Summary: This message is the sixth in a series that deals with some of the difficult sayings of Jesus. This message examines the meaning of denying yourself and taking up your cross.
Sacrifice is a word that has the ability to send shivers down the spines of the majority of us. Of course Christians have reconciled themselves to the idea that this is a part of following Jesus. I would venture to say that our understanding of the concept of sacrifice is much different than Jesus’. The question is have we really ever sacrificed for the cause of Christ? In our text Jesus actually goes beyond our idea of sacrifice. When He says that to follow Him, we have to deny ourselves. Now hold on just a minute Jesus, isn’t this a little over the top? I work hard to have what I have, isn’t part of our rights the pursuit of happiness? While our head is still spinning from the deny yourself statement, Jesus tosses out another difficult statement. “You must take up your cross.” If these two statements haven’t done anything else they have gotten our attention. These statements go against our cultural norms and basic inclinations. If we are really honest, we would have to admit that we don’t really know what to do with these statements. In fact, we have a really hard time visualizing what the application of these statements would look like in our lives. As Americans we have little idea of what it means to deny ourselves and in regard to this cross thing we are sort of clueless. So as we bring this series to a close we are going to seek some clarity as we tie everything together that we have studied over the past five weeks. In fact, my goal is when we leave this place we will have a better understanding of what a disciple of Jesus looks like.
I. Why these two statements are extremely hard for us to handle.
A. The modern ideas about Christianity are vastly different from what the Bible teaches.
1. Faith is based on our own feelings, logic and own interpretations of Scripture.
2. Our faith should never offend anyone. If we do offend others then we are the ones wrong.
3. Our goal is to please the world and not offend anyone. We should never say anything to make anyone feel guilty.
4. Compromise so you don’t offend anyone. Follow your heart and own human logic.
5. Change your beliefs and the church to better fit in with the culture.
B. Our natural instincts fight against these two concepts.
1. We by nature seek self-preservation. It’s survival of the fittest, right?
2. We want the approval of others. We want to be accepted and liked.
3. We want to be comfortable and able to enjoy our lives on this earth as well as in eternity.
4. We want our lives to be stress free, pain free and without any inconveniences.
II. Understanding what Jesus meant by denying yourself.
A. Denying one’s self is completely different from the concept known as self-denial.
1. We all have participated in the practice of self-denial. This is when we give up a thing or an activity.
2. A good example of self-denial is dieting.
3. This concept requires that we give up the tendency to seek immediate gratification.
4. What Jesus has in mind when He says to deny yourself is the act of surrendering our lives totally to Him.
5. From a human perspective this means losing our identity. However, in God’s eyes this means finding out who we really are.
B. This concept allows us to turn self-centeredness into God-centeredness.
1. When we deny ourselves we make a significant change in our lives.
2. By nature we are self-centered and our culture feeds this idea.
3. No longer will self be our driving force in life. Jesus Christ will become the object of our affections and the driving force of our lives.
4. It is extremely difficult to replace our own selfish wills with the will of God.
5. With the help of the Holy Spirit we are able to make God’s will the dominant will in our lives.
III. Understanding what Jesus meant by taking up your cross.
A. This concept illustrates the submission and humility that Jesus desires out of His followers.
1. The cross was a very painful and humiliating form of execution.
2. To an audience that was familiar with this horrific form of Roman execution, Jesus’ words bring to mind a disturbing picture.
a. The condemned criminal would be forced to carry the cross beam on his back.
b. The criminal would be paraded past jeering mobs to further enhance the humiliation.
3. To take up the cross was a sign of one’s submission to the authority of the Roman government.
4. This illustrates the total submission that Jesus desires out of those who would choose to follow Him.
B. Jesus is calling us to be willing to endure what He went through for the cause of the Kingdom.