The Uncomfortable Cross

I.  At the Center of the Christian Faith Is the Cross—An Execution Device

Mark 8:34 NLT - Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.

A.  Take up your cross

  • American Christianity has tamed the cross, turning it into a symbol found on coffee mugs and throw pillows.

B. We have lost the terror of the cross

  • We’ve lost some of the barbarity and terror of the cross.

  • Probably originating with the Assyrians and Babylonians, it was used systematically by the Persians in the 6th century BC. Alexander the Great brought it from there to the eastern Mediterranean countries in the 4th century BC, and the Phoenicians introduced it to Rome in the 3rd century BC.

C. Difficult it is for us to grasp

  • There is nothing in America today to which we could compare it. … Crucifixion was specifically designed to be the ultimate insult to personal dignity, the last word in humiliating and dehumanizing treatment.

John 10:18 - No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily…

The gospel of the cross will never be a popular message because it humbles the pride of our intellect and character.
— John Stott

Jesus is being completely honest with us, his followers: This isn’t going to be comfortable.  If we’re not careful, we can begin to lose sight of what actually happened on the cross. If we miss that, then we’ll miss what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. We must never forget that the brutal cross is at the center of our faith.

II.  Following Jesus Means Denying Ourselves

Mark 8:34 NLT - Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.

A. What does it mean to give up our own way (to deny ourselves)?

  • Taking up our own crosses requires that we deny ourselves and deny the things the world sees as praiseworthy.

1. The loss of being your own boss.

2. The loss of consumer religion.

Mark 10:45 - “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

3. The loss of pride.

4. The loss of power, coolness, and cultural respectability.

5. The loss of health, wealth, and comfort.

B. The Christian faith not only centers on the cross of Jesus but another cross. Your cross.

  • Weakness, suffering, and loss are not the end of the story. They lead to victory, resurrection, and eternal gain.

As followers of Jesus, we must accept and embrace the call to deny ourselves and take up our metaphorical cross.

III.  Jesus Provides the Ultimate Example

Mark 8:34 NLT - Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.

A.  His disciples didn’t understand it yet, but when Jesus warned of the cost of discipleship, He was soon going to be taking up his own cross—the real cross of crucifixion.

  • Jesus is saying that to truly follow him means following him to the cross—the ultimate denial of comfort, safety, power, and wealth.

  • Jesus never asks us to do something that he has not already done.

1 Peter 4:13 - But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

B. Want to follow Jesus? Join him at the cross. …

  • To be a follower of Christ is to join his journey of abandoning comfort and enduring suffering, a journey that is foolishness in the eyes of the world”

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. . . . Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
— C.S. Lewis
  • The only way we can deny ourselves and take up our cross is by remembering that we’re not alone and that Jesus has entered into the discomfort He’s calling us to and has emerged victorious.

Conclusion

Becoming a Christian demands that we learn some key truths about what it means to follow Jesus. If we’re honest, these truths can be difficult to accept at times. We can find comfort in knowing that as we walk our own road to Calvary, Jesus is with us every step of the way.