world. A world without the limits and forceful demands of sin and death. You begin living the life of an over-comer, walking in the victorious steps of Christ. You find that His are the steps of a righteous man, ordered by God. Jesus turns to looks at you again, saying, “Walk this way! Follow Me!”
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for twenty years, and is the proud father of two boys.