Taking Up the CrossLuke 9:23-26Theme: Self-denial.This week’s lessons teach us how to die to our selfishness so that we can live for Christ.
LessonSelf-seeking is the opposite of self-denial, and the problem with self-seeking is that it has been the essence of sin from the beginning. It is what caused the fall of Satan. Satan said, “I want my way, and that means that I am going to displace God. I will rule the universe.” God said that Satan would actually be brought low. Jesus said, “I will go down in self-denial. I will abase myself in order that others, those I love, might be lifted from sin to glory.” As a result, God promised that Jesus Christ would be exalted. He would be given a name that is above every name, so that every tongue would confess that “Jesus is Lord.”
But it is not only that we are to say no to self, which is what denying self is all about. We are also to say yes to God, which is what taking up our cross involves. Some speak of cross-bearing as if it means enduring the inevitable. But that is not it at all. There are all kinds of things that cannot be avoided: a physical handicap, a deficient academic background, a drunken husband, a profligate wife. People sometimes refer to such inevitable things as “my cross,” but they are not crosses. They are just inescapable limitations, trials. A real cross involves the will. It means saying yes to something, for Jesus’ sake.
Cross-bearing involves prayer and Bible study. These necessary means of grace take time and must be voluntarily chosen and pursued, rather than other pastimes that we might humanly prefer.
Cross-bearing involves the items Jesus listed in Matthew 25:31-46 – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, receiving the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the one who is in prison. These things are not easy to do. They involve denying oneself time, money, and convenience. At times these efforts seem utterly fruitless, because the gifts are abused and the one giving them is slighted even by the one being helped. But we are to live like this anyway. Doing so is saying yes to Jesus. It is taking up our cross in his service.
Taking up our cross involves witnessing. It means putting oneself out for the sake of the one God sends into our life.
Essentially, taking up our cross means accepting whatever God has given us or made us and then offering it back to him as “our reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). That phrase from Romans 12 is in a passage that describes us as God’s priests making sacrifices which are “holy and pleasing” to him. What is it that priests offer? They offer only what they have first received. They take the gifts of the worshiper and then offer them up. You and I are in that position. The gifts we receive are from God. We take these gifts – whatever they may be – and then offer them up to God with thanksgiving. Study Questions
What has always been the essence of sin?
What is the difference between a “cross” and a “trial” in the Christian life?
Further StudyRead the dialog between Jesus and Satan in Matthew 4:1-11. Make a list of the statements that exhibit self-denial and those that show self-seeking.
Scripture MemoryMemorize Romans 12:1.
ApplicationRead Matthew 25:31-46. In which of these specific ways are you serving Christ at present? If you find you are not serving, seek an opportunity to do so this week.