Romans 12:9-21 and Matthew 16:24-26
(Quoted scripture is New Revised Standard Version)
Charles Swindoll is a pastor, author and radio preacher whose radio programs are broadcast on 2,000 stations around the world in 15 languages. When he was a young boy growing up in Texas, he was greatly influenced by an old Texan gentlemen who said this, “The problem with the Christian life is that it’s so daily.”
It never ceases to amaze me how some Christians think Jesus calls us to attend church on Sunday, and maybe not every Sunday because we might have something more important to do, and the rest of the week live lives that do not reflect Jesus at all.
This passage from Matthew 16, reminds us that Jesus doesn’t just call us to worship Him, he calls us to continually have an attitude of self-denial and obedience. Verse 24 says, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
God wants us to live out our faith, each and every day. As a follower of Christ, each new day is both a challenge and an opportunity. Our faith will be challenged, and we can use that challenge as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God. As each day unfolds, we must pause and remind ourselves that this is a day dedicated to God, that it is to be used for His glory, and that it is best lived with a continual recollection of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
When Jesus said to us, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” he knew what he was calling us to be and to do. He had just finished telling his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem, and he was going to suffer terrible things at the hands of the religious leaders there. Jesus told them he would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. He knew what was ahead for him and for his disciples, and he knew that to build the Kingdom of God would require denial of our selfish human ways, and living a sacrificial life of serving our fellow humans.
How do we begin to be cross bearers for Jesus? The first step is to surrender our life to him. In the words of a favorite hymn, “All to Jesus I surrender; all to him I freely give; I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” UMH #354 It is only when you and I surrender our heart and life to Jesus the Son of God, are we able to bear our cross daily. We are not meant to bear our daily cross on our own strength, we cannot.
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippines 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
What are the crosses Jesus calls us to bear? The Apostle Paul describes some of these daily crosses in our scripture passage from Romans. We will address just a few today.
The daily cross of love – Paul writes, ‘Let love be genuine, love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.’ Loving one another is not easy, is it?
We say our Christian marriage vows, we make a covenant before God to love each other; ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, — until we are parted by death.’ Unless we deny our selfish ways, and live out our faith depending on Jesus for strength, these vows are not possible. And to love someone we do not know, someone who seems difficult to love, is even more impossible. But, all things are possible with God!
The cross of suffering – ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. So many situations cause suffering; physical illness, mental illness, addictions, violence, and natural disasters, for example hurricane Harvey. Those people are bearing the cross of suffering, and yet look what is happening. American is coming together to pray for the people affected by the hurricane. It will be a long recovery, yet Americans are bringing hope, through prayer, monetary donations and offering to help in the recovery process. People are loving and helping one another with no regard for race, religion or political opinion. Those affected are finding reasons to hope and to rejoice.
The cross of having enemies – Paul writes, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Is that possible?
The Israel-Palestine war is one of the longest, politically divisive, and theologically explosive conflicts in human history. Robi is a strong Israeli woman with a heart for peacemaking. She is faced with the problem of loving her enemy every day. Her son David was killed by a bullet from a Palestinian sniper, and Robi was devastated. Would she turn to anger and seek revenge?
Bassam, a Palestinian man was raised to hate and antagonize the Israeli military, and as a result of his hateful actions, ended up in jail. Bassam made friends with an Israeli prison guard, and they began to share their stories. By the time Bassam got out of jail, he was a changed man. He realized peace was not going to come through force. Peace was only possible through changed human hearts.
Just a few years after Bassam made a commitment to love his enemies, his 10 year old daughter was shot by an Israeli soldier as she waited in line at school. Bassam, despite his shock and immense grief, decided to remain true to his commitment to peace. Instead of retaliation, he joined a grief support group, the Parents Circle, made up on hundreds of parents, Israeli and Palestinian, all of whom have lost children or close family members to the hate and violence. There he met Robi. The common ground of grief has paved the way toward reconciliation and provided a glimpse of hope in a seemingly hopeless place.
What is your daily cross? A family situation, difficult relationship, financial struggle, physical illness, yours or someone you love: Controlling your anger, forgiving someone who has hurt you, finding hope in a seemingly hopeless situation——-
Surrender all to Jesus; your heart, your life, your struggles. Jesus knows what it is to bear a cross. He was able to bear his cross because He surrendered his will to God’s will, and God gave him the strength to endure. Jesus surrendered His life that we may have eternal life. Jesus knows what it is to carry a cross, and He will help you carry yours, if you pick up your cross and follow him.
Last week I encouraged you to answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). I then asked you to ponder the question, ‘Who is Jesus to you personally?’
If you have prayed and pondered these questions, you know that when Jesus calls us to deny our human sinfulness, take up our cross and follow him; He will give us his supernatural strength and perseverance to do just that.
Surrender your heart and life, take up your daily cross and follow Jesus. He knows what it is to carry a cross. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for this day. Whatever you ask of me this day, Jesus, the answer is yes. However, I cannot do this on my own. I surrender my life to you. Amen