"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." [Matthew 16:24-27]”
“Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth. [John 18:3-4]”
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered…one is your Master, even Christ…the disciple is not above his master. [Hebrews 5:8; Matthew 23:10, 24]”
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. [Galatians 6:14]” “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. [Galatians 2:20]” “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. [1 Corinthians 1:18]”
“I willingly accept of that grace which always makes me more humble and fearful, and more ready to forsake myself.”
Everywhere you go you will find a cross, or the cross, better said, will find you; for God intends to bring you to the end of yourself. And lo, everywhere you run or hide, there you are. Therefore, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.
Jesus did not merely lay Himself down upon the cross to die; He laid Himself down upon the cross to show all who would be His disciples how to die. No man took away His life, but He laid it down. This He did willingly, and so must all who choose to follow in his steps. This life is attended with many evils, and not all who suffer evil enter into the kingdom of God, but those who willingly suffer, and that, for Jesus’ sake.
"To many this seems a hard saying; “Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Jesus.” [Matthew 16:24] But it will much harder to hear that last word; “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. [Matthew 25:41]” For they who now willingly hear and follow the word of the cross shall not then be afraid of eternal condemnation…Then all the servants of the cross, who end their lifetime have conformed themselves to the Crucified, shall come to Christ their Judge with great confidence.
Why then art thou afraid to take up thy cross, which leads to a kingdom?
In the cross is salvation; in the cross is life; in the cross is protection from thy enemies. In the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the cross is strength of mind; in the cross is joy of spirit. In the cross is the height of virtue; in the cross is the perfection of sanctity. There is no health of soul nor hope of eternal life but in the cross. Take up, therefore, thy cross and follow Jesus, and thou shalt go into life everlasting. He is gone before thee carrying His own cross; and He died for thee upon the cross that thou mayest also bear thy cross and love to die on the cross. Because if thou die with Him thou shalt also live with Him, and if thou art His companion in suffering thou shalt also partake in His glory. [2 Corinthians 1:7]
Behold the cross is all, and in dying to thyself all consist, and there is no other way to life and true internal peace but the Holy Way of the cross and of daily mortification.
Go where thou wilt, seek what thou wilt, and thou shalt not find a higher way above, nor a safer way below than the holy way of the cross. Dispose and order all things according as thou wilt and as seems best to thee, and thou wilt still find something to suffer, either willingly or unwillingly, and so thou shalt still find the cross. For either thou shalt feel pain the body, or sustain in thy soul tribulation of spirit. Sometimes thou shalt be left by God, other times thou shalt be afflicted by thy neighbor, and what is more, thou shalt often be a trouble to thyself.
Neither canst thou be delievered or eased by any remedy or comfort, but as long as it shall please God thou must bear it. For God would have thee learn to suffer tribulation without comfort, and wholly to submit thyself to Him, and to become more humble by tribulation. No man hath so lively a feeling of the passion of Christ as he who has happened to suffer such like things.
The cross, therefore, is always ready and everywhere waits for thee.
Thou canst not escape it, whithersoever thou runnest; for whithersoever thou goest thou carriest thyself with thee and shalt always find thyself. Turn thyself upwards, or turn thyself downwards; turn thyself without, or turn thyself within thee, and everywhere thou shalt find the cross. And everywhere thou must of necessity have patience, if thou desirest inward peace and wouldst merit an eternal crown.
If thou carry the cross willingly, it will carry thee and bring thee to thy desired end; namely, to that place will there will be an end of suffering, though here there will be no end. If thou carriest it unwillingly thou makest it a burden to thee and loadest thyself the more, and nevertheless thou must bear it. If thou fling away one cross, without doubt thou shalt find another and perhaps a heavier.
Dost thou think to escape that which no mortal could ever avoid? What saint was there ever in the world without his cross and affliction? Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not one hour of His life without suffering; “It behooved Christ to suffer,” saith He, “And rise again from the dead, and so enter into His glory. [Luke 24:46]” And why dost thou pretend to seek another way than this Royal Way, which is the holy way of the cross? The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and dost thou seek rest and joy? Thou errest, thou errest, if thou seek any other thing than to suffer tribulations; for this whole mortal life is full of miseries and beset on all sides with crosses. And the higher a person is advanced in spirit the heavier crosses shall he often meet with, because the pain of his banishment increases in proportion to his love.
Yet this man, thus in many ways afflicted, is not without some comfort, because he is sensible of the great profit which he reaps by bearing the cross. For whilst he willingly resigns himself to it, all the burden of tribulation is converted into an assured hope of comfort from God. And the more the flesh is brought down by affliction, the more the spirit is strengthened by inward grace. And it sometimes gains such strength through affection to tribulation and adversity, by loving to be conformable to the cross of Christ, as not to be willing to be without suffering and affliction; because it is confident that it is so much the more acceptable to God as it shall be able to bear more and greater things for Him.
This is not man’s power, but the grace of Christ, which can and does affect such great things in frail flesh, that what it naturally abhors and shuns, even this, through fervor of spirit, it now embraces and loves.
To bear the cross, to love the cross, to chastise the body, and bring it under subjection; to fly honors, to be willing to suffer reproaches, to despise oneself and wish to be despised; to bear all adversities and losses, and to desire no prosperity in this world, are not according to man’s natural inclination.
If thou look upon thyself, thou canst do nothing of this thyself. But if thou confide in the Lord, strength will be given thee from heaven and the world and flesh shall be made subject to thee. Neither shalt thou fear thine enemy, the devil, if thou be armed with faith and signed with the cross of Christ.
Set thyself then like a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear manfully the cross of thy Lord, crucified for love of thee. Prepare thyself to suffer many adversities and different evils in this miserable life; for it will be with thee wherever thou art, and so indeed wilt thou find it wheresoever thou mayest hide thyself. It must be so, and there is no remedy against the tribulation of evil and sorrow but to bear them patiently.
Drink the chalice of thy Lord lovingly if thou desirest to be His friend and to have part with Him. [Matthew 20:22] Leave consolations to God, to do with them as best pleaseth Him.
But prepare thou thyself to bear tribulations, and account them the greatest consolations; for the sufferings of this life bear no proportion to the glory to come [Romans 8:18], although thou alone couldst suffer them all.
When thou shalt arrive thus far, that tribulation becomes sweet and savory to thee for the love of Christ, then think that it is well with thee, for thou hast found a paradise upon earth.
As long as suffering appear grievous to thee and thou seek to fly from it, so long will it be ill with thee, and the tribulation from which thou fliest, will everywhere follow thee.
If thou set thyself to what thou oughtst, that is to suffer and die to thyself, it will quickly be better with thee and thou shalt find peace.
Although thou shalt have been rapt up to the third heaven with the Apostle Paul [2 Corinthians 12:2], thou art not thereby assured that thou shalt suffer no adversity. “I,” said Jesus, “will show him how great things he must suffer for My name.” [Acts 9:16] To suffer, therefore, is what waits for thee, if thou wilt love Jesus and constantly serve Him.
Would to God thou wert worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus! How great a glory would be laid up for thee, how great joy it would be to all the saints of God and how great edification to thy neighbor. [Acts 5:41]
All recommend patience, but alas! How few there are that desire to suffer.
With good reason oughtst thou be willingly to suffer a little for Christ, since many suffer greater things for the world.
Know for certain that thou must lead a dying life, and the more a man dies to himself the more he begins to live for God.
No man is fit to comprehend heavenly things who has not resigned himself to suffer adversities for Christ. Nothing is more acceptable to God, nothing more wholesome for thee in this world, than to suffer willingly for Christ. And if thou wert to choose, thou oughtst to wish rather to suffer adversities for Christ than to be delighted with many comforts, because thou wouldst thus be more like unto Christ and more conformable to all the saints.
For our merit and the advancement of our state consists, not in having many sweetnesses and consolations, but rather in bearing great afflictions and tribulations. If, indeed, there had been anything better and more beneficial to man’s salvation than suffering, Christ certainly would have shown it by word and example. For He manfully exhorts both His disciples that followed Him and all that desire to follow Him to bear the cross, saying: “If any will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. [Luke 9:23]” So that when we have read and searched all let this be the sound conclusion, that “through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God. [Acts 14:21]”
"The Christian’s great conquest over the world is all contained in the mystery of Christ upon the Cross. It was there, and from there, that He taught all Christians how they were to come out of and conquer the world, and what they were to do in order to be His disciples. All the doctrines, sacraments, and institutions of the Gospel are only so many explanations of the meaning and applications of the benefit of this great mystery. Christianity means nothing else, but an entire, absolute conformity to that Spirit which Christ showed in the mysterious sacrifice of Himself upon the cross.
Every man therefore is only so far a Christian as he partakes of this Spirit of Christ. It was this that made Paul so passionately express himself: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But why does he glory? Is it because Christ had suffered in his place, and had excused him from suffering?
No, by no means! But it was because his Christian profession had called him to the honor of suffering with Christ, and of dying to the world under reproach and contempt, as He had done upon the Cross. For he immediately adds: “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Ga. 6:14 This, you see, was the reason of his glory in the cross of Christ, because it had called him to the exact same state of death and crucifixion to the world.
Thus was the cross of Christ, in Paul’s days, the glory of Christians. He was not referring to their not being ashamed to own a Master that was crucified, but rather their glorying in a religion which was nothing else but a doctrine of the cross—a doctrine that called them to the same suffering spirit, the same sacrifice of themselves, the same renunciation of the world, the same humility and meekness, the same patient bearing of injuries, reproaches, and contempts; and the same dying to all the greatness, honors, and happiness of this world, which the dying Christ showed upon the cross.
The necessity of this conformity to all that Christ did and suffered upon our account is very plain from the whole tenor of Scripture:
1. As to His sufferings: this is the only condition of our being saved by them, “if we suffer” with Him, “we shall also reign with Him.” 2 Ti. 2:12
2. As to His crucifixion: “knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him,” Ro. 6:6, etc. Here you see Christ is not crucified in our place; but unless our old man be really crucified with Him, the cross of Christ will profit us nothing.
3. As to the death of Christ, the condition is this: “If we be dead with him,” we believe that “we shall also live with him.” 2 Ti. 2:11 If therefore Christ be dead alone, if we are not dead with Him, we are just as sure, from this Scripture, that we shall not live with Him.
4. As to the resurrection of Christ, the Scripture shows us how we are to partake of the benefit of it: “If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Co. 3:1
This is the state of separation from the world, to which all orders of Christians are called. They must so far renounce all worldly thinking, be so far governed by another value system, as to show that they are truly and really crucified, dead, and risen with Christ. And it is as necessary for all Christians to conform to this great change of spirit, to be new creatures in Christ, as it was necessary that Christ should suffer, die, and rise again for our salvation.
In the exact same way the spirit of the world nailed our Lord to the cross, so every man that has the Spirit of Christ—that opposes the world as He did—will certainly be crucified by the world, in some way or other. This is because Christianity still lives in the same world that Christ did; and these two will be utter enemies, till the kingdom of darkness is entirely annihilated.
Had you lived with our Savior as His true disciple, you would have then been hated as He was; and if you now live in His Spirit, the world will be the same enemy to you now that it was to Him then.
“If ye were of the world,” says our Lord, “the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Jo. 15:19
We are apt to lose the true meaning of these words by considering them only as an historical description of something that was the state of our Savior and His disciples at that time. But this is reading the Scripture as a dead letter; for they describe exactly the state of true Christians in our time—and at all other times—to the end of the world. Whoever has His Spirit will be hated, despised, and condemned by the world, just like He was. This happens because the world will always love its own, and none but its own: this is as certain and unchangeable as the contrariety between light and darkness.
You will perhaps say that the world has now become Christian, at least that part of it where we live; and therefore the world is not now so opposed to Christianity as when it was heathen.
It is granted, the world now professes Christianity. But will anyone say that this “Christian” world is of the Spirit of Christ? Is its general mind-set the mind-set of Christ? Are the passions of sensuality, self-love, pride, covetousness, ambition, and vainglory less contrary to the spirit of the Gospel now that they are “Christianized,” than when they were among heathens? Or will you say that the mind-set and passions of the heathen world are lost and gone?
Consider, secondly, what is meant by “the world.” Now this is fully described by John: “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” 1 Jo. 2:16 This is an exact and full description of the world. Now will you say that our society is become Christian? But if these three still exist, then “the world” still exists, and the same enemy to Christianity that did in John’s days. And indeed the world, by professing Christianity, is so far from being a less dangerous enemy than it was before, that it has by its favors destroyed more Christians than ever it did by the most violent persecution.
We must, therefore, be so far from considering the world as in a state of less enmity and opposition to Christianity than it was in the first times of the Gospel, that we must guard against it as a greater and more dangerous enemy now than it was in those times. It is a greater enemy because it has greater power over Christians by its favors, riches, honors, rewards, and protection, than it had by the fire and fury of its persecutions. It is a more dangerous enemy, by having lost its appearance of enmity.
Its outward profession of Christianity makes it no longer considered as an enemy, and therefore the generality of people are easily persuaded to resign themselves up to be governed and directed by it. How many consciences are kept at quiet, upon no other foundation than because they sin under the authority of the Christian world! How many principles of the Gospel are disregarded, and how unconcernedly do people read them, for no other reason than they seem to be disregarded by the “Christian” world!
How many compromises do people make to the “Christian” world, without any hesitation or remorse; which, if they had been required of them by heathens, would have been refused as contrary to the holiness of Christianity! Who could be content with seeing how contrary his life is to the Gospel, but because he sees that he lives like the rest of the “Christian” world does? Who, that reads the Gospel, would want to be persuaded of the necessity of great self-denial, humility, and poverty of spirit, but that the authority of the world has banished this “doctrine of the cross”?”
“All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.
From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.
The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrill seeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.
That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him.
What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.
Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.
To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries.”
"O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not try to be comforted but to comfort,
Not try to be understood but to understand,
Not try to be loved but to love.
Because it is in giving that we receive,
It is in forgiving that we are forgiven,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."