Summary: Third and final sermon in the second part of an initial 2009 series, ‘2 Things 2 B in 09’
Language is an interesting thing. It changes with new words added each year to our lexicon and old ones falling out of favor.
It also means that the meanings of words change and some are used as either as a verb or a noun. (Slide 1) For example, we when say ‘ADdress’ we mean a specific location and is a noun. (Slide 1a) But when we say ‘adDRESS’ it means to take action (a verb) by ‘adDRESSing’ or speaking to someone or something as in ‘he adDRESSED’ the crowd.’
The same holds true with clichés. Some we use for perhaps our entire life and others come and go.
When was the last time you heard someone say, ‘A stitch in time saves nine?’ Today we might say, ‘that was close.’
The challenge to make the Christian faith understandable is an ongoing one for pastors. Especially when today’s sermon includes a strong Biblical phrase that causes one to stop and blink.
(Slide 2) To bear one’s cross
Our main text for this morning is Mark 8:34-37 and you can follow along in your Bible or on the screen:
Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. “If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.
“If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (NLT)
I believe that one of the most important things said in the last century was by the late Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who stood up to the Hitler regime during World War two, who wrote (Slide 5) “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
This leads me to the focus question for today, (Slide 6) ‘What does it mean to bear one’s cross?’
Jesus’ audience understood this expression very, very well. In Jesus’ day, to bear, to carry, one’s cross was to face death because it meant that you were headed to your execution. Your freedom had come to end and now your life is coming to end.
I also think, and so do others, that what He meant in our main text was the death of one’s agenda and the taking up of His agenda. How? By setting aside ‘your selfish ambition.’
Someone wrote that in taking up the cross a person was submitting to the power and authority of the Roman authorities. In taking up our cross, we are submitting to the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
To be a missionary then; to be missional is to let go of our agendas and take up Christ’s agenda because the cross, as Pastor Tory Baccum says, “is not just a sign of forgiveness; it is a sign of communion and grace.” Because as Baccum notes, in “carrying the cross… one gets to stay close to our Lord.”
(Slide 7) How then do we carry our cross?
(Slide 7a) First, we carry it daily…
Living the Christian faith is a lot, a lot like marriage. (I think that I have said this before but I’ll say it again.)
Conversion is like the ceremony in which the couple publically pledges their commitment to one another. It is the start of the relationship – with your spouse and with the Lord.
But it does not stop there. For a marriage to work and to grow you have to nurture it, feed it, and stay faithful to it.
The same holds true for our relationship with God. Our conversion experience, our public profession of faith is the start of our faith relationship not the end.
Just as marriage is a process of on going ‘I do’s,’ so is our commitment to Christ a process of on going ‘I follow’s.’ So we must daily pick up our cross and follow Jesus.
(Slide 7b) We also carry our cross with Christ surrounding us on our journey. Notice what Jesus said at the end of verse 34, ‘follow me.’ Now how do we best follow someone? By keeping up with them and by keeping them in sight!
Someone one once said, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” For years, the standard answer was ‘God.’ Then someone started responding, ‘Me.’
Today I think that the correct answer is ‘it depends.’ God is moving in a certain direction, Jesus did. Remember that He never stayed in one place during His earthly ministry. He kept moving.
God is moving but so are we. Sometimes, it is in the opposite direction or on a tangent away from the Lord. But, if we obediently keep Jesus in sight and follow Him… then in the fellowship with Christ… and… with one another, our cross is easier to bear. We do not bear our cross all alone though it sometimes feels like it.