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Jesus Christ – Body Builder II: A fellowship of Disciples
Have You taken Up the Cross?
Matthew 16:13-28 (ESV)
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
I We Are Called to Die
1. Have you ever had a job where you were asked to do things that you just didn’t think were part of the job description? You signed up to be an executive assistant and the boss asks you to empty the recycling bin. You gripe about it but then you are shown that little bit of fine print in the contract that says that among your duties are those requests from the supervisor that contribute to the well being of the office. When I was mining in the Yukon I was told that if I couldn’t pound a ten inch spike into a post in four hits with the back of an axe I wasn’t fit for the job. That wasn’t in the job description anywhere but I soon learned that complaining about it wasn’t going to do me a bit of good. We are all asked to do things in our jobs that don’t quite fit with what we thought the job was going to be about. Somebody should have told us, warned us, pulled us aside when we were applying for the job and gave us a clue as to what this job was really going to include.
2. In Matthew 16:13-28 we are told three main things.
a. Verses 13-20 – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
b. Verses 21-23 – Jesus is going to suffer, die, and rise from the dead
i. Verses 21 tells us that this is when Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He was going to die and rise from the dead. This is, of course, too much for Peter to put up with. Look at verse 22 – He takes Jesus aside.
What a great picture! … … .
c. Verses 24-28 – those who follow Christ are going to die as well.
i. Not only is it true that I am going to die. You are going to die too!! No surprises. Jesus does not hide the difficulties from His followers. “You want to follow me? Good. Here is what it means – execution”. No surprises. No fine print that you need a lawyer to inspect and discover for you. And all the men that Jesus was talking to, minus Judas, died for the cause of Christ. (John was not executed, but he was imprisoned.)
ii. This, dear ones is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
3. Who is called to die?
a. Before we go any further we need to make it very clear who Jesus is talking about when He says they should deny themselves and take up the cross and follow Him.
b. Who is Jesus talking about when He says that those who want to “come after” Him must …? Jesus is not saying that those who will deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him are super Christians. He is not saying “deny yourself and be a more committed believer”. He is not saying “deny yourself and be a cut above the average”. He is saying deny yourself and be a believer. He is saying “deny yourself and be on your way to heaven”. He is saying “deny yourself and be saved”. See the parables of the treasure hidden in a field. (Mt. 13:44) and pearl of great price (Mt. 13:45-46). Dear one this is crucial. There are far, far too many people claiming to be believers, Christians, saved … who are nothing of the sort. They are nothing of the sort because they simply are not willing to deny themselves and take up the implement of death and follow Christ. And they are convinced that even thought Jesus said these words they are not about them. This is about committed Christians, Spirit filled Christians, Christians who rise to the top… . No dear ones, this is about all Christians. It is about anyone who says that they want to be saved form their sins.
i. So Jesus says – “Come follow me”. And we say “Where are you going?” And He says “Come and see. And don’t forget that” and He points to a cross upon which people die. And you say “I’ll follow you, but I’m not bringing that”. So Jesus responds “Well then, you can’t come.”… You are not allowed to be with me if you don’t pick that up and follow me”.
4. Well then, if we can’t change what it means to be a disciple then maybe we can change what it means to “take up the cross.”
a. To take up one’s cross was to go to the place of death. Oh how we have taken away the offence of the cross out of the Christian life.
i. The cross we are to take up is not:
(1) our physical problems – arthritis, diabetes, heart failure…
(2) our nasty neighbours, grumpy husband/wife, unreasonable parents
(3) the little (or not so little) inconveniences that are constantly occurring in our lives.
These things happen in everyone’s lives regardless of whether they have faith or not. What Jesus is calling us to only happens to believers.
b. The cross is living for Christ. It is valuing Christ more than your life.
c. Three things about cross bearing
i. Dying willingly – Mt. 16:24
(1) People being executed were forced to carry their own crosses
(2) Jesus is calling us to do that which no one in their right mind would ever do – voluntarily live in a state of perpetual self denial.
(a) “You want to follow Me?” Christ says “then pick that up and carry it …” You must take it up of your own accord and carry it to where Jesus went. And Jesus went to the place of death.
(i) John 10:18 (ESV) No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
(3) We do this because we are so in love with Him that our lives get swallowed up in His.
ii. Dying publicly – Mk. 8:38
(1) We have grown used to saying that we should be willing to die for Christ. I wonder if we would be so quick to say it if naming Christ truly meant being arrested and tried and sentenced to die? Can we really say we are willing to die for Jesus if we are too embarrassed to drop a flyer in the mail or serve at a booth at the Flea Market?
iii. The better question for people who live in a country where Christianity is not threatened is “am I willing to sacrifice for Him” or in the language that Jesus uses here “Will I say ‘no’ to myself?”
iv. You cannot live for yourself and:
(1) help the needy
(2) give to the church
(3) give the Gospel
(6) persevere in the faith
(7) demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit
This is how we are to live. This is the mark of our lives. And if these thongs are not the mark of our lives then we do not have Christ.
v. Dying unjustly – I Peter 4:15f
Dear ones, that is cross bearing.
5. Cross bearing is self denial
a. Self denial – denial of oneself – the self says “I want that, I must go there, I want to do that” … and there is opportunity to do something else for the sake of Christ and the true disciple of Christ will say “This is not what I want to do but I am not the most important thing here. I will say ‘no’ to what I want and do this instead because I follow Christ.”
i. eg. On the day of our Christmas banquet –
ii. one commentator compares it to the way that many people treat the homeless person on the street who sits here and as you approach he holds up his cup for you to drop a loonie or a twonie in it. You might do that. And you might not. But if you do not it does not stay with you. It was no problem for you to turn him down. Just a street beggar. He will not occupy your thoughts very much today. Can you treat yourself like that? When you want to sleep and the phone rings; when you want that second dessert will you say ‘no’ then? When the pornographic movie beckons, or when the gossip is really juicy, or you can choose with being one of the boys or trying to give the Gospel … will you say ‘no’ to yourself then? And will it be your default position? Disciples of Jesus will.
iii. This, two weeks before Christmas? Is there any more appropriate theme for Christmas? II Cor. 8:9, Phil. 2:5-9 – note especially verse 5 – Have this attitude which was in Christ… .
II A Call to Find Life
1. The call to follow Christ is a call to find life.
a. Which is better
i. a lot of money for a little while or unimaginable riches for as long as you live?
ii. A healthy life for 90 years or perfect health for eternity?
iii. God forgetting about your sins for as long as you live and then punishing you for eternity or God forgiving you and carrying that into eternity?
b. There are some who want you to believe that you can have both – all now and all later. That is a lie from the pit. The call upon the believer today in this life is “give it all up and I will reward you beyond your wildest dreams”.
i. This is what faith is.
(1) Do you really believe that God has something far greater in store for you for eternity than anything you will be called to give up here? Do you really believe that? You do not if you are not willing to part with it now.
c. Now – John 10:10
d. The incentive that Jesus gives is to find life.
i. It is right to want to live. It is right to want to live forever. It is right to want it so much that you are willing to surrender up everything to get it.
(1) See Mt. 11:28 – a desire for rest is right
(2) John 10:10 – the desire for abundant life is right
(3) Rev. 21:1-3 – the desire for trouble free life is right.
e. But dear ones:
i. The desire to get it all now is wrong
ii. The desire to get it without turning from sin is wrong
iii. The desire to want eternal life and riches and trouble free living now is wrong.
iv. The belief that one can have both a selfish life here and eternal life later is deceiving
f. Jesus Christ has promised you life if you will leave everything for Him, find Him more desirable than any other pleasure that can be had on this earth.
g. With others
i. With Christ – Hebrews 13:5
ii. With other disciples –
1. Make sure you are a real disciple.
2. Demonstrate real discipleship in your life.