The question asked in the title hereto is a very tough one for many of us even to consider. It was our Lord Jesus Christ Himself that told us that if we were to be His follower we would have to bear our cross. Many will say, but I thought following Christ meant wonderful peace and joy continually flowing like the water from a spring. It does mean this, but it is a package deal so to speak. We are to have His peace and rejoice in Him right in the middle of tremendous trial, tribulation, and trouble. This is real cross bearing.
Mark 10:28 Peter started to say to Him, Behold, we have yielded up and abandoned everything [once and for all and joined You as Your disciples, siding with Your party] and accompanied You [walking the same road that You walk]. Jesus said, Truly I tell you, there is no one who has given up and left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for My sake and for the Gospel's Who will not receive a hundred times as much now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life. (Quick Amplified Bible)
Notice this tremendous promise from our Lord of new brothers and sisters and land in this life but with persecutions. Truly bearing our cross for Christ today must mean persecution because He said it would. Many tell us that there should not be any grief, hardship, conflict, or problems in the life of a Christian truly blessed by God. The idea of a Christian offending people should be un heard of. We are to get along with everybody and embrace any religion that speaks of God and attempts to do good things for people in need.
There are social issues today that are in total opposition to the Word of God that Christians must support if they want to live in this world. The feel good Christianity has taken over and replaced the foundation put down by the Apostles and the early church. Why such hatred to the gospel of Christ when the Apostles gave it out? Some would argue that it was because it was so new and people did not want to embrace change. This can be considered a valid argument and I will acknowledge it as one, but let me submit to you that the primary reason the true message of the gospel of Christ was so hated during this time (and it still holds true today) was that the Apostles presented it (rightly) as the only way for a person to get right with God. They brought no second or third option. This drove lost men and woman into a corner requiring a response of yes or no. This yes or no response does not come from our head or intellect only but it must resonate from the heart (the will of man). An intellectual yes or no to the true gospel will net bring salvation.
Romans 10:9-10 Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation. (Quick Amplified Bible)
Many people wrongly refer to these two verses of Scripture as the sinner’s prayer. Well, this Book of Romans, as well as the entire Bible did not reveal a message to sinners but to the redeemed. Paul here is giving a Theological dissertation on how men and women are justified before Almighty God. This is not a prayer but an explanation of Theological truth to the Jewish people who did not understand just as Paul did not before He met Christ on the Damascus road.
When a man or woman has been justified by the blood of Christ, he/she freely and openly speaks of their faith in Christ. Before I personally came to Christ (during my days of merely religion), I never spoke of my faith in Him. I did not even know Him. Therefore, today I am very skeptical about a person (knowing that I cannot judge their hearts) who seems to never speak of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It appears from the New Testament writing of the Apostle Paul that all he ever spoke of was faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We hear Paul tell us about working as a tent maker and some other things but the spreading of the gospel consumed the rest of his life. He wanted everyone to know that the Lord Jesus Christ was alive from the dead. This is why we must bear our cross for the Lord Jesus Christ. The heart of every man keeps him from the truth of the gospel.
2 Corinthians 3:15-17 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their hearts. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (NKJV)
This zeal and boldness with tunnel vision displayed by the early Apostles drove man into a corner of internal reflection. Fallen man has never liked being backed into a corner, but this is what the real gospel does to the entire human race. When Christ went to the cross to be crucified, He was humiliated, disgraced, ridiculed, tortured, and killed before all to witness.
This cross that Christ carried in a literal way, real Christians today must figuratively carry the same cross. To be a true follower of Christ will not bring honor, fame, fortune, and praise in this life. It cannot bring this to those of us who refuse to compromise or water down the message. How many of the Apostles were rewarded with any of this? The answer is none. Today the answer still should register the same number. To bear His cross will result in disgrace, shame, humiliation, and it must be burdensome for anything short of this result is only a form of godliness without the actual power associated with it. A user-friendly gospel does not exist anywhere on the pages of Scripture. When Paul finished witnessing of faith in Christ to Felix, he was afraid.
Acts 24:25 But as he continued to argue about uprightness, purity of life (the control of the passions), and the judgment to come, Felix became alarmed and terrified and said, Go away for the present; when I have a convenient opportunity, I will send for you. (Quick Amplified Bible)
How many times have you witnessed to a lost sinner and you saw fear register on their face? The Lord Jesus has given me the privilege to witness this in the heart of lost souls after I witness the gospel to them. In the beginning they were drinking alcohol and laughing about the fact they knew they were going to hell, but by the time the Holy Spirit finished speaking in and through me their tone and laughter subsided. It was replaced by a look of seriousness. However, they like Felix left without receiving Christ at that time but I am sure from that moment until now the Holy Spirit has been convicting their hearts. When was the last time you witnessed to someone you knew was lost and at the end they were afraid?
To bear His cross means not to water down His message of singularity. Faith in Christ is the only way to eternal life. No other message given out on earth today will lead lost men and woman to the one true God. To bear His cross means that we must never embrace any religion. Faith in Christ is not a religion and it must never be considered as such. We have made Christianity today simply another religious choice people have making it equal to all the lies. Religion is a man made effort to reach God. Christ brought to the whole world and us the Kingdom of Heaven.
God the Holy Spirit is right now giving out new visas to all illegal aliens and making them citizens of a new homeland Heaven. To bear His cross means never to compromise the truth of His written eternal Word. The social issues confronting the world today are demanding that all get on board with abortion, gay marriage, alcohol use, greed, etc. and if you do not you will be labeled a judgmental bigot. Are we to be afraid of the labels that man would lay on us?
Many of these things are no longer considered the issues of the world, but main line Christian denominations are accepting many of these behaviors and changing the written Word of God. Today we see a form of Christianity that seems to agree with just about everything. Free love espoused in the 60's has grown into an acceptance of all types of sexual perversion. The secular culture is expected to believe these deceptions and lies from the devil. All types of immoral sex from the 60's movement were completely confined to the secular community.
However, today there are people who say I am a Christian and they want to change the parameters of marriage to include homosexuality. I ask you are these people cross bearing? Has God suddenly changed His nature? Is He no longer the same today, yesterday, and forever? What sort of Christian would deny the institution that God Himself established? Oh to see all of my/our Heavenly Fathers true children stand up, speak up against this false following, and proclaim the truth in Scripture without fear and with no apologies given. Every person has to make this decision to be a true follower of Christ.
Luke 14:25-33 Now huge crowds were going along with [Jesus], and He turned and said to them, If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters--[yes] and even his own life also--he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not persevere, carry his own cross, and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him, Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish. Or what king, going out to engage in conflict with another king, will not first sit down and consider and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand [men] to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if he cannot [do so], when the other king is still a great way off, he sends an envoy and asks the terms of peace. So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Quick Amplified Bible)
Now this passage of Scripture from our Lord and Savior clearly lays out for us the real gospel. How many sinners are hearing this message when they are asked to come to Christ? Many times people are hearing come to Christ and your life will be so much better and you will be at ease and happy all the time. They are never given this part of the message from our Lord and so many get baptized never truly having encountered the Lord Jesus Christ.
So consequently as the Lord Jesus told us in the parable of the sower, the word never takes root and when times of trouble, persecution, and temptation or testing comes along for the words sake the person falls away or in actuality goes back to their old life of sin. The pressures of obedience to the word when their friends, family, co-workers, or others deride them, shun them, call them names, and even render physical harm to them cause them to shriek back from the heat and retreat back to the safety of going along with the wrong hypocritical crowd. There is presumed safety in numbers. This is why so many confused young kids join gangs because they feel a sense of protection.
To bear Christ cross is never to go along with the crowd, but on the contrary it is to begin to swim up stream, go against the so-called popular opinion. Remember when James (the Lord Jesus’ brother in the flesh) wanted Him to come up to one of the festivals with Him and perform the signs He was doing openly for all to witness and the Lord Jesus said to him that at this time you can go on freely without problem, but I testify against this world that its deeds are evil they will not accept my testimony.
When we approach lost sinners with the gospel of Christ, we must give them the word whereby the Spirit of God can use the word to make them see their guilt as a sinner before God needing forgiveness. They must see that they have offended God and that He has made a way for them to be pardoned for their offenses.
It will never be easy to witness to lost men and woman about being sinners because none of us ever thinks of ourselves as sinners. When we are cross bearing, we must not tell people that they are good, but just the opposite that they are bad, rotten to the core, and only the grace of God can make them right with God. The Lord Jesus told us to count the cost because the cost is substantial and in many cases true followers of Christ sometimes lose family, friends, jobs, wealth, and many other things down here while we are still on earth.
F.B. Meyer (1847-1929) had this to say about taking up the cross to follow Christ, “Of course, it must be understood that the confession to which Christ summons us does not consist in a single utterance of the lips; it is the constant acknowledgment of Him by voice and life, maintained to the end, and the context makes it clear that this will have to be maintained in the face of opposition, and that often in its bitterest form--the opposition of the home. Many of us would find it easier to face outward persecution and the tyrant's frown, than to stand against the light banter, the sneers and suspicions, the cruel words of those who live within the home. In every age there have been those who have had to stand absolutely alone for Christ, not hating their dear ones, but being hated by them because of their allegiance to Christ, and destined to find the most dutiful love and care repaid by stony indifference or active persecution. Nothing is harder to bear, and there is no other course for us but to silence the enemy and the avenger by patient continuance in well-doing, always believing that God is faithful, and that He will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able to bear.”
It is a very trying endeavor to take up the cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. One man said to the Lord Jesus, “I will follow you where ever you go”, and the Lord Jesus said to him, “I don't even have a place of my own to lay my head at night.” In essence are you too willing for this to become your lot in this life? If so come follow me. Self-denial is the badge or perhaps better said the mark of His disciples, for they no longer regard their needs, desires, and wants but those of His.
It saddens me when a so called Christian (minister especially) is interviewed on one of the secular television networks and asked the question by some media personality, Is Jesus Christ the only way to Heaven? Their answer is some long drawn out explanation or rambling not saying anything because they are afraid or because they are not real themselves. Is this person cross bearing or compromising with the culture? I'll let you answer this question in your own heart. I personally believe Christ true disciples would answer emphatically with one word and nothing else and that is YES.
Albert Barnes (1798-1870) said this of taking up our cross and following the Lord of Glory, “So 'to carry the cross' is a figurative expression, denoting that we must endure whatever is burdensome, or is trying, or is considered disgraceful, in following Christ. It consists simply in doing our duty, let the people of the world think of it or speak of it as they may. It does not consist in making trouble for ourselves, or doing things merely 'to be opposed;' it is doing just what is required of us in the Scriptures, let it produce whatever shame, disgrace, or pain it may. This every follower of Jesus is required to do.”
Every one of us who comes to Christ have our own unique particular cross we must bear and endure for His glory. However, I believe we as brothers and sisters in Christ all have common afflictions from this world run by the devil to take up for our Lord and Savior.
Dr. John Gill (1690-1771) said, “If a man, who would be thought to be a disciple of Christ, is not willing to do all this, but, in order to avoid it, complies with his friends, conforms to the world, and turns his back on Christ; of such an one he may well say, he is not worthy of me; it is not convenient that he should stand among his disciples and followers.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author, Silent Assassins of the Soul (not yet published; coming soon)