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Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

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Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

Sunday, January 20, 2008

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone 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, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 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?” (Matthew 16:13-26)

1.Peter’s response to the shocking statement certainly represented the feelings of the rest of the disciples: “This shall never happen to Thee!” Jesus turned His back on Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter the “stone” who had just been blessed (Matt. 16:18) became Peter the stumbling block who was not a blessing to Jesus!

2.What was Peter’s mistake? He was thinking like a man, for most men want to escape suffering and death. He did not have God’s mind in the matter. Where do we find the mind of God? In the Word of God.

3.Until Peter was filled with the Spirit, he had a tendency to argue with God’s Word. Peter had enough faith to confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but he did not have the faith to believe that it was right for Jesus to suffer and die. Of course, Satan agreed with Peter’s words, for he used the same approach to tempt Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:8–10).

4.Today the cross is an accepted symbol of love and sacrifice. But in that day the cross was a horrible means of capital punishment. The Romans would not mention the cross in polite society. In fact, no Roman citizen could be crucified; this terrible death was reserved for their enemies. Jesus had not yet specifically stated that He would be crucified (He did this in Matt. 20:17–19). But His words that follow emphasize the cross.

5.The Lord showed that discipleship involves a cost. Discipleship does not mean one enjoys glory immediately. A person who would follow Jesus must deny himself and all his ambitions. He must take up his cross and follow Jesus (Matt 10:38).

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:38-39)

6.In the Roman Empire a convicted criminal, when taken to be crucified, was forced to carry his own cross. This showed publicly that he was then under and submissive to the rule he had been opposing. Likewise Jesus’ disciples must demonstrate their submission to the One against whom they had rebelled.

7.He presented to the disciples two approaches to life:

deny yourselflive for yourself

take up your crossignore the cross

follow Christfollow the world

lose your life for His sakesave your life for your own sake

forsake the worldgain the world

keep your soullose your soul

share His reward and glorylose His reward and glory

8.To deny self does not mean to deny things. It means to give yourself wholly to Christ and share in His shame and death. Paul described this in Romans 12:1–2 and Philippians 3:7–10, as well as in Galatians 2:20.

9.To take up a cross does not mean to carry burdens or have problems. (I once met a lady who told me her asthma was the cross she had to bear!) To take up the cross means to identify with Christ in His rejection, shame, suffering, and death.

10.The path Jesus and His followers would travel would be a road of sorrow and suffering. But in so losing one’s life, one would truly find life. If it were possible for an individual, in preserving his own life, to gain the whole world, but in the process lose his soul, of what value then would be the possessions of the world? True discipleship involves following Christ and doing His will, wherever that path might lead.

11.Tonight, let us consider three things Jesus says: (1) If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (2) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (3) 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?”

12.As we close, let us consider what it means to be a fully devoted Christ follower living in a pagan land. Do you need to call on the Lord tonight and ask for the power to change the priorities you have put first in your life?

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