Without sin of his own, our Savior Jesus Christ took up his cross and bore it, even after he was rejected and mocked, buffeted and spat upon, tortured and beaten and scourged with a cruel cat-o-nine tails&emdash;even when he was forsaken by all. When the fiery trials of great tribulation knock on your door, will you Christian take up your cross, bear it and follow Him?
by Jerry Gentry
"And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27)
Every Christian aspires to be a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ. At least you would think so. What exactly does it mean to be a genuine disciple, or learner, of Jesus Christ? What is the connection between taking up and bearing your cross, and being a disciple of Jesus Christ? How can you know the difference between church goers who are mere professors of Christianity, versus genuine disciples who are bringing forth fruit of their salvation?
First, know that there are many ministers and church goers who are false disciples, chaff who will be burned out of the church of the living God, during times of tribulation. Jesus said: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mat 7:22-23). Do you work iniquity, or do you bear the fruit of genuine salvation, by taking up your cross and bearing it?
Take Up Thy Cross and Bear It. What does this mean? Is this the acid test which separates genuine disciples from "Christian" workers of iniquity? Can you know for sure that your faith is genuine? Do you have a cross to bear? The Bible gives us answers to these questions.
Jesus said: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).
What an astounding requirement! What an unusual command! A man or woman cannot be a disciple without first being willing to "deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me," Christ said. Brother and sister, today, if you are not bearing your cross then you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ. What is this cross every genuine disciple must bear? What is this fruit of a genuine disciple's life? Are you bearing your cross today?
Take Up Thy Cross. Bear thy Cross. Follow me. We find these words over and over in the gospels, when Jesus spoke candidly with large numbers who filled his audiences. Yet, in the end, how many were willing to bear their crosses and be his genuine disciples? All forsook Him, even Peter, on that eventful day leading to his crucifixion. On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after his resurrection, there were only 120 souls found in the upper room, where the Holy Spirit descended.
Even on that first Pentecost, when 3000 souls were added to the church, there had previously been greater audiences of 5000 men plus women and children to whom Jesus had preached. Where were all these on the day of Pentecost?
Over time, that small body of genuine disciples were always persecuted by family and friends and civil authorities. They were always called a "little flock" (Luke 12:32), only "a remnant [who] shall be saved" (Rom. 9:27). Are you among that "remnant", that "little flock?" Are you a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ, not just a church goer? If so, then you will take up your cross and bear it. Willingness to bear your specific cross will be the evidence that marks you as His genuine disciple. Yes, Christian, God has a specific cross for each of us to take up and bear.
I was personally an unsaved Christian for about 53 years of my own life. God had not lost me, but I had not found Him. Oh, I read the Bible, prayed, went to church, sang special music, even gave Bible lessons. But I had not learned what it is to take up and bear my cross, to be a genuine disciple. I prayed and struggled with sin and fell and fell again. I played church well, even knew the Bible inside and out. I could quote scripture generously. But I had yet to find how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, because I had never taken up my cross to bear it in genuine salvation. I was an Old Covenant Christian, a good pharisee, looking to my own good works to keep me into good standing with God. One problem. My own good works were never good enough, because I could never do everything good enough, long enough, to be satisfied that I was in God's good graces. I had not yet discovered the joy of personal salvation. I was unsaved, headed for the flames of hell.
Some scriptures in the Bible I had never experienced: "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Hab. 3:18), and "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isa. 12:3). I personally knew not the water of the wells personal salvation. I did not live in the joy of my own salvation because I did not have it. I had no absolute assurance in my heart that if I died any moment I would not burn in hell forever. I felt never quite good enough to be pleasing to God, because I was looking to my own works and good deeds, and not to the blood.
King David was a man who walked in personal salvation. He experienced that joy: "The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!" (Ps. 21:1).
Yet David backslid into the sin of adultery by walking down the slippery road of lust when he saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. Then to cover that sin, he devised a clever plan of lies and trickery, in an effort to get Uriah, her husband, to sleep with her, which failed. As a last resort, he put Uriah on the front battle lines, with instructions for the other soldiers to withdraw, thus leaving Uriah alone to be killed. Then to cover that, he chalked it all up to mere chance that one was killed, in this case Uriah, and not another.
The scheme seemed to go well, until Nathan the prophet confronted King David with the story of an owner's precious little lamb, stolen and slaughtered by another person, against whom David demanded the penalty of death. When Nathan told David, "Thou art the man," David finally owned up to the truth. Deep down he feared God, saying the hardest three words found in any language: "I have sinned."
This was the beginning of David's forgiveness and healing. Confession of sin was the cross King David bore that day. Without confession of sin, God's forgiveness is impossible. Brother and sister, are you covering sin in your personal life even now? If so, hear what the Bible says to you: "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known" (Luke 12:2).
Will you take up and bear your cross, as did King David, by confessing what is needful to your authorities? Will you clear your conscience of all offense to both God and man? If not then you are not a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ. You may be a church goer, good at making appearances, but you, Christian, are not real.
The Bible says: "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Prov. 28:13).
The first step in taking up your cross and bearing it is to confess your sins. The second step is to forsake your sins. How? The Bible says, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). Why is it that we have such a tendency to see and talk about (confess) other people's faults and sins, rather than our own? The carnal, unconverted mind will not admit it is wrong. It looks constantly to the faults of others in order to find justification by comparison. The discomfort and burden of personal guilt is balanced by blaming others, even attacking and condemning others verbally, usually close loved ones. But the Bible says, Take Up Thy Cross, and Bear It, by confessing your own faults and forsaking them.
Jesus taught: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mat 11:28-30). Christ is speaking of unburdening our consciences through confession of faults to our authorities with Godly purpose to forsake them. Then we find rest and peace, with malice toward none.
Christian, confession to others of personal faults God brings to your mind is not a show of weakness. It is actually proof of genuine salvation, proof you are bearing your cross. On the other hand, confession of the sins of others, whispering and backbiting, all malicious talk and verbal taunts are proof of unconversion, proof you are marching to a strange drum beat outside the Word of God, proof you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ, proof you will burn in hell as an unsaved worker of iniquity.
It is up to every person who wears the name Christian to make a good confession unto personal salvation, regardless of circumstances. Teachers are commanded: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth" (2Tim. 2:25). Today, Christian, will you acknowledge the truth? Is your salvation really personal? Is it real and sure for you? Is your conscience clear? Do you know for sure that Jesus really loves you? Do you have His love in your heart? Does His love flow through you and out to others, even your enemies? If not then, you are not His disciple.
If you will take up your cross, and bear it, you will not exercise a will of your own.
Jesus said, "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30). Jesus found ultimate confidence in seeking not His own, but only His Father's will. Are you a willful, demanding person? Must things be your way or no way? In pointing out the faults of those over and under you, do you demand and rail and condemn? Or do you, as Paul told the Galatians, when finding a brother at fault, "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1)?
Will you take up the cross of a genuine Christian and bear it by confessing and forsaking your sins? Will you subdue your own will to that of your Father in heaven? Then you will take up your cross and bear it, and thereby bring forth the fruit of your personal salvation, proof you are a genuine disciple and not a worker of iniquity.
Confess. Forsake. And Submit.
By these three we will Take Up Our Cross and Bear It!