Take Up Your Cross :: By Sean Gooding

Bible Truth

Matthew Chapter 16: 24-28

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

In Matthew 16:21-23, “The Goal Has Always Been the Cross,” we took a look at how it was absolutely important for Jesus to go to the cross.  We explored how Jesus is the ‘Lamb slain before the foundations of the world.’  We saw how Jesus lovingly and willingly came from Heaven to save us.  God showed His love for us when Jesus came to save sinners (Romans 5:8).

Today we will take a look at an epidemic that is sweeping the NT church today, the idea of Christianity without any cost to us.  The apostle Peter said that he and the other disciples had ‘left all’ to follow Jesus.  Some had left family, family businesses, a lucrative business of tax collecting in the case of Matthew, and other jobs or businesses.  They had put themselves in great danger by associating with Jesus.

I was saved at age 14; I lived and grew up on a little island where the idea of Christianity was revered.  Pastors were almost as powerful as politicians, and churches were very stable.  My pastor in Barbados has been at my home church since 1973.  He will either retire or die, but most likely will not resign.

When I moved to North America, there was an aura about Christians.  The USA had Ronald Reagan as President, and he was not afraid of the Bible like many of the presidents since him.  He often quoted from the Bible.  Churches were fuller than they are now, and no one could have imagined that there would come a time when Bible truth would be hated and Christians vilified.  But this is where we are now.

Homosexuals have more power and influence with the government than Christians.  Christians are being arrested and sued for the truth and for living by the Biblical standards.  So we are kind of like in the era when Jesus walked the earth.  John the Baptist was arrested and killed for preaching the truth, and so were Jesus’s apostles, except for Apostle John the Revelator who died of old age on the island of Patmos to which he was exiled for preaching the truth.

Are you prepared to be arrested for the truth?  Are you prepared to have your business shut down or be sued because of the Biblical stands that you take?  Are you ready to be arrested for reading aloud from the Bible?  This is coming.  In fact, we just had an incident where a Christian group who does an open-air festival in Toronto was held up for their permit because they were teaching that Jesus was the only way.  They were simply teaching what the Bible says, and the city council wanted to deny them a permit for a public meeting.  This is real, folks.

Follow Jesus, deny yourself, verses 24-25

You and I are nothing.  Jesus is everything.  Once we can get this fundamental principle engrained into our minds and psyche, then we will go much further in our maturity as Christians.  Part of the denying of self is that of putting away any sense of self-reliance at all.  This hits us ‘self-made men’ here in North America.  We love the heroes, the myriad of stories on TV or in movies of the man who ‘pulled himself up’ so to speak. But in reality there is no such man or woman.

There should be no sense of pride if we are successful.  God is the only one who blesses, and what we claim as success can often be a curse.

We live in a world that praises the ‘self’: I am more important than anyone else.  The Bible tells us that ‘a man who loves his wife loves himself’ (Ephesians 5:28).  Jesus told us that we would be known as His disciples if we have ‘love one for another’ (John 13: 34-35).  But the world tells us to love ourselves first: if you can’t love yourself then you can’t love anyone else.  And so, when the Holy Spirit comes along and tells us to deny ourselves, we get defensive and depressed and we run from it.  But the truth is, we are not all that, and we must come to grips with that.

If you want to be a follower of Jesus, the first thing that you have to do is put ALL your faith in Jesus.  Peter said to Jesus, we have left all to follow you (Mark 10:28).  That means that they also had to stop depending on self.  Jesus fed them, clothed them, cared for them, rescued them in storms, loved them, and often He was the only friend they had.  The apostles, most all of whom were killed for the name of Jesus, had only Jesus at death.

The scriptures tell us that ‘precious in His sight are the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15).

Is Jesus enough for you?  If not, then you are going to have a hard time in the Christian walk.  There will be times when the only friend you will have is Jesus.  Are you ready to forsake all and follow Jesus, no matter the cost?

Here is a question that most Christians in North America will need to ask if they want to be serious about following Jesus: Are we ready to be arrested, imprisoned, and even executed for the name and cause of Jesus?

North America used to be the place that people ran when running from religious persecution; but if you are a Christian in North America, what you believe about Jesus is becoming illegal.  One can be arrested for preaching that certain things are wrong and immoral.  One can be fired from a job if you write or say anything against the gay lifestyle.  One can even be forbidden from praying in public, especially if you are a public official, or a teacher, or a politician.  Are you and I ready to die if need be?

Gaining the World, verse 26

We live in a church age that is so focused on the now that many of us have forgotten that Jesus is coming back for us.  We see books like “Your best Life Now,” “Every Day a Friday,” and on and on we can go with this focus on living here that we have forgotten that this is NOT our home.  In 1 Peter 2:11 we find these words from the great apostle:

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.

We are ‘strangers’ and ‘temporary residents’; the word can be translated ‘resident aliens’.  It means that we are here, BUT this is not our home.  We are just passing through, yet the modern NT church would have us set up roots here and build our lives as if this is the Heaven we are waiting for.  It is not!

Jesus talked about this as He addressed the Laodicean church in the Revelation.  He warned them about their riches and their reliance on their supposed ‘blessings’ that God was their driving force, but in reality Jesus was not even in the building.  See Revelation 3: 14-17:

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

This church was so self-sufficient they did not even need Jesus.  Think about that.  How many of us are the same way?  How many of us pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ as a formality and not as a true, dire need?  How many of us have all we need laid up for retirement and really are not trusting the Lord for our needs?  This is not to say that we are not to be good stewards of the monies that God allows us to have, but is our dependence really upon Him?

If some event took all that wealth away, would you still be able to sing “It is Well with my Soul?”  Is our confidence in God based on the size of our bank accounts?  Sadly, we have churches that no longer need to depend on God for their resources, and soon we just stop depending on God all together.  We begin to brag about the work that we are doing and not what He is doing in and through us.  If Jesus is not doing it, then no matter what you do, even good stuff, it is not of God.

Jesus is Coming! Are you ready? Verse 27

“The Son of Man (Jesus) shall come” and “He shall reward every man according to his works.”  So let us set the context here so that we don’t get off onto any tangents: Jesus is talking to his disciples, men and women who had already made the decision to ‘follow Him’.  So the judgment here is of the followers, not those not following Him.  To further set this in stone, Jesus is rewarding ‘their works’, and we are aware that salvation is free.

Salvation is a gift from God (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9).  But we are told in Ephesians 2:10 that we are ‘created in Christ Jesus unto good works’.  The new birth we have in Jesus should result in a ‘new works’ that show the change in us.

I heard someone lay it out this way: We are born into the family of God; we are to grow up and then reproduce.  Kind of like the growth from baby to adult.  We are born, we mature, and then we reproduce.  Christian growth should be the same way.  So judge yourself; are you born again? Do you know Jesus as Saviour?  Then, are you growing?  That means reading His Bible every day, studying it, applying it through prayer and obedience to the Holy Spirit in you.  And then are you seeking to tell others about Jesus?  Birth, growth, reproduction.

There is no doubt that we are living in the last days.  Too many Christians are settling into the world system rather than outside jumping up, doing ‘rapture practice’.  Too many of us are mesmerized by the world’s goods and judge God’s blessing on us by them rather than by God’s way of blessing.  Let us look at God’s idea of blessings in Matthew 5: 1-12:

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Does this sound like the blessings that the NT church is promoting on the air waves of today? Look at verses 11-12: “Rejoice and be glad when they insult you and say all manner of evil against you.”  Wow!  We are not to complain and whine, rather we are to rejoice and be glad. We are told that the apostles rejoiced that were worthy to be persecuted for Christ (Acts 5:41).  We would see it today as a curse; they saw it as a badge of honor.

The idea of prophecy is not even touched in many churches today.  We are living in the last days; we are seeing the fulfillment of so many of Daniel’s and Jesus’ prophecies that it is like Jesus knew what would happen.  Ooohh… He did, and now it is happening!  Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming!  Look up; your redemption draws near.  Jesus is coming!  But with that redemption comes the judgment.  We will face Jesus and give an account of all that we have done with the salvation that He has given us.  In 1 Corinthians 3: 11-13 we find these words:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.…

Everyone’s work will be tested and tried before Jesus.  Again, this is not about salvation; this is about what you have allowed Jesus to do in you after He saved you.  All of us should take an account of our lives and really work as if we are ready to meet Jesus.

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—


FB: Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

 Sean Gooding Pastor Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church