13th Aug 2017

Taking Up Our Cross

By Steve Bones


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We can easily say 'Jesus is ours', but it can sometimes be more difficult to say'we are Christ's'.

Being a disciple, a follower of Jesus, means being ready to give up everything we are in order to serve Him.


I BELIEVE JESUS WOULD SAY TO US TODAY 'ARE YOU MY DISCIPLE?'

May seem a strange question to ask as I have been a Christian since I was 15 (over 45 years), but what is a disciple?

The word 'disciple' means 'a follower, a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another'. In our case of Christ.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (NIV)

What does this mean? What does it look like to 'deny yourself' and 'take up your cross'?

Julie shared a statement with me that she has been challenged by:

'We are happy to accept that Jesus is mine, but perhaps not so happy to accept that I am his.'

In other words, if we need help we can always call on God, but if he wants to call on us, are we as willing to respond? But we are told to seek his kingdom first (Matt 6:33). Jesus said 'You are my friends if you do what I command.' ( John 15:14)

So, am I willing to deny myself, what I want, my needs, my self-interest, my selfishness, to take up my cross, that which will cost me, be it money or time or ambitions or desires, and obey Jesus?

Reminder

On 26 June a few of us visited NDHoP and a chap called Gordon Hickson shared his testimony, and a little more! One thing he said really challenged me. Often God uses the Old Testament to signpost something he will reveal in the New Testament - there are a lot of parallels. One item was that, for the children of Israel to come out of Egypt and enter the Promised Land, they had two crossings of water - the Red Sea and the river Jordan. Many did not make both crossings but died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (Hebrews 4).

There is a similar parallel in our salvation:

* Jesus dies on the cross for our salvation; and

* We have also died on the cross, but my choice whether to believe it and live it out in my life! (Gal 2:20, Romans 12:1)

If we are not willing to deny ourselves, we are like the children of Israel living in the wilderness, God provides but walking round and round in circles and getting nowhere. If we choose to deny ourselves, we start to take the 'promised land', to 'work our salvation with fear and trembling' (Philippians 2:12), and unfortunately encounter battles - comes with the territory!

On Sunday 23 July, our Katie shared a word with me over breakfast that really challenged her 'It is time to die!'

That Sunday Andy went on to speak about 'Who owns the house?', and read 1 Cor 6:19-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (NIV)

Also 'You can't reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday's junk', for example, hurt, guile, regret, failure.

The following week he mentioned that 'God wants to deliver us from powerful but unhelpful influences on our lives, to set us free'. However, he also asked the question - do we want to get well?

Last week Steve Bedford shared that we have been set free from condemnation, others expectations and past failures. He read:

Gal 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (NIV)

This makes clear that, once being set free by Jesus when saved, we can then be enslaved again if we are not careful!

I believe the Lord wants me to follow on with this theme, that God wants us know we are free. Bu t how can we enter into the reality of this?

The bottom line is cannot do it by our own efforts. Which I hope is a relief to many of you. But we can desire to want to do it and ask the Lord for help. But, has Jesus already answered this prayer!?!?

God's objective!

John 3:16 " For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God wants everyone to come to repentance, none to perish ( 2 Peter 3:9).

Matt 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV)

Jesus wants us to have abundant life now, on earth (John 10:10), and to bear much fruit (Gal 5:22), thus glorifying the Father (John 15:8, 16). This will attract unbelievers to Christ ( John 13:35), as we honour Christ by our lives.

The answer

Before last week's meeting, Julie and I were praying here for the meeting and I got a vision of a tall rye grass, with seeds at the end, growing in a green wheelie. We felt is shouldn't be there, as the wheelie bin is normally emptied regularly. So why was it there, and what does it mean? I believe the answer is in what Steve Bedford shared.

Steve also read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, and in particular the following:

2 Cor 5:14-17 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come ! (NIV)

Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

What happens if we go back to living by the old man? We lose our joy for a start! (Galations 4:15).

What do you do with a dead body? Bury it!

Rom 6:3-4 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (NIV)

Rom 6:11-14 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (NIV)

Let's return to the vision I had. Could it mean that some of us have not let go of the old man, have not 'counted ourselves dead to sin' and tried to live the Christian life in our own strength, like the Galations? The grass is growing in the wheelie bin but God wants fruit to grow in the soil. The fact the grass has seeds would suggest the more you try to do this by your own efforts, the more it grows and the harder it gets to follow Christ.

Rom 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

What is the 'pattern of this world'?

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (NIV)

Revival

Who here wants revival in this land, or even in North Devon? We have been praying for revival here for some years on Tuesday mornings.

What is revival? The English definition is:

'a period of time in which something becomes popular again after a long period of time.'

As a word it does not appear in the Bible, only 'revive', but I like this definition by Andrew Murray:

A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldiness and selfishness, and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.

In case you think the use of the word 'revolution' is a bit strong, let me read to you the prayer of Charles Sturgeon - see page 9 in 'Do it again Lord'.

Let me say where I am. I am hungry for more of God, to experience His presence, to know His love and such joy, to see the power of God as explained in Mark 16:17-18

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (NIV)

But for this to happen, I believe we need revival, a sovereign move of God. He has done it in the past, often in times of crisis, and I believe wants to do it again. All He asks for is for is:

2 Chron 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (NIV)

It starts with prayer, and a desire and hunger in his people for God to move. However, it will mean dying to self, as I am increasingly realising! We cannot carry on doing the same thing and expecting God to move. If we do, we could be like the Pharisees who rejected Jesus when he came, as upset their plans!

Julie had a word on Tuesday that sums up where we are, which Jehoshaphat prayed when faced by a vast army he could not defeat:

2 Chron 20:12 For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." (NIV)

Julie and I are not in a Life Group at present, and have been asking God what we should do in the interim. We currently have church prayer meetings Monday lunchtime and Tuesday mornings. We believe the time is right for us to call another prayer meeting, initially once a month, on a Friday evening so as not to interfere with any Life Group, starting Friday 1st September and every 1 Friday in the month thereafter. We will start at 8pm in the church, and commence with praising God then ….? I would emphasise that we are not the leaders, but pray the Holy Spirit will lead. Anyone who is hungry for God is welcome!

Conclusion

Jesus said in Luke 9:23:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (NIV)

Recently on UCB a person employed by Samaritan Purse was being interviewed, having just organised a conference for the leaders of some 40 countries where the church is being persecuted (in all 7 continents!). When asked for their prayer requests, not one asked to be taken out of the persecution, but for boldness to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of the persecution. (Consider Acts 4:29). This is evidence of dying to self!

Read story from A Mustard Seed, 20 December, regarding the man with only one arm and leg. This is evidence of not dying to self! (Word of knowledge - someone still feeling guilty from a past experience, God wants to set them free. I would like to pray for you.)

Return to Julie's statement:

'We are happy to accept that Jesus is mine, but perhaps not so happy to accept that I am his.'

Let me leave you with a question - are you willing to die daily, and obey the Lord's will for your life?

WE ARE NOW TO HAVE COMMUNION, TO BE LEAD BY BARRY. A GOOD TIME TO CONSIDER YOUR RESPONSE TO THE LORD'S QUESTION 'ARE YOU MY DISCIPLE?', TO DENY YOURSELF, TAKE UP YOUR CROSS DAILY AND FOLLOW HIM. IT'S BETWEEN YOU AND JESUS.