Matthew 16:24-27 – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but 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 soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.” NASU
I have heard many sermons on ‘Cross Bearing’ and even preached a few and often wonder where we get some of our ideas of cross bearing. Many biblical commentators will tell us that taking up the cross is a reference to ‘denying self.’ Jesus had been speaking about His cross and was teaching His followers the costliness of discipleship, which is an almost lost concept in today’s Christian world. Notice what Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me…” So, if I want to follow Jesus and live the Christian life there is something I am going to be required to do. Those things will not ‘earn’ me salvation but will be an ‘evidence’ of my salvation for it is ‘by grace’ that we are saved ‘not works.’
He mentions three things in this sentence: Denial of Self, Taking up Our Cross and Following Him. I do not want to split hairs and make this more complicated that is needed but what if those are three distinct items? If they are then denial of self and cross bearing is not one in the same. However if they are extensions of each other, denial of self would result in cross bearing and following Jesus.
Jesus was going to die on His Cross for the sin of mankind. He committed Himself to fulfilling the purposes and plans of the Father for man’s redemption and that would require His suffering and physical death on the cross. If we are to follow Him then we must become willing to ‘die to self’ and ‘live to Him.’ We must come to the place in our commitment that even if everyone turns on us we will follow Him and that would truly be a very heavy cross to bear. Sadly, some create their crosses and alienate others by being obnoxious in the presentation of their beliefs. I would never ask anyone compromise their convictions but sometimes our opinions are presented as biblical mandates with no conviction of the Holy Spirit in another’s heart.
I remember hearing an elderly preacher say once, “Men will die for their convictions not their opinions.” That has stuck with me through the years and I have struggled, at times, to distinguish between my opinions and genuine convictions. If what I believe to be a Bible truth is just an opinion it must always be pliable and flexible open to modification. If it is a God-given conviction then I must not move from it. There are some things God has ‘convicted’ me of both to do and not do but in many of those cases the Holy Spirit has tugged at my heart that those things are for me not something I am to attempt to press upon others. I am free to present them, explain them, and encourage them but not to make them Law and Gospel for everyone. That in itself has, at times, been a Cross to bear.
In the statement of verses 25-26 I believe we see the Cross Jesus is speaking of as focusing on TOTAL SURRENDER. Possibly one of the greatest and most difficult crosses we will carry is ‘giving up control’ of our lives. Nothing in the world is worth our soul and nothing in the world can purchase our soul. Therefore, if you want to ‘follow’ Jesus dethrone self, accept that cross and begin the journey. He will never leave or forsake you.
God bless you as you enjoy and experience this wonderful day!