|Sunday School & Bible Class (Sept-May)||9:15 AM|
The Cross is Your Life
2nd Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Cross is Your Life
Mark 8:31–38 (NIV84)
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
When we read the New Testament we will find many events that show the victories of Christ and his people. If we only considered these accounts, we could then get a very wrong idea of what the Christian life is in this world. Jesus defeats the devil’s temptations. One could wrongly conclude that a follower of Jesus will defeat all of the devil’s temptations. Jesus is hailed as King on Palm Sunday. One could wrong conclude that a Christian will therefore have no problems in life since Jesus is King. The Christian Church grew quickly after Jesus rose from the dead. Our church should grow quickly. The people love Jesus. The world should love us too. Everyone was united in the early church. We shouldn’t have any doctrinal controversies now.
In order to believe that the Christian life is problem-free, full of peace and love and generally happy all the time, one has to skip a large portion of the New Testament. You would especially have to skip over what Jesus teaches today in Mark 8. Jesus teaches about his cross and our cross. He teaches that the only way to peace with God, victory over the devil and eternal joy is his cross. The cross of Christ is our life. In addition, the life of a Christian is full of crosses to bear. The Cross is Our Life.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Peter knows exactly who Jesus is – the Christ, the Son of God. But Peter does not know what that means. He expects the Christ to make everything good in this life. He expects the Christ to defeat all the enemies of God’s people. He expects to have a life free from worry about sickness, famine and disaster. Peter wants earthly prosperity. He wants heaven on earth.
Jesus teaches the opposite. In the beginning, God created a perfect world with perfect people. There was perfect peace between God and his creation, between God and the crown of his creation – man and woman. Then sin entered the perfect world and destroyed the peace. Now we have a world full of sin and death, a world full of violence and suffering, a world that needs a Savior.
Many of the Jews at the time of Jesus thought as Peter did. They envisioned the Christ as a conquering king who would set up a just and righteous earthly kingdom. Certainly Christ has the power to do so. He could defeat any army that dared come against his kingdom. He could have established a perfect monarchy with perfect laws. He would be the just judge who who hand out the sentence appropriate in God’s court to those who dared to disrupt the peace of his kingdom. Murderers would die for their sin. Those who abuse children would die for their sins. Adulterers would be executed for their sin. Children would be safe. Marriages would be secure. Violence would be stopped. In addition, all those who worship false gods or no god would be put to death. Those who disobey parents would die. And all liars would be executed. Everyone with a jealous thought, a hateful comment or any other sin would be out of the kingdom set up by Christ, the conquering and righteous King.
Not one human except Christ would remain in such a kingdom. To return to the glory of the Garden of Eden, you have to remove all sinners. Jesus did not come to conquer and condemn sinners. He came to seek and to save sinners. Peter had in mind the things of men. Jesus has in mind the things of God – to save sinners. The cross is how he would give life to sinners.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
Everything in Jesus’ life led to the cross. For at the cross Jesus would offer the only sacrifice acceptable to his Father to pay for a world of sinners. Christ offered his own perfect life and his precious blood to cover a world of sin. Without the cross we all would be lost forever. With the cross of Christ we have eternal life. The cross is our life.
By the cross of Christ we have spiritual life, forgiveness of sins and the sure hope of eternal life. But as followers of Christ we also have our own crosses to bear.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Some of these crosses can be outside pressures as we saw last week in Romans 8 – troubles, hardships, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword. These affect believer and unbeliever alike. These become a cross for a Christian to bear as the devil and our sinful nature try to convince us that God no longer loves us when in these situations.
Other crosses a Christian may need to bear are inside. It may be a sin of our past. We know that Jesus has forgiven that sin by his cross but it is hard to forget. We are reminded of it when around certain people. The guilt returns again and again. There is no way to undo some things. There is no way to just get over it or forget it. We may be constantly reminded of our sinfulness. So go to Jesus. Continue to go to the cross of Christ when the cross of sin and guilt burden you. It is not a bad thing to be driven to the cross of Christ when your cross becomes too heavy. In fact that is what any cross we carry should make us do. Go to Jesus.
Perhaps the hardest part of taking up your cross is denying yourself. The follower of Christ will do this. Denying yourself of course means to deny yourself sinful “pleasures” of the world. We fight and struggle against sin. We may face a particular temptation every day and yet we will deny our sinful nature the pleasure and follow Christ. We will never give in to a sinful habit and tell ourselves that it is too late to stop. Pick up the cross and struggle against that sin daily. Let the struggle drive you to Christ. Take comfort in his cross by which you are forgiven every time you fall. Get strength from his cross to continue the battle against temptation again. Deny your sinful nature obvious sin.
But we also deny ourselves in things that are not sin in and of themselves. Your primary relationship as a follower of Christ is to your Savior. If something takes you away from God and his gospel it is time to deny yourself. We may not even realize when something is getting in the way of our Savior. It may be work, family, hobbies, sports, television, clubs, travel, or anything. Take a good look at how you spend your time, your money and where you put your effort. When there are opportunities to be in the Word of God, whether at church or home, what have you chosen instead? Is it time to deny yourself some earthly pleasure to strengthen your connection with Christ through his gospel?
Denying ourselves is part of the Christian life in all our relationships. Children deny themselves by obeying parents. Parents deny themselves by doing what is best for their children. Husbands and wives deny themselves by submitting to each other in love. We are to love and serve our neighbor. That means we deny our right to be served and instead serve others. As followers of Christ we look to the good of others more than we consider what is good for us. Christ denied his right as true God to be served by all the world and did what was best for all sinners. May he give us the strength to pick up our little crosses and deny ourselves to do what is best for those in our life. This is our life.
Suffering from the troubles and hardships of the world. Struggling against our own sinful wretchedness. Unable to completely deny ourselves. Sometimes it seems like we can never win. Sometimes it seems like we just aren’t good enough or strong enough to be a follower of Jesus. In a way, this is true. But don’t let your worth be determined by your ability to carry crosses in this life. If this was true, we would all be worthless. Jesus asks this very important question that helps us determine our worth:
What can a man give in exchange for his soul?
So how much is your soul worth? There are days that we might feel worthless. We might feel like God should put us out with the trash or at best put us out with the garage sale items – something useful once but now is outgrown, broken or not used much. How much is your soul worth? I asked this question to a member this week and got a great answer. “Priceless.” The wealth of the world is not enough to purchase one soul for God. God determined your worth by the price he gave for you. He gave what is most valuable in all the world – the holy and precious blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. You are priceless to God.
Our life is not about victory after victory in this world. Our life and our value is found in the cross of Christ. With his cross before our eyes, we deny ourselves and pick up our crosses and follow him.