Take Up Your Cross
by Dr. Ken Matto
(Mat 16:24 KJV) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any
man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow
Good Friday, for hundreds of years the Christians looked back to the time when the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay for the sins of the Elect. It was the only time in eternity that the Lord Jesus Christ was separated from His Father because of all the sins that were placed upon Him as our substitutionary sacrifice for sin. The Holy Father could not look upon His Son as He allowed Him to pay for the sins of the Elect. This is why Jesus had cried out with the question that why did His God forsake Him. It was a time of suffering, not only physically but spiritually and none of us mortals can ever understand what really took place. This is because the sacrifice of Christ is still a great mystery, that God the Son had died for the sins of sinful man. Crucifixion was a painful death yet the Bible tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ looked beyond the cross to the joy that it would bring. (Heb 12:2 KJV) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This verse is revealing as it teaches us that Christ endured the agony of the cross for the joy it would later bring. The word “despising” carries with it the meaning of “setting aside.” The Lord Jesus Christ did not dwell upon the hardship that He was facing because of the cross, He knew that what He was doing was going to yield eternal life for millions of Christians. His final sacrifice was the catalyst for eternal joy for millions. What a great testimony this leaves for the Christians of today. Many times we ponder what ministries we want to get involved in and then instead of looking beyond the hardships of that ministry, we will dwell upon the rejection and opposition that we will face. This is the time that we need to “set aside” those hardships and continue on in the work of the Lord and look at the joys which are set before us. When your faithfulness in ministry yields fruit, that is eternal fruit, and a few minutes of sacrificed time here on earth is nothing compared to eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The crucifixion of Christ not only purchased our salvation but it also yielded some principles for Christian living which is summarized in the above verse. When we read the phrase inside the verse, “and take up his cross,” it gives us the essence of the Christian life. I am sure when the Lord Jesus was walking the roads, He and His disciples probably saw some criminals be crucified and when the Lord made that statement that if someone is to be His disciple that they are to take up their cross, it probably made the disciples think a lot harder about their mission in life and what it really meant to be a Christian. Living the crucified Christian life has been a teaching which is now almost absent from any and all preaching. Let me ask you a question. What are you doing to advance the Kingdom of God in the sphere where the Lord has placed you? Could it be that your life is fruitless simply because you are not living the Crucified life? You will never hear the message of living the crucified life from TV preachers like Benny Hinn, Ken Copeland, T. D. Jakes, or others. This message is conspicuously absent from churches too. In fact, the last sermon I heard preached on that subject was many years ago from Dr. Charles Stanley. What I would like to do is look at some principles of living the crucified life from the message of the cross and see how we may apply it to our daily living.
You are placed there by others and the needs of others
When a person was crucified they never walked happily and cheerfully to the cross, they were taken in chains and then laid on the cross and nailed to it. The Lord Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross by professional executioners but it wasn’t the nails that held Him it was the need of the Elect who were named before the foundation of the world. Their need was salvation and God’s salvation plan needed to be completed on the Earth to secure their salvation. The Lord Jesus went to the cross knowing full well it was for others He was dying. He saw the needs of the Elect. This is what we must do. We must see the needs of those who are not yet saved and bring the Gospel to them. God is the one who brings us into the Kingdom by means of salvation. He saves those He named before the foundation of the world. As the executioners placed Jesus on His cross, in essence, God Himself places us on our cross so we too can look beyond it and see the spiritual needs of others.
You must bear it alone
There is one thing about the cross and that is that you must face your cross alone. No one can do it for you. Could God have sent someone else to replace Jonah when he fled? Of course He could, but God gave Jonah that assignment and He will not allow us to be rebellious or set the course of our lives according to our comfort level. If God gives you a ministry, it is yours alone and no one else can do it. Too many people think that they are bearing a cross if they have a disease or if a family member is rebellious, or something to that effect. Taking up the cross of Christ has only to do with discipleship in the Kingdom of God and has nothing to do with social circumstances. The cross of every Christian is a personally designed cross.
There will be suffering
The crucified person will suffer great pain. Many times God calls on His people to do the same, not always in the physical realm but in the emotional realm when we will suffer rejection, be hated by many people, be abandoned by friends, people will make fun of you, even Christians will forsake other Christians if they try to force them out of their comfort zone. Probably one of the major sufferings you must endure will be loneliness. You will be hated by the very people you are trying to save from the pits of Hell. (2 Tim 2:25 KJV) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
You face one way
The crucified person faces only one way because the nails are holding them fast to the cross. The true crucified Christian looks only one way and that is to Christ. They are not deterred from their mission in this life by anyone. Nehemiah knew this principle. When he was building the wall, his enemies came to him and tried to get him to stop the work for a while and come down but his response is as follows. (Neh 6:3 KJV) And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? As Nehemiah knew that the enemy wanted him to stop the work and have a meeting with them. How many times you have planned to do something in Kingdom work and then all of a sudden someone derails you with suggestions of their own. It may not sound bad what they are proposing, but they are really taking you away from the Lord’s work. For example, you may want to take a week’s vacation and go on a short term missionary trip but one of your friends comes along and tries to get you to do something else. You can’t do both, you can only do one. The Christian who lives the crucified life will not be diverted from their desire to do the Lord’s work. God will give you times of rest and that rest will be sweeter than your own planned rest.
You cannot remove yourself
The crucified person will be unable to remove themselves simply because they are nailed to the cross. God will give you a ministry and will enable you to perform it. You may not like the ministry at first or you may feel overwhelmed but keep in mind, whatever God gives you He will enable you to do it. (Deu 33:25 KJV) Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. There is no way that God will give you a ministry and then abandon you to your own strength, since the strength of the flesh is weak. God promises us that He will give us the strength to match every day’s challenges. We must never adopt the mindset of Jonah and think that we can run from the ministry that God has given us in hopes that He will replace us. Keep in mind the principle found in the following verse. (John 15:2 KJV) Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Notice the phrase within the verse “in me” which means the Lord is speaking of believers. This means that if a believer refuses to involve themselves in Kingdom work, God reserves the right to take that believer home or to remove them from any further Kingdom work which means years of reasonless existence. How bad that would be for a Christian to live a fruitless life.
You face the heat of the day
When a person was crucified, it was done in the morning so they would face the heat of the day. In the Middle East, it got very hot during the day and that added to the pain of the crucifixion. When we get into the ministry, we will bear the heat of the day, in other words, we will bear the heat of ministering to a world that does not want to be ministered to. That is not our concern, we are to be involved no matter how much heat we take from the world or even other Christians. Those who hate the most are the hungriest of all.
The suffering will end
As in all things in this world, the crucified person will eventually face the end of their ordeal. However, the ordeal does end in death. This principle is major in the Christian life. Once we live a crucified life, we will be dead to ourselves but alive unto the things of the Lord. The essence of Christian commitment is to be dead to oneself and alive to others. (Rom 6:2 KJV) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Another benefit of living the crucified life is that you will be dead to the things of the world. You will be dead to sin and the allurements of it. The Apostle Paul, who definitely lived the crucified life has given us this principle. (Gal 6:14 KJV) But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. The principle in this verse is two fold: The crucified Christian is dead to the things of the world and the things of the world are dead to the Christian. No longer do we live by enticements or sinful anticipations because the crucified life has removed the overwhelming desires to sin. Will we still commit sin? Yes, because we are still in a body that lusts after sinful things and is tied to the natural things of this world. However, the sin becomes the exception rather than the rule. Once sinful tendencies are reduced in strength, then you will see how wonderful the ministry of the Lord is, no matter what He has given you. Sin tends to block the beauty of the ministry of the Lord and obscures the joy that we could have. Sin always tries to replace the joy that the Christian has in Christ.
These few principles of crucifixion have barely scratched the surface of this teaching but they will suffice to convey the truth that it is necessary for a Christian, who wants to enjoy the fullness of the Christian life, must live a crucified life, one which is wholly dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. On Good Friday, the Lord gave His all for you, now what will you do with the all He has given you? (3/25/05)