Summary: We often meet with crosses in the way of duty; and though we must not pull them upon our own heads, yet, when they are laid for us, we must take them up, and carry them after Christ. We must never be ashamed of Christ and his gospel.
Opening illustration: What have we gotten ourselves into?
Many people have asked this question when they were faced with great personal risk.
• A mountain climber ~ is it worth taking the risk?
• A soldier in combat ~ is it worth it?
John 14: 21 says, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me …”
Matthew 16: 24 says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Introduction: It is an unspeakable comfort that our Lord Jesus is God’s Anointed; this signifies that he was both appointed to be the Messiah, and qualified for it. Jesus discourses concerning his own sufferings and death. And so far must his disciples be from thinking how to prevent his sufferings that they must prepare for their own. We often meet with crosses in the way of duty; and though we must not pull them upon our own heads, yet, when they are laid for us, we must take them up, and carry them after Christ. It is well or ill with us, according as it is well or ill with our souls. The body cannot be happy, if the soul be miserable in the other world; but the soul may be happy, though the body is greatly afflicted and oppressed in this world. We must never be ashamed of Christ and his gospel.
What does it really take to follow Christ?
2. Being a Risk-Taker (Luke 9: 23-25)
What does being a risk-taker involve? Luke 9 talks about it elaborately ~
(a) What does it mean to deny ourselves?
• It is not to deny ourselves of food, fellowship or any good things just to make us feel miserable. It means to put Christ’s claims and commands above our own desires.
• If what we know Christ wants from us clashes with what we want to do, we say ‘NO’ to ourselves and ‘YES’ to Him. That is the big order. And we’ll be joyful when we do so.
• Remember Peter denied the Lord. Apparently to deny ourselves means to not know myself.
• It is to ignore the very existence of self. Usually we treat ourselves to be the most important person on earth and if we follow Christ, we have to complete forget our self existence.
Matthew 10: 38 says, "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
Matthew 16: 24 says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
(b) What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Christ?
• Jesus knew what crucifixion meant. It meant to be prepared to face things like that for loyalty to God.
• It means to be ready to endure the worst that man can do to us for the sake of being true to God.
• Commit our lives to Him
• Follow in His footsteps and in a Christ-like manner
• Be ready to endure persecution and even death
It does not mean that we have to suffer ourselves (penance) or to invite persecution. It is the attitude (heart) not the amount of suffering and shame we endure that counts in God’s sight.
© What does it mean to lose our lives for His sake? (Luke 9: 24)
• The questions are not ‘How much can I get? But How much can I give?’
• Not what is the safe thing to do? but what is the right thing to do?
• Not what is the shortest way to work it out? But the maximum possible way.
• The Christian must realize that God has given this life not only for ourselves but for others. To burn for God and others …
• Jesus did not mean that we seek a martyr’s death. His point was how we invest our life?
• If a person invests his/her life in attaining selfish pleasures and earthly fame, he will ‘lose it’ as this earth and the system in it are all temporary.
Should we take these words seriously?
Missionaries like David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, William Carey took these words seriously – that’s why they left the comforts of their homes and their country and traveled to uncomfortable and diseased situations in Africa and Asia.
How are believers persecuted?
• Chained and imprisoned
• Loss of job
• Even death …
e.g. ~ Stephen, Richard and Paul
Should we expect persecution today?
Illustration: A Virginia Beach TV weatherman has been fired -- and the reasons management gave him were all related to his after-hours ministry. (Live your faith ~ lose your job)