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INITIAL CROSS BEARING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, July 19, 2009

“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).


These words were spoken by Christ to a large number of people. The vast majority of them were unconverted. What did Christ mean when He told these unconverted people to take up their crosses and follow Him? Christ did not tell them to take up His Cross. No one could do that. The experience of Jesus on the Cross is absolutely unique in human history. Christ bore our sins, and paid the penalty for them, on His Cross. None of us can do that. Only the Son of God could have paid the penalty for our sin on His Cross. No, Christ did not tell them to take up His Cross. No one but Christ could do that.

But He told them, and us, that we must take up our crosses “and follow [him]” (Mark 8:34). Dr. Tozer said,

“Let him…take up his cross.” That is obviously not the cross of Christ. Rather it is the believer’s own personal cross by means of which the cross of Christ is made effective in slaying his evil nature and setting him free from its power (A. W. Tozer, D.D., “Each His Own Cross,” Of God and Men, Christian Publications, 1960, p. 42).

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

No one is forced to deny himself and take up his cross. To deny self and take up the cross depends on “whosoever will” (Mark 8:34). For everyone who “will” there are hundreds who will not. As Christ said to thousands, “ye would not” (Matthew 23:37). “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

I believe this refers to initial cross bearing, at conversion, as well as subsequent cross bearing in the Christian life. But at the very beginning, at conversion itself, the unconverted must repent, must have a new mind, must be willing to deny self “and take up his cross” (Mark 8:34). If he is unwilling to deny self “and take up his cross” he will never be converted. At best he will only be a nominal Christian, and never a real Christian. Here are several aspects of the “cross” one must begin to bear at conversion.

I. First, the cross of uniting with the minority in the local church.

The word “church” is “ekklesia” in Greek. That very Greek word means “the called out ones.” They are called out of the world of sin into the cross bearing fellowship of the local church, “the called out ones.”

People will tell you that you are a fool to be in church so often. They will cast evil words at you and tell you to stop coming to church. I remember enduring such talk when I was a teenager, when I first started coming to church. They mocked me and ridiculed me, and told me I was a fool. But I decided to be in the church anyway, no matter what they said. Before I was converted I decided to come out of the world and be in the local church. By my own experience I know that you must bear the same cross.

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).

The vast majority of people in the world will ridicule and mock you if you are in church every week. They will say you are a fool, or a religious fanatic. They will do their best to get you to stop coming. They are like Elymas, who tried to “turn away the deputy from the faith” (Acts 13:8). To be a Christian you must resist them, and “take up” your “cross.” Jesus said,

“A man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:36-38).

Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in Rumania. He was put in prison for fourteen years by the Communists for preaching Christ. He was tortured for Christ. He said,

They broke four vertebrae in my back, and many other bones. They carved me in a dozen places. They burned and cut eighteen holes in my body…We had to sit for seventeen hours a day…hearing:

Communism is good!
Communism is good!
Communism is good!
Christianity is stupid!
Christianity is stupid!
Christianity is stupid!
Give up!
Give up!
Give up!

Several Christians have asked me how we could resist brainwashing. There is only one method of resistance to brainwashing: it is “heart washing.” If one’s heart is cleansed by the love of Jesus Christ, and if the heart loves Him, one can resist all tortures (Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured For Christ, Living Sacrifice Book Company, 1998 edition, pp. 39, 38).

Such torture and brainwashing is happening right now to Christians in Communist China, and to Christians in the Muslim world. If they can resist such tortures, how can it be too much for you to bear the ridicule of those who tell you to stop coming to church? Jesus said,

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

It is much more simple for those who were not born and raised in the church. “Church kids” have to imagine what it is like to bear that cross. But if you are a new person who has never been a church member, it is far more simple. You who are coming for the first time do not have to use your imagination to fantasize about such mockery and ridicule. Your friends and relatives will soon make it very clear to you. They will surely mock you and try to get you to stop coming to church. That’s a cross you will have to bear to become a real Christian.

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Sing “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.”

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
   All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
   Thou, from hence, my all shall be…
(“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

You may be seated.  Yes, there is the cross of uniting with the minority in the local church.

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

II. Second, the cross of self-denial.

No one can become a real Christian without self-denial. It is not possible. Oh, you can say a “sinner’s prayer,” or come forward in an evangelistic meeting to “decide for Christ,” but you cannot become a real Christian if that’s all you do. Your heart must be broken by the Holy Spirit. You must see that your life, as it is, is full of madness and folly. The Bible says,

“The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

The only way for the evil of your heart to be changed, and the madness of your heart to be defeated, is by coming to Christ, being washed clean in His Blood, being born again in a crisis conversion, and then taking up your cross of self-denial to follow Christ. To those who go through the inner agony of real conversion, Jesus says very plainly,

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Jesus made it clear that this is the only way to be a real disciple of Christ. This is the only path for a real convert. Jesus made that an absolute requirement for salvation when He said,

“Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

This is not salvation by works at all, for no one can bear his cross and come after Christ except by the grace of God. The cross of self-denial can only be taken up and carried by those who are saved by grace. The Apostle Paul made that very plain when he said,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

You must be saved by grace, which is the gift of God, “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). But when a man is truly saved by grace, good works and cross bearing are the immediate result, because the next verse says,

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

When a man is truly “created in Christ” at conversion, he will immediately pick up his cross, and do good works. Any conversion that does not produce good works and cross bearing is a false conversion. Dr. Rice’s favorite song, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken,” makes that clear. Sing the first stanza again, as we stand.

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
   All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
   Thou, from hence, my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
   All I’ve sought, and hoped and known;
Yet how rich is my condition,
   God and heaven are still my own!
(“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

You may be seated. Jesus said,

“Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

And again, Jesus said, in the words of our text,

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

III. Third, the cross of soul-winning.

No one can be a real Christian who refuses to bear the cross of evangelism. Does that sound like salvation by works? It is not. It is the fruit of salvation by grace. We are not saved by soul-winning, but we are not saved if we reject soul-winning, if we do not bear the fruit of evangelistic zeal,

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works…” (Ephesians 2:10).

The first fruit of a real conversion is to take up your cross and go and evangelize a lost and Hell-bound world for Christ! This is all voluntary, of course, as time, health, and circumstances permit. No one is forced to do evangelism. No one is checking. But it seems to me that anyone who claims to experience real conversion, yet is unwilling to witness at all, is no convert of Christ. He may be a convert of the Devil, but he is not a convert of Christ!  

When you are a convert of Christ, your conversion makes you His disciple, His servant.

“And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

Yes, it is hard to go to evangelism week after week, but Christ commands that you do it in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). And the person who is ready to be converted will instantly see, by God’s grace, that it is the duty of every Christian to obey Christ and to go to evangelize a lost world as often as possible. Don’t wait until you are a baptized member of the church! Go evangelizing now. God may use your very evangelism as a means of grace in your conversion.

When John Wesley was struggling under conviction, and not yet a convert, a Moravian brother told him, “Preach salvation until you have it, and then you will preach salvation because you have it!” I agree with the man who told John Wesley that! Don’t wait, sitting in church, until you are converted. Go now to evangelism. Go after lost souls until you are saved, and then you will go after lost souls because you are saved! I have never seen anyone converted who did not already have a desire to see others saved as well.

I know that evangelism requires self-denial and cross-bearing. It cost Jesus death on the Cross to evangelize the world. And those who wish to be Christians, from the very beginning, should be sent out to evangelize, denying himself and taking up his cross to follow Christ. It may sound like false theology to those who never win souls, but I know by experience that those who try to obey Christ by evangelizing, even before they are converted, are usually the best Christians and the best soul-winners after they are converted. I myself was preaching and doing all I could to win souls several years before I was converted. It didn’t hurt me. God used it as a means of grace to convert me, as He did with John Wesley and many others. Dr. John Sung, the great Chinese evangelist, tried desperately to win souls before he himself was converted. Who will take up his cross and follow Christ with Dr. Sung? If you do, soon your eyes may be opened, as his were. Soon you may come weeping to Christ, for salvation from sin by His Blood, as Dr. Sung did. Soon you may be converted, as John Sung was, if you take up the cross of evangelism and go out to bring in lost souls. Pray hard for their salvation, and soon you will find salvation yourself.

Stand and sing the chorus of Dr. Rice’s song, “All My Heart’s Love,”

All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams –
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be –
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.
(“All My Heart’s Love” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 8:34-38.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“All My Heart’s Love” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

INITIAL CROSS BEARING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

(Matthew 23:37; 22:14)

I.   First, the cross of uniting with the minority in the local church, John 15:18-19; Acts 13:8; Matthew 10:36-38.

II.  Second, the cross of self-denial, Ecclesiastes 9:3; Luke 14:27; Ephesians 2:8-10.

III. Third, the cross of soul-winning, Ephesians 2:10; Luke 14:23; Matthew 28:19-20.