Cole being baptized by his dad
“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” – Luke 9:23 (NIV)
In the 15th Century, the tsar of Russia, Ivan the Great, was set to marry the dark-eyed, beautiful and charming daughter of the King of Greece. This would serve two purposes: to pass on tsar’s legacy to an heir and also to forge an alliance between the two countries. The requirement from the King was that Ivan the Great must be baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church. Ivan the Great immediately agreed. Not only did Ivan the Great decide to be baptized, but all 500 of his loyal soldiers agreed as well. The king assigned 500 of his priests to give Ivan and all of his soldiers a crash course in Greek Orthodox doctrine in order for them to have full understanding of what the church required of them. During this time of quick study, Ivan and his soldiers learned that the Greek Orthodox Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members. They would have to give up their commitment to killing. They could not be killers and church members, too. Ivan the Great met with his soldiers, and they all agreed to go ahead with the baptism anyway.
So, on the much-anticipated day, Ivan the Great along with his 500 soldiers and 500 priests waded into the Mediterranean Sea. Simultaneously, as the high priest gave the order to baptize, each soldier drew his sword from his side and held it up in the air with their fighting hand. As each priest lowered the soldier to baptize them, the soldier made sure to hold out his sword and hand as not to immerse it.
Ivan understood that he would not be able to get his bride if he wasn’t baptized, but he also knew that he would never turn away from being a soldier. That was his job. His legacy. No way would he ever give that up!
The decision of these soldiers was evident to all the witnesses that day. With us, it’s much more subtle. If you have been baptized, did you hold anything out of the water during your baptism? Probably not. In all the baptisms I have witnessed over the years (and there have been hundreds), I have never once seen someone hold anything out of the water. But yet, we all have our own swords that we struggle with on a daily basis. Jesus said in the above scripture that we must take up our cross DAILY. He knows it’s not a one-time decision. It’s a struggle every single day. It’s when we stop struggling that it becomes dangerous to us.
So, what do you do? First, name your sword.
Is your sword…
Your debit card?
Your dirty mouth?
Drinking too much?
Making sure you look perfect on Facebook and Instagram?
Maybe there are other things that you are holding back from giving to Christ. Only you and God know. Only you know the struggle. But God knows that these things are keeping you from doing the good He has planned for you.
Romans 6:6 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”
I encourage you today to give up your sword. It will not be easy. Jesus knows it’s a daily struggle, but he also knows you can’t do it alone. That’s why he came. He came to give us hope. He wants to hear from you. I want to hear from you!
I also want to encourage you to tell someone close to you what you have decided and ask them to help you. Ask them to pray for you. I will pray for you!
Once you truly give up the sword you so desperately are holding onto, you may be surprised at what God replaces it with!
Have a wonderful week!