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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Yes We All Have A Cross To Bear But It's Not What You Think And You Don't Have To Bear It Alone

This is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on Sunday December 2, 2018. When Jesus said “take up your cross and follow me” He was not talking about things like a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness either. When Jesus said “taking up his cross” He was talking about putting desires of the flesh to death and follow the path that Jesus was on in doing His Father’s will. Whatever the cross or burden you never have to bear it alone. If you think or say so you have forgotten what God says in His word about never leaving or forsaking you. To hear the audio click on the YouTube image at the end of the manuscript.

One of the things that we hear when we are going through a rough patch or we have  an illness that is chronic and has lasted for years, we have had a financial crisis that doesn't get better, we are in  a bad marriage or any number of things is well “we all have our cross to bear.”  That is the last thing that anybody going through any of that stuff wants to hear. 

This comment, which is often made to try and comfort someone is really not what someone going through something wants to hear.  I heard this comment from someone trying to comfort a grieving family of a person of some notoriety who was embroiled in a scandal before their death.  When I heard the person say, “well we all have our cross to bear” my response was, “Really”?        Burdens maybe but not a cross.

For most Christians, today the belief of bearing a cross comes from something Jesus said to His disciples

Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)24  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.25  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.26  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:34 (NKJV)   When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Since the cross was seen as a symbol of punishment and death it is unlikely that Jesus was talking about the kind of death that He would experience being what His disciples should desire.
When Jesus said “take up your cross and follow me” He was not talking about things like  a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness either. 

When Jesus said  “taking up his cross” He was talking about  putting desires of the flesh to death and follow the path that Jesus was on in doing His Father’s will. .         

John 5:19 (NKJV)  Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

John 6:38-40 (NKJV)38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.39  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.40  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

To “take up your cross and follow Me” means that you be willing to even die, if it comes the that,  to follow Jesus.  Whenever Jesus talked about cross bearing He also talked about gaining or saving life.

Luke 9:23-26 (NKJV)23  Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.24  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.25  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?26  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.

Jesus says that any burden that you carry because of Him is really no burden at all.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)28  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Jesus has already borne all our sin, the heaviest burden of all, on the cross.

Isaiah 53:4-5 (NKJV)4  Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

 There’s A Difference

When it comes to bearing a cross, or burden, we need to determine if the suffering is for the name of Jesus or the result of living in a fallen world.

John 15:20-21 (NKJV)20  Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.21  But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

In other words Jesus said the crosses, not burdens, we should bear are the result of following Him.

Sometimes people say, “My cross in life is my children. They are my cross to bear” or “My cross in life is my disability.”  Sickness is not a consequence of following Jesus neither is, a downturn in the economy resulting in a loss of a job, a traffic accident, or the sudden death of a loved one. These things are not crosses.  At least the kind of crosses Jesus was talking about. These are burdens.  We need to recognize the origin of the suffering.

 You Never Have To Bear Your Cross Alone

Whatever the cross or burden you never have to bear it alone.  If you think or say so you have forgotten  what God says in His word about never leaving or forsaking you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)  Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV)5  Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."6  So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

It seems as if I keep coming to these two scriptures every week. It's as if God wants to keep reminding us.

Having to bear our cross alone would mean that God has forsaken us and left us to fend for ourselves.

Jesus said that suffering would come but He has already rescued us from it.

John 16:33 (NKJV)  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

We are more than conquerors through Him.

Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)37  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We Are To Bear Each Other’s Cross (Burden)

We are also told that we are to bear or help bear each other’s burdens or crosses.

Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

When the Pharisee asked Jesus what were the greatest commandments;

Mark 12:29-31 (NKJV) Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is:. Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this:. You shall love your neighbor as yourself; There is no other commandment greater than these.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NKJV)  Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

1 Peter 3:8 (NKJV)  Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;

Practical Ways to Bear Burdens

There are hurting people everywhere, but at times we just don't know what to say or do to ease their pain. Here are six practical ways from Dr. Charles Stanley  to bear someone else's burden.
1.    Be there. At times the best "method" of helping is simply to be present. During our darkest hours, we don't need someone who tries in vain to fix everything; we just need a friend.
2.         Listen. Don't attempt to give answers or tell people what to do next. Injured souls frequently want simply a listening ear so they can express what's on their mind.
3.         Share. Never parade yourself as someone who has all the answers. Instead, allow your own pain and failures to help others.
4.         Pray. There is power in speaking people's names before the Lord. When they hear someone talk to Jesus on their behalf, healing often starts taking place.
5.         Give. Sometimes helping others involves more than a handshake or warm hug. Maybe they need something financial or material. One of the best measures of sincerity is how much we're willing to give to others.
6.    Substitute.You may know an individual who bears the burden of caring for someone else. If you step in and take his or her place for a while, you are emulating your Savior--He, too, was a substitute.
 Because we were unable to do it ourselves, Jesus bore all of our sin and sorrow, even unto death. As a result, we can live happily and eternally in communion with our Father. If Christ did that for us, how can we ever say, "I'm too busy to bear someone else's burden"?

Today Christians think of the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love.  
 For many, the cross is nothing more than a fashionable ornament—an accessory, if you will. We can buy them in gold or sterling silver, studded with pearls or diamonds. But the cross on which Jesus died was no fashion accessory. It was a crude wooden device developed by the Romans that functioned as a literal torture rack for those who died on it.

Also scripture doesn’t ever say that Jesus carried His own cross all the way to and up Golgoth, the place of His crucifixion alone.

The Bible tells us that Simon, a Cyrenian, was ordered to bear the cross of Jesus. He was a visitor to Jerusalem. We don’t know why he was there that day. Maybe he was in town for the Passover, or perhaps he saw the commotion and went to see what was going on. Whatever his reason for being there, Simon was given one of the greatest privileges afforded to anyone in human history.

Matthew 27:32-35 NKJV Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”

So when Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily,” what was He saying? To take up your cross is to put God’s will above your own. It is to die to your ambitions, to your plans, and to your choices. To take up your cross is to love God more than anyone or anything else.

We, too, have that privilege today. Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Jesus is still looking for people like Simon to pick up the cross and carry it.

Are you Simon?

Let's pray.

Heavenly Father your word tells us to

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2

The call to help carry the burdens and the crosses of  of friends and family drives us to you today. Otherwise we would simply turn and walk away, just like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). There are seasons when the needs around us seem to far exceed the resources within us. Where else can we go but to you?

Lord Jesus, it’s only because you bore the burden of the law’s demands and judgment for us; only because you say to us, “Cast all your care upon me, for I care for you” (1 Pet. 5:7); only because you call to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28) that we can continue to show up and shoulder the many burdens of others.

Grant us grace not to be afraid of the emotional messiness that certain burdens bring. Help us know how to rely on your presence more than we rely on mere words. Help us to understand our limits, but even more so, help us be very aware of your limitless mercy, grace, power, and peace.

We pray for friends who are feeling hopeless, angry and diacourged. Bring the power of your resurrection to bear. We pray for friends facing great medical challenges with diminishing health care resources—grant your healing grace, and we ask you to sovereignly move to provide them with resources.

We bring all of these friends to your throne of grace, and we will seek to fulfill “the law of Christ”—the law of love, the way of the gospel—as you give us strength, wisdom, and grace.

We pray all of this in the persistent, sovereign and sufficient name of Jesus Amen.

Sermon Audio

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