AM I CARRYING THE CROSS?
Col. 3:1 says that since we have been raised with Christ, we should seek those things above. In order to raised from the dead, Jesus had first to suffer and die. If we want to live in the heavenlies we too must suffer and die to ourselves and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mat 16:24 Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it; 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
So what would you say is our greatest need as followers of Christ? Would you agree that our greatest need is the simple straightforward taking up of Christ’s cross? But for many of us, such a metaphor is not that easy to grasp.
When Jesus carried His cross up to Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry.
To a person in the first century, the cross only meant one thing: death by the most painful and humiliating means humans could invent. We now tend to view, correctly, the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but tortuous death.
Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own death device whilst facing ridicule along the way to execution. Therefore taking up our cross means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called ‘dying to self’. It is a call to surrender everything.
Looking unto Jesus is an affair of the heart. Heart-passion for Jesus carries us through every trial with a steady step. The Hebrew and Greek words for our innermost being are very gutsy words. Heart, kidneys, bones, loins, bowels, spirit, soul etc.
Bearing one’s cross involves heart-surgery. It hurts. Only if we suffer with Him will we be glorified together.
Unless I am deeply sorry for all the hurt I cause my Heavenly Father, and unless I get desperate to change, there will be no permanent change. Do we all grasp this. There is no change without repentance and hurt.
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. John 12: 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”
Mark 8:34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 For what can a man give in return for his life?
Mark 10:29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”
Luke 9: 24-25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
Cross-bearing transforms us from labouring in our own energy to being an anointed servant of our dear Lord Jesus. His cross works in us death to selfish thinking and ways. It involves suffering.
Discipleship demands sacrifice and Jesus never hid that cost. There is purpose in suffering. There is a great deal of suffering on every level during this war in Ukraine. How does the Lord view all this suffering? God reluctantly allows suffering to try and get our attention, where life seems so full of injustice.
In his book ‘The problem of Pain’, C.S. Lewis called suffering ‘God’s megaphone.’ ‘Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences but shouts in our pains.’ It is His megaphone to arouse a deaf world.”
The cross brings into focus the life of Christ in the soul of man.
The cross is not beauty. It is excruciating pain. In His mercy we have been spared some of the pain that our sins entail. Jesus has borne the full punishment of our sins. He did this for all of mankind. I can look each and every one of you in the eye this morning and tell you with blissful confidence that the Lord Jesus loves YOU and was crucified for YOU.
So how can we be sure we are taking up this cross daily? When we begin to behave as Christ did! When through love we are restrained from anger when unjustly treated, kept back from resentment when wronged.
Through love we are constrained to leave the rights and wrongs with God and seek to serve unselfishly. N.B. Just to endure wrongs can be little more than obstinacy. But to endure, and be kind in return is the triumph of bearing one’s cross daily.
For humans to forgive can be from condescension, or even a sense of superiority. Look how generous I am: I forgive. But biblical forgiveness includes what Jesus did on the cross. Agony, unjust treatment, alone and forsaken.” My God why, Oh why have you forsaken me? Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing!”
Don’t wait for that brother or sister in Christ who has so thoughtlessly judged you, criticized you, put you down, misjudged you, to come and ask for forgiveness. Chances are he or she never will. That is how insensitive to sin most of us are. But you choose to forgive. You choose to forget. No conditions attached. You choose. The choice is entirely your own.
You are a responsible being, and we will be giving account to God for every choice, every attitude of heart, every secret aspiration.
Let us choose today who we are going to serve. We are always free to choose. In the heart it is a matter of choice, of decision, of disposition. Feelings might tag along way behind.
Now another sign of walking in intimate fellowship with Jesus, carrying his cross with him, is this matter of true love.
Let us ask ourselves, am I a contented person? Or am I envious, resentful of what others have etc? The sacrifice of praise. Heb 13:15 ‘Let us continually offer to God our sacrifice of praise.’ Praise leads to contentment.
Only Christ’s love can keep us content, free from envy, free from begrudging others their advantages.
As we take up His cross daily, we discover each day afresh the joys of giving rather than collecting, gathering, receiving, getting, acquiring, purchasing.
Such love was exemplified in Jonathan, son of King Saul and close friend of King David. Jonathan preferred David over himself and never bore a grudge because David would be King instead of him. Whatever the cost, he clung to God’s purposes in all this.
Are you a show-off, like to boast? Then you have not yet laid hold of Christ’s cross.
Do we give in to haughtiness, with pride, contempt of others lurking in our heart? Cross-bearing is very humbling?
Have you noticed? We are tracing the lines laid down in 1 Cor. 13?
Cross- bearing produces courteousness, politeness. There is so much off-handed piety about, so much ugly sanctity.
Irritable? Bad-tempered? Bad temper has destroyed so many relationships. Bad temper brings such misery in its wake.
Touchy? Easily exasperated: then look at Christ! Angry at times, but never irritable. Not to strut, swelled head, to force myself on others. .
I am no longer to fly off the handle, to keep a score of others sins,
No vindictiveness in love: only generosity.
When we are carrying the cross, we are never glad when others go wrong. Serves them right! I’m glad! They thoroughly deserved it! You would NEVER catch me doing that! Etc.
Carrying the cross means only goodness makes us glad, never rejoicing in others misfortunes.
It was said of Abraham Lincoln that he never forgot a kindness; no room in his memory for wrongs against him.
Christ never retaliated. When he was reviled, he reviled not again.
Love bears all: like a roof without leaks, ice that does not crack when you venture onto it.
Confident, not cynical, sceptical, not credulous or blind either.
Love is sustained by faith and by hope; it was love that moved God to come and die on the cross.
Bonar said “Beloved, let us love: for they who love, they only are His sons, born from above. ‘Beloved let us love: for love is light and he who loves not dwells in night.’ Horatius Bonar. (Scottish preacher of nineteenth century, who wrote the hymn: ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’.
Charles Wesley wrote ‘O love divine how sweet Thou art, when shall I find my willing heart all taken up by Thee?
Cross-bearing is very humbling.
Love is a revealer of truth, the force behind character development. Spiritual, divine, indestructible;
Love is to reign in our heart. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The depth of the heart governs the power of one’s expression (as distinct from mere expansive vocabulary) Talk without love is like noise lacking melody (plenty of that around today). 1 Cor 13 warns of being a ‘tinkling symbol’.
Love divine is the grace which proves the presence of spiritual life, of true discipleship.
What about faith without love: deep feeling and conviction untempered by God’s love: vistas of untold cruelty. How ugly is power without grace!
Some men will fight and die for Christian principles who show themselves unwilling to live in its essence, which is love.
Eloquence, insight, knowledge, strong faith, sacrificial outlook, all these are profitless without the heart being moved and empowered and possessed by God’s love, as Paul reminds us in I Cor. 13.
This is everything: to have Christ’s love empowering us, love controlling our heart, our mind, our will, our feelings, thoughts and choices.
To be filled with Christ’s love is to become ever more other centred and less self-centred.
Col 3: 1-8 ‘If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. 8 But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth.’
I John 2:15 If anyone obeys His Word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.
Jesus was totally other-centred, the complete reverse of selfishness.
Jesus was never exasperated with others when wronged by them, never vindictive, never retaliatory, but bore it all calmly and patiently.
Jesus yearned over the erring and sinful and shielded them from their accusers. He never abandoned anybody but always hoped, winning the prodigal, the prostitute, the thief.
So what is our business on earth? To work these divine qualities into our character by the enabling of the Holy Spirit of God. This is the chief work to which we are to be dedicated, upon which we must concentrate daily.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, because you love one another.” John 13:34
[John 12:24 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”]
[Mark 10:29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”)
[ I John 2:15 If anyone obeys His Word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.]
Jesus was totally God-centred, the complete reverse of selfishness.
Jesus was never exasperated with others when wronged by them, never vindictive, never retaliatory, but bore it all calmly and patiently.
Jesus yearned over the erring and sinful and shielded them from their accusers. He never abandoned anybody but always hoped, winning the prodigal, the prostitute, the thief. Jesus was kind, compassionate and understanding towards the woman at the well and the women caught in the act of adultery.
So what is our business on earth?
To work these divine qualities into our character by the enabling of the Holy Spirit of God. This is the chief work to which we are to be dedicated, on which we must concentrate. Gal. 2:20, Col. 1: 27
A new commandment: Love as I have loved you. This comes before effective soul-winning! John 13:34 “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, because you love one another.”
Have we inserted anything else into that sentence? …because
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday morning (what about the evening?)
Love, the revealer of truth, the force behind character development. Spiritual, divine, indestructible.
As I take up my cross daily, my goal must be never to give up the quest for love in all relationships. To care more for others than I do for myself. I am to always trust God with all of my heart and innermost being, and look for the best in others, not looking back but plodding on to the end with steady trust, hope unswerving, loving extravagantly.