Skip to content

What does it mean to take up your cross?

January 21, 2007

This sermon excerpt is given in answer to a question on the Q and A page.   Please give us your answer to the question in the comments.

Luke 9:23  And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.



It looks like there might be four points in 23, but there’s just one point here arranged in the form of a chiasm, an ABBA structure.   The B parts are synonyms and the A parts are synonyms, and they make this one point: Denying self/taking up cross is the way to follow/come after Jesus. 



You either deny self to live for Christ or you deny Christ to live for self.  Luke 12:9  the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.  But this is not an unforgivable sin.  Remember Peter. 



Taking up your cross is not some kind of mystic surrender.  It means don’t sin.  Have a death before sin attitude.  Hebrews 12:2-4  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.



We often use the phrase “cross to bear” for our personal troubles.  A difficult co-worker is my cross to bear.   No, your cross to bear is the same as everyone else’s cross to bear.  It is the call to daily deny yourself and adopt an attitude of death before sin. 



Here’s two more occasions of the word deny. 



Titus 1:16  They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Titus 2:11-12  For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce [deny] ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  



So here’s four ways to apply the call to deny yourself and take up your cross:



1) Don’t sin.  Have a death before sin attitude.



2) Be willing to suffer persecution instead being ashamed of the gospel. 

Luke 9:26  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.



3) Taking up the cross daily means considering yourself already dead to the world.  Paul said in Galatians 6 “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”  Before you knew Jesus you were on a quest for personal fulfillment and the meaning of life.  Now if you know Jesus, you’ve found it.  You’re done.  You’re life in this world is over from a self-fulfillment point of view.  The only thing left to do is, to steal a phrase from the Navigators, to know Christ and to make him known.  The world has nothing for you.  And the more you continue to pursue happiness in the world, the unhappier you will become.  Ps 73 says “Whom have I in heaven but you and earth has nothing I desire besides You.”  and Paul said “I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has assigned to me: the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”



Remember in Philippians 1 Paul said to live is Christ and to die is gain.  He was indifferent to whether Christ was glorified in his body by life or death.  In the 19th century there was an organization called the American Board of Missions.  There logo was an ox, with an altar on one side and a plow on the other and the motto “Ready for either”–ready to live and labor, or ready to suffer and die.  I consider my life worth nothing to me…”



4) Offer yourself as a living sacrifice.   But as perhaps you know, the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar.  So what do we do?  We take the words of Psalm 118:27 and know we pray them about ourselves “Bind the sacrifice with cords to the altar”  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, take my heart O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.  Bind me to the altar.  Spurgeon writes on Ps 118:27, “There remains a tendency in our nature to start aside form this; it is not fond of the sacrificial knife.  In the warmth of our love we come willingly to the altar, but we need constraining power to keep us there in the entirety of our being throughout the whole of life.  Happily there is a cord which, twisted around the atonement, our better still, around the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our only Altar, can hold us, and does hold us: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:  And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”



Let me conclude with a corrective against a wrong interpretation.  All this talk about self-denial can reinforce an all too prevalent approach of joyless duty to the Christian life.  But notice



Luke 9:24-25  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?



Jesus is persuading you to take up your cross by appealing to your desire to save your life, your desire for gain.  Remember he endured the cross for the joy set before him.  gain/loss  same words as in Php 3:8  I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.  I consider it rubbish that I may gain Christ.  This is a life of great gain.  This is a life of surpassing greatness.  So no talk of duty and sacrifice.  Look at how Jesus corrects Peter when he begins to think upon his great sacrifice to follow Jesus. 

Luke 18:28-30  And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.”  And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of
God,  who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”   

 If you think you’re losing anything here, you don’t get it yet.  You need to go back to the cross until the love of God is shed abroad in your heart and you can renounce sin and renounce the world with the joy of one who denies himself dung to get gold. 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. blondie permalink
    January 23, 2007 7:20 am

    I am so glad that there is a chiasm in this verse. I have been thinking that the phrases meant the same thing. But I have not heard anyone but you state that. With that said it clarify’s what “to take up your cross” means, but doesn’t make it easier.

    That is a tall order, “Death before Sin.” And because it feels so hard right now I suspect I am one that needs to sit at the cross and cling to it until this love of God shines in my heart and makes me willing to denounce the sin that I hold on to and gain the joy of denying myself. Is it proper use of this verse to think of it inlight of the daily sin that we struggle with? If so, then the way I deny myself looks different than the way someone else has to deny themselves. The daily troubles of life, are they not what we have to lay aside in order to gain Christ? If I find myself unwilling to deny myself, and decide to withhold loving actions to someone in my home for instance, do I cease to follow Christ? I find myself being the living sacrifice that keeps getting off the altar. And when I do that I struggle with a bit of unbelief. Not believing that the path of denying myself is of great gain. The big picture yes, I get it. But the roadblock of self and the lack of desire to be kind get me all out of whack.

    I am thankful for Romans 8:1, I am not condemned for climbing off the altar. I am invited back again and again.

    Is there some significance to the cross, I don’t mean mystically, but Jesus had not been there and wasn’t going there yet. Or does it matter? Maybe it does not change the meaning of the verse at all.

  2. blondie permalink
    January 23, 2007 8:39 pm

    There is an Oppression exhibit at EIU this week. A friend of ours said that there are displays that truly show people who have been oppressed and then there are the displays that cause you to walk away and say, “You’re not Oppressed! You just aren’t getting what you want. There is nothing hindering YOUR freedom or choices.” That is where I find myself tonight. I am not being persecuted, I am not having to choose Christ or die, I have so much freedom, too much freedom, and I am not satisfied with it!!! That seems to have jolted me tonight. I want to spend time at Jesus’ feet and learn how to deny myself . I want my heart to be bound to his and to learn how to be content in every circumstance. How ghastly to see myself in the oppression display that is not oppressed!!!

    But some of my questions above are still valid questions. Are there any answers?

  3. January 23, 2007 11:39 pm

    I do think that the daily sin we have to deny is our cross. I wouldn’t say that about our worldly inconveniences. Katie says you haven’t been able to download the Joni message. Have you tried right-clicking on the highlighted words “this message” and choosing “Save Target As…”? I know you’ll love this message. Let me know if you still can’t get it and I’ll burn you a CD and mail it.

  4. June 1, 2011 12:24 pm

    Where could i find a copy or picture of the logo you mentioned for the American Board of Missions?

  5. June 3, 2011 1:59 pm

    don’t know, sorry. I think I read about it in Spurgeon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: