Jesus said that “Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for a friend” and He did this for us.

In our lives, there are times when we put aside ourselves to benefit someone else.

The world calls this philanthropy.

God calls this love.

The highest form of sacrifice and the strongest force in the world, next to God’s power.

We all have different struggles and different challenges that we face in life.

Some people feel free to share every trial and struggle with anyone and everyone they meet, whilst others share little or nothing and so it seems that they just float through life footloose and fancy free almost.

However, as Christian’s there is a cross that we must bear in order to advance the Kingdom of God.

People who are not kingdom thinkers do not understand this.

Each person’s cross is different and may change as life progresses.

My cross is different to yours.

My struggles and challenges are different to yours.

This does not change how significant your cross is.

Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Have you ever contemplated that Jesus had not been nailed to the cross when He said this to the disciples?

We know that the cross that Jesus talked about was not pleasant.

It was not easy.

It was not for the weak or the frail.

Jesus’ cross was intense.

It was brutal.

It was torturous and gruesome.

But, before the cross was the flogging.

The pain, the humiliation and the persecution was beyond comprehension.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24,

If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].

Jesus carried His cross.

But, it was more than just a cross.

It was more than just pain and torture.

Jesus carried our sins.

Jesus carried our lies, our deceit, our slander, our gossip, our murder, our theft, our adultery, our lust, our idolatry, our rebellion, our witchcraft, our anger, our unforgiveness, the list goes on and on.

Yet, Jesus carried this cross.

He carried it all the way to the end.

He chose to bear His cross in obedience to the Father.

He carried it to not only advance the Kingdom, but to actually bring us back into the Kingdom and into relationship with God, the Father.

He knew this cross was not going to be easy, but it was of eternal significance and importance.

Jesus was in a quandary – He did not want to be tortured and beaten and hung on a cross to die a shameful death.

But at the same time, He did not want to leave us in a place of no entry.

He wanted to put the Kingdom first.

He wanted to put us first.

He wanted to ensure that His obedience would be a sacrifice worthy of His Father, our Lord.

Luke 22:42 Message

“Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?”

Luke 22:42 New Living Translation

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Jesus knew the power of obedience and the power of sacrifice.

The power of taking up His cross.

In order for the Kingdom to advance, we need to make certain sacrifices.

Again, each person’s sacrifice is different.

You may need to sacrifice time.

You may need to sacrifice a job, or a promotion.

It might be location or lifestyle.

You might need to sacrifice time or proximity with your family.

Nothing in God is wasted and God does not return His word void.

If we sow, there will be a harvest.

Are you currently bearing a cross?

What cross are you currently bearing?

Is it for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God or is it advancing your own cause?

Our growth and our effectiveness in the Kingdom are dependent upon how we handle our cross.

The threshold of our pain determines our strength and our endurance.

Like James said,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Jesus never said that life with Him would be easy, pain or trouble free.

On the contrary, by telling us that we need to take up our cross suggests that it was going to be difficult and costly to follow Him.

Our ability to walk in God’s ways without wavering, ultimately our ability to stand in the face of persecution and trials and still give honour, glory and praise to God is determined by our choices.

We have to choose whether we take up our cross and follow through with the consequences of this choice or whether we just walk through life knowing Jesus but doing nothing.

Jesus said,

‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

He said this to the disciples after telling the parable about the talents.  The master had said, well done, good and faithful servant.  Because you have been faithful with the little things, I will give you more to be in authority over.

We each have been given gifts and abilities.  Sometimes to use those gifts and abilities and talents, we have to sacrifice, we have to bear our cross, for the sake of the Kingdom.

If we do not use what we have been given, it will be taken from us.

In our trials and our struggles, in bearing our cross for the cause of Christ, we grow as a person and we grow in our relationship with God.

Growing pains are a natural part of life.  Most children experience them in varying degrees, but they are for a purpose.

Growing pains mean that something is happening – GROWTH!

When we have grown to the point that was predetermined by our body, the growing pains stop.

It has finished its work.

The same is true with our spiritual selves.

Growing causes pain.

Bearing our cross will cause pain, but the growth in the Kingdom is far greater than the pain experienced for a short time.

Mothers will tell us that the pain of childbirth is almost forgotten the instant the little baby is put into their arms for the every first time.

We often don’t think about the problems that others have.

This is either because we are too consumed by ourselves or because we are unaware that they are struggling.

We often have quite high opinions of ourselves until there is a crisis in our lives or an event or time that causes us to reassess who we think we are.

When we do, it changes our perspective and our understanding of life.

Paul’s opinion of himself changed over the years of his ministry.

Over a period of time and challenges that he faced, having walked with the cross that God had given him, Paul’s perspective of himself changed dramatically.

In 49AD Paul introduced himself in his letter to the Galatians quite boldly.

Galatians 1:1

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead

Galatians 2:6

As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message.

Paul was quite pompous and arrogant – quite full of himself some might say!

But, gradually, over time, as he bears one cross after the other, his opinion of himself changes and quite possibly, his understanding and comprehension of whom God is also develops and increases.

Paul has a revelation of how incredible God is and as a result, just how sinful and pitiful he is, and we are really, but for the grace of God.

In 1Corinthians 15:9 in 57AD, he says:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

When he wrote to the church in Ephesus, his self awareness has become even more apparent.
Ephesians 3:8

Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
He describes himself as the least of all the saints!

In 64AD he writes to Timothy and it’s almost as if he’s been praying the 5 finger prayer – OH LORD, SHOW ME MYSELF as he says to Timothy, that of all the sinners, he is the worst!

The more that God shows us Himself, the more we see how truly awful we really are – sinners in desperate need!

The more I know God the less I am, the less there is of me.
1Timothy 1:15

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

Before Paul dies he tells us who he really is….he is the chief of sinners.
God had spoken to Ananias upon Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:16 saying,

…For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Paul was aware that God had chosen him to bear his cross.

Paul knew what Jesus had suffered and that he was to suffer likewise in some respects.

However, like all of us, until we start to be challenged and mature in our faith walk, we can have a tendency to big note ourselves.

Paul did this.  He started out saying,

1. I, Paul, the apostle, which then became…
2. The least of the apostles, to
3. Least of all the saints, and finally
4. Chief of all sinners
In the Kingdom of God, it’s all about being a servant.

Not a doormat, but a doorkeeper.

We are to lead people into the throne room of God’s grace and mercy.

Are you carrying a cross?  Are you walking a line that not only shows that you are living for God, but that shows that you are willing to pay the price for someone else’s salvation?

Except for the grace of God there go I.

It is recorded that this is the cry heard by a man named John Bradford in the 1500’s as he was lead to the stake to be burned having served many years as a prisoner in the Tower of London for his dedication to the church.

He was burned to death for his faith.

It’s about God, it’s not about me.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we hand over the right to our lives and give Him full authority.

If we are not carrying a cross, if our walk is not costing us anything, we need to ask ourselves, are we walking at all?

Paul talked about having a thorn in the flesh.  Some scholars believe that what he actually meant was that the flesh is a thorn for us all.

When we walk with a cross, we can’t strut and swagger around full of pride.

The cross causes humility and dependence upon God for everything – for our very breath even.

When we carry our cross, it should be before the Lord, not before all men.

Our boast should be in the Lord, not in our personal sacrifice.  After all, we are reminded of the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made.
Luke 9:23-24

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. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

We MUST, not we can if we want, not when we feel like it, but we MUST take up our cross and deny ourselves daily if we want to follow Him.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

To die to self is to have a revelation that living for Him and not for ourselves is the only way to really live and to live a fulfilled life.

We make a personal sacrifice to advance the Kingdom of God.

Have you counted the cost of following Jesus?

Have you been reminded recently that there is a price to pay?

Let me give you a quick rundown of the disciples and the ultimate price that they paid to follow Jesus.

Really that they paid so that today, we would hear this message.

Peter, crucified upside-down in Rome circa AD 64.

James, son of Zebedee was beheaded in AD 44, first of the twelve to die (since the addition of Matthias)

Andrew, Peter’s brother, was crucified upon a diagonal or X-shaped cross.

Philip was crucified in AD 54.

Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel) was flayed alive (skinned) and then beheaded;

Matthew killed by a halberd (spear/axe) in AD 60.

Thomas was killed by a spear in Mylapore, Madras, India in AD 72.

James, son of Alphaeus, beaten to death with a club after being crucified and stoned.

Jude was crucified.

Simon the Zealot was crucified in AD 74.

Matthias, Judas’ replacement, was stoned and beheaded.

There is a cross that I will always carry.

In fact I’ve come to the conclusion this week that there may be times in our lives whereby we actually carry more than one cross at a time in a sense.

When I left my little boys in Queensland to move to Whyalla I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

I had to decide whether or not to put a few years of weekend visits with my boys ahead of the Kingdom of God.

Or, vice versa.  I had to decide whether or not to put God and His Kingdom ahead of weekend visits with my boys.

That is the cross that I carry daily.

My boys want and need their Dad.

I want and need them.

But, for the sake of the Kingdom, I sacrificed the irregular weekend visits for, in theory, holidays here in Whyalla or at my parents in Queensland.

Many people may not agree with my decision – how could I leave my sons?

With great difficulty, but with the assurance that God would look after them and that He would give me back the years that I have lost with them, because I have put Him first.

Matthew 10:37-39

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus.

Are you surrendered to God?

Have you surrendered your life to God?

Today, take up your cross and thank God for the ability to make a small