Take Up Your Cross
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scriptures: John 10:10, Philipians 3:7-10; Matthew 16:24-25
Sunday 9th April 2017
As we continue the series, ‘The Pursuit of Christ’, let’s understand the subject, titled: ‘Take Up Your Cross – the Mandate to Live a Sacrificial Life.
Once again, here is our foundation scripture for this year in John 10:10, which read: ‘The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)’ (AMPC). Also, here is one of our main texts for this series, Matthew 16:24-25 that reads: ‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Also see Luke 9:23-26, Mark 8:34-38). We’ve understood the importance of denying self from last week’s message. Let’s take this further by understanding what it means to take up our crosses.
From our main text, we understand that Jesus was speaking to his disciples to take up their crosses, obviously not his cross on which he was to die – rather their own crosses. He is speaking the same to us today to take up our crosses. This cross being referred to is not our burdens – nor our circumstances, afflictions, oppression and struggles. To take up our crosses is simply to accept to live a life of sacrifice.
There is a price to pay in following Christ. The cross is a symbol of death – we must be willing to lay something on the altar for Christ. In following Christ, we must be willing to allow our reputation, positions and influence to be sacrificed for God. Each time there is a sacrifice, death ensues. The invitation to follow Christ implies that following Him is worth dying for. This however, goes beyond what we can get, although God has promised to supply all that we need. However, following Christ is more than this – it is about what we can give.
Food for thought: if your relationship with Christ is not costing you, I wonder if you really have a relationship with Him. If your relationship with your spouse is not costing you, I wonder if you are really married to each other. Here is Ephesians 5:22-28: ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself’.
Remember that Jesus died for us on the cross. He shed His blood on our behalf. We were without hope and doomed to eternal damnation. He sacrificed all for us – His reputation, position and authority. God became man, just for us. He left the riches and glory of heaven. He sacrificed all for us. Romans 5:6, 8 reads: ‘For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ If Christ sacrificed for us, then as His disciples we are also called to follow in His footsteps: sacrificing our lives. At the expense of self, and the things we enjoy doing, especially when they are in conflict with the agenda of God’s Kingdom, we must be willing to sacrifice all for Christ. Luke 9:57-62 gives us Christ’s insight on this: ‘Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Notice the use of the word ‘first’. This is the main issue confronting disciples today. Christians usually struggle with placing other priorities above Christ. However, the first position should always be reserved for Him. We must be willing to give up our priorities for Christ. If not, then such priorities have become an idol. God hates idolatry, unreservedly. Let’s reprioritise and make Jesus the Lord of our lives, once again.
Whenever I visit India for the miracle crusades and ministry – we often make an altar call, it is interesting to note that these potential new converts have no problem receiving Christ and adding him to the list of other gods they have previously embraced. It may sound comical, but that is exactly what many Christians do – they include Jesus to a list of activities they have lined up to do each day or week, including social outings, marriage and family, hobbies, business and even ministry. Whereas, Jesus wants to be right at the centre of all that we do.
Christians have become too busy to pray, or to attend midweek fellowship with other believers. We ought to refocus and reprioritise. People who changed the world for Christ gave up something significant for Him. Unless, we are willing to give up some of our routine for Jesus, we will never discover what He has in store for us. Here is Matthew 4:18-20: ‘And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him’. St. Peter (and His brother, Andrew) gave up fishing to become one of the greatest influences for God on earth. Whenever we give up a treasured inheritance for Christ, we can be rest assured that it is for a good cause and are inadvertently advancing the course of our lives. Just like St. Peter, our sacrifice is an expression of our genuine love for Christ, and it is a passport to a life of significance.
We have studied extensively the life of St. Paul and his commitment to the cause of Christ, as listed out in Philippians 3. He gave up everything for Jesus, including his position, qualifications, titles and reputation. He became nobody, but eventually became a world changer. So did Queen Esther in Esther 4:10-16; she risked breaking the palace protocol in her days, to become the deliverer of God’s people in diaspora. She gave up her comfort, reputation and position, and embraced a greater purpose.
In summary, taking up your cross is a call to sacrificial giving, death to the world, suffering for and identifying with Christ. Ultimately,it is a call to reign with Christ. Will you answer the call today?
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