Summary: When Jesus talks about us denying ourselves, taking up a cross & following Him – what does He mean? What does the Bible teach about "cross-bearing?" (PowerPoint available - #256)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(PowerPoints used with this sermon are available free of charge. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org & request #256.)
This morning I want us to look at a passage of Scripture found in Mark 8:34-35. "Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples & said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself & take up his cross & follow me.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me & for the gospel will save it.’"
You have heard this Scripture before, haven’t you? But when Jesus talks about us denying ourselves & taking up a cross & following Him – what does that mean?
Well, we’re going to discuss that in just a few moments. But before we do, I believe that we ought to realize 2 things about Jesus.
A. First of all, there is the startling honesty of Jesus. Jesus never tries to bribe us by the offer of an easy life.
Many missionaries understand what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself & take up his cross & follow me.” It’s not an easy road! And Jesus never sought to lure people to Him by the offer of an easy way.
ILL. Some of you will remember that in the early days of WW2, when Winston Churchill took over the leadership of England, all that he offered his people was "blood, sweat & tears." And that is very much like what Jesus offers to His followers, too.
B. Secondly, Jesus never calls upon us to do anything that He was not prepared to do Himself. What He asks us to face, He has already faced. And when He calls upon us to take up a cross, He, Himself, has already borne one for us.
That goes against the grain of what the world teaches. The world teaches that anything that bothers us or becomes difficult, we should avoid. Sadly, some churches seem to have adopted that attitude, too.
And yet, the words of Jesus are still there, "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself & take up his cross & follow me."
PROP. What did He mean? What does it mean to "take up" or "bear a cross”? What does the Bible teach about "cross bearing?"
I. CROSS BEARING IS ALWAYS VOLUNTARY
First of all, the Bible tells us that "taking up a cross" is voluntary. Jesus calls & challenges us, but it is our decision. Taking up a cross & following Jesus is voluntary.
But I’m afraid that generally we’re pretty careless in the way we talk about our “cross bearing.”
ILL. For example, suppose that after extensive testing the doctor tells me, "I'm sorry, but you have diabetes, & you'll have to deal with it for the rest of your life." Now that may be a burden that I must bear, but it is not a cross I have taken up for Jesus. So I can't then tell others, "Well, that's my cross to bear," because I didn't volunteer for it.
Or if a tornado sweeps through our area & destroys my home, I can't call it "a cross I have to bear," because I didn't volunteer for that either. It is not something that I chose to do for Jesus.
SUM. You see, if I talk about bearing a cross, that means I am voluntarily taking it up for Jesus. I'm going to enlist, to offer myself in some way to serve Jesus.
II. CROSS BEARING IS AN ACT OF LOVE
A. So, cross bearing is not an accident that happens to us, or something unavoid-able that we must face. Cross bearing is an act of love that we choose to do. It is a task that we undertake, a price that we pay, out of love for Him.
For Jesus it meant going to a cross to die because He loved us so much.
It means reaching out to people who are unlovable & unlovely & who may never return the love. And yet we are to keep on loving because that's what Jesus did.
B. You want to read a description of what it means to carry a cross? Turn over to 1 Corinthians 13. Listen as I begin reading in vs. 4, & I want to change the word "love" & put the word "cross bearer" in its place.
"A cross bearer is patient. A cross bearer is kind. A cross bearer does not envy. A cross bearer does not boast. A cross bearer is not arrogant or rude. A cross bearer is not self seeking.
“A cross bearer is not easily angered, nor keeps records of wrongs. He does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. A cross bearer always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."