Take up your cross this new year
December 28, 2022
As we stare another new year right in its face, it’s helpful to gaze back for a moment. I mean all the way back, before the beginning.
The Scripture says that a few things happened even before the events of Genesis 1:1 and following. Before God said, “Let there be light,” other things were decided. Those things then paved the way for “the foundation of the world.”
Revelation 13 and 17, for instance, refer to something called the Lamb’s book of life. If you are in Christ, your name is written in it. The individual names of his people were put there before the creation. I take that as a picturesque way of restating the truth found in Ephesians 1:4, that God chose us before the foundation of the world.
The startling idea here is that the work of Christ in dying for his people was a concept as present in God’s mind (at the very beginning) as the concepts of gravity, molecular chemistry, and math. To put it in terms of a five-dollar word, the cross of Christ was pre-creational.
The cross, therefore, is a built-in feature of the world God made, just as much as those more mundane things like physics. This is why, as even irreligious people have noted, those who serve others well tend to do better in life than those who serve only themselves. Those who legitimately add value to peoples’ lives get rewarded for it. Those who destroy the same kind of value wind up isolated and despised.
The best servants tend to earn the loyalty of people who have been served by them. They amass an eager following. In other words, they become leaders, whether they mean to or not.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took up a basin of water and performed a task that was known to be slave work. He washed everyone’s feet. He then declared that this kind of self-lowering was the path to real greatness.
This is the stuff the whole universe is made of. Nothing spotlights our lack of vision more than the fact that we think everything is built on atoms, quarks, and invisible strings.
The cross is the foundation of the whole enterprise. The way of the cross was most ably demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth, who planned it, predicted it, hung on it, and defeated it. The cross means that the one who would lead must become the lowest of all.
The cross is also a destructive force. That’s why the Romans used it to kill people. There’s a dying that takes place when we daily take up the cross and follow. Like a plow that works by tearing up and overturning the earth, so it is with the cross in us.
You won’t find this stuff in your books on leadership. Frankly, if you’ve caught what I’m saying, you ought to be angry just about now, because I’m talking about the destruction of everything you thought you knew.
As the new year comes barreling at us, find a way of following that path of service. Add value to the lives around you. That doesn’t have to look the same for you as for me, but it does need to look like something real.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: