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Lake Robinson Baptist Church

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Bearing Your Cross

Mt 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 16 reveals who Jesus is. Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah. But, when Jesus reveals His suffering and death, Peter rebukes Him. The disciples still saw Jesus as only a political Messiah and had political aspirations. Jesus tells Peter that he does not savor the things of God but the things of man. It is with this background that Jesus tells them the true cost of discipleship.

 

I - Cost our Pleasure (deny self)

Prosperity teachers claim that Christianity is about our personal pleasure. Even a casual reading of the New Testament reveals the opposite. Hebrews chapter 11 does not offer a list of prosperity preachers in its Hall of Faith but those who suffered for their faith. In the Book of Acts we as Christianity spread across the known world  Saints were scattered by persecution. History tells us how the apostles suffered for their faith and all but one died as a martyr.

The purpose of God is not our personal pleasure but for God get glory from our lives. He does this by conforming us into the image of Christ. Paul reminded the Philippians of this.

Php 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

When we think of denying self some obvious things come to mind.

  • Denying sin; the need to resist unto blood, striving against sin.
  • Deny self interest through serving others. We are to put God first, others second and ourselves last. When is the last time you did something for someone else while expecting nothing in return?‚Äč

There is another avenue of denying self that we often do not think about. That is denying self-identity. Romans chapter 6 tells us that when Jesus died on the cross that we died and were buried with Him; the "Old Man" is dead. The person we were before Christ no longer exists.

One of the reasons that people resist the gospel is that it calls for a look at our identities. One may think that he is a good person but the gospel reveals that he is not good enough to please God as he is and needs the righteousness of Christ.

Romans teaches us that through resurrection power, we walk in newness of life. This is God's Spirit living in and through us. Salvation is not only a changed life but an exchanged life.

 Ga 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Our identities are now wrapped up in Christ; we are known as Christians. To deny ourselves is to deny our identities outside of Christ. Our identites in Christ supersedes all other identities. We are no longer just husbands and wives but Christian husbands and wives. We are no longer just business men but Christian business men. The only identity that is eternal is our Christian identity. There will be a day when we may be widowed and no longer have a spouse and a day when we are no longer able to work. There is no marriage in heaven, no worldly possessions in heaven, and no worldly occupation in heaven. We are Christians in heaven who have laid up their treasures in eternity.

Denying any identity outside of Christ can be difficult because being "lovers of their own selves" is part of our make-up in then flesh. Teens often identify themselves through their peer group and adults often identify themselves through their jobs or possessions.

What happens when a person feels their identity is being attacked? During the Stock Market crash many traders committed suicide as their identity of success faded away. Empty nesters often have marriage struggles as their identity as a parent has changed. A missionary or pastor who have their identities wrapped up in the ministry may be tempted to quit if their door to service closes.

To follow Christ will cost our pleasure but it will also.....

 

II - Cost our Pride (take up cross)

The cross of Christ is synonymous with reproach. The Old Testament reveals that a person who dies on a tree was considered to be accursed of God. The Roman criminal who died on a cross was considered to be the vilest of criminals.

The disciples were looking for their place in His Kingdom and even debated who would sit on the right and left hand of Jesus. Instead of the glory and prestige of being part of Jesus cabinet, they are offered the shame and reproach of being identified with Him.

Modern Christianity has attempted to take the reproach of the cross away. In the 1970's the sound track and play "Jesus Christ Superstar" attempted to make Jesus cool. Today, churches across America peddle a "cool" brand of Jesus. The music is "cool", the preacher is "cool", the light and sound production is "cool", the lifestyle is "cool", the morality is "cool", and the message is "cool". Modern Christianity teaches us to be politically correct and non-offensive to everyone. The ultimate goal seems to be accepted by the same world that Jesus said hated Him and would hate the Believer as well.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews does not tell us to be "cool" but tells us to bear His reproach without or outside of the camp. This is the place outside of public acceptance and applause. The Old Testament scapegoat bore the sins of the people and was driven from the camp. Jesus is our Scapegoat who bore our sins and reproach. We are to go unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach and shame.

Heb 13:13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

The cross is also identified with death. To bear our cross is to go into this world with death on our backs. We have died to self, sin, society (the world), and anything else that is outside of the will of God

Theologically, death is defined as separation of soul and body. The cross represents the things from which we are separated. These are not the things that we deny in the name of separation but the things that are separated from us because of our association with Christ.

Lu 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.

The New Testament Christian understood the pain of losing the things that were dear to him for Jesus sake.

  • Many were separated from their families; Jesus warned that a man's enemy would be those of his own household.
  • Many were separated from their synagogues as any who professed Christ were to be kicked out.
  • Many were separated from their homes due to being scattered by persecution.
  • Many were separated from their jobs and livelihood as they were kicked out of the guilds.
  • Many were separated from their dignity as they were mocked for their faith

The message that Jesus had for His ambitious disciples is that there is no crown without a cross. For the modern Christian the message is the same. There is a personal cross reserved for each of us because of our identity with Christ. This cross will mean reproach, suffering, and death to us.

Mr 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

The reproach of Christ and identification with Him is a normal part of the Christian life. Jesus tells us that if we are ashamed of Him then He would be ashamed of us. The Believer's baptism is a public acknowledgement of and identification with Jesus.

To be His disciple is to take up your cross with all of the reproach and suffering that is accompanied with it.

Not only, does being a disciple cost our pleasure and pride but also....

 

III - Our Plans (follow me)

A Yiddish proverb says,  "Man plans, God laughs."

Our plans represent our dreams, desires, and personal wills. We imagine what our lives should be like. In this fantasy we see how everything just works out with little or no obstacles. Then we begin to move towards that utopia as we  plan our days, our weeks, our months, and our years to make our dreams come to pass. Our imagination paints a picture where not only have we planned out our own lives but have controlled the lives of others to make this dream a reality. Others have become pieces of our own puzzle without their own thoughts, lives or wills. This is just a price that others must pay in order for everything to make sense in our world. If our ideal life is to come to pass then we must control every aspect of our plan. 

Along the way we try to either fit Jesus into our plans or attempt to drag Him along on our journey while convincing ourselves that we are living in the will of God.

But what happens when our plans fall apart and dreams are crushed? The Christian will often wonder where they went wrong. He or she may wonder if God has abandoned them. There is often confusion because things are not supposed to go the way they are going. This is whale's belly for Jonah, the wrestling match in a cave for Jacob, the fireside chats of Peter, and the despondent walk on the road to Emmaus.

This is the life of many as they learn the difference between their own lives and following Jesus.

Jesus' command is "follow me". Following Him does not lead to the velvet robes and comfortable beds of kings but the exact opposite.

Mt 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Abraham followed God from the comforts of Ur. Matthew followed Jesus from the comforts of his career. Paul followed Jesus from the comfort of his religion. Where do we follow Jesus?

  • Follow Him to the Garden of Gethsemane  where he prayed in agony
  • Follow Him to the unfair trials
  • Follow Him to the scourging
  • Follow Him to the Via Della Rosa or the way of suffering to the cross
  • Follow Him in resurrection power

Conclusion

What happens if we get what we want out of life? What if we are able to obtain all the pleasures we want, live life while holding onto our pride without ever experiencing reproach and shame, and if we make all of our plans and dreams come true?

Mt 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

If we succeed in getting the life we want then it may cost us the life that matters. Jesus goes on to ask the question if the price of getting what we want is worth it.

Mt 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

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