Thesis:The requirement of discipleship involving the cross is the most intimidating for a reason.
Introduction:In our first look into what Jesus said "must" be true of anyone who wants to go beyond "mayonnaise jar christianity" (see the message outline for Nov. 15, 2209(577)), we saw that there "must" be a denial of the association we have with our "old man" in the Romans 7 terminology so that we may embrace our association with our new "husband". There are two other "musts" in Jesus' teaching and we are going to focus our attention to the second one this morning: anyone who would come after Jesus "must" take up his cross daily. This requirement, like almost everything Jesus had to say, has had more than its fair share of "attachments" made to it over the years. For this cause we are going to attempt to identify what Jesus meant in our study this morning.
I. Our Attempt Begins With the Nature of Truth.
A. Because our culture has developed an intense commitment to "tolerance" and "relativity", we find ourselves often slipping and sliding along our path.
1. As long as "everything is negotiable" and "nothing is sacred", there are no boundaries for any kind of decision making.
2. As long as we are reluctant to make a non-negotiable, sacred commitment to the principle of denying our association with our old man, we will find ourselves with nothing underfoot that can hold our steps firmly.
B. But it is the nature of Truth to be "absolute" and "non-negotiable" and completely "immutable" with every manner of built-in consequence for both its "application" to our decision-making and its "rejection" from our decision-making.
1. There is an immutability to Truth.
2. But there is also an inscrutability to Truth (Romans 11:33 and Ecclesiastes 7:23-24).
3. And there is a "grace" complication to Truth: God often completely unseats what men think to accomplish by what they think is "absolute truth".
4. But none of these things "undoes" the fact that Truth cannot be ignored with impunity.
C. This means this: if what Jesus said is "true", only disappointment awaits those who ignore Him and seek life in contradiction to Him.
II. Our Attempt Moves Along With the Example of Jesus.
A. Because of what the "cross" meant to the relationships within the Trinity, if there had been any other "truth" that could have taken its place, God would never have allowed Calvary to occur.
B. If Jesus had to "take up His cross", everyone who would "come after Him" must also, for He is far superior to us in every way.
III. Our Attempt Moves Further Along By a Consideration of Five Facts About Jesus' "Cross".
A . It was extremely brutal.
1. This is, perhaps, the most difficult aspect of Jesus' demand: few of us are ever called upon to face anything as brutal as the cross, so we "morph" the meaning into something so tiny in comparison that it hardly qualifies.
2. Adding to our problem of identifying with a "daily cross" is the fact that all of Jesus' life was an incremental movement toward one act of taking up His cross; this creates the question "of what does a daily cross consist?".
a. The answer seems to be this: since the "brutality" of the cross was a physical phenomenon, "daily" cross-bearing is handling pain with gratitude rather than anger or whining so that we become capable of enduring the demands of the body.
b. If we learn to handle the negative side of the attempt of the body to control us, handling the "pleasure" side will develop also.
B. It was completely unwarranted (Jesus did nothing to "deserve" this).
1. Beyond pain, the injustice of the cross calls upon us to look at "injustice" in a different light.
a. The "it's not fair" complaint is learned early and is typically voiced to attempt to stop what is happening.
b. However, according to 1 Peter 3:17, "injustice" is preferable to "justice" when it comes to "enduring", and, according to Philippians 2:8-9, suffering injustice leads to a greater consequence of Life.
2. At the "beyond pain" level, the injustice of the cross is a matter of "spirit" (Acts 5:41).
a. At the level of the "spirit", the issue is what another thinks of me.
b. At the level of the "spirit", the most significant "other" is God, Himself.
c. The issue of the text is not "pride", but "rejoicing".
3. At the "beyond spirit" level, the injustice of the cross is a matter of "soul" (1 Peter 4:19).
a. Instead of "suffering" as an indicator of God's relational displeasure (as most people think), it is an indicator of His deep faithfulness.
b. Deep faithfulness involves two things: record keeping and the dispensing of either justice upon those who engage in injustice, or grace upon those who engage in it.
1) The dispensing of justice vindicates the believer's confidence in the validity of a believing relationship with a faithful King.
2) The dispensing of grace vindicates the believer's confidence in the validity of a believing relationship with a faithful Redeemer.
C. It was completely without any kind of surrogate (Jesus did have His cross borne by Simon of Cyrene, but not at His instigation).
1. The Bible puts a premium upon "bearing one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2).
2. The Bible puts an equivalent premium upon "bearing one's own burdens" (Galatians 6:5).
3. The Bible does not encourage the "dumping of one's burdens upon any others except God".
D. It was effective beyond anyone's anticipation.
1. The Cross of Christ was the most significant demonstration of "power" in all of human and angelic history: nothing else could bring the dead to Life.
2. The believer's endurance of "daily cross bearing" is redemptive (Galatians 6:9).
E. It became the pattern for "daily" living.
1. There are few things commanded in the Scriptures with the "daily" adverb attached, but Jesus did not hesitate to say that this is a "daily" requirement.
2. Paul claimed that he "died daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31).
3. Paul claimed that it was by the cross that he was "crucified unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).
4. BUT ...
a. There is a powerful tendency in man to simply "assume" that anything that is a part of the "pattern" for daily living is his responsibility (which is true) and to "attach" it to a commitment to meeting it (which is not true).
1) This tendency is why we began our study this morning with a focus upon the nature of the Truth: it cannot be "mixed" with error and remain true.
2) This tendency is at the very heart of the Gospel: it is only by grace through faith that Truth remains pure.
b. Jesus' teaching of these "necessities" does not assume the human capacity to meet them (as the disciples all proved every day after they heard this and showed clearly when Jesus' cross loomed large on the horizon).
c. The biblical approach to "pattern" realities is "repentance" without compromise (no fudging on the side of the admission of our need and no waffling on the side of our belief in His will to empower).