Take Up Your Cross And Follow Jesus

by Mike Ratliff

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)

The Church is in the midst of a Truth War. That is nothing new is it? We have been talking about this for quite some time; however, we must remain diligent while not surrendering the fight over what is Truth and what is not to the enemies of God’s Truth. The reason the visible church is being eaten alive by world right now is that it has long ago forsaken God’s Word as His infallible Truth. The result is the compromised mess we see all around us now. Why is it that Rick Warren and his followers have such a hold on the visible church? Their paper-thin, worldly theology is geared to be man-pleasing and non-offensive by being sanitized with the removal of those things like the doctrines of the Total Depravity of Man, Justification by Faith, and then there is that bloody cross of Christ and why our Lord deliberately laid down His life there. You will not hear about any of that in those compromised churches because that might offend someone. What about those people comfortable in their religiosity, we couldn’t have them suddenly come under conviction that they are filthy sinners in need of a Saviour and the only way to be Justified by Faith is through that bloody Cross, taking it up and following Jesus Christ as Lord. Oh, no we cannot have that, let us sanitize it up and make it easy so people can come to us and be comfortable in their religiosity so our churches can be large and growing. 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 ESV)

From where did Peter learn who Jesus really was? Here is v17 from the NA27 Greek text, “ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ᾽ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.” The words the ESV rendered as “has not revealed this” are οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν. The word οὐκ or ouk is an ‘absolute negative.’ The words “revealed this” translates ἀπεκάλυψέν which is the 3rd person, Aorist, Indicative, Active form of ἀποκαλύπτω or apokaluptō, which, in this case especially, is used to reveal something that is now known by divine revelation. Notice that this verb structure makes it absolutely certain that Peter received this by God’s divine hand and Peter had nothing to do with it except that he received it.  Again, what did Peter learn about who Jesus is? He is “…the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Notice also in v20 who is still Lord and who is not.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21-23 ESV)

If this is not a picture of what those in the visible church who are professing Christians, but who are not really “of Him” are all about then I don’t know what is. Look at it. Peter just made this right confession based on a revelation from God, but now he reveals that his focus is not on the things of God, but on the things of man and so even tries to change the purpose for why Christ came in the first place. Fortunately, he was rebuked by the Lord and repented, but we have so many in our time who refuse to listen and are all about trying to change the mission of the Church and even saying Jesus didn’t come to die on that Cross to redeem a people for Himself, but only to show us a better way, et cetera. Those who teach such nonsense are not of Christ and are not part of the Kingdom.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28 ESV)

Lest we forget, to our Lord’s disciples, the Cross would have evoked a picture of a violent, degrading death. This is a demand for total commitment from them—even unto physical death. Back in Matthew 10 our Lord said:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

Do you see how standing firm in God’s Truth will cause each of us to experience persecution of one form or another from nearly every part of our lives? However, the demand remains. We are to take up our own cross and follow Christ. As we make this commitment, we are turning our lives over to Him to use them for His sake. Our minds will be then on the things of God rather than on the things of man and we will be God focused in our ministries rather than man-focused. Our Lord promised that we would never be the majority if we do this. We will never conquer the world. No, we will always be the minority and even be hated by those who claim to be Christians.

Soli Deo Gloria!

8 thoughts on “Take Up Your Cross And Follow Jesus

  1. Amen, Mike. The Lord said if they hated Me they will hate you and that a servant is not greater than his Master. But it seems people do not believe this as they do not want to believe this. They think they have a better way to promote Christianity by getting the world to love them….but that is not Christ’s way.

    God bless you, Mike and thank you for this.

  2. Thanks Mike, real good stuff. Reading the word and it’s good exposition is like sweet fruit, fresh everyday.

  3. Hi dear brother :-)
    You share great, stern truths here.

    There is nothing more difficult than facing persecution from someone in your family who you love dearly and want to see saved, who hates you because of your message of Christ. It is in the experience of pain during such close persecution that you begin to understand the depth of what taking up your cross entails in your daily life and that you cannot carry it in your own strength, but only in His. We also have to understand that it is Christ in us who is hated, (they don’t always know this) that we do not have to be offended by anyone and that for us to take offence is not expected by the Lord. As long as we get upset and offended by people’s responses to the Gospel, we are still self-conscious and not really Christ-conscious and we need to ask the Lord to change us around.

    Our minds are very wilful, and in 2 Cor 10:2-5, Paul tells us this: 2But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

    3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

    4(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

    5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

    So we can, in and through Christ our Lord, bring each thought into captivity and in making a good ‘habit’ of this, our minds can be kept on things from above. When we walk with Him, we want to do nothing that will disappoint or hurt Him, but want to love and obey Him in everything we do. If He is Lord in our lives, this can be done and though we may fail Him at times, He is merciful and it is something the Lord wants to bring about in us.

    Bless you Mike
    In Christ, Steph

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