Introduction To “Living Under The Cross”

Bear’s new  book: “Living Under The Cross” is now available through Amazon. 

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“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” ~ Galatians 2:20

We live in a calloused age.

We’ve seen worse times, for sure. In fact, a case could be made that the last fifty years in America might possibly represent the finest half century any human society has ever experienced in terms of raw national peace, prosperity and technological advancement.

But you wouldn’t know it if you took a careful look around.

We’re angry. Name-calling and scorn spews from our politics. The college campus exists to fester outrage, not foster the intellect. Rather than attempt a civil conversation, we run into our social media bunkers, and lob our incendiary comments and tweets at each other.

We’re divided. The nuclear family has blown up. Red state – blue state. The world of Green Book and Hidden Figures seems positively Bronze Age compared to now, yet race relations remain like a faultline ready to crack.

We’re emotional trainwrecks. Physically we’re great. I can find a dozen articles right now on Flipboard on how to do a proper plank. Meanwhile, addiction is laying waste to small-town America. Depression rates are reaching new heights across all age groups. Suicides are skyrocketing among white middle age males.

We’re profane and cynical. The greatest difference between the 1976 A Star Is Born with the 2018 remake? Oh, about 300 F-bombs. But the new film got one thing right. We’re shallooooooow.

We’ve kicked God to the curb. Twice in the last twenty years we came within a whisker of seeing everything fall apart on us – after 9/11 and then again after the 2008 housing meltdown. There was pain, to be sure, but our great-grandparents know how much worse it might have been. The center held. Yet it’s odd how we’ve treated God since then. We’ve traded him in for mindfulness training. We’ve ripped up his sexual boundaries. We’ve put his people in our crosshairs. If the dogma lies deep in you, beware.

The times we live in are truly toxic. So is there anything that can serve as an antidote to this poison that our culture keeps serving up? Can anything pull us back from the abyss of despair and disintegration we keep flirting with?

Yes, there is an answer. It’s found in the title of this book. The world needs for the group of people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ to begin living under the Cross.

Far from being just a piece of jewelry to put around your neck, or a nice tattoo for your arm, a cross is one of the most radical symbols ever created, pointing to one of the most radical lifestyles ever proposed.

Jesus expected his followers to observe a daily practice of dying to themselves, with the cross serving as a metaphor for that habit.

“Jesus said to them all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” ~ Luke 9:23

This is all nice poetry, but what would such a life look like at street-level? Jesus gave the answer on a Judean hillside when he stood up before a crowd of followers and gave one of history’s most remarkable speeches, known today as the Sermon On The Mount, beginning with nine short sayings we now call the Beatitudes.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes what it looks like when we die to ourselves. Living under the Cross is marked by humility, and sorrow for my own brokenness, which leads to showing gentleness to others. (Imagine those virtues coming from the White House or Washington Post.) It’s a life that derives its strength from hungering after God, that consequently grows in mercy, and purity and peacemaking. It’s a life that devotes itself to the promotion of good, no matter the cost, and results in joy, which not even persecution can stamp out.

This book is a collection of 42 short devotions – gathered under the headings of each of Jesus’ nine Beatitudes – which attempt to wrestle with the implications of what Jesus is asking us when he tells us to take up our cross daily and follow him.

What our culture desperately needs most from followers of Christ today is not that we be politically active (though there’s nothing wrong with that.) It’s not that we be culturally accommodating (there are all sorts of things wrong with that.) What culture needs from us (whether it admits it or not) is that we attempt to live the life our Lord called us to live.

I take back what I said a moment ago. Such a life is not a radical life. It is an impossible life. I can’t live it, unless I take time to meditate over and over again on what Jesus did for me on that cross, then desperately cry out to him to live through me.

Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon. His new book, “Living Under The Cross” will be released in March.

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