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As we wrap up our four-part series about Jesus' death on the cross, let’s review.
1 - Primacy, 2 - Power, 3 - Pattern, 4 - The path.
Now we’ll come to one our last and hardest one.
This is the part that gets left out of our Christianity.
This is the part that gets left out of our gospel presentations.
Turn to Mark 8:31-34.
You and I are invited to join Jesus on his way to the cross.
Here’s what I hope.
I hope in our time together, God the Holy Spirit will grant us boldness.
He will make us brave.
I pray that he will set us free from fear of rejection, persecution, and suffering.
I pray that he will grant us a deep joy that endures through every storm.
And that we understand a little more deeply what is meant by “denying ourselves” “taking up our crosses, and following Jesus.”
I’m almost always reading through some version of Pilgrim's Progress.
The story is about Christian staying on the king’s path - despite all the temptations to get off and try other ways.
We are tempted to lay down our crosses and venture into more pleasant and comfortable pastures.
But we have a vapor of a life, and my prayer is that this morning we would be encouraged to follow Jesus' marching orders of self-denial and self sacrifice.
I have a hunch that in the next decade, I don’t think things are going to be easier for Christians.
We need men with spine; women with resolve.
We need grit.
We need to unflinchingly walk the path of the cross.
What to expect on the path of the cross.
When we take up the path of the cross, we expect to suffer.
Look back at Mark 8:34-37.
What does it mean to deny yourself?
Think of it this way: you can spend your life attempting to grab or working to give.
Grab or give.
You can live grabbing attention, grabbing fame, grabbing comfort, grabbing pleasure, grabbing money, grabbing power.
Or you can live to give.
Your work can be a grabbing work or a giving work.
Your career can be a giant attempt to grab, or it can be a strategic operation to maximize giving.
Your time will always be spent either grabbing or giving.
Even rest - it will either be a “grabbing” rest - self-oriented.
Or a “giving” rest - resting in God to be rejuvenated to serve.
Now when we follow Jesus, we embrace the life of self-denial - that is, the giving life.
We repudiate the grabbing life and we impose upon ourselves the glad duty of giving unto others.
When he says “take up your cross.”
This is a different species of suffering than self-denial.
it’s as if he’s saying: “I am going to be rejected.
I am going to be killed.
And if you want to follow me, get ready to die with me.”
This is the kind of suffering that comes when people hate you for following Jesus and holding to the truth.
Jesus made this clear.
There’s no doubt.
It’s recorded in all the gospels.
Jesus alluded to it over and over again.
Those who follow him will suffer in this world.
His very first sermon: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 10:25 “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”
Matthew 10:34 “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth.
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against his mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
In other words, families will be divided over allegiance to Jesus.
And so he says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
He’s saying that Jesus will be so polarizing that he will divide the most basic societal unit - the family.
Be prepared for people who you might expect to love you to reject you.
Turn to Acts 21:11.
Paul’s on his way to Jerusalem and a prophet named Agabus comes and warns him that if he goes there he’s going to get into trouble.
And he warns him in a graphic way.
He takes off Paul’s belt, ties up his own hands and feet, and says, “If you go to Jerusalem, this is what they’ll do to you.”
Paul: “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?
For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Look at those words, “For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die.”
“I am ready.”
Essentially, I already knew this was dangerous when I signed up for it.
I wonder how many Christians could say, “I’m ready.
I’m ready for my neighbors to reject me.
I’m ready for my coworkers to laugh at me.
I’m ready for the hate.
I’m ready to be left out.”
That’s worth considering: Are you ready?
Are you ready to be called names?
Are you ready to be passed over for the promotion?
Are you okay with that?
Are you ready to be considered a fundamentalist?
Are you ready to be called a bigot?
Are you ready to be misunderstood?
Are you ready to be intentionally framed?
Are you ready to be lied about?
Some of you going to college soon or in college now: are you ready to be the laughingstock?
Are you ready to be considered stupid?
Are you ready to be the only one in your class who thinks the Bible is the word of God?
And some of you might want to bring the gospel to harder places.
Several months back we had the Shontere’s here, they’re serving in Papua New Guinea.
Maybe you will go someplace like that.
Are you ready to be threatened?
Are you ready to have spears pointed at you? Are you ready to have people curse you?
This is one thing the modern American church is ill-prepared to do.
Christians are too often coddled, churches are too often pampered.
The gospel becomes another self-help program.
Salvation and suffering are married.
1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
Two things have been grace-gifted to Christians: One, that we believe in him.
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