I am a creature of habit. There are certain things I do each and every day if for no other reason than simply that I've done these things each and every day for so long. I always stumble out of bed and begin my day with a workout. I always follow up my workout with a cup of coffee and some time in prayer and Scripture. I always peruse the morning's news stories. In the evening, I always brush my teeth and floss them (yes, I'm one of those people) and I always give my wife a goodnight kiss. I am a creature of habit.
There are, of course, dangers in habits. Thoughtlessly going through the motions of everyday tasks can result in drudgery, depression, and even a disparaging of things which should rightly be received and rejoiced in as blessings from God. Then again, habits can be beautiful things when appropriately used. Good health habits can save a person from a crush of physical ailments later in life. Good spiritual habits can help a person walk closely with Jesus. Indeed, in many corners of the Christian church, religious orders will actually wear a habit, that is, a certain kind of dress. The Greek word for this kind of a "habit" is schema, a word denoting an outward expression of an inward disposition. Thus, these people wear outward clothing to express their inward habits toward Jesus.
In our reading for today from Luke 9, Jesus gives to his disciples an important habit: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (verse 23). Did you catch Jesus' habit-forming word? A Christian, he says, is to take up his cross and follow him daily. Just like morning workouts and cups of coffee and evening flossing and kisses, a Christian - each and every day - is to take up his cross. What does this mean? It means three things.
First, to take up a cross means that a Christian, each and every day, is a forgiven child of God. Right before Jesus speaks of a Christian's cross, he speaks of his own: "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (verse 21). This is Jesus' redemptive work. Thus, while Jesus died and rose once, the effects of that death and resurrection are received by us daily through faith. We daily live in the shadow of the cross.
Second, to take up a cross means that the Christian's life, each and every day, comes with challenges. A Christian's life is not easy. In our chapter for today, Peter announces that Jesus is "the Christ of God" (verse 20). But for Peter, this confession does not come with the realization that to call Jesus "the Christ" is also to call him "a Suffering Servant." But Jesus did suffer. And we will too, as Jesus himself says: "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). To take up our cross is to bear up under challenges, hardships, and persecutions.
Finally, to take up a cross means that a Christian, each and every day, is to confess and share his faith in Christ. Jesus warns, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (verse 26). Every Christian should wear his cross like every monk wears his habit - boldly and without shame. Our faith should be readily apparent to others.
We all have many habits. But in the midst of our many habits, do we take the time to cultivate the most important habit that anyone can have on this earth - taking up a cross from Christ? My prayer is that this habit is a habit which is ingrained deep in your soul. My prayer is that this habit is a habit which you cheerfully undertake - each and every day.