Taking Up Your Cross
***This morning we talked about how being a Christian is a lifestyle of loving others. Today we are going to talk about what that lifestyle looks like, Please stand for the reading of God’s word:***
18Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” -Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”23Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
How many of you have heard this before? It’s a pretty well known passage. But, I hope that after this evening, you will have a deeper appreciation for what Jesus is saying here. Personally, this is the most challenging, difficult, and amazing thing that Jesus ever said. But that’s just my opinion.
So here we are. Jesus has just fed five thousand people. It’s one of his most famous miracles, probably because it affected so many. Now Jesus is taking a break, and he goes off by himself and the disciples go with him. They’re just sort of hanging out. I can imagine that they might be sitting around a fire, relaxing after a long hard day of miracle making. Jesus steers the converstion to the spiritual side of life. In this conversation Jesus asks them who he is, and when Peter responds that he believes that Jesus is the Christ, he becomes the very first Christian ever. It’s quite the privilidge. You would think that Jesus would give him a plack or something. But he doesn’t. Instead, he tells the disciples about his death, and then he tells Peter exactly what he should expect in his new lifestyle.***
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self
Let’s break this down a little bit. Jesus tells that that anyone who becomes his follower must*** “deny himself and take up his cross daily.” Remember that, the disciples have no idea that Jesus is himself going to be killed on a cross. Nor do they know that, they too will all be killed for what they believe. That’s not the message that Jesus is trying to convey here. Instead, he was trying to describe to the disciples what Christians are expected to do: take up your cross. But what does that mean?
I am sure that you all have heard plenty gruesome details about the different methods of crucifixtion, so I won’t go into all the gory details. Suffice it to say that our word Excruciating finds its roots in the word crucifixtion.*** Excruciating? Is this what Jesus is saying our lives as Christians will be? I think what Jesus is saying here, is that, in being a Christian there is going to be hardships. Life isn’t easy, and we accumulate a lot of garbage in our lives. But when we become Christians, we are supposed to throw all that garbage out, and sometimes it’s pretty excruciating. Anyone who was here last year heard Ted’s testimony. I’ve gotta say that Ted’s story has really blessed me. And it helps make this point. The things that Ted went through to get to be the guy he is today weren’t easy. Now maybe your story isn’t as extreme, but even small habits and choices can be hard to change.
The next thing that Jesus says ties into the metaphore of the cross. He says*** “For Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” In the entire Bible, this is the single most challenging sentence for me. Why? Because it goes against everything that is in my nature. My basic nature tells me that I should live based on what is best for me. That I should strive to gain all that I can for myself. I want to have fame, riches, influence; I want all those things. But that’s not what Jesus wants.
When I was writing this, I was trying to think of someone who was a good example of losing your life. And the first person I thought of was the Apostle Paul. Because really, that guy gave up a lot. He was a very important person who had a lot going for him, but he chose to give it all up for God. He had the choice of living to be a very old man in comfort and leisure, but instead he lived to be a not-very-old-man and he died in a prison. See Paul truly understood what It means to lose your life for Christ. He gave up all of his personal desires, and followed what God wanted him to do.
Paul realized that the last thing Jesus said to his disciples that day was true. Jesus said:*** “. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Jesus told this story once. That’s what Jesus did when he was trying to help people understand a difficult concept. The story (which can be found in Luke) goes like this:
“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crop. 18“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merr 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.*** 21“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
The rich man spent all his time producing and storing things for himself. He had gained his whole world. But when he died, what was there to show from it? It is easy to get wrapped up in the world of things, but Jesus has given us a higher calling. He wants us to be focused on working for him.
So we talked about how as Christians we are expected to endure the hardships of putting our old lives behind us and start focusing on Jesus and not ourselves, but what does this look like in real life? I told you that I wanted to expose you to Christians who live a life that you may not be used to, so I would like to tell you about another one.
***This person’s name is Sharon. But nobody calls her that. Instead, everyone just calls her Mom. She is the wife of a pastor in Caldwell. When he’s not serving his congregation, he has a small drywalling company. A few years ago, Mom felt like God was calling her to do something for the youth of Boise. She felt like God wanted her to go after kids who wouldn’t want to go to church or listen to a sermon. I guess she figured that since these kids weren’t buying what church leaders were selling, she would sell the kids something else: music. With a lot of money out of her own pocket Mom opened “The Venue” in downtown Boise. I am sure that some of you have heard of it.
The Venue doesn’t often feature Christian music. And nobody who works there will try and preach to you. All they do is love kids. Mom has garnered a reputation as being someone who will care about anyone. She is known for helping out people who don’t have anyone else to help them. I have heard many stories of her kindness and compassion towards kids who need it. In one of the more dramatic examples, she was comforting a kid who had just been thrown our of his house. When she told him that she was proud of him, he told her that she was the first person who had ever said that to him. The boy was in highschool. Personally I have seen Mom change many people’s lives, including my own, for the better. All this has taken a toll on her life. She has spent tens of thousands of dollars, put herself through more emotional stress than most have to endure in a life time, and has worked many many long hard hours. But mom understands that The Venue is her cross to bear. She realizes that what she is doing is storing up treasure in heaven. And I know that she has been blessed in her life. She has been given the opportunity to make life so much better for so many. I have a feeling that Jesus has a special seat for her up in heaven.
So as we start to wind down for the evening, I would challenge you to try and figure out what your cross is. I would challenge you to think of the pieces of your old life that you need to put behind you. ***Jesus never said that being a Christian was easy. On the contrary. But rewards make it far worth the effort.