Ref: Brown, M.L., "How Saved Are We?", Destiny Image Publishers,
Shippensburg, PA, 1993.
Crucifixion was one of the most hideous forms of execution ever devised by men. Cicero called it.. "the supreme capital penalty, the most painful, dreadful, and ugly."
- the individual was scourged first - his back a mass of torn flesh
- the individual was mocked first in public and sometimes stripped naked
Crucifixion has been described as follows: The unnatural position used in crucifixion made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries - especially at the head and stomach - became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself - of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most - bear the aspect of delicious and exquisite release.
TEXT: Matt. 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Following Jesus means we must be willing to lose our temporal life in order to gain eternal life. Born once die twice - born twice die once.
TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE: When Jesus made this statement to His disciples, "What was he saying?" Let's examine what it meant to take up the cross.
MAIN DIVISIONS AND SUBDIVISIONS
I. THE PERSON WHO TOOK UP THE CROSS WAS GOING TO THEIR DEATH.
- goodbye to the world
- plans and goals finished
- the end of life
- THE FIRST STEP TO FREEDOM
A. It's important to understand that taking up your cross does not earn you salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, " For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
B. It is entirely possible to be a born again believer and still not follow Jesus step by step. There are many such believers today. Their souls are saved, their spirits will dwell eternally in the presence of the Lord but they will have no reward because they are selfish, self-centered and unconcerned about the things of Christ.
C. In John 12:24-26 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
D. How many have truly died? How many can say, "Lord, not my will but your will be done."
E. Brothers and sisters - losing your life is traumatic. Following Jesus means: Death to our own life - the end of our dreams - the end of self-rule.
F. Gaining the Son means giving up the Sin! It's all or nothing. Luke 9:62 says, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
So we see that taking up the cross means we are going to die. Is this a benefit? YES
II. THE CRUCIFIED PERSON IS DONE WITH SIN BECAUSE DEAD PEOPLE SIN NO MORE.
A. When we die lusts and fleshly passions cease.
The crucified thief can steal no more.
The crucified murderer can no longer kill.
Sinful pleasures are over forever.
B. Rom. 6:5-7 says, "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."
1Pet. 4:1 says, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God."
C. Do you realize that if we have truly given our lives to Him we no longer are slaves to sin? Do you realize its all over for the flesh?
D. The man or woman who willfully walks in sin has not taken up the cross!
E. Do we continue to watch movies with profanity, nudity, and glorified violence?
Do we still listen to dirty jokes?
Do we still walk in bitterness, pride and greed?
Do we still lie, cheat and steal?
So we covet our neighbor's goods?
If we do these things we have not taken up our cross!
F. Col. 3:8 says, "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."
If we have taken up our cross we have died. If we have died we are no longer slaves of sin. What else is involved in taking up our cross?
III. TAKING UP THE CROSS IS THE ULTIMATE FORM OF SELF-DENIAL
A. Picture yourself on the cross - your hands are stretched out, you are nailed to the beam, you are hanging in the air - THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO! This is truly self-denial.
B. Denying ourselves means saying no to our desires whatever the consequences - whatever the costs.
C. Fruit bearing requires cross bearing. Hudson Taylor said, "Are you willing to abide in Him and thus bear much fruit?"
D. Consider that there are more than 900 million Muslims in the world. How many workers are sharing the gospel with them? Each day more than 150,000 people die. How many of them know the Lord? When was the last time you shared the Lord Jesus Christ with someone?
E. Why do so few of us witness for Christ? The cults go door to door and they don't even have the truth! They stand on street corners and in airports. Why do we not deny ourselves? We have the truth! We have the light! We know the joy of the Lord! We are filled with the Holy Spirit!
F. Why then do we hear God's voice and not rise up and witness boldly? Because we are to busy doing our own thing - we're not dead yet - we haven't taken up our cross - we are not willing to deny ourselves. It's not because we don't care. It not because we are totally unconcerned. A. W. Tozer said, "Its not that people don't want God - its that people found something they wanted more than God." We are determined to have it our way!
G. Look at your life and look back to the cross - What is it we want the most? The cross or our life?
If we have taken up our cross we have died. If we have died we are no longer slaves of sin. If we are no longer slaves to sin we are willing to deny ourselves. What reward do we get for taking up our cross?
IV. THE CROSS IS THE ONLY WAY TO RESURRECTION
A. No one wants to die but John 12:24 says, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
B. We love the resurrection glory. We love the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But to truly have these we first must die - first we have to be buried. GOD CAN ONLY RAISE UP DEAD MEN!
C. Consider Paul -
He was truly a holy terror
He prayed without ceasing
He preached without cowering
He raised the dead
He rattled the devil
How did he do all this? HE DIED AND NO LONGER LIVED! Gal 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Can I tell you something? Listen carefully. I feel like EF Hutton - We can never do any of this by our own strength. Give up! Stop struggling! Stop striving! GIVE UP AND DIE! SHARE IN THE RESURRECTION LIFE OF JESUS
Phil 3:10-14 says, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Brothers and sisters is the person in this story you?
Well, here I am, Lord. You said "Take up your cross," and I'm here to do it. It's not easy, you know, this self-denial thing. I mean to go through with it though, yes sir! I'll bet you wish more people were willing to be disciples like me. I've counted the cost and surrendered my life, and it's not an easy road.You mind if I look over these crosses? I'd kind of like a new one.
I'm not fussy, you understand; but a disciple has to be relevant these days. I was wondering - are there any that are vinyl padded? I'm thinking of attracting others, see? And if I could show them a comfortable cross, I'm sure I could win a lot more. Got to keep up with the population explosion and all. And I need something durable so I can treasure it always. Oh, is there one that's sort of flat so it would fit under my coat? One shouldn't be too obvious.
Funny, there doesn't seem to be much choice here. Just that coarse, rough wood. I mean that would hurt. Don't you have something more distinctive, Lord? I can tell you right now, none of my friends are going to be impressed by this shoddy workmanship. They'll think I'm a nut or something. And my family will be just mortified.
What's that? It's either one of these or forget the whole thing? But Lord, I want to be your disciple, I mean, just being with you; that's all that counts; but life has to have a balance, too.
But you don't understand - nobody lives that way today! Who is going to be attracted by this self-denial bit? I mean, I want to; but let's not over do it. Start getting radical like this, and they'll have me off to the funny farm. Know what I mean?
I mean being a disciple is challenging and exciting and I want to do it; but I do have some rights, you know. Now let's see - no blood - OK? I just can't stand the thought of that, Lord... Lord? Jesus? Now where do you suppose He went?