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
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
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?
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
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
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.
Counting the cost of following Jesus means understanding
what Christ expects of his followers. T/F
“If anyone desires to come after Me,
What does it mean to take up your cross and
Jesus wants us to put our Christian discipleship
and God’s kingdom in first priority. T/F.
A disciple must always be ready to suffer. T/F.
When you are persecuted for your religious
beliefs, you are carrying your cross for Jesus. T/F
You are carrying a cross when you endure
ridicule for being submissive. T/F
Read Mt 16:24,25. What
does it mean to “lose your life” for Christ? What will you gain in return?
Memorize Heb 12:3 and write it down.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for
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?
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?
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.