Summary: If we want to wear a crown in heaven we must bear a cross on earth
No Crown Without A Cross
David P. Nolte
When Jesus spoke of the cross we must bear, He was not speaking about a lapel pin or bumper sticker.
He was not referring to an ostentatious display. of a huge hunk of baggage on a chain or cord for a necklace.
He didn’t mean a cross on the wall of a sanctuary or one on a church steeple.
He did not mean, as some misguided individuals think, that we are to be literally nailed to a literal, wooden cross.
Let’s hear Him. “Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’ Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And He said, ‘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.’ 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. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 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.” Luke 9:18-26 (NIV).
If anyone wants to follow Jesus it will not lead to the crown until it has led us to the cross.
Let’s consider the practical applications of His call to the cross. WHAT SHOULD WE KNOW ABOUT CROSS BEARING?
I. Bearing A Cross Is A Choice To Deny Self:
A. He said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
1. Our cross is not one He imposes on us, but it is required that we bear one if we choose to follow Him.
2. Jesus said that every follower must deny self and take up the cross daily.
B. Many people confuse a cross with a thorn in the flesh.
1. Let me remind you of Paul’s thorn. Because he had been granted a glimpse of heaven, in order to keep him humble, Satan was permitted to afflict him with some bodily ailment, or “Thorn in the flesh.” Listen to Paul:
a. “There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (Paul didn’t take it up, it was put onto him.)
b. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (He not only didn’t choose it, he sought to be released from it.). 2 Corinthians 12:7-9a (NIV).
2. Bearing a cross isn’t a backache or bunion; not arthritis or acne; not pain or Parkinson’s. Those are thorns in the flesh to which all are subject.
C. A cross is for those who choose to follow Jesus. Let’s check a couple of examples of those who did:
1. Zacchaeus who when converted denied himself and gave away half of his goods and refunded four times what he had swindled from others.
2. The many martyrs, like those in Hebrews 11, who took up a cross and “faced jeers and flogging, ... were chained and put in prison, ... were stoned; sawed in two; put to death by the sword .... went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated ..... wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:36-38 (NIV). All for choosing a cross!
D. They all could have saved their lives by recanting their faith – they chose the way of the cross. Taking up our cross is a choice we make that requires self-denial.
E. In the year 155 A.D., Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna was arrested. The proconsul tried to persuade him to recant and save himself. Surely given his advanced age it would be better for him to avoid torture and death. All he had to do was worship the emperor. Why be so stubborn? The bishop answered, “For eighty-six years I have served Christ, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?” He was burned at the stake.