Summary: This Sermon Is The Second In NUTS. It deals with our call to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

Take Up A Cross—Only If You Are NUTS

3/17/2002 Jeremiah 15:18-21 Matthew 16:21-28

Earlier this year, we went to the Beyond All Limits Conference for pastors in Florida, and heard a message by Leanord Sweet entitled NUTS Passion. NUTS Passion meant Never Underestimating The Spirit Passion. His message touched our lives, and we brought it back to the church. We then launched our theme of being NUTS for Christ in 2002.

We will be doing a NUTS message, each month. With Easter coming at the end of this month, our NUTS MESSAGE for this month deals with the cross. It’s not possible to have a resurrection on Sunday morning, without suffering on the cross on Good Friday.

Jesus made a bold declaration to anyone who wants to be his disciple. He said, “if any want to come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow me.” What kind of crosses did Jesus have in mind.

The story has been told of a man who constantly complained about the size of the cross he had been called to bear. He was convinced he had it more difficult in life than anybody. Nobody had gone through the things in life that he had experienced. If only he could talk to God face to face about this situation. His complaining was so extensive it began to get on heaven’s nerves.

Finally an angel came down and took the man to heaven where crosses were assigned. He told the man, “Look, all you do is complain about the size of your cross. I’m going to take you into the room of crosses and you choose which one you want to bear.” The man finally got a smile on his face. When he went into the room, he saw crosses of all sizes. Some seemed as tall as four and five story buildings.

As he went through the room, he finally noticed two crosses, one was about three feet high and the other was four feet. He yelled out, “that’s the cross that I want1”, as he pointed to the small cross that was about four feet tall.” He didn’t want to seem too immature by getting the smallest one.”

The angel said, “what, are you sure that’s the cross you want.” The man replied, “look, you don’t know what I’ve been through. I’m not carrying any of these large crosses.” The angel said, “well the only reason I asked the question of whether you were you sure that particular cross is the one you wanted, is because that’s the cross you had before you got here.”

For years, many people have misunderstood what it is to take up their cross. It does not mean pinning a piece of jewelry on our clothes, our necklace or our ears. Our cross is not the boss on our job who gives us a hard time, a child that’s involved with drugs, a prison sentence that we are living out, an incurable disease that we have, or a problem in our lives that we would like to get rid of. Many times you will here people say of something that’s come into their lives, “well I guess this is just my cross to bear.”

When we hear the word cross, we usually think of something that’s decorative or somewhat attractive in its design. It’s often pleasing to look at because that’s how crosses today are made. In the first century, when people heard the word cross, they immediately thought of pain, suffering, and death.

The cross was an instrument of death. After a criminal was found guilty by the Roman Government, the person would be forced to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion. Carrying the cross was a public admission that you were wrong and Rome was right, and now you’re in submission to the government. People knew what it was like to leave a city and see people hanging on a cross in great suffering eagerly waiting for death to come.

You recall in our last NUTS Passion Sermon, we stated that you cannot be normal if you want to follow Christ. To bring Jesus’ words into today’s language, Jesus would be saying, “If any wants to come after me, let them deny themselves and sit down in their own private electric chairs to be zapped as needed and follow me.” Most of us would say, “you’d have to be NUTS to voluntarily sit in electric chair, with the electricity turned on. Suppose I get shocked.” Well are we going to sit where God tells us to sit, or make up our rules as we go along.

One of the great misunderstandings we have, is that if we do what God wants us to do, everything will work out in life just as we want it to. There was no doubt in the prophet Jeremiah’s life that God had called him and gave him a message to give to the people. Jeremiah had it figured out, when I do the right thing by obeying God, the people will do the right thing and obey God.

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