Summary: When Jesus said to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow Him He was saying in essence that we need to break out of our comfort zone to be useful for the kingdom of God.
It was 1847, and St. Paul, Minnesota was a town filled with ignorance and drunkenness. Liquor
was sold in every store. Half the parents could not read, and so drinking was about their only form
of entertainment. It was typical of frontier towns, and no one even dreamed of trying to make a
difference. Then Harriet Bishop came along at age 13. She was converted to Christ and baptized
as the youngest member of her Baptist church in Vermont. She read about missionaries and
became determined to get an education to be one. She went off to Albany, New York to a
Christian school for training teachers.
A pioneer missionary in St. Paul wrote a letter to that school telling of the desperate need for a
godly teacher for the children. He painted no pretty picture, but warned of the sacrifice, risks, and
obstacles. No one wanted the task except Harriet. She felt she was most needed there than
anywhere else on earth. She accepted the call to be a missionary to Minnesota. Her call was
confirmed by the special providence of God in her life. She did not want to travel on the Sabbath,
and so she stayed over in Palmyra, New York instead of taking the ship Chesapeake that day. The
ship went down in Lake Erie, and all the passengers were lost. She finally made it to St. Paul.
The last 9 miles was in a canoe paddled by two Indian women.
Her first school house was a mud plastered log hovel. It was formerly a black smith shop on
the corner of 3rd and St. Peter. Two weeks after her arrival she began the first Sunday School in
town, and it became the foundation for the First Baptist Church of St. Paul. By the third Sunday
there were 25 people. She started the fight for temperance to release the community from the
bondage to alcohol. She took a lot of flack from the men, but she was supported by the women.
She said, "To women is entrusted the future destiny of Minnesota." In 1867 she helped organize
the Ladies Christian Union which helped the poor and homeless.
Like so many loving people she lacked good judgment for her choice of mates. Her first fiancé
was a lawyer, and he broke the engagement just before the wedding. Seven years later she married
a harness maker, and he was a drunkard. He was abusive, and after 9 years she divorced.
Unhappy in love, but she still made a major difference in other lives as the founder of the first
public school and first Sunday School in St. Paul. She broke out of her comfort zone in the East to
be used of God in the West.
Almost everything in God's plan calls for breaking out of a comfort zone and taking some
risk. God called Abraham from the center of a great civilization to go out to a land he knew
nothing about. He gave up his security and comfort and headed West, and that was the beginning
of the people of God. Very little can happen for positive change if people stay in their comfort
zone. When Jesus said to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow Him He was saying in
essence that we need to break out of our comfort zone to be useful for the kingdom of God.
That is what Jesus was saying to the rich young ruler. He was basically a good guy. He was
raised from childhood to be obedient to the commandments of God. He grew up to be a very
successful Jew. He was both rich and a ruler, and so he had achieved two of the most frequent
dreams of men, which is the dream of having power and possessions. Yet for some reason he was
not content, and he had some doubt about his relationship to God. His religion was obviously just
mechanical and legalistic. He kept the commandments out of a sense of duty, and it was a mere
matter of habit. He did not feel that he had a personal relationship with God, and so he had no
assurance of eternal life.
Jesus knew he was typical of the many in Israel who had developed a mere legalistic religion
where the kept a lot of rules and cared little to nothing about the needs to be met in a fallen world.
They were religious and wealthy. They had the good life and they were content. Jesus shocked
this young ruler by saying you lack one thing. He told him to sell all he had and give it to the
poor, and then follow Him. Jesus never said this to any other person. Other rich people became
His disciples, and He never told them to sell all and give it to the poor. You have Joseph of