We can find the phrase “the way” in over 300 places in the Scriptures. Many of ‘the way‘ verses are very significant for those who desire to love the heavenly Father and walk in His Ways.
The Hebrew word for ‘way’ is ‘derek’ <Strong’s # 1870> and it means ‘a road (as trodden); and, as a course or direction of life, or a manner of action, in other words, a lifestyle’.
In this series of articles, we will be looking at this phrase – ‘the way‘ – and this word ‘way‘ and its meaning as a course or direction of life, or a manner of action, or a lifestyle.
The Way of the Cross
One of the most important exhortations for following and imitating Yahushua Messiah [the Hebrew name for Jesus Christ], are His words found in the gospel of Matthew:
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
As this verse teaches us, the first step in learning the ways and character of Messiah is to “take My yoke upon you.”
To take His yoke upon us is a choice, a decision we make. Each of us must decide whether we will take His yoke upon us, or not. To put off the decision however, and ‘drift’ by making no choice, is actually choosing not to follow Him.
But once we become born-again, once we become a new creation in Messiah, then seeking to follow and imitate Messiah will be our deepest heart’s desire. We will want to follow Him, because we finally understand His remarkable love for us!! (2Corinthians 5:17 and 1John 3:1a)
Once we ‘take His yoke upon us’ then we begin to discover that our life seems to possess a confident firmness, an order and a balance. A great inner peace begins to settle over us.
Outwardly however, among our family and friends, we may have to face rejection or various disruptions or commotions. Yet, as a new creation in Messiah, we have an unmoveable, inward sense of contentment and direction. We begin to know intimately, the secret truth of Yahushua’s statement: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30).
His Yoke, His Will
What does it mean, to ‘take His yoke upon me’?
It means to ‘take up our cross’:
Then said Yahushua (Jesus) unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24)
And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)
And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)
As these verses teach, Yahushua calls His disciples to follow Him by denying self and ‘taking up the cross.’ This is the central meaning of how we ‘take His yoke upon us’.
Taking on Messiah’s yoke, which is really a bondage of love for the Saviour, is demonstrated by willingly taking His will upon us and following Him. There is no compulsion, no forcing, no pressure. Our motivation for following Him and taking His yoke upon us is only a motive of LOVE.
This is the essence of what it means to ‘take up our cross’. We love our Saviour, and therefore we ‘take up our cross’ by taking God’s will upon us, so as to obey His Word and walk in His ways. We ‘take up our cross’ by saying the same words Yahushua said: “Not my will, but Your will, Yahuwah [LORD], be done!” (Luke 22:42)
Taking up our cross, sometimes referred to as ‘the way of the cross’, is the message of self-denial. Walking in ‘the way of the cross’ means to live a sacrificial life. We ‘take up our cross’ by giving up our self-life, our self-will, just as Yahushua Messiah gave up His life. We live a sacrificial life just as He did – by emptying ourselves of self in order to serve God’s interests:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Messiah Yahushua [Christ Jesus]: 6) who, though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7) but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8) And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Walking in ‘the way of the cross’ is to humble ourselves, empty ourselves, and live a self-less life. It is to deny our selfishness, our own agenda, and sometimes, even our rights.
But wait. This message – the way of the cross – is a hard message for ‘SELF’ to accept! It is not popular among half-hearted followers of Messiah. Every one of us is subject to selfish-ness. We want what we want, when we want it!!! None of us likes the idea of giving up ‘SELF’! We desperately want to be able to give in to our impulses, cling to our opinions, and trust in our own worldly wisdom.
Without realizing it, many of us are obsessed with such thoughts as, “What ‘I’ want. What ‘I’ feel. What ‘I’ think.” These are expressions of our self-life. But if we are committed to following Yahushua’s example, then what ‘self’ wants, what ‘self’ demands is what we must learn to deny!
Denying of self is one message the enemy of our souls [the devil] works constantly to hide from us. Denying of self is something the devil does not want us to understand and embrace! Why? Because denying ‘self’ is fundamental to Yahushua’s nature, character, and LOVE.
Messiah lived a sacrificial life in every way. He was the most self-LESS man who ever lived. And just as Yahushua lived a self-less life, so also, He calls all who choose to be His disciples to live the sacrificial life as He did – to humble ourselves, deny ourselves, and live a self-LESS life.
The Love of God
Primarily, Yahushua’s extraordinary love for us is what motivated His sacrificial life:
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1John 3:16)
Messiah laid down His life for us! He denied Himself in every way, even to willingly die on the cross, all because of His love for us! (John 10:17-18).
Because of Yahushua Messiah’s love for us; because Messiah was committed to His Father’s plans and purposes; because He kept His spiritual eyes on the unseen realm (just as we all must do), He therefore knew that His sacrificial life would mean spiritual joy and blessings for multitudes:
… for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2b).
Messiah endured the cross. He endured the torture and suffering of death on the cross, for our sakes, that He might bring us unto glory! (Hebrews 2:10)
The same is true for us.
When we are walking by faith; when we are keeping our eyes on the unseen, eternal realm; when we are committed to living our life within the confines of His yoke [His Word, His bondage of love], then the sacrificial life becomes our heart’s desire.
With the help of God’s abundant grace, we endure the trials of denying ‘self’ because we love our Saviour. We make the choice to break our own prideful self-willfulness, and humble ourselves, so that we can be a pleasing sacrifice unto Yahuwah Elohim [the Hebrew name for the LORD God]:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
As this verse teaches us, we present ourselves to Father, every day, moment-by-moment, in order to be an acceptable sacrifice unto Him. We make the necessary sacrifices of denying ‘self’, though very agonizing at times, so that we can please Father, remain near to Him, and stay within His pathway of ‘abundant life’ and joy (John 10:10).
We live the sacrificial life, so that we may bring joy and blessings to others. There is no other way to bless others, to reveal Father’s truth to others, unless we live out the way of the cross — living a self-LESS life, a life of self-denial.
Again, the sacrificial life, the denial of ‘self’, is not easy for anyone!! ‘Self’ does not want to hear it!
Denial of ‘Self’
When we make the choice to live a sacrificial life, taking His yoke upon us, then little by little, we begin to learn to break our self-will. We begin to deny our own selfishness, our lusts, and our worldly wisdom. It is costly! Our flesh squirms, resists, and complains. But self-denial is central to experiencing Father’s intimate comfort and guidance. It is central to knowing the joy, the strength, and the excellence of a life of goodness, honour, and love.
Learning to deny ourselves is the key ingredient to a life of significance and strength.
At times, denying ourselves will mean learning to choose affliction, as Moses did, over some supposed pleasure:
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25) choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26) esteeming the reproach of Messiah [Christ] greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto [he looked to] the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this (iniquity/wickedness) have you chosen, rather than affliction. (Job 36:21)
We must be on our guard against the enticements of the pleasures of sin and our own carnal, selfish indulgences. Let us recall what are some manifestations of selfish indulgences: bitterness, wrath, anger, loud outcries, evil speaking, malice, fornication [sex outside of marriage], and covetousness (see Ephesians 4:31; 5:3). These things are grieving to the Holy Spirit, and they ought to grieve ourselves!
Let us remember also: the pleasures of sin, which are only for a season, will stain our good conscience, and drag us down spiritually.
But if, with Father’s help, we ‘take up our cross,’ then we will begin to learn that denying of ‘self’, though painful, mysterious, and troubling at times, truly is central to our obedience, our purity, and to our joy!
Denying ourselves by ‘taking up our cross’ means a lifestyle of growing in self-discipline and prayer. It means seeking to line-up our thoughts with God’s Word. It means deliberately making adjustments and sacrifices in order to follow Messiah and obey His Word. This is what ‘take My yoke upon you‘ is all about! This is the way of the cross!
Denying ourselves is to live a life of brokenness before the Father, as we continually tell Him, “Not my will, by Your will be done!” It means learning to say ‘no’ to the things that hinder our obedience to Father and to His Word!
The Scriptures call us to take up our cross and follow Messiah’s example, by enduring the trials of self-denial. It is only by walking in the way of the cross – living the sacrificial life – that we are enabled to be obedient to His Word!
If we truly want to follow in Messiah’s steps, then regardless of our failures, we will begin to seek the Father in prayer, and in His Word [the Bible]. In order to take up our cross, we must look to Yahuwah Elohim, our Mighty One, and seek His grace, His mercy, and the courage we need. We must be committed to staying within the confines of His wonderful yoke, the bondage of love.
When we commit our life to follow Messiah, it is then that the heavenly Father is very ready and willing to commit Himself to us and to help us abundantly! When Yahuwah’s children commit their life to follow Him, then He has promised to commit Himself to them:
For the eyes of Yahuwah [the LORD] run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him [fully committed to Him] . (2Chronicles 16:9a)
The above verse is just one of many awesome promises for those who make a covenant commitment to Yahuwah and begin their life-long journey with Him. Our journey’s end is the salvation of our souls and entering into His kingdom and joy! This is the reward for those whose hearts are devoted to following the Saviour!
Therefore those who are true Thirsty Souls will begin to embrace ‘the way of the cross’.
Please see the Companion Articles in this series:
- Six Little Things that Make a Big Difference
- Messiah is Our Example
- Prayer Quotes
- Acquiring a Teachable Heart
- Following Messiah: Two Basic Qualities
- 7 Tips For Enduring Trials
- Parched Ground – an article by a fellow blogger about the difficulty and pain of emptying ourselves.
- Dying to Self– A brief list of practical examples of how we experience “dying to self.”