Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on July 18, 1976
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross,
and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
YOU CAN MEET GOD, because God is a person, and know very little about Him; just as you can meet someone else. The nature of a person is that wherever that person is, he is absolutely there. But it takes some time for a personality to be fully manifested. God is like that, and He has a basis of meeting me and meeting you without us knowing very much about Him. You don’t have to know much theology or understand the ways of God to meet Him.
On the basis of what Christ has done, all you have to do is receive Him and invite Him in. Repent and turn from your way, and say, “Lord, take me as I am. Move in!” And you start walking together. Then the question becomes relevant: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” I knew a man who would not read God’s book for fear he would find something in it that would condemn him. He figured that if he didn’t know what was there, he was safe. He was wrong. God is God and He changes not, and He is not going to go your way just because you invited Him in. The task of Christianity is learning to walk with God.
Some people expect angels to show up to give them a special announcement. They never do. You finally come to the point where the norm of your life is this statement: God will back His Word, He will be on the corner before I get there. The Bible is full of saints who got out of step. This preacher has gotten out of step enough times in his own life to know that you do not automatically walk in step because you have heard something. It is an act of the will to line up with the laws of the Spirit.
Despite what a lot of people think, Jesus never said legions would gather at the gates of the Kingdom. He said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). “Many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16).
Jesus never preached an easy gospel. In a sensory world dominated by self, we are forever trying to change that. We want to somehow find God in a position where He will serve us or make things right for us. Jesus never preached that. He preached a tough gospel.
What I can never accomplish, to make myself right with God, He did for me freely. Grace, charis in the Greek, is “unmerited favor.” God broke the barrier between me and Him. God came to me and removed the penalty of my sin. God did all of that, free. Free! But He did it for a purpose. Grace is free; I can’t buy it and I can’t earn it. He stands ready to give it to me, but He asks something in return: that I give myself to Him. He wants nothing you can give Him apart from yourself. If He did, someone might have something to give that I don’t have. What do you want from someone who loves you, coerced behavior, or freely given devotion? All God wants is you, and He wants you badly enough that He emptied the tank of Heaven and paid the price to buy the whole field that He might get the treasure in the field (Matthew 13:44). What is the treasure? What He never got from Adam, and what He has wanted from the day He created man: someone who in return would give Him their all.
In the New Testament, salvation is synonymous with lordship, not separate. When the jailer at Philippi said, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:30-31). The word for Lord in the Greek is Kurios: total despot and total master.
The Scripture says He sent prophets and servants, and finally He said, “Well, surely they will receive My Son.” They rejected Him, too. But God sent His Son, who paid the price to remove the barrier that had prevented God from taking the treasure out of the field. Until that price was paid, He couldn’t get any of that treasure.
Jesus never offered an easy way. He said, “If any man will come after me, and hate not his father, and his mother, and his wife, and his children, and his brother, and his sister, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). I know you may have heard or read these words many times, but let them settle in. He meant it. “Any man” includes this preacher and every one of you. There are no exceptions.
Matthew puts it in a different frame. He looks at it from the other side. Jesus says, “He that prefereth father, mother, children, his own life, is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). No center of demand or claim on my life can take preeminence.
There will never come a day when you can live in a vacuum and only have one demand made upon you. As long as you are a citizen of a country, you have to deal with the government or suffer the consequences. You have job demands, you have family demands, you have many demands. But Jesus drives a nail right in the center and hangs up the ultimate demand. He says there is not to be any demand that will be prior to Him.
Ultimately, you have to sort it out. I don’t care how dear that loved one is to you, if someone comes between you and the Lord, or can make a demand on you that has more pull than the Lord Himself, Jesus says he that allows that “cannot be my disciple.” Do you know what a disciple is? The word translated disciple means “learner” in the Greek. As long as you allow those demands to lay a greater claim on you than the Lord, you cannot even start to learn, much less can you get well into the journey. “And whosever doth not bear his cross,” his cross, “and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
Then, lest there is any residue of doubt, He says, “Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” Jesus tells it the way it is. He wouldn’t recognize the way we sugarcoat His demands in today’s world. He says, “What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet them that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”
By implication, He is saying, “Don’t come after me unless you count the cost.” Then He names it: “So likewise, whosever he be of you that foresaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-33). In love I want to lift out of God’s book a fact that is oft times missed, that Jesus was pretty tough. He laid down a stringent demand, and in the heart of that demand, He said, “he that taketh not his cross and cometh after me cannot be my disciple.”
What is my cross? Jesus didn’t tell me to bear His. He did a good job bearing His. He told me to bear mine. I see more confusion in the church world about cross-bearing, and yet Jesus talked about it many times and laid it down as a necessary condition to following Him. My cross is not His cross. Cross-bearing is at the very center of our subject today. Whatever else my cross will be, it won’t be His, but it will be like His.
First, the cross will not be intrinsically desirable. Some people want to make everything in Christianity attractive. Don’t ever expect to get enough of God in your system that you are going to want the cross, because the cross involves self-denial. “Let him deny himself,” Jesus said, “and take up his cross” (Mark 8:34). The cross directly contradicts what I naturally want, because all a cross is good for is to die on.
But if it is like Jesus’ cross, it will not just involve self-denial per se. That’s the error of exaggerated penance. Some people think God takes delight in suffering, and if you beat yourself up enough or it you suffer enough or put yourself in a painful enough circumstance, that qualifies as your cross. No. It involves denial of yourself to His self. Jesus’ cross only made sense because that was God’s assignment to Him. That was God’s will for Him. Only He could die on a hill and redeem the world. The suffering itself had relevance because it was God’s plan for His Son; my cross is going to involve me in denying myself for His will. That is the essence of it.
Second, if my cross is like His, it is going to involve me in that expression of God’s will that is redemptive in its purpose. This is heavy theology, but it is really very simple: when He denied Himself to do the will of the Father and make that trip to Calvary, He did what only He could do to redeem a world that was lost. Just as He did what only He could do, there is something that each of you can do that only you can do. I believe there will never be another you in eternity. I have heard preachers say, “If you don’t do it, somebody else will.” The job itself may get done, but what you could do won’t be done.
Paul says, concerning the body of Christ, “If we were all an eye, where were the hearing? If we were all an ear, where were the smelling? If we were all one member, where were the body?” (1st Corinthians 12:17-19) This teaches positively that every unit of this body of Christ, which we have become when we turn from our self and let Him inhabit us, has its own unique relationship. You are important if you are willing to deny yourself to His will as Jesus did. He let Himself be spent and used, that the will of God to redeem fallen man might involve Him in His task on Calvary.
You will do a lot of things in the Kingdom: you will minister to the Lord, and you will grow in the image of Christ. But there is still a world that is lost, and Jesus came to seek and to save that world. The cross will involve me, painful though it may be, in doing His will in redeeming this lost world. And the cross will involve me in individually doing His will. I can’t leave it up to my neighbor. Only He could die on Calvary; only you can make your contribution.
We need to separate the suffering of the cross from the spiritual meaning of the cross. The suffering of the cross had meaning because it was necessary to what only He could do in the redemption of men. The nails, the crown of thorns, the pierced side, that was the suffering that was a necessary accompaniment to His particular cross. You can duplicate the prints in your hands and in your feet until Jesus comes, as some saints have tried to do, and it will save nobody.
We are told to be a “living sacrifice,” (Romans 12:1) to turn from ourselves and take this selfish vessel which we all are and say, “Here, Lord, take it. Take it to the point of death to be used in Your will for the redemption of mankind.” That commitment is going to have suffering associated with it.
Your cross may be being the kind of mother you have to be to your family. Our cross will be whatever we have to do to further this ministry. There is no dignity in suffering itself, but whatever pain goes along with being a redemptive instrument in God’s will for my life, that is my suffering of the cross. We make it too mystical as we hunt for something great. I want to bring it down to where we live.
Finally, it is voluntary. Lots of people give dignity to what is ordinary suffering. “Oh, the cross has been heavy,” they say. The only suffering in your life that qualifies as the suffering of the cross is that which accompanies your voluntary commitment to God’s will. Jesus said, “If any man will come after
me . . . “ (Luke 9:23) The suffering that you had nothing to do with, just call it suffering, but don’t call it suffering of the cross.
Jesus could have avoided it. He said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass form me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). You have to choose the cross. It is not forced on you. And when you choose to give your life to God, along with that commitment to be used in His redemptive plan, you take the suffering.
In Exodus 25, “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.” Do you know what it says in Exodus 35? “Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass.” God says in 2nd Corinthians 9, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Do you know what the literal is in the Greek? “God loveth a hilarious giver.”
Jesus agonized until He settled it and willingly He went to Calvary. Willingly I do this work that God has called me to do, and like Paul, I would say, “If I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if unwillingly, nevertheless a dispensation,” a stewardship, “of the gospel is delivered unto me” (1st Corinthians 9:17). Do you know what the dictionary calls a steward? A steward is somebody in charge of estates or things not his own. Isn’t that what a Christian is? Our life is not our own. In its Latin roots, the word sacrifice means “to make something sacred.”
Some people don’t like to talk about money. They don’t think it’s spiritual; it’s filthy lucre.” But one-third of Jesus’ parables and one-sixth of the verses in the Gospels deal with man’s use of his possessions. Paul talks about the Resurrection and then says, “Now concerning the collection” (1st Corinthians 16:1). Churches have always dealt with money. Money is the fruit of agony, sweat and toil. We can give ourselves to God, if we give sacrificially in the right frame.
Re-printed with Pastor Melissa Scott’s permission
A Note from Margaret
I keep feeling a need to explain the message I wrote last month. It would seem that many of you did not understand the depth of meaning of the parable in Matthew 13. Most of the world thinks that it is within our power to accept or reject Christ. The thinking is “when I get old, or just before I die, then I will give my life to God.”
First of all, it is not your life to give. Yes, God gave us a free will to choose, but we won’t choose His way unless He draws us first. Another way of explaining that is, unless He prepares our “soil” to receive His message and produce fruit, it won’t be done.
The seed that these flowers were planted with had to die in order to produce something beautiful. The Apostle Paul said, “I die daily.” Our “self-life” has to die in order to produce life eternal.
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