The disciples knew what the cross was. It wasn’t a silver charm or a tattoo design but it was an instrument of execution. The cross was a sign of torture and death. When Christ defeated death and the grave that all changed. The cross changed from being a sign of death to a sign of life for all mankind. We should not take the cross for granted and treat it like any other symbol that we draw on a piece of paper or make jewelry out of. Christ makes the price to follow Him very clear. The path, even though hard, offers joy and peace. There are three things that need to be made clear.
1. Deny Yourself
a. Our innate selfishness
i. Our selfish ambitions to rise above other people
ii. Our selfish behaviors to get what we want when we want it.
iii. Our selfish attitudes of caring only for our own interests.
iv. Our selfish desire to put our own needs first above anyone else’s.
To deny means to declare untrue; contradict; to refuse to believe; reject; to refuse to recognize or acknowledge; disavow. To deny means to starve the desire; don’t feed your desires.
i. Deny books, magazines, movies or music that stimulates bad thoughts.
ii. Deny daydreaming about having more things or controlling people.
iii. Deny hanging out with people who drag you down.
iv. Deny talking about people or even yourself in ways that put people or yourself down.
v. Deny gossiping, criticizing, cursing, lying, stealing, acting selfishly in any way, shape or form.
Denying yourself means saying “No” to self and saying “Yes” to Him!
2. Say “Yes” to Him
a. On a daily basis
i. Valuing what God says as important and putting off the things that isn’t.
ii. Being loyal to the Father at all costs because He is worthy of our love.
iii. Obeying Him wherever, whenever and however He leads.
iv. Finding our ultimate reward in knowing our God is honored in our obedience.
What does “taking up our cross” mean? It means to value God above all else, to serve instead of demand our rights and to be humble instead of proud - to the point of death. In every decision we make, take up your cross.
Another benefit of denying ourselves and taking up out cross is that we then are involved in the third part of Jesus’ invitation:
3. Follow Me
As God strengthens us we make those daily choices to say “No” to selfishness and “Yes” to God, then we can walk side by side with Jesus Christ.
a. The benefits are not just here but are to come.
b. The rewards are great but so is the cost. Give everything.
c. The hymn says “I surrender all,” not “I surrender 10%.”
d. It’s a call to die to self and follow Christ no matter the road ahead.
Years ago, a young, uneducated man in Chicago named Dwight Moody heard a preacher challenge his audience: “The world has yet to see what God will do through one man whose heart is completely His.” Moody responded instantly, “Lord, I want to be that man!” Over the course of the next few decades, God used Moody to lead thousands of people to Christ, to begin a Bible college and to launch a mission’s movement that eventually sent over 30,000 young men and women to parts of the Globe that had never heard of Jesus or had even seen a foreigner. Moody was committed to his heart being the sole and complete property of Jesus Christ. God poured out His Spirit on him.
How would you respond to that preacher’s question today? Do you want to be that man or that woman?
1. What are some examples of selfish ambitions, behaviors, attitudes and desires?
2. Which of these have been parts of your life in the past few days?
3. What are the patterns of your selfishness? (Identify the three most selfish things you do on a regular basis?)
a. What is the attraction of these things?
b. What do they seem they will get for you?
c. What do they actually get for you?
4. How can you “starve” each of these things?
5. Write down what it means to “take up your cross.”
6. Describe the benefits of denying yourself and taking up your cross to follow Jesus.
7. Is the reward worth the price to you? Why or why not?