“But may it not be for me to boast if it is not in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”—Galatians 6:14
The cross of Christ is not a simple stop on the road of life, but it is the very road to life. Jesus did not stop at telling the Christian simply to take up their cross, but he commanded that they follow. Too many people think that the “taking up” is the most important thing. They might struggle to lift the burden, but once it is squarely upon their shoulders, they say, “enough of that,” and promptly drop the burden on the dirt. This is not the way that Christ has set before us. Yes, we must heft the cross that the Lord calls us to bear, but we must carry that cross, following Jesus. It will not be a pleasant load, for sure. There will be times when the splinters and the knots of the wood will dig deeply into your exposed back. You will be made to carry it across rough fields, potholes, dense brush, and the like. But even in the most difficult, painful, and unpleasant times, it will be a sweet load to bear, for it is the load of your savior.
Before I became a Christian, I gloried in the world. In fact, I went out of my way to draw attention to myself. I would do wilder and wilder stunts and gimmicks as if to say “look at me!” Some of these things were quite silly and foolish, but many were downright shameful. Not only was there no good within me, but I paraded and gloried in that which was detestable. The problem that arose when I became a believer was not one of grieving over my past wicked ways, but of putting those ways behind me, and not looking back.
This is the way of all believers. It is not good enough to simply confess that you have sinned and then go on living like a pagan; repentance means to turn around. Sadly, in my own life, there have been many when I have stumbled under the weight of trial and temptation. My heart has followed the example of Lot’s wife, looking back and longing for what I cannot have.
A pastor friend of mine once argued that the reason that Christians hold onto their sins so long is that human nature makes us hold on to things until they are too painful to grasp. We are like children reaching for the stove. At first we might receive a simple, “no” or a hand slap. But as we persist in trying to reach for the stove, the discipline becomes much more severe. This is not because our parents take joy in disciplining us, but it is because they want to prevent us from being burned severely. Sometimes the Holy Spirit’s fire of sanctification may seem too much to bear, but the sting of spiritual discipline will mature us where the fire of sin will consume.
So often, we find we are greatly tempted to look back fondly at the life God has saved us from. When that happens, let us remember well that the life God saved us from may seem sweet to the memory, but was only filled with bitterness once it passed the tongue. Let us be a people who live for their Lord; who keep eyes focused on the finish-line of heaven; and who never look back at our forsaken sins.