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 (A New Life in Christ)
Week 16: Carrying Your Cross
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Week 16: Carrying Your Cross

One day after Jesus had begun to teach his disciples about his forthcoming death and resurrection, he said this to the crowd, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Mk 16:24).

Living at a time and in a place where such a cruel form of punishment only exists for us in the printed word, it is difficult for us to truly feel Jesus’ pain. What does a cross feel like? Is it a T-shaped wooden structure that would weigh us down and bend our backs? Imagine carrying one when our head is already cut and our back is already torn. How we’d scream in pain, again and again! How we’d stumble and fall, again and again.

And Jesus asked us to take up our cross daily? Yet, Jesus meant every word he said. Many people follow Christ for the wrong reasons. They do so to seek some short-term material gains. They expect that after they believe in the Lord, life will be smooth and trouble-free. But the Lord has already told us that the way of faith is the way of the cross. No one can follow Jesus to the end if they fail to carry his cross. In this lesson, we shall study what it means for you to carry your cross.

Some Basic Principles

Consider the Cost of Discipleship.

One reason so many Christians find it difficult to finish their journey to God’s kingdom is because they never considered the cost of obedience in their faith from beginning to end (Lk 9:62; -33; Heb ). They think that being a Christian is a status symbol or a guarantee of material blessings. When they realize that they have to give themselves up and suffer for Christ, they abandon their faith. We can’t afford to make that mistake. Using the parables of a builder and a king going into battle, the Lord told the crowd to consider the cost of following him. What is the cost? Jesus’ concluded his parable, saying, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk ). Following the Lord entails giving up everything for his sake. It involves suffering for him instead of indulging in pleasure. It involves denying our own desires in order to accomplish his will. Have you considered the cost?

Deny Yourself.

The Lord Jesus said to his followers, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk 8:34). Denying yourself is the first and fundamental step in being a disciple of Christ. Denying yourself means saying “NO” to your fleshly desires. But why must we deny ourselves? Because of our sinful nature, obeying God’s command is against our natural tendency. In other words, our flesh doesn’t like to obey God. In fact, according to Paul, our natural self is “hostile to God” (Rom 8:7 NIV). When we want to sacrifice ourselves to love others, our flesh tells us to care for our own needs instead. When we want to rest on the Sabbath, our flesh tells us that we still have many unfinished tasks. When we want to get up in the morning to pray, our flesh tells us to get more sleep. If we do not deny ourselves, we are incapable of submitting to God’s will, “for the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal 5:17). In order to be a follower and servant of Christ, therefore, we need to “crucify” ourselves by not bowing to the will of our flesh.

Carry Your Cross Daily.

 Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk 9:23). Following Christ is not just a long-term goal. It is a daily discipline. You must carry your cross 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Doing so involves commitment and persistence. It means overcoming your laziness and selfishness. At the beginning of each day, you need to tell yourself, “I am the Lord’s disciple, and today I will do whatever it takes to please my master.” In your daily conduct and everyday choices, let God’s command be your first priority. You may have to give up your wishes and ambitions. Others may criticize you and dislike you. But if you obey Christ at all costs, you are his true disciple.

Suggested Guidelines

Be Ready to Suffer.

A disciple must always be ready to suffer physically and emotionally. Denying your flesh is often painful. Sometimes you have to clench your teeth to make yourself submit to what God wants rather than what you want. Letting go of the the things you love so much for the sake of Christ also surely involves great pain. Besides these types of sufferings, you also face another kind of suffering—rejection. You may have to endure people’s slander, ridicule, and even hatred. Jesus once said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Lk ). So if Jesus was hated, his disciple would be hated as well. And if Jesus suffered, his disciple would suffer as well (Jn -20). Regardless of the type of suffering, you must be ready at all times to experience pain and hurt for the sake of Christ. Peter encourages us, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Pet 4:1). Being equipped with the attitude to suffer will enable you to overcome all kinds of difficulties and hindrances.

Stand Firm in the Face of Persecution.

Today, many countries have civil laws on religious freedom to protect their citizens from physical persecution and torture over religious beliefs. Yet, even today, many Christians live in places where religious persecution by physical torture is not discouraged. But more and more, Christians today suffer socially for their beliefs (cf. Gal ; 1 Pet 4:4). Friends may no longer want to be around an uptight “holy man” or “holy woman” like yourself. You may hear jibes about being way too conservative. When you try to evangelize, you may face dirty looks that scream, “Get away from me you religious freak!” These are some of the typical sufferings a Christian disciple may have to face socially. It’s no surprise that like attracts like, and we demonize the “other.” That’s the source of a lot of racial and ethnic hatred, as well as the source of social and religious persecution. Jesus warned us about social and physical persecution when he said, “If you were of the world the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn ). But we shouldn’t get too discouraged because Jesus told us that he would not leave us alone (Jn ), but that he would send us the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us (Jn 16:7). Since Jesus has overcome the world, we should rejoice, because it means that we, as Jesus’ disciples, can also overcome the world (Jn ; cf. 1 Jn 4:4).

Glory in the Cross of Christ.

Today, we often think of the cross in terms of a beautiful symbol of our faith. Christians wear silver and gold crosses on their necks and make artful crosses for their churches. Yet, in Jesus’ time, crosses represented something very ugly and shameful—something you wouldn’t want to connect yourself to. You’d want to connect yourself to a cross just about as much as you’d want to strap yourself down to an electric chair. Yet the Bible teaches us to glory in the shame and sufferings of Christ, as well as to glory in our own sufferings and shame in Christ (Acts ; 1 Cor ; Gal ; 2Tim 1:8,12,16). Perhaps the toughest part of being a Christian is to handle the insult, slander, or rejection we must bear as we acknowledge our faith before others. The people of the world may think that we are strange because we choose to sacrifice our lives for the Lord instead of pursuing worldly wealth and accomplishments. We are often despised because we hold a different set of values. But there is really nothing to be ashamed of to be a follower of Christ. We consider it an honor because we are following and serving our loving Savior who has laid down his life for us. We may lose the world, but we have gained Christ and his reward (Mt -12; -29). With that in mind, we will glory in the cross of Christ, and count ourselves blest to be able to bear it.

Write down other guidelines that have worked for you.

Write down new ideas that could work for you.

Questions

1.      Counting the cost of following Jesus means understanding what Christ expects of his followers. T/F

2.      “If anyone desires to come after Me, ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (Mt. ).

3.      What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?

4.      Jesus wants us to put our Christian discipleship and God’s kingdom in first priority. T/F.

5.      A disciple must always be ready to suffer. T/F.

6.      When you are persecuted for your religious beliefs, you are carrying your cross for Jesus. T/F

7.      You are carrying a cross when you endure ridicule for being submissive. T/F

8.      Read Mt 16:24,25. What does it mean to “lose your life” for Christ? What will you gain in return?

9.      Memorize Heb 12:3 and write it down.

10.  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, ________________________________________________________________(Mt 5:10).

Case Studies

1.      Steve and Jim are best friends, but neither of them is a Christian. One day, Steve’s friend, Jack, invites Steve to the True Jesus Church. During the service, Steve receives the Holy Spirit and he’s so joyful he is moved to tears. From then on, Steve comes to church every Sabbath with his friend Jack. Unfortunately, Jim is disappointed now that Steve always spends his weekends at church. Eventually, Steve is baptized and becomes a fervent believer, changing a lot of his old ways and bad habits. Still, Steve keeps in touch with his best friend Jim. One day, as Steve and Jim are hanging out, Jim asks Steve, “How come you’re all holy now? What happened to you? We used to be able to go out, check out girls, and talk trash all the time, now you’re so uptight I can’t even say a curse word in front of you without you getting on my case. Can’t we go back to the way it used to be?” Steve is obviously hurt by Jim’s comments, but he really cherishes the friendship he has with Jim and doesn’t want to make a scene. One day, Jim says, “Alright, let’s go to that dance party at Betty’s house, I heard there will be a lot of cute girls there.” Steve declines Jim’s invitation, and Jim says, “You see, this is what I’m talking about! You need to loosen up my friend.” Steve still insists on not going to Betty’s party. This infuriates Jim to no end. Finally, Jim decides he won’t call or talk to Steve anymore until he becomes “normal” again. Steve is really depressed about the whole matter, and he finally gives in to Jim’s demands to act like he used to.

Steve is caught between his obedience to his faith and his friendship with Jim. What are his struggles?

If you were Jack, Steve’s church friend, how would you counsel Steve?

Put yourself in Steve’s shoes, why do you think Steve finally gave in to Jim’s demands. If you were Steve, do you think you would’ve handled the situation any differently? How so?

2.      Jenny has been a True Jesus Church member for about three years now. A few months ago, she turned down an opportunity to advance her career because it required that she move out of state. When she explained to her colleagues that she couldn’t move to an area that had no True Jesus Church, they ridiculed Jenny for making a “stupid career choice.” Lately, another opportunity has presented itself. This time, the position requires that she works long hours on regular days and some weekends as well. Her colleagues tell her to take the job. Jenny doesn’t really know what to do, although she’s leaning toward accepting the new position.

Jenny is caught between her obedience to her faith and the pressure to climb the ladder of advancement. What are her struggles?

Think about Jenny’s first opportunity to advance her career. Did she make a right decision? Why or why not?

If you were in Jenny’s shoes, would you take the new job?

Activity

1.      One of the practical teachings mentioned above was to be ready to suffer both physically and socially for Christ (e.g., losing a close relationship with an unbelieving friend). Another teaching given above was to give your self up for the sake of following Christ (e.g., giving up your bad habit of watching X-rated video tapes). Make a list of all the ways you feel you’ve suffered or could suffer by following your faith in Christ. Now make a list of all the ways you could’ve avoided those sufferings for Christ by taking the easy way out. Do you ever see yourself taking the easy way out? Have you ever taken the easy way out? How so? Think about what you’ve written and then think about how you’d like to improve your obedience and submission to God’s will.

 

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Publisher: True Jesus Church
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