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The Cross - A Radical Commitment

In this second part of our series on the cross we will look at the cross as a symbol of radical commitment. And not just in theory.

In Uganda hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Christians were martyred by Idi Amin and his troops in an effort to turn Uganda into an Islamic republic, in Vietnam Christians are vigorously persecuted and in China the house church leaders are beaten and arrested. According to David Barret's World Christian Encyclopedia over 150,000 Christians are martyred for their faith each year . The flood of testimonies of these martyrdoms and books like "Vanya" that recount the martyrdom of prominent believers tell us that we may all be faced with the very real choices regarding our faith.

Many of us have faced painful choices where we have struggled to obey God. Breaking off a cherished relationship with an unbeliever. Giving up a good well paying career to enter Bible College and Christian work. Separation from family for the sake of the gospel. Financial hardship. Isolation. Fear of ridicule. These all play their part. Being a Christian is a difficult and often expensive commitment. If this life alone were to be considered then we are crazy to follow Christ for persecution is inevitable(2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution in fact this persecution was so intense throughout the apostle Paul's life that he thought that his state was "pitiable" unless eternity was factored in !(1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

Firstly we will look at what the cross meant in terms of radical commitment for Jesus, then what it means in terms of radical commitment for us.

What The Cross Meant In Terms Of Radical Commitment For Jesus

(Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, {6} who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, {7} but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. {9} Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, {11} and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV} looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The cross was for Jesus A movement from kingly authority in Heaven to a servant nature on earth. A letting go of His rightful status (as God) without feeling "robbed" or ripped off. A humbling of Himself in obedience. A suffering of death - on behalf of others Something deeply shameful and humiliating Something to be endured.

He answered the challenge the cross presented by: Looking to "the joy set before Him" - the reward from God. Perfectly obeying. Enduring shame. Completing the task he began as the "author" of our faith and the "finisher" as well.

What The Cross Means In Terms Of Radical Commitment For The Christian

(Luke 9:23-27 NKJV) 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. {27} "But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God."

Here we see what the cross involves for us... Self-denial Daily humble obedience Following Jesus Losing our lives - throwing them away for Jesus' sake. Weighing up the long-term consequences Not being ashamed of God - willing to suffer shame in this world for glory in the next.

This can be very costly and Jesus spells it out for us in the following passage:

(Luke 14:25-35 NKJV) Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, {26} "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. {27} "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. {28} "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it; {29} "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, {30} "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' {31} "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? {32} "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. {33} "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. {34} "Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? {35} "It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

The costs Jesus mentions include: Family relationships Your own life Bearing the cross. Coming after Jesus - suffering His fate in identification with Him. Carefully thinking through the cost Forsaking all Not compromising and so losing one's flavor and "bite".

From time to time the earliest Christians struggled with their lot and the sheer exhaustion of the sacrifices they were making -including confiscation of property, imprisonment and martyrdom.

(Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, {2} looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

We see that they were called to make Jesus their example at such time and indeed we can see the similarity between what the cross meant for Jesus and what it means for us.

THE CROSS FOR JESUS

THE CROSS FOR US

Letting go of His status of God Deny ourselves...
Death on a cross Not loving our own life, "losing our life"
Taking the form of a servant Daily humble obedience "take up our cross daily".
Endured the cross Do not become weary or discouraged
For the joy set before Him Counting the cost of discipleship, factoring in eternity
Obedient unto death... No compromise, remain "salty"
Despising the shame Not being ashamed of Jesus but confessing Him before men.
The "finisher" of our faith Run with endurance the race set before us - until the end
Endured hostility from sinners against himself All who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

As we take the cross into our own lives we take on board a special relationship with God as well. Paul speaks of this when he writes(Colossians 1:24-25 NKJV) I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, {25} of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,and in the epistle to the Philippians he speaks of his sufferings as involving fellowship with Christ in a special way(Philippians 3:10-11 NKJV) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, {11} if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In Colossians 1:24 Paul writes of Christ's sufferings as "lacking". He does not mean that they lacked in redemptive power. The wonderful redemptive power of the cross was Paul's gospel and he knew he could not add to that! Rather the "lack" is in the delivery of that good news to the world. Christ suffered to purchase men from sin. Paul suffers to get them to understand what Jesus Christ has done for their forgiveness. The sufferings of Christ need to be "added to" by the sufferings of Paul and other preachers of the gospel if the church is to be built. We are like people on a relief mission with food for the hungry - being waylaid by opportunistic bandits and profiteers - the forces of darkness. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities..(Eph 6:12).

So our cross works with Christ's cross to produce the Church. Christ's cross wins the victory for souls our cross applies that victory to souls. Christ's cross brings reconciliation with God, our cross makes us ambassadors of Christ and ministers of that reconciliation. God has tied the power of his gospel and the fate of His church to the preparedness of His saints to suffer, to take up their crosses daily and to follow Him. Lets finish with Paul's exhortation to Timothy, a fellow minister of Christ.

(2 Timothy 1:8-12 NKJV) Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, {9} who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, {10} but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, {11} to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. {12} For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

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