Taking up your cross

Luke 9:18-23

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”

19They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.”

20And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”

21But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone,

22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”

23And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Jesus starts by asking a simple question, “Who do the people say that I am?” Peter answers by saying the people think that Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah, a little different than what we would expect.

Why did people think that Jesus was one of these people?
What did John the Baptist do that would make him seem like Christ?
He walked with God and delivered God’s message.
What did Elijah do that would make him seem like Christ?
He walked with God.

Whose will and mission were these men trying to accomplish, their own? NO, these men were focused entirely on doing the will of the Lord at all costs.

So again, why did the crowd think that Jesus was one of these men? They all lived lives that reflected the will of God as number one.

If they were able to live this type of life without the Holy Spirit, then how much more should we be reflecting the will of the Father with the Holy Spirit indwelling our lives and helping us out?

The next question that Jesus asks is a lot more personal. He asked “Who do *you* say that I am?”
Peter replies by saying “the Christ of God”

What did this mean? Christ wasn’t a name. It was a title meaning messiah or God’s anointed one. Paul was making a confession that he believed that Jesus is God’s chosen Person sent to redeem all of humanity, not just in man’s eyes, but God’s. “the Christ of God” Jesus is sent by God to do His will.

Verse 23 describes three things that we need to come after Jesus.

Deny self – Do not be centered on yourself. Following God means that He is number one in your life, not that you are number one in God’s will. Deny yourself completely, because putting God first and yourself second is still going to distract you from God’s will. You are not a priority at all. If you are focusing on yourself at all then you are not focused fully on God.

Take up your cross – A cross is not a fashion statement. It isn’t meant to be just something you wear around your neck on a necklace. A cross is the unrelenting symbol of death. Where in this verse does it say that if we follow God then we will be blessed with riches and great health and a perfect body? NEVER! Following Christ means we take up our cross and die to ourselves and to the world daily and live only to accomplish the will of the Father at any cost.

Follow Christ – Only after we have died to ourselves can we follow Christ.

Christians, you have a job to do, and it is one that is more important than anything in your life currently.

Evangelizing is super important and we all need to do it, but I’m talking about more than that.

How can we witness to others if we are not following God?
How can we, if our lives do not reflect Christ’s?

John the Baptist and Elijah followed God in their daily lives to the point where people thought Jesus was one of them. How about your life? Does it reflect a life of someone who is truly following God? Or does your life look like everyone else’s?

I heard a frightening saying that I fully believe in.

The number one cause of athiesm in the world today is Christians, who confess Jesus with their lips, but deny him by their lifestyle. – DC Talk

You may be eternally secure in your relationship to God, but how many people are going to hell because they are sickened by or tired of our hypocritical lives?

I know a lot of people who do not believe in God but were raised in church or Christian homes and saw the hypocrisy. Everybody from their parents, church members, deacons, and even pastors did not take up their cross or live lives that reflected Jesus. And now, as a result, many people are athiests and going to hell because of it.

Who can blame them?

How many people are drawn to or turned away from Christianity because of your lifestyle while you claim to follow God? I’m not talking about living perfectly, but does your life reflect the life of Jesus so that others can “see” Him through your life and actions?

The Greatest in the Kingdom

Mark 9:33-42

v.33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?”

v.34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.

v.35And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

-Jesus is not saying that those who promote themselves will be punished by being made last. He’s saying that among His followers, greatness is not found in seeking the highest position, but the lowest.

-Earthly social status does not translate into the values of the Kingdom. In God’s kingdom, power and greatness are polar opposites to the ideas of the world.

-Billy Graham is seen as a very great man (as indeed he is). But I wonder, if the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven will not be the huge evangelists that we know about”¦.I wonder if the greatest will in fact be those grandmas or those daughters unknown to the media who labored in prayer for these teachers, that the Spirit would use these evangelists and empower their words. I wonder if these “prayer warriors” who worked “behind the scenes” spiritually”¦I wonder if these in fact will be seen as the greatest.

-In the world, greatness is all about how many serve you. In the Kingdom, greatness is about how many you serve.

-And that’s why Jesus is the greatest of all - He is the servant of all.

v.36 He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms,

-Notice this”¦Jesus called for a child then wrapped His arms around the child, making the child feel safe and comfortable in the midst of all these guys.

He said to them, v.37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

-Children were considered by the men of that culture to be a bother. It was the duty of women to keep children away from adult men. Jewish men gave off an air of superiority that alienated children. However, not Jesus!

-We read that parents brought their children to Jesus to be blessed by Him because they knew He loved the little ones. Here He’s seen with His arms wrapped around this child in a tender and affectionate embrace.

-When a crowd of kids was pressing to get near Jesus, the disciples tried to turn them away. They thought that was their job, to keep the riff-raff away from the important Messiah. But Jesus rebuked them saying, “Do not forbid them, for it is of these that the Kingdom of God is comprised.”

v.38 John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”

v.39 Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.

v.40 he who is not against us is on our side.”

-While the disciples who followed Jesus had lost their spiritual edge and were unable to cast the demon out in vs. 14-29, they encountered a guy who was not one of the Twelve who had taken the lesson of Jesus to heart and was casting demons out of the afflicted. The disciples told him to stop it since he wasn’t one of the official Twelve. Jesus told them they were incorrect - let the guy go on.

-The kingdom of God was bigger than their narrow experience of it and God has servants in many places they were not aware of.

v.41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

-Anything done in the Name of Christ, that is indeed consistent with the will of God, will not go unrewarded.

-This is an important word for those of us who like to draw tight little lines around the Kingdom of God, settling in to an Us/Them mindset. Denominations, movements, groups, factions, and labels do not define the Church.

-The Church is made up of all those, regardless of color, culture, ethnicity, and even denominational label, who genuinely believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

-Jesus makes it clear here that we ought to be far more concerned with the things that unite us than the things we disagree on. But, throughout history, it seems the opposite has been the case.

v.42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

-Jesus says this as His arms are still wrapped around that child.

-Not only is greatness defined by sensitivity to the weak and needy, the least and last, but those who ABUSE the weak and needy, and who cause them to turn away from God because of their poor example, well, according to Jesus, it would be preferable if they drowned in the deepest sea before such a thing should happen!

-Because our example has such a powerful impact on others, Jesus gives a sobering word of warning about the imperative of practical holiness. This will be covered in another study, “The Danger of Compromise.”

Adapted from a study by Pastor Lance Ralston of Calvary Chapel of Oxnard.

Christ: The Ultimate Priest

Hebrews 7:23-25 “23Another difference is that there were many priests under the old system. When one priest died, another had to take his place. 24But Jesus remains a priest forever; his priesthood will never end. 25Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save completely everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf.”

-God never intended the Judaism of the past to be the final or full revelation of His plan or will for them. Judaism set the stage for a new covenant, which would be brought in by the Messiah. Until Messiah came, Judaism came short of the bar and was confined to rituals and laws which all pointed forward to the Word of the Messiah who would bring full growth and allow them to enter into what Judaism could only point toward and prepare for.

-Here in chapter 7 of Hebrews, the writer is showing how Jesus serves as a priest from an order of priests which is vastly superior to the priesthood of Israel. One of the reasons Jesus is a superior priest to the priests who had served Israel is because He has risen from the dead and so serves continually, which is not something the Israeli priests were capable of doing. As John MacArthur states, “The . . . priests had what might be called the ultimate disqualification for permanent ministry: death! None of them could serve indefinitely. Each died and had to be succeeded in order for the priesthood to continue.”

-For the Jews under the Old Covenant, their approach to God was only through a substitutionary sacrifice that would be offered by a priest to God on their behalf. But the problem with that were the questions of what if the priest took their offering to God with a distracted mind or cold heart, or what if the priest was tired or ill or just out of sheer boredom used shortcuts in the procedure that would dishonor the holiness of God? Also, not all the priests served with integrity, some were corrupt and defiled the office, thus the priesthood changed from priest to priest, and as a result, the quality of spiritual life among the people changed as well!

-The writer of Hebrews is saying here that because Jesus has risen from the dead, never to die – his priesthood continues on, unchanging. What makes this especially comforting is that His priesthood, His service as our high priest is perfect! The sacrifice He brings before The Father on our behalf isn’t merely the blood of some bull or goat, which just covered over sin temporarily, it is His own precious blood which purges and washes us as white as snow and removes our sin as far from us as the east is from the west!

-Jesus is serving even now as our great high priest and as Christians we can have full assurance that the service He performs before The Father is totally acceptable to Him. Therefore because Jesus continues forever and abides in the office of our Great High Priest – from that office and position – He is able to save! To what extent does His salvation go? To the uttermost, all the way, completely, entirely, without distraction, with nothing left undone. It doesn’t matter WHO you are or WHAT you have done, Jesus is able to save you, completely!
He who framed the universe with one word He is able to save you and I.

-He has the power to affect all that that word salvation means, to heal, to deliver from danger, to protect and preserve, and to make complete and whole.

-The moment we turn from our sin and put our faith in Christ, we are saved from the penalty of our sin. Now, as we abide in Christ, we are being saved from the power of sin and when Christ comes again, we will be saved from the very presence of sin! What a hope and a freedom we have!

-There is no salvation from sin but faith in Jesus Christ! Not only is Jesus the only hope, the only way of salvation, but now that He has risen from the dead, He lives on, making continual and constant intercession for us before the Father. Unlike the priests of old who entered the presence behind the veil, performed their service then left, Jesus has sat down at the right hand of God and from that position of favor He intercedes on our behalf. Romans 8:34 “Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus? No, for he is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us.”

-There’s a story I heard about a mother who told her son to go into the garden and pick some flowers to make a nice arrangement for his father when he got home from work. The boy collected everything that caught his eye and returned with a mass of both flowers and weeds. But when the father come home, he was greeted by a beautiful bouquet! You see, the mother’s tender care had removed the weeds and arranged the flowers. This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus does with our prayers. How often we bring “weeds” in with the “flowers” of our prayers before God, but Jesus knows our hearts and knows the Father’s will, so He arranges our requests and presents them to the Father in a manner the Father is both blessed by and moves to answer. How fortunate we are to have such a wonderful high priest acting on our behalf!

-We need not be so concerned about the wording of our prayers because Jesus intercedes for us always and He takes our prayers and presents them to the Father as a beautiful bouquet!

-Jesus not only makes intercession for us with His words; He also intercedes for us with His wounds! If you went to the house of a former great sports player, like Joe Namath, and you sat on his couch and he said, “I was a great football player,” there would be no debate…all the trophies surrounding him would prove that. In the same way Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father; His wounds the evidence He is a great Savior!

-Jesus makes intercession for more than just our prayers, He intercedes for us! when we fail, when we fall and sin, He is right there at the Father’s side to ensure we may obtain mercy and find grace. So, Christian, embrace this freedom and this intercession and praise and thank Jesus for His wonderful sacrifice and His continuing work on our behalf!

Why was Jesus Baptized?

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Baptism was not a new thing to Jewish society back then. It was used in the Old Testament for Gentiles during their conversion to Judaism as being symbolic of sloughing off their old ways and accepting their new faith. However, John the Baptist’s baptism was different than the accepted reason. He baptized Jews to “prepare the way” for the coming Messiah. He told them they WERE living in sin (most of the Jews back then believed that just because they were born Jewish, they would get to heaven) and they needed to recognize the fact that they were not saved and they needed to repent.

If Jesus was sinless, and did not need to repent of any sin…why did He choose to be baptized?

Because He came to this earth to identify with those who were living in sin (all humankind). His baptism was just another way he could identify with those who were living sinful lifestyles and needed repentance. Did He have anything He needed to repent of? No! Did Christ’s baptism mean He had sinned and needed to repent to the Father? No! But, Christ needed to identify with all humankind in all our struggles in order to be fully able to sympathize with our plight and help us (be our intercessor in heaven) after He would die and sit on the right hand of the Father (God). How can someone truly understand what you have to go through or are going through unless they’ve been in your situation themselves? That’s what Christ set out to do. And His baptism was just another example of His compassion for us.

It Came to Pass

Luke 2:1-7 “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register. 4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

-God is at work in our lives in a life-long process of working our very being into the image of Jesus Christ. When it seems your spiritual life is dead and you’re not growing, it is good to remember that God is faithful and what He has begun He will complete (as verse 24 in 1 Thess. tells).

Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We Christians are God’s workmanship. We can find comfort in this fact when we go through hard times because this verse helps us remember that all things that are happening to us are just molding us more into what and who God created us to be.

-Just as God moved mountains to fulfill the prophecy of His Son Jesus Christ, so He “moves mountains” for us in our lives. In Micah 5:2, it was prophesied that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Joseph (Jesus’ earthly father) had been born in Bethlehem too, but did not currently reside there when Mary became pregnant with Christ. It would take a census to cause Joseph to leave Nazareth and come to Bethlehem, and that is exactly what happened.

-God stirred up a crisis throughout the Roman Empire during that time which troubled Augustus and caused him to want to decree a census. This crisis was made to happen so that the prophecy of Christ being born in Bethlehem could be fulfilled. During the census, everyone had to go back to his hometown (since Mary was married to Joseph, she would be counted as a citizen of Bethlehem too). Interestingly, this call to a census happened just before Mary was set to give birth. You see, God “moved” the entire Roman Empire just because of one Jewish woman who was pregnant with the Messiah.

-Just as God was faithful in fulifilling each Old Testament prophecy about the first coming of the Messiah, so God is faithful in fulfilling His plans for YOU in your life. Just as God “made mountains move” in the Roman Empire, so too He sets the world stage so that He can fulfill His promise to you.

-Just like when John in Revelation saw the causes in heaven before the world saw the effects, so too the events that happen in heaven, we see the effects of here on earth. God is moving events in the entire earth just so He can fulfill His promises to His children.

-God’s words and promises in the Bible are like seeds planted in the soil of time. Just like seeds planted in soil, so do we know that the “seeds” of God’s future promises will sprout and grow. God’s promises and His revelations to us through the prophecies are true and sure. They WILL happen.

-He who calls you is faithful and He WILL do what He says. God calls us to do one thing, to surrender to Him, and He will take care of the rest. As Philippians 1:6 states, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

-God began a good work in you and He WILL complete it. As 1 Corinthians 2:9 states, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”. So don’t lose heart when it seems like you’re going nowhere in your spiritual walk. You are still “under construction” and the paint may still be wet. But just as God moved the entire Roman Empire to fulfill His promises to the world through His son, so too will God “move mountains” in your life to fulfill His promises to you.