At Christmas- Take up Your Cross

While walking with His disciples one day Jesus told them the day would come when He would die and would resurrect from the dead and take His place at the Right Hand of the Father.  He would then take up His role for the Church Age of Intercessor.  We often think He is making all the decisions when in fact He is praying for us to make the right decisions!

During this Church Age Jesus was going to give His disciples the responsibility to grow the Church of Jesus Christ.  In the passage below (Matthew 10), He was giving them insight of what it would be like when He was on the throne during the Church Age.   I am calling this passage an “Exhibition Game,” or Jesus was giving them a taste of what He would expect of them and of us during the Church Age.

If we break this down we will all see what He expects of us, and what living for Him is like during the Church Age.

First, Jesus gave them POWER to go forth.  They were given Power over all forms of demonic conflict.  For some reason the Church, maybe because demonic forces are unseen, has lost track that first and foremost the Church will be opposed by demonic forces every step of the way.  The good news is that we have all the Power necessary to wage and win every conflict with the enemy, regardless of the enemy’s strategy against us.

Secondly, Jesus gave them POWER to heal all manner of sickness, disease, and even death.  Spelled out further He included the Power to heal the sick, cleanse lepers (which are also a picture of cleansing from sin), raise the dead, and cast out demons.  He reiterated this Power is freely given to us and we should just as freely give it to others.

Thirdly, Jesus gave them POWER to preach.  It became clear, later on during the early church, that preaching was to be done in Power.  The mark of Church Age preaching is to be measured in terms of the evidence of Power not just in words but actions and demonstrations.  He further says that the underlying message of the Church is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is the unseen ruling Kingdom over all Creation, but the Day will come when it is seen and imposed upon all of Creation.  When it is manifest, it will be too late for Mankind to become a willing subject to the King.  During the Church Age Mankind is given the opportunity to submit and worship the King recognizing that the King came and died for Mankind’s sins.

Fourthly, Jesus SENT them.  This is an important distinction.  When we are sent by someone, we are going in His authority and under His direction and for His purposes.  He said that in their going, they should disregard their own needs.  He went on to say, that the test in going is not whether those you speak to receive you or not.  If they don’t, then move on.  If they do receive you then stay where you are received and give them further understanding of the Kingdom of God message.

Fifthly, Jesus sent them AS SHEEP.  It is an important distinction, He was not sending sheep, but they were to go as if they were sheep.  This gives us the understanding of the demeanor of the messenger.  They were not to go in a domineering or threatening way.  There are those who consider that going into battle with all the forces against the Church as requiring a warrior appearance.  But the appearance of the messenger is to be of a sheep.  However, underneath it all, we are given the Power to be of a warrior mentality; ready to conquer all opposing demonic forces and at the same time, preaching and healing to all human forces.

Sixthly, Jesus warns and prepares His messengers for a level of opposition that can become quite personal and demoralizing.  He reveals that it will be a common experience that people will hate every messenger.  Not all people of course, but in every group of people there will be those that hate every messenger.  Jesus proclaims that it is quite logical.  Since He was hated by some everywhere He went we likewise will experience the same thing.

Seventh, Jesus declares to His disciples, that it is vital that they do not allow fear to have place in their hearts or minds.  He spells out three kinds of things to not fear; 1) Do not fear those that hate you, 2) Do not fear those that can kill your body, 3) Do not let fear come into your mind, because just as the Father cares for every sparrow born on earth, He cares for us more.  The Father’s care is all we need.

Eighthly, Jesus declares that He did not come to earth to bring peace.  On the surface this seems contradictory, but upon further examination we can understand.  The Lord gave dominion to Mankind over the earth at Creation.  Mankind gave his authority over to demonic forces.  Jesus came to win the earth back for Mankind, but His methodology is for Mankind to respond to His provision by faith.  The forces of evil are doing everything in their power to subvert and undermine Mankind’s positive response to His provision.  So there is a never ending war during the Church Age for the souls of Mankind.  In light of this war Jesus came and has given to Mankind the weapons required to successfully wage and win this war.

Jesus has given us His sword.  Again, there is more to this weapon than appears on the surface.  His sword actually means His Word.  The winning weapon for Mankind, which will defeat every foe and will win every battle and ultimately win the War is the Word of God.

John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Finally, Jesus gave the disciples and the Church at large the vital understanding of life in true perspective.  It is under a banner or headline for us, summarized in a statement pregnant with the need for further understanding:

                                                “Take up your cross”

First, in the Matthew 10 passage Jesus clarifies present understanding.  He declares that Mankind’s attempts to find their own life or their own life purpose is folly.  If we think we find life’s purpose outside of His purpose for us, we will lose what we have found.  He says you will lose life if you try to find it on your own.  Life is in Him and in Him alone.  Outside of relationship with Him there is only death and destruction.

He then reiterates to His messengers, that as they go forth, the people that receive each disciple are actually receiving Him.  The challenge is not about their success or failure with people it is all about Him.  Since He is doing the sending we are going in His name and with His message to bring others to Him.  He then shows us how the Kingdom of God works.  When the people receive us they are actually receiving Him.  Furthermore, when they receive Him they are at the same time receiving the Father.

He then promises that those messengers that are prophets, when the people receive prophets sent by Jesus they will receive what the Father has given to the prophet which is the Word of God for those receiving at that time and place of it being given.  In addition, those messengers that are “righteous” that are received will also not only receive a message from the Father but also the blessings that go with righteousness.  Further, Jesus implores the messengers to refresh the children.  You refresh children with the water of the word of God.  It is to be done in a way that is not dominating or excruciating to children but in a refreshing manner.

The message of “taking up your cross” is not well understood.  Let us look at Matthew a few chapters later when Jesus gave further clarification to the challenge.

Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples,   If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross,   and follow me.
Mat 16:25 For whosoever will save his life   shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Mat 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he   shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give   in exchange for his soul?
Mat 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the   glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man   according to his works.

“To come after” Jesus can take on a meaning on multiple
levels.  It speaks of going from our own agenda to His agenda.  It can mean to appear to others as His follower, to demonstrate in public that we serve Him.  When we make a show of His significance to us or become known as His, this reveals that we are coming after Him.  When we use our influence to make Him known and we are established as that type of person we are then coming after Him.

“Let him deny himself.”  We are then challenged that taking up our cross is expressed by denying ourselves.  This carries with it the connotation that we affirm that we have no connection to self interest.  We demonstrate in our actions that nothing we say or do is in our self interest.  We are taking no thought of our own wants and needs.  We lose sight of one ’s self.

“Take up his cross and follow me.”  We are to raise up and elevate Him.  When we raise up our hand to Him we are acknowledging and declaring our allegiance is to Him and His purposes.  We are taking upon ourselves to serve Him and carry forth the message of His Kingdom regardless of the cost to us.  We are to apply His grace and truth as our life’s message to all along the way.  We are to give out everything that He has given to us.  We are to apply to others the Kingdom message – which message is life.

The subject is not above the Master.  We are here to follow Him, do what He did; the way He did it and for the reasons He came to live as us.  “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.  Yet not I, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Primary text (emphasis authors): Matthew 10:

1 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was  Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.  5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10 nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.  11 “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city!

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they callthose of his household!

26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.  27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.  34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.  40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

Merry Christmas 2012