I'm starting with a confession of sin, something I've had to deal with over the years that only recently have I overcome, and that overcoming is due to something the Father asked me.
Back when Barb and I were high school age and were at a restaurant, she would often ask if she could try a bite of what I had ordered, and of course I didn't mind - she was my girlfriend after all. She would try to return the favor by asking if I wanted to try some of hers, but I would nearly always reply 'No thanks', which meant in man-terms, "If I wanted what you ordered I would have ordered it."
Here it comes
Somewhere through the years of marriage she stopped asking permission to sample what I ordered and would just reach over with her fork and take a bite. I came to resent that. At some point years ago I closed the smorgasbord and made my plate off limits to her wandering appetite.
She apologized saying she didn't realize how much it bothered me, I explained that it did, and she learned to ask permission, which I have always gladly given. We share appetizers and desserts, but there was always something about the meal itself.
And so it was this summer coming back from a ministry trip we found ourselves at a regional restaurant called "Freddy's", which is known for very thin hamburger patties grilled to where the edges are nicely browned...and their ice cream...yum. Barb had ordered a bacon cheeseburger and I had ordered their double patty "California burger", which is a direct reference to the California based "In-N-Out Burger" chain's burger with special sauce, and Freddy's version is very, very close to theirs.
As we were eating, Barb commented mine looked good and I replied it was delicious. She was testing the waters I realize now, but at the time I didn't know I was being set up. After an appropriate amount of silence and after we'd each had another bite of our own sandwiches she asked, "May I have a bite of yours?"
When she said that anger started rising in me, but in the split second my blood pressure started to rise the Father broke right through the moment asking me this:
"I know you'd take a bullet for her, laying down your life for her; So why is it hard for you to give her a bite of your cheeseburger?"
In that moment my heart was opened for me to see it as the Father saw it, and I was horrified. I judged myself as a lifetime of 'protecting my territory eating' flashed by my eyes in between that 1st and 2nd second after she asked. In that split second I replied to Barb: "Sure, have all you want", and meant it. I had no idea protecting my food as mine, all mine, through the years was a heart-issue.
Barb has suggested I became territorial about my food because after my dad left money was tight for mom with 4 kids to feed, and we each protected what was on our plates because there may not have been any second helpings. I don't know why, but I didn't like what I saw in my heart that day.
Laying down your life, picking up the cross?
I would guess that most Christians have wondered if someone burst through the door with a gun, line everyone up, and ask if they were a Christian, and then kill all Christians one by one, if they would have the bravery to NOT deny the Lord in that moment.
That kind of situation used to be hypothetical until in recent years that exact thing has happened in various places around the world, from ISIS controlled areas to a college campus in Oregon.
However, laying down your life for someone doesn't begin and end at the point of a gun. No, you lay down your life in little ways every day, from sharing a bite of a cheeseburger to mowing the elderly neighbor's yard even though you are very tired after a long day of work, to choosing good thoughts about a person as you pray for them when you want to yell good and hard at them.
How taking up your cross is laying down your life - and what it means
In Matthew 16:16 Peter exclaimed Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus told him the Father had shown that to him. After the revelation He is God's Son was made known, Jesus goes on to tell them in v21 He would die at the hands of the leaders and rise the third day. Peter took Him aside and rebuked the Lord, saying "...it shall never happen to you!"
In v23-24 the Lord responded: "Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you do not mind the things of God, but you mind the things of man. If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.."
The cross He is talking about is Peter's ideas for Jesus' life versus the Father's ideas for Jesus' life.
How do you lay down your life?
Peter didn't want Jesus to go to the cross, Jesus told him to crucify those thoughts of man. Therefore taking up the cross means stripping yourself of your own earth-based and flesh-based opinions about a person or situation, and change your thoughts to God's thoughts about them.
The fact Jesus used the cross as the example of switching from man's thoughts to God's thoughts, tells us He knew that process can be tortuous and painful to the flesh. Jesus went on to say if you want to save your life - your human-based thoughts, you will lose your life. But if you make that switch to God's way of thinking, you will find your life.
Though my thoughts are wrong, they are known and comfortable! New thoughts make me afraid!
To Peter the thought of Jesus going to the cross was opposite everything he had believed of Messiah - but Jesus said lay those old thoughts down because they are man's thoughts. Crucify them. Not harbor them in the back recesses of your mind. Kill them.
How hard was that for Peter to give up, kill, all thoughts he had been trained all his life about how Messiah would kick out the Romans and usher in another golden era for Israel? Jesus said to crucify those thoughts Peter. Let them die a tortuous death if need be - sputter, object, cry, yell, but in the end, let those thoughts die. Work through them. The process is the journey.
Taking up one's cross is not a sickness to carry through life, nor is it caring for an aged relative in their last years, nor is it putting up with a horrible neighbor next door. Taking up the cross is ending man's thinking and taking up God's thinking. That is called 'renewing the mind' from Romans 12:1-2
I thought it was normal husband-wife squabbles. I've seen many other couples and those wives did the exact same thing as my wife. (There must be a female gene that compels them to sample their husband's food, :)
Man's thoughts would be to justify protecting my plate due to my past - "When dad left we each got a plateful of food and that's it." Man's thoughts would be "You could have ordered what I ordered, so no, be happy with what you ordered." Which is exactly (evidently) what had been in my heart for years until I repented.
When the Father said "I know you'd take a bullet for her..." He was acknowledging my heart on the big picture, but He was wanting me to take the 'bullet' of giving her a bite of my lunch - He was pointing out my hypocrisy, that proof of my willingness to take that real bullet was played out in taking a little bullet of letting her have my lunch.
That opened up a lot of introspection asking myself where else do I not treat her as Christ does the church, and giving Himself for her? How can I further lay down my life for family, friends, neighbors, those I serve in ministry? What other thoughts of man lurk in my heart that I must crucify that I may think as the Father thinks?
And that's where we'll pick it up next week. Until then...oh, what you are eating looks good, can I try some?
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org