The Challenge Of Cross-Bearing

Series: Reflections On The Cross


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / September 04, 2016

In his book, The Cruciform Church, C. Leonard Allen bemoans the “low-lighting” or de-emphasizing of the cross.

The sub-title of the book is, “Becoming A Cross-Shaped People In A Secular World”.

In case you are not aware of the meaning of the word, “cruciform”, it means “cross-shaped”.

Leonard Allen writes (p.113) - -

The most pressing question facing Churches of Christ today is the question,

Can we recover the ‘word of the cross’ in its biblical fullness? No other question comes close to this one.

Brother Allen argues that, “This question towers over all other questions for at least two reasons.”

First, he notes that the word of the cross has been significantly displaced in the history of our fellowship.

Over the last 150 years many of our churches have unintentionally pushed the cross into the background.

In promoting the importance of “hearing, believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized” as God’s

“plan of salvation”, we have Inadvertently minimized or marginalized the centrality of the cross. 

If you have been a part of our Cortland Church family for any length of time, you serve as witnesses to the fact

that I have attempted to give due diligence to the preaching of the cross of Christ in my twenty years with you.

It is my frequent prayer that none of us will ever find ourselves saying, “I’m tired of hearing about the cross”.

If you reach that point, it might be time for you to look for another church or to petition for another preacher.

Secondly, Leonard Allen observes that in our present culture,

Jesus’ call to follow the way of the cross has become almost unintelligible. 

He speaks of a Christianity that seems to be flourishing, but notes that it is a Christianity with little room for the cross.

In this regard, I think it is correct to say that the church of our day has been squeezed & dulled by our modern culture.

I would add that sometimes it seems that the church of today is more about “conformity” than it is “cruciformity”.

We will never be a cross-shaped church if we allow the world to shape our thinking.

I have in my library numerous books on the theology of the cross.

With just a few exceptions, most of them fail to speak of the ramifications of bearing our cross in light of His cross.

At some point in time, better sooner rather than later, we all need to ask ourselves a couple of very serious questions.  First - - what is the meaning of the cross of Christ regarding my salvation?  Answering this question Biblically will help us keep prioritized the importance of GOD’S GOODNESS AND GRACE.  The cross has everything to do with our salvation!

Secondly, and this is our focus in this morning’s sermon - - what is the meaning of the cross regarding my sanctification?

What does it mean for the church (for each one of us as Christians) to live under the cross?

Both of these questions are worthy of constant and continual exploration and application.

But it is this latter question that we want to consider this morning.

I want to begin with two key texts.


Now great multitudes were going along with (Jesus); and He turned and said to them.

‘If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and

children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’ 

In many respects we find this statement from Jesus to be both shocking and demanding.

 Perhaps much of the shock-factor centers on that word in vs.26, HATE.

Most of us have come to realize that translated words from one language to another can be challenging.

Years ago Jeannie asked, Albertina Glasgow, Sydney Jeanne’s mother - - who speaks fluent Spanish,

to translate our English street address “Lovers Lane” (we used to live on that street) into Spanish.

Her rendering was quite colorful - - the boulevard of the enamored ones.

As to the meaning of “hate” in Lk.14:26, you probably have a footnote - - i.e., by comparison of our love for Him

Matthew’s gospel gives us some helpful clarification on this passage in Luke.

Mt.10:37 / he who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.

In other words, taking up our cross means that our love for God and Christ must be preeminent.

Few of us would argue that Jesus would be pleased to accept a secondary role in our lives.

Yet Christ must not only have a significant role in our lives, He must have a supreme role.

This is the meaning of “Lordship” - - If Christ is not LORD OF ALL, He is not Lord at all.

We cannot call Jesus “Lord” and then go about our daily lives relegating Him to secondary status.

Our first key text (Lk.14) addresses the preeminence of Christ - - He must hold more sway over us than

any of our earthly relationships - - more than our parents, more than our mates, more than our children,

and more than our siblings.  And we could add:  more than our friends, more than our workmates,

more than our pets, more than our sports heroes, more than anything else we hold near and dear to us.

And note one more “more than” - - vs.26 - - yes, and even OUR OWN LIFE.

Our second key text come from    1Pet.2:21  

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you,

Leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.

In the interest of time we have read just vs.21, but the context shows clearly that

the example to which Peter refers is the manner in which Jesus bore His cross.  cf. 1Pet.2:22-24

What does it mean to worship a crucified God and for the church to live in this world as a cruciform church?

Although we’re highlighting two key texts, Lk.14:26-27 and 1Pet.2:21, there is another text that illuminates these two - - Lk.9:23.  This statement from Jesus is made to His twelve apostles.

The immediate context reveals that Peter was present on this occasion (Lk.9:20).

If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

To follow in the steps of Jesus in bearing our cross we must DENY SELF and this must be done DAILY.

There is nothing ambiguous about these Lucan citations.  There is a clarity here that defies misunderstanding.

In Lk.14:27 Jesus states emphatically that we cannot be His disciple unless we take up our cross.

In Lk.9:23 Jesus states quite plainly that bearing our cross demands that we deny self daily.

Most of us wake up everyday (daily) needing to re-address three big problems:  Me, Myself & I.

Paul reveals the essence of “the cross” in Philp.2:7 when he notes that Jesus EMPTIED HIMSELF.

In Gal.2:20 Paul affirms that the cross of Christ demands that we, too, take up our cross.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that

 I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

Someone may say with a bit of a grim, “we all have our crosses to bear”.

The cross we are called to bear is not just an occasional burden or even a persistent inconvenience.

As Charles Hodge states, A cross is something we “take up” not something we “put up with”.

(The Agony And Glory Of The Cross, p.157)

Bearing our cross is not a negative thing (an act of misery or some form of woe-is-me martyrdom).

Rather, what a JOY it is to walk in the steps of Jesus.  What joy comes from living a self-surrendered life.

All three of John’s brief epistles speak of JOY (cf. 1Jn.1:4;  2Jn.12  and  3Jn.4).

In 1Jn.1:4 he opens his first epistle saying, These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

In 1Jn.2:6 we read - -

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

It is not drudgery to follow in the steps of Jesus - - it is JOY spelled with all caps.

In a minute or two or maybe three we’ll close this sermon with a prayer.

No doubt there are a few of you (perhaps many or even most of you) who are wanting me to spell

out precisely and specifically (in no uncertain terms) what it means for you to die to self.

Don’t ask me to do that!  Don’t ask me to do for you what I am incapable of doing.

And don’t ask me to do for you what you must do for yourself.

Every morning, daily, each one of us needs to wake up to begin a new day, asking ourselves,

“How can I die to self today?” … “How can I better walk in the steps of Jesus?”

You might even start your day with a notebook of “things to do today” that will help me be more Christ-like.

But I must warn you, self-denial and death-to-self is quite often an un-scheduled event.

All throughout your day you will face temptations to avoid or evade your goals and you will likely concoct

some form of rationalization or justification for behaving in ways that you know are not Christ like.

  It might be when someone cuts you off on a highway road.

  It might be when the restaurant server seems to take forever to deliver your meal.

  It might be when a telemarketer calls during supper, or worse yet, during your favorite newscast.

  It might be when a brother or sister in Christ says something or does something that really gets your goat.

  It might be when we have to say no to spending money to buy things you really don’t need and

to purchase a bunch of stuff that ends up owning you rather than you owning it.  cf. Lk.12:21 & 14:33

  It might mean s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-i-n-g what you want to do or prefer to do for what needs to be done in service

to your mate, your children, your brothers & sisters in Christ (your church), your friends and your workmates.

  Cross-bearing comes in many shapes and sizes but it invariably includes Not my will, but Thy will be done.

My task is not to tell you the precise manner of cross-bearing, but rather to tell you that it is a MANDATE.

It is not optional.  It is required.  “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”

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