1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

The Book of Luke,  The Cross and Christianity  - Lesson 118

 

I had intended to go to the next section of chapter nine this week but I did not feel my teaching was as complete as it could be concerning the cross that Christ has given his disciples in Luke 9:22-26.

 

The message contained in this portion of scripture concerning the denial of self is not a welcome message I trust, for we are or we live amongst a people of self gratification.  

 

We in this country are a people of self service. 

 

We are a people who are taught to look out for number one and that number one is our self. 

 

We are a people who wish to deny nothing from our children and attempt to have everything at our disposal at a momentís notice.

 

So this message is an offense to most but if we are serious about our allegiance to Jesus Christ it must be a message that is understood and followed. 

 

Let us read Luke 9:22-26 again. 

 

Jesus Christ is speaking here.  Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. 23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? 26For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Fatherís, and of the holy angels.

 

Prior to this passage Peter, by the revelation of the Father, has proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ. 

 

This statement is plain to all and in this passage we see that Christ now lays claim to absolute devotion and loyalty on the part of any man or woman who will come after him. 

 

To come after him means for a disciples to attach himself to Christ in spite of the fact that Christ is going to death and resurrection. 

 

If I am to be His disciple I am to be attached to him so that whatever suffering he may suffer I am available to also suffer it likewise. 

 

As he carries a cross because of who he is I am to likewise bear a cross because I identify with him.

 

This revelation that he is the Christ shows that he is Lord of all and as Lord is fully within his authority to call for absolute devotion of any who wills to follow him.  

 

Jesus forces no man or woman to follow for he says if any man will. 

 

It is up to the man or woman to follow and to follow means to deny oneself on behalf of Jesus Christ and His cause. 

 

And it is not a one time denial but it is to be a daily denial of oneís self. 

 

This daily denial is the cross that is to be borne by any who follow the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

A cross comes with the territory of following Jesus Christ. 

 

Jesus Christ bore a cross and so too will those who identify with him.

 

To rightly follow Christ is to deny yourself. 

 

It is to refuse association with yourself.

 

It is to deny your hopes, it is to deny your dreams, it is to deny your ambitions and instead look to God to give you better hopes, better dreams, better ambitions. 

 

It is to willingly yield your will to Godís will for Godís will is perfect but your will will bring utter loss.

 

In my study of this I came across this writing of C.S. Lewis which pertains: He writes:

 

"The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.

 

"But this is the fatal mistake... The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us....

 

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!"

 

Denying yourself allows God to work his work.

 

In the denial of self the natural sinful self is meant as it always makes man the center and the natural sinful self has no use for the things of God.

 

This denial of self always takes place when a man or woman is saved, is born again, for repentance is a denial of self and a recognition that self is completely wrong and that God is completely right. 

 

This denial of myself produces a recognition that there is nothing good that lies within myself and total salvation or rescue must take place in Jesus Christ alone.

 

Christ enters in and from that point on a man or woman does not live to themselves but unto Christ who died for them.

 

And by the power of God though his Holy Spirit that denial of self is to continue on a daily basis. 

 

This is cross bearing for Christ. 

 

But it is a mistake to call all our suffering a cross.

 

Not all suffering and self denial is cross bearing.

 

Jesus defined cross bearing when he preached the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Luke 6:22,  Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil,

 

He did not end this statement there, for to it he added the critical words,  for the Son of manís sake.

 

You can be hated and be separated from the company of men and you can be reproached and your name can be cast out as evil and that will not be bearing a cross for Christ unless it happens because of your connection with him.

 

He said deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.

 

The wicked have many sorrows but no cross bearing. 

 

The cross is that suffering alone which results from our faithful connection with Christ. 

 

The wicked heart even tries to justify its suffering as equal to the cross bearing of a faithful servant of Christ.

 

The picture that is presented in our Luke passage is one where we see Christ bearing his cross to Calvary with all of his disciples following, each bearing a cross because of their association with him and him alone.

 

Paul captured this in: Galatians 5:24,  And they that are Christís have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 

 

Affections and lusts means influences and longings.

 

Before the willingness came to bear the cross, the flesh yielded to the influences of the world and the longings for the things of the world. 

To deny yourself is to deny the influences of the world and the longings for the things of the world. 

 

To deny yourself is to deny your passions, your appetites and your desires.

 

Read Colossians 3:16 from the Amplified Bible:

 

If then you have been raised with Christ to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead, aim at and seek the rich eternal treasures that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 

And set your minds and keep them set on what is above, the higher things, not on the things that are on the earth.  For as far as this world is concerned you have died, and your new real life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in the splendor of His glory.  So kill, deaden, deprive of power the evil desire lurking in your members those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin; sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry.  It is on account of these very sins that the holy anger of God is ever coming upon the sons of disobedience those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will.

 

But along with this admonition we are assured us that we are not alone in this for Paul tells us of that connection with Christ that cannot be broken in Galatians 2:20:

 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 

This picture that Christ presents of what a disciple is called upon to do is not attractive and is offensive to most. 

 

But however heavy your cross may be in service to him, he helps you bear it after him.

 

He gives no special dispensation to not bear a cross.

 

There is no changing the course of Christ. 

 

Peter tried that and was soundly rebuked as an agent of Satan.

 

There is only the option of following him with the cross. 

 

A commentator named Godet says that three things are necessary in traveling: first, to say farewell; secondly to carry oneís baggage; and thirdly to proceed with the journey. 

 

Bringing this in line with our Luke passage we are to say farewell to self, we are to carry the cross, and we are to follow Christ.

 

The only question is our will to make the journey.

 

All three, that of saying farewell to self, that of carrying the cross, and that of following Christ are impossible for us, for no human power is able to work salvation nor to work the new life. 

 

In our day there are few that are willing to bear the cross of Christ, there are few that are willing to deny themselves anything, yet alone to bear the hatred and the separation from men with the resulting reproach and loss of reputation.

 

So knowing this, many preachers substitute the offense of the cross for a message of peace and prosperity, happiness and fulfillment, and miracle healing.  

 

They say that from the standpoint of men something good is going to happen to you whereas we see Christ saying from the standpoint of men that something bad is going to happen to you!

 

Would these preachers of peace and prosperity have said something good is going to happen to Jesus Christ who was fixed toward Jerusalem and his crucifixion to pay for the sins of men?

 

But when they substitute the offense of the cross for a message of peace and prosperity, happiness and fulfillment, and miracle healing they make a gospel without power.

 

The world is full of those who pervert the gospel, the word of the cross, in order to make it more appealing, more marketable.

 

They offer men prosperity, popularity, and whatever they desire.

 

They offer men a crown without first a cross.

 

They exalt men when men should instead be humbled.

 

They offer life, but they lead men along the road to death, just as Satan deceived Eve in the garden.   

 

They offer ďsave your lifeĒ but in the end the life is lost.

 

There are Christians who attempt to avoid any cross in life.

 

Many Christians, perhaps in name only, want their faith and their gospel to be respectable and sugar coated instead of blood coated, when the Bible plainly says that what they say they believe, is foolishness to men.

 

They want obedience to Godís word to seem logical, sensible, and appealing, but the cross is an offense, whether it be the cross of Christ for salvation, or the cross of the disciple.

 

As faithful disciples of Christ we are to be on guard against  teaching that minimizes the cross, we are to be on guard against any teaching that appeals to the fleshly nature of man.  

 

Some of these are the prosperity and healing gurus of today.

 

They teach not the way of the cross for the way of the cross repels those who are not drawn by the Father.

 

These teachers reject the cross, because they know it is not appealing to men.

 

They also do not wish to suffer the reproach of the cross themselves nor do they wish to deny themselves for the advancement of the cause of Christ.

 

A.W. Tozer said this: "Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying."

 

So instead, they offer a different gospel, a crossless gospel, a gospel that does not offend, a dying Jesus but no dying disciple!

 

Paul saw this is in his day when he wrote the Galatians.

 

From the Amplified Bible:  Galatians 6:12‑14,   Those who want to make a good impression and a fine show in the flesh would try to compel you to receive circumcision, simply so that they may escape being persecuted for allegiance to the cross of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  For even the circumcised [Jews] themselves do not [really] keep the Law, but they want to have you circumcised in order that they may glory in your flesh (your subjection to external rites).   But far be it from me to glory {in anything or anyone} except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), though Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!

 

Men of the ilk that Paul was writing about are with us today for the heart is the same as Paul found it in his day. 

 

They do not glory in the cross of Christ but glory in the flesh that they have standing before them as that flesh responds to the preaching of the message of the flesh instead of the message of the cross.

 

The Jews that Paul was talking about chose compromise in order to avoid identification with the cross of Christ. 

 

But Paul stood on the cross and gloried in the privilege it was to bear any cross for Christ for he was not interested in the praise of men but of God. 

 

That is what faith is all about. 

 

Faith brings the wherewithal to bear any cross or to suffer any loss for the cause of Christ.

 

Those of us who are saved, who have professed Jesus Christ to be Godís Salvation, must realize that there is a cross to bear for those who truly follow Him.

 

As the crowds rejected Jesus and clamored for Him to have a cross, so they will reject us.

 

This is a part of the cross which we must take up, daily.

 

And when we witness Christ to others we are to do so in truth not shying away from the command to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Him.

 

We must never trim the cross from the gospel to seek love.

 

For it is the cross of Calvary that is Godís only means of saving men.