“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34).
We can glibly throw these words around, but it’s very obvious that the majority of Christians don’t understand what Messiah Jesus meant by this statement. Some people think that their cross is disease or a rebellious child. Those things are difficult to deal with but aren’t a choice and they affect both Christian and non-Christian alike. Following Jesus is a choice.
When you take up your cross and follow Him, you must be prepared to be persecuted, maltreated, and even prepared to die for the Lord. There’s no middle ground and no putting Jesus on a shelf until you have time for Him. The “here and now” may be difficult, but the eternal rewards are worth denying your selfish desires and carnal lusts and following Jesus.
As the born-again children of God, we need to resemble Him, not the world. Obviously as we look at the ekklēsia of Christ today, this concept is foreign to many professing Christians. We see pew-sitters who don’t seem to have taken up their cross to follow our Lord. When we accept Christ a change should begin to take place. Sinful lusts should no longer rule our lives as we draw closer to Jesus. When you accept Christ you belong to Him.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
The Greek word “periousios” is translated into English as ”peculiar” and actually means “possession.” We all have possessions that we value, but would you die for those possessions? Brothers and sisters, Christ values His possessions (His ekklēsia) more than you value anything you possess. He died to purchase your redemption.
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
Your sins were nailed to the cross and by His shed blood He became the once for all sacrifice for salvation. Satan, principalities, and powers no longer own you. Jesus gave His life for your redemption from sin, so if you have accepted His free gift of salvation then you owe Him more than lip service. Temptations will always come along. Old friends will want you to join them in old ways, but if you have truly accepted Christ then you need to be strong and turn away from sinful ways. Be ashamed of sinful lusts, but don’t be ashamed of Christ.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:8-9)
Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully human and faced everything that we face, including temptations. Christians are called with a holy calling to stand firm on His precepts. That means we do nothing that would move us to the dark side. When temptation crosses your path, pray and turn to God. Don’t compromise your faith, but stand firm on the gospel.
This world is a dark and dangerous place if you don’t have the Light. Jesus is the Light of the world. Satan loves darkness because it’s easy for people to stumble in the dark. Those who reject Jesus Christ live in the darkness of their sin. God says have no fellowship with unrighteousness, period. We have to live in this fallen world, but we aren’t to be a part of the evil ways of secular people. Preach the truth to them? Absolutely. But fellowship with them in a personal way? Never
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:6-8)
Those of us who have accepted Christ were all once a part of the darkness of this world, but that’s all in the past and we are forgiven. Once we came to the cross the Light of the Lord is in us and we are to walk in that Light and stay away from the darkness that Satan casts upon the world. Everything we do in this life must reflect Messiah Jesus. Never are we to choose evil, no matter how appealing or self-satisfying that evil may appear. Temporary “pleasure” can never satisfy like the eternal joy of the Lord.
We are His holy children and standing firm on God’s Word is never suggested, but always expected. If we allow our thoughts to wander into lustful thinking our actions will soon follow. Keep your mind and heart turned towards Jesus.
“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Peter quoted verses from Leviticus in which God declares His holiness. “Holy” means to be set apart, and as believers in Christ we are set apart for God. This holiness includes being set apart from the secular world. This doesn’t mean to become a hermit and live in a cave, or crawl off to join a cloistered monastery (which isn’t biblical).
We can’t share the gospel if we don’t have contact with the lost souls of this world. Being holy means we are devoted to God “… in all manner of conversation,” which means in the way we live. Since we belong to Him we are to abide in Him as He abides in us.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4)
It’s easy to fall back into the secular world and participate in sinful activities if you don’t stay close to Jesus. He is the vine from whom we draw strength to overcome worldly temptations. Satan rules this world and wants you to fail. As soon as he or one of his minions sees that you’re finding your cross a little too burdensome to bear and are moving away from living a godly life, he will be sure temptations are in place to make you stumble.
Stay close to God and away from worldly lusts. We aren’t to be isolated from secular people, but we can’t be good witnesses for Christ if we don’t live holy lives that are different from the ways of the world. Sadly, the descent by Christians into the wickedness of the world is more common than it should be.
Most Christians live in a similar fashion to those who are lost. Songs that are listened to, movies that are watched, manner of dress, and lifestyles that are embraced all point to the fact that many who claim to be Christian refuse to take up their cross to follow Jesus.
We live at a time where faithfulness isn’t important to most Christians. If “being a Christian” serves a person’s own interests then that’s great. If not, then secular Christians choose secular ways which are actually inspired by Satan. They drop their cross and run to the darkness. Divided loyalties don’t honor God. As God’s children we are to be faithful to Him at all times. God is not a part-time God and His children aren’t to be part-time children.
Taking up your cross isn’t always easy. It certainly wasn’t easy for Jesus to bear His cross. He left heaven knowing full well what He would face, but He did it because He loves you. Only God’s pure blood, which was shed as the once for all sacrifice to take away sin, will bring salvation. This is a free gift, but like any gift it must be accepted.
“Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
If you’ve come to realize that you’re a sinner and only the blood of Jesus can bring salvation, then turn from the ways of the world. Separate from the people who encourage you to make choices that are opposed to God’s ways. Begin living to please God not the world. Sanctification is a process. First there is justification, that’s when you accept the free gift of salvation that’s only through Jesus Christ.
Once the gift is accepted by you, you begin the process of sanctification, which is the day by day choices we make to shoulder our cross and live for Jesus. You can’t play by the rules if you don’t read the rule book…study your Bible. Study your Bible. I’ll say it again, study your Bible. Learn to make decisions based on God’s ways, not by relying on secular people to help you make choices.
Sanctification is a process that will continue until the day of your glorification. That’s when you die or are raptured. When you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ you will be judged, but not condemned.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
Your selfish actions will be burned up in fire, but the things you did for Christ will be rewarded. No sin in this life can bring more pleasure than the heavenly crowns you earn by living for Christ today. Make choices that affect your eternal life by choosing to follow Jesus.
Don’t delay. Take up your cross and follow Jesus.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham
All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).
This commentary was started by Ron Graham before his death on March 14, 2013, and finished by his wife, Nathele Graham.