Maturity is Our Mission
I cannot say it any better than to just give you the SCriptures and a summation of a message given bySteven Lawson. Please take time to listen to the message at the end of this devotion you will be challenged like never before.
Luke 14:25-35 (NIV)
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.
27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,
30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
The dead are raised, sins are forgiven, judgments against us are dismissed, everything that opposed us in our being made right with God was destroyed, all of satan’s minions and demons set against us were rendered powerless.
This my friends is something no power on earth could ever accomplish. Everything that stood against you and your relationship with God has now been destroyed and it no longer has any power over you. The only thing that prevents you from experiencing the deep abiding love of God is your own ability to believe it to be true.
For the past twelve days, I have had the sheer joy of carrying a cross through the streets of Chicago. At first, it was rather cumbersome and unwieldy but as I continued to carry it, it has become a friend. As we carry this cross through the streets of Chicago we are having many people stop us and comment on the cross. Heads turn as we walk by some look approving others not so much.
To identify with Christ as we carry the cross is one of the most powerful and freeing experiences I have ever had. The cross has changed me and it can change you if you embrace it and decide to carry it. It is your only hope.
Decide today to no longer live for yourself but for the one who died and rose again from the dead for you. The power of the cross is waiting for you to pick it up.
Philippians 3:18 (NIV)
18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
What does it mean to live as an enemy of the cross of Christ? Paul wrote these words from a prison cell in Rome. From this cell, he wrote to the Philippian church to tell them that it was given to them not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him.
Suffering is not something any human naturally runs toward or embraces. Most of us work hard to find a way to relieve pain and hardship in our lives. This concept of suffering as a Christian is foreign to most who live in the western world. We consider suffering a bad thing and something to be avoided at all cost. What Paul is writing in this little book is surprising to many who had taken up the name of Christian. They had embraced the faith because of the benefits of the faith; sins being forgiven, having a home in heaven, experiencing the joy of the Lord, etc.
Paul writes to correct this notion that the Christian faith is to be considered a pain free positive life. Hardship and suffering were things of the past because Christ has redeemed us from every painful part of living in a fallen world. At least that is what many who were proclaiming Christ in Paul’s absence were teaching.
When Paul heard that some were teaching Christ as a means to a life free from suffering and pain was to denigrate the cross and what Jesus had come to do.
They were teaching that Jesus was not a way back to the Father but a way to be free from the burden of guilt and a way to enjoy this life. He was only a means not the end itself. The cross was seen as some sort of magical formula to find an easy life and pain-free existence, it was not the door to enter into a full and abundant relationship with God.
Those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ have their mind set on how the Christian life can help them find a better life now not point them toward the everlasting pleasure of knowing God. The cross was a talisman to ward off evil spirits and repel curses so they could now live full and free lives here and now. There was no focus on the coming kingdom when sin and death would be destroyed and when we will live in unbroken relationship with God.
Characteristics of those how live as enemies of the cross of Christ as follows:
Characteristics of those who follow Christ:
1. Their citizenship is in heaven. They long for the day when our Savior will return and take us to be with him. This consumes them, this subject animates everything they do. They find they are often homesick for heaven. Sin brings grief because they no longer want to live in this way, they long to be with the author in unbroken fellowship.
2. They eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. With each passing day, they long more and more to be with the Father so they can enjoy his presence and gaze on his beauty.
Examine yourself to see if you are an enemy or a friend of the Cross.
this video may help you to understand how to live as a friend of the Cross.
1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For the past nine days, we have been walking through the streets of Chicago carrying a cross. We have been the brunt of many jokes and have had several rather caustic remarks made about the fools who have been dragging a cross through the streets.
Not all have had that response. Several have stopped, got out of their vehicles, come over to us and told us they were convicted of their need to live more for Christ than they had been. It was seeing the cross that brought those thoughts to the surface. Yesterday on our way to Uptown Baptist Church a forty-seven-year-old woman, dressed in professional designer clothes asked us if she could carry the cross.
Hannah and I put the cross on her shoulders and she began to carry the cross down the street. As she was carrying the cross she just prayed over and over, “Thank you for the Cross, Jesus, Thank you for the Cross.” She carried it for about one block. At the end of the block, I helped her to put the cross down and she looked at us and said that was one of the most spiritual experiences she had had in a long time. She thanked us and then I asked her to pray for us as we continued our way through the city.
As we made our way toward Uptown we passed by a college preparatory high school. It was one of the largest and most elite schools in the city. As we stood outside this high school during their lunch hour we had several hundred students pass by the cross. We sought to engage the students with the gospel but soon discovered they had no interest in the message we had come to bring. Most looked at us like we were a couple of fools doing something ridiculous. There were a few who took our tracts but no kind words were offered only looks of disdain mostly.
Why does the cross cause such reaction? Paul said it best, “the preaching of the cross of foolishness to those who are lost but it is the power of God to those who are being saved.”
Which response do you most often give when you think about the cross?
Rejoicing in the Cross of our Lord,
Matthew 27:32 (KJV)
32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
It was in the garden that Jesus sweat great drops of blood. It was there that he tried to find another way besides the cross to redeem his chosen ones. It was in the garden that he watched as all of his disciples forsake him and flee and one of his closest friends betrayed him with a kiss.
From the garden, he would be falsely accused of blasphemy, spit on, beaten with clubs, stripped naked and scourged until the blood ran from the wounds on his back. He would be subjected to several mock trials made to make him look like a baffoon. He would be laughed at and ridiculed and scorned and even openly rejected by his own disciples.
He would then be presented to the crowd to be crucified. At that point, he would have had the cross piece of the cross fastened to his arms and a rope tied around his waist. He would then be led through the streets of the city to be made a mockery and be ridiculed by the townspeople along the way to Golgotha.
His body would be wasted from the loss of blood and his strength would be gone. For him to take another step would be extremely difficult. As the other criminals condemned to die that day he would have had a rope tied around his waist and he would be pulled through the streets like a common slave. If he stumbled he would have no way to cushion his fall on them in the streets. His face would have fallen full force on the rocky path. He could not pick himself up because his arms would have been tied to the crosspiece of the cross. The guard who led him through the city would have to stop and pick him up so he could continue to the trek to Calvary.
After several falls it would be quite apparent it would take all day to get to Golgotha so someone from the crowd would have to be compelled to carry his cross. The guard would have searched the crowd for someone who looked like they could perform the task. A man named Simon from Cyrene was found and the guard pulled him out of the crowd and made him carry the cross.
The cross piece would have been untied from Jesus’ arms and placed on Simon’s shoulders to carry. When Simon stooped down to pick up the cross he would have seen the open wounds on the body of Christ. It would’ve Simon to reach the conclusion that no man could have lived with the wounds Jesus had in his body. His body was so disfigured you could hardly see any resemblance of a human form.
Surely it would have entered Simon’s mind what crime has this man done that he has been so beaten beyond recognition? The other criminals being crucified were not so disfigured like this man. What crime did this man commit that would bring about such brutal treatment.?
As Simon picked up the cross he would have heard the ridicule of the crowd and other guards along the way. There would be one thing he would not have heard though and this is what would raise the biggest question. This man, beaten beyond recognition, did not say a word in response. He was like a lamb before his shearers, silent before his accusers.
Possibly he would have caught the eye of Christ at least once or twice and he would have seen the compassion flowing from his eyes through the blood and sweat and tears. “Who is this man?” would have been the question Simon would have entertained.
Perhaps Simon would have experienced the gaze of Christ towards him. He would have felt embarrassed, confused, perplexed. He would have seen the love of Christ flowing towards him and maybe even heard these words from Jesus, “Thank you for carrying my cross.”
Something may have happened on the road to Calvary that day. At first, Simon was compelled to carry the cross, but now after seeing Jesus look at him, Simon embraced the cross as his own. He began to hold it as a trophy, a pearl of great price, a treasure he had been looking for all of his life.
The crowd would have observed the transformation come over Simon. Instead of carrying the cross under compulsion he now embraced the cross and held it with pride and gratitude and joy.
Wait, wait, wait. How could this be? An instrument of death was now being embraced by a stranger to this parade. His countenance was transfigured before the crowds. His steps were lighter, there was a growing joy as they drew nearer to Golgotha.
Mark records the names of Simon’s two sons, Rufus and Alexander. Rufus is referred to later in Romans 16, along with his mother. Why would Mark include these names in his gospel if not to illustrate what happens when people pick up the cross of Christ and carry it as a way of life.
We do not have any definitive work that indicates what happened to Simon after he carried the cross of Christ on Golgotha but I will conjecture here. This past week I, along with a few others, have carried an eighty-pound cross through the streets of Chicago and experienced the remarks of those who pass by and the stares of people thinking we are fools for doing such a thing.
There is something powerful in carrying a cross through the streets of a great city. You feel the weight of the cross. You feel the difficulty of pulling it through the streets. With each step you take you are reminded of what Jesus willingly suffered for you and the suffering of the cross becomes more personal.
It is my contention that one cannot carry a cross for long without being changed by it. I for one think Simon was so altered by the carrying of Jesus’ cross that he was never the same. Even his own family was converted because of Simon’s carrying the cross. We hear about his wife and his children from Mark and Paul.
Could it be that Christ compels you to carry his cross so that your family would be changed along with your own life?
I for one can say that what began as a compelling from the Lord is no longer a compelling but a passion.
May you feel the compelling of the Lord to pick up your cross and follow him no matter what.
Luke 9:23-25 (NIV)
23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
Galatians 6:14 (NIV)
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
The cross in Jesus day was an instrument of death and death of the most gruesome kind. How is it that he chose this picture as a way to invite others to follow him? Who would ever choose an electric chair as a symbol of what you get when you chose to follow them? Something must be hidden in this symbol of death that Jesu calls us to pick up.
What does the cross remind us of? What pictures come to mind when you think of the cross? I first see death, death in all of its ugliness and horror. But as I continue to meditate on the cross something else begins to slowly come into focus. I see all of my sins, all of my failings, all of my moments of rebellion and wickedness rise to the surface and come into full view on the cross. I see a hideous picture of what my sin truly is and looks like. I see it for all of its gruesome evil.
O, but dear Saint of God, I see something else come into view on the cross. I see all of my sin slowly being covered over by something far more glorious. I see the perfect spotless Lamb of God being placed on that cross and I see his blood flowing down over all my sin. As the blood flows, I hear my savior cry out, “Father forgive him he does not know what he is doing.”
Something now more marvelous than words can describe begins to take place. In the place where my sin once was in clear view, I see a spotless radiant light burning up the record of my sin, it continues to burn brightly with a white heat that is hotter than any furnace on earth could be heated. As I contemplate the cross all the things of this world that held me down, all the things that stole life from me are slowly burned up, my chains are melted away, the rags of my own filthiness are consumed by the white-hot fire of God’s holiness.
As the nails are driven in my savior’s body I find my hands now free. As the sword pierces my savior’s side all the vile evil that lies within now flows out to be destroyed by his wounded side. My heart is free to love him, my hands are free to praise him, my feet are free to dance.
Dear Saints, let us embrace the cross today as that which destroys the things of the world that hold us down and let us rejoice and revel in is Cross by which the world and all of its power is burned up.
Someone once said it this way, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I am free at least!”
Embracing the Cross and all of its glory,
Matthew 27:26 (NIV)
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Matthew 27:15-16 (HCSB)
15 At the festival the governor’s custom was to release to the crowd a prisoner they wanted.
16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. (Some ancient manuscripts have the name as Jesus bar Abbas).
The ancient manuscripts include the full name of Barabbas. It is very interesting to see that the meaning of Jesus bar Abbas translates as Jesus, son of the Father. Jesus the messiah takes the place of a son of the Father who had strayed. How so otherworldly for this transaction to take place. The one guilty son was exchanged for the pure and spotless son.
Here in this very brief record of the crowd calling for the release of Jesus bar Abbas and have Jesus, the Messiah take his place is the perfect picture of the gospel for us.
We were the ones who had run from God. We were the ones who had rebelled all our life. We were the ones that rightly deserved death but just as our sentenced was being read we hear the crowd shout, “Release Barababbas and crucify the Messiah.”
It had to be this way for we could be saved no other way. We must needs have someone who is perfectly righteous take our place to pay the penalty for our sins. So the crowd cried out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
God had his way even when the crowd cried out for his Son to be crucified. The demons and devils of hell could not have seen this coming, they were behind the voices in the crowd calling for Jesus, the Messiah’s crucifixion. They surely thought this would be the end of him.
But they could not see the mystery hidden since the beginning of time. It would be a perfect man that would take the place of sinful humanity that would bring about the perfect redemption of all those who will ever trust in Christ.
We need not fear the voices of any crowd from now on for, if the voices of this crowd that demanded the crucifixion of our Savior were used by God to accomplish our great redemption, then no voice or voices that would ever cry out against us can defeat us.
The cross turns every shout of condemnation into the very ground of our redemption. Hallelujah for the cross.
Mark 15:32 (NIV)
32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
“I am my own master. I define my own fate.” In our world, we often hear such statements. If you are going to find life you have to go out and live it. Think of yourself. Live for your own desires and pleasures. Such philosophy has the appearance of wisdom but hidden within its very letters are the seeds of death and judgment.
The crowds demanded that Jesus show himself to be God by coming down from the cross so they could believe. They could not understand all that Jesus had already taught about himself. Jesus said he had come to give his life as a ransom for many. If he came down from the cross he could not save anyone and he would cease to be the God he had already revealed himself to be. For him to come down from the cross would be to go against his very nature.
When we have confronted the horrific nature of the cross we cannot imagine anyone claiming to be God would ever allow themselves to be subjected to such cruel treatment. If he was God then how could he allow his own body to suffer so at the hands of cruel and wicked men?
The cross was the means by which God would redeem a lost world to himself. There can be no redemption without the cross, there can be no life without the cross. The way the world will see and believe is when those who claim the name of Christ actually pick up the cross the live their lives in view of the cross.
To refuse to carry the cross is to reject God’s specific command to die to your old way of living and accept that God’s way is best no matter the cost. Actually, the cost will be your life. The salvation that Jesus offers is not some self-improvement course on how to live, it is rather a course on how to die so that a new resurrection kind of life will be found.
Someone said it best, there can be no resurrection without there first being a crucifixion.
Saint of God, if you are looking for the way of life that your Lord has called you to look no further than this, “Pick up your cross, die to your old self so that Jesus may raise you to live a life of resurrection power.”
The only way the world will see Jesus and believe is when the believers actually do what Jesus has already commanded all of us to do.
Time to pick up your cross and die to self,