Taking Up Your Cross in Today’s World
1st Sermon of 4
Looking back on my life, I would not of imagined that I would be here today preaching this sermon to you. Has a child I was always shy and quite, never causing anyone any problems. Even as I grew up, I never wanted to be in the forefront, even though many times I was forced into leadership positions. God called me into the ministry when I was 14 years old, but because of certain circumstances that I will tell you about later in this series, I didn’t accept His calling. But over the last few years, God has not only been calling me into the ministry, but has also been training me.
Two years ago this past Christmas, my mother went to be with the Lord. My son and I went back to North Carolina for the funeral and I was asked to give the eulogy. I still had the little white Bible that my mother had given me for Christmas when I was 10. So I took it and told how it had not only changed my life but also the life of my son. I began telling the people in attendance how to be saved and it seemed so natural. I knew God was again calling me for something.
The following summer God called me to run NM State Representative. Remember that I am this shy quite person, who doesn’t like to make waves, but I knew God was calling me to do this. Running on a Family Christian platform, I lost! I will talk about this later in the series, but for now let me just say that God use this as a learning tool so that I would have the boldness to accept His call into His Ministry and to be here today to tell you why we must take up our Cross and follow Christ.
Read with me:
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:
26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple.
27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,
30 saying, ’This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
34 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
When the Romans led a criminal to his execution site, he was forced to carry the cross on which he would die. This show total submission by the criminal to the authority of the Roman government and their laws. Large crowds of people were following Jesus with great enthusiasm for Him. Jesus wanted them and us to understand exactly what is expected of us if we are to follow Him.
What does Christ mean when He says that we have to hate our father and mother, wife, sister and brother and even ourselves to be His disciple? First He means that our love for Him has to be unconditional love. The love that we have for our family should be pale compared to our love for Christ. Do you love Christ more than your wife, your husband, your children or your parents? I pray that you do. Secondly, Jesus is telling us that we must put Him first in our lives. Now consider the following list:
Spouse Work Money Children Health Pleasure Processions Christ
Which of these are most important to you? Did you say Christ? Which of these are you putting first in your life? Are you really putting Christ first in your life or does Christ just come first on Sundays?
Christ must be the most important thing in our lives. I have had mothers tell me that they have to put their babies first and then Christ. Mothers, if it wasn’t for Christ you wouldn’t have those children. All children are a blessing from God, even though at 2:00 o’clock in the morning it may not seem like it sometimes, but they are all blessings from God. Men usually say without my work or money or my health, I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family. Well men you have it wrong. God provides for your every need. You are just working for extras.
If you really want to be a disciple of Christ, you must take up your cross and follow Him. The examples that Jesus gave us in the passage that we read are meant to make us think. A person that exceeds in business doesn’t do his job halfway. A carpenter doesn’t built just a half of a house nor does a general go out to fight a battle without first considering if he can win it. To be a disciple of Christ, we must carefully consider what the cost is. Jesus wants our total submission. That is why He used the term carrying our cross. This signifies that we are willing to give up every desire in our lives and to summit totally to Christ. My wife and I have found over the last few years that if you really totally summit your lives to Christ and trust Him in everything, you will experience a peace so wonderful that it is impossible to describe.
In verse 33, Jesus said, "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." This takes a lot of trust, but what Christ will give you in return is much better than anything that you had before. Are you giving your tithes? Christ is only asking for 10% of your first fruits. This means 10% of your gross income, not 10% after taxes. Let me tell you what happened to me.
I always had given to the Church, but not 10%. One night God convicted me that I needed to tithe. So I figured out what 10% of my gross salary before taxes or anything was taken out. How was I going to be able to give this much? I was recalculating my budget and there was no way I could do this and still pay the bills and feed my family. But I knew in my heart that I had to give it. Sunday morning I wrote my first check to the church for my tithes. Monday morning I received a call from my boss in Dallas, and he told me my position had been upgraded and on my next paycheck, I would see an 11% pay raise. So God not only provided the 10% that I needed, but also 10% of that 10% that needed to go to Him. You cannot out give God.
Do you give 10% daily of your time to God? There are 24 hour in the day. You sleep for 1/3 of it (about 8 hours); you work for another 1/3rd of it (8 hours). God wants His 10%, which is 2 hours and 24 minutes. So out of the remaining 8 hours God just wants about 2 1/2 hours. This time could be in prayer, studying your Bible, witnessing to others, helping others or doing volunteer work at the church. How do you give God His time? What do you do?
Let’s read verse 34 and 35 again.
34 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Let me start at the last statement of these verses. When we read "He who has ears to hear, let him hear", this is a warning. If you tell your child to take out the trash and they don’t get up to do it, then you would probably say "you heard me tell to take out the trash, so you had better do it now." Well Christ is giving us a warning that we as disciples had better be the salt of the earth.
What does it mean to be the salt of the earth? I used to watch my grandmother salt a ham leg after Granddad had butchered it after the first freeze of the year. She would take salt and rub it into the meat and place it in a cool room. She would ensure that the ham was kept salted. What this did was to both cure the ham (to make the ham good) and preserve it. My sister sent me some country ham and when you cook it without washing it first, it is so salty that you can’t eat it. But on the other hand it will never spoil.
So what does Christ mean for us to be the salt of the earth? When God made this world and everything in it, it was perfect until Adam and Eve’s disobedience introduced sin into the world. Sin causes things to spoil. So the perfect relationship that Adam and Eve had with God began to spoil or deteriorate. The deterioration got so bad that during the time of Noah, God destroyed all living creatures except for one pair of each type of animal and Noah and his family. So the world had a second chance to turn from sin and obey God, but Satan is always on the prowl to cause people to sin and to turn from their relationship with God. So God gave us one more chance. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Christ came into this world so that all may be saved, but each of us would have to make that choice for ourselves to accept Christ has our Lord and Savior.
Having made that choice to accept Christ, then He expects something in return. He expects us to be the salt of the earth. We are to preserve the world, as Christ would have it to be. This means we are to stand up boldly against all that is sin in the world. When Satan tries to tempt people into sin and away from their relationship with God, then we as Christians are to stand up and to speak out boldly against that sin. In the next four or five sermons of this series we will be looking at the different tactics that satan uses and how we can combat these types of sin. Remember that this isn’t an option, we are required to be the salt of the earth. Salt can lose its flavor. When it gets wet and then dries, nothing is left but a tasteless residue. Many Christians blend into the world and avoid the cost of standing up for Christ. But Jesus says if Christians lose their distinctive saltiness, they become worthless. How salty are you?
Let’s look at the first sin in the world and see what we can learn from it. God had told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Satan confronted Eve and convinced her to eat of the forbidden fruit, he told her what God had said about the tree was a lie. He even told Eve that the opposite of what God had said was true. She wouldn’t die if she ate of the tree, but you will become like God. This sounds so familiar today. Satan uses this same tactic. I can’t remember how many people that have told me that the Bible was just written by a bunch of old men and that everything in the Bible isn’t true. Please don’t get upset with me, but the majority of people saying this are women!
The first thing that a new Christian must learn is that the Bible is the true Word of God, with no errors or contradictions. A football team can’t go out and play football without first having a rule book to learn how the game must be played. To be a Christian we too must have a rule book and that book is the Bible. I am a Bible believing Christian and believe every word in the Bible to be the true inspired word of God. If Satan can get you to believe that there is one thing incorrect in the Bible, then the entire Bible becomes suspect as to its accuracy, because one person will believe this point to be false and another that point and still another, another point. So who is right or is the entire Bible incorrect? This is how Satan works and how he tricked Eve in the garden and Eve was able to convince Adam. If Adam had been the salt of the earth and told Eve not to eat of the forbidden fruit, then we might be living in the Garden of Eden today instead of slaving to make a living. So remember all sin is evil and comes from Satan. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that the Bible isn’t completely true. From this first sin, we should learn that God is all knowing and we must abide by all that He has commanded.
Each week I will be talking about issues of today and how Satan can even deceive Christians today. Today I will be talking about sexual sins. The Bible condemns adultery, fornication, and homosexuality. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality. Today this is a big issue. Let’s look at some of the verses in the Bible where God condemns homosexuality.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
1 Cor 6:9-10
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
But today more and more people are accepting the homosexual lifestyle as normal. I have heard too many times, that we are intolerant and we should just leave well enough alone. When I was running for office, I was told many times that I had to take our all references to homosexuals out of my speeches. Of course I did not. Why should we be so concern about homosexuals? There are two reasons. First God loves everyone and there are Christian agencies out there where homosexuals can receive help. One ministry is Kerusso Ministries founded by Michael Johnston. He was in the homosexual lifestyle, but through God’s grace, He was delivered and married a woman who also had been in the gay lifestyle. So they know that with God’s help one can be delivered. They have currently help many leave the gay lifestyle.
But my greatest concern is the influence that this is having on our children. There are schools across the nation that are having sensitivity classes. These classes consist of either showing a film or having people to come into the classroom explaining to students, some as young as 1st graders, that it is O.K. if a child has two mothers or two daddies even though your parents objects to this idea. They tell the children that their parents are just old fashion or are intolerant because of their old fashion religious ideas.
These even takes place right here in Hobbs, NM. When Mikie was in the seventh grade, he brought a note home from school, stating that his class would be viewing a film, and he had to have his permission slip signed for him to see it. I recognized immediately the name of the film and knew it was a pro homosexual training film. I refused to let Mikie watch the film and found out later that he was the only student that the parent had not given consent to view the movie. If we as parents are not informed and do not take a stand, then our children will be brain washed into believing homosexuality is an acceptable way of life.
I am reminded of the following scripture:
1 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.
2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
I get so upset watching TV. Almost every show on TV during family prime time, either has a homosexual character or talks about homosexuality and our kids are watching it. The homosexual organizations have had a greater influence on our political process than any other organization. To me this is very scary. There are so many facts and figures I could give you but I must move on. Homosexuals need to hear about Christ and His love and we are the ones who has to tell them, but we are not to be tolerant of the sin of homosexuality. We must teach our children that this is not an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Pray for the deliverance of anyone that you may know that is in the gay lifestyle and share the Good News with them.
Next, what is fornication? According to the Webster’s II New College Dictionary "fornication is sexual intercourse between a man and woman not married to each other". The Bible tells us that this is a sin.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;
4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
These are pretty strong words and really there isn’t much to add, except that the entertainment industries are selling the message that sex before marriage is O. K.
Even our schools by passing out free condoms are giving our kids the message that sex before marriage is acceptable. What are you teaching your kids? Remember the verse we read earlier about being thrown into the sea?
The last thing I want to talk about today if adultery. Adultery is having sex with someone who is not your spouse. Well, you may say, I have never done that. But what did Jesus say about adultery?
27 "You have heard that it was said, ’Do not commit adultery.’
28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Wow! Are you still innocent?
So let us remember the following verses and obey them.
The following verse about your body being the temple of the Holy Spirit is probably the verse most often taken out of context, but it really deals with sexual immorality. Let’s read it.
1 Cor 6:18-20
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
All entertainment and advertising today is geared toward peaking our sexual interest. This is done by showing provocative and near naked women and men in commercials. Prime time TV has resorted to sex to entice viewers. The Disney owned ABC showed a hour long Victoria Secrets show. I didn’t watch it, but the reviews said that it was just short of soft-core porn. There are strip clubs in every town, porn book stores and movie rental stores that rent hard-core porn movies. But worst of all is the Internet, where hard-core porn can be obtained free. Most schools and libraries do not have filters that blocks such sites so our children are not protected and can obtain access to hard-core porn. Porn is just as additive as drugs or gambling is.
Promise Keepers reports that one out of three men who attended its conference in 1996 admitted that they struggle with pornography. Focus on the Family reports that one out of seven pastors who call its toll-free help line say they are addicted to pornography.
There are hundreds of thousands of porn sites on the Internet. One study of nearly 10,000 Internet users found that 8% were sexually compulsive or addictive. Not all of these users were men. Women are also additive to porn and there are ministries to help both men and women who are additive to porn. This is alarming. That is why we must ensure that any computer that our kids have access to has an Internet filter that blocks all porn sites. My Internet provider is one that blocks all objectionable sites, so there is no temptation.
What can we do?
Send letters or e-mails or call your elected officials and let them know that you want laws all ready on the books governing pornography enforced. Let your elected officials know that you want stronger laws protecting our children and traditional family values. Let companies that advertise on sexually explicit programs know that you will not buy their products. It works! There are several companies that Maria and I have been boycotting for years, because of their acceptance of sinful ways.
The Salvation Army was going to give health benefits to homosexual and live-in couples, but the outcry from the Christian community was so loud that they reversed their decision. State Farm Insurance was also going to give live-in partners and homosexual couples health benefits, but again the outcry was loud and they changed their minds. I sent an e-mail to State Farm telling them that if they did this, I would cancel my insurance policies on my house and my 3 cars. They listen. I would have canceled my insurance with them. Carrying my cross is more important than what any company or business can do for me.
Disney still hasn’t listen yet. That is why the boycott against Disney is still being supported by the Southern Baptist, Catholic League, American Family Association and 2 dozen more organizations. Disney owned companies produces more MA rated movies than any one else and they endorse the Gay and Lesbian association.
You must take up your cross and be the salt of the earth. Stay informed and take action.
There is still one other sin we must talk about. A sin that I have only heard one other minister preach about in my lifetime. That sin is the sin of divorce. What did Jesus say concerning divorce?
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
3 "What did Moses command you?" he replied.
4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."
5 "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied.
6 "But at the beginning of creation God ’made them male and female.’
7 ’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,
8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.
11 He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.
12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."
Now in Matthew Jesus also states:
9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
It is very clear from these verses that divorce is a sin. God intended marriage to last a lifetime. When we marry God sees us as one person, one flesh, never to be separated.
Jesus did give one reason for divorce and that is only on the grounds of marital unfaithfulness, adultery. So why does 40% of all marriages end in divorce, even in the church? Is it today, just like in the days of Moses, we have hardened our hearts to God, and our ministers in our churches today do not want to offend their congregations? If it is in the Bible, then it should be shouted from the pulpit.
Not only do we see that divorce is a sin, but we also see from the above scripture, that if you divorce, then you are not to remarry as long as your ex-spouse is still living. If you do remarry, then you have just committed adultery.
Let’s look at one more verse.
1 Cor 7:10-16
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.
11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.
13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.
16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Let me tell you a true story. There was this man named Jim and a fellow worker had been witnessing to him for several months. Finally Jim accepted Christ and started attending church on Sundays and reading his Bible. But there was one problem. Jim’s wife didn’t want anything to do with this Jesus. So every night they would go upstairs to bed, but Jim would lie awake until his wife fell asleep. Then he would quietly get out of bed and go downstairs and read his Bible for an hour. Jim knew that his wife would not approve and if she found out there would be another huge argument. This went on for about a year. This one night Jim got up and went down stairs as usual and was reading his Bible, when he heard the stairs squeak. Jim knew his wife had caught him and there was about to be a huge fight. His wife came into the room and told Jim that she wanted what he had. Jim not understanding what his wife meant said "What?" Jim’s wife explained that she had watched him for a year sneaking out of the bed and going downstairs to read his Bible. She said that she has seen a change in him and that she wanted what he had found. She wanted Jesus too.
Husbands and wives, if you want your spouse to change, then you must change first. Give your life to Christ and obey His commands and follow His will and put Him first in your life, then you will see miracles in your life and the life of your spouse, but you have to change first.
I have stepped on many toes here today and I do not apologize for it, for the Word of God is true, yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is never changing. God forgives, but you first must repent and ask for His forgiveness. Do so today, so God can bless your lives.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is not one of us here today that have not sinned. And we know that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. If you are here today and you don’t know Christ Jesus as you Savior, then God had a reason for you being here today. You are not here by luck or coincidence. I don’t believe in either one. God has you here today for a purpose. That purpose is so that you can accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. All you have to do is ask forgiveness for your sins, and with His help you will turn from those sins. Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God and that He suffered and died on the cross for you and that He lives today and sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. It is that easy.
Now there may be Christians here today that I have stepped on your toes. I offer no apology. God’s word is true and God does punish sin. If there is anyone here today that has a sin in his or her life, then now is the time to get it straight with God. If you have a sexual addiction, there is help. First with God and then with Christian counseling.
So as we sing the invitation, please come forward. If you need to accept Christ do it now; you may not have another chance. If you need to get on your knees at the alter in humility to set things straight with God, do so as we sing with our eyes closed and heads bowed.