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TAKE UP YOUR CROSS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 15, 2013

“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).


This incident is recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some Bible teachers say this is only for mature Christians. But all three Gospels specifically tell us this is for everyone. In Matthew we read, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). So, in Matthew self denial and cross bearing are for “any man.” Actually the word “man” there was supplied in italics by the KJV translators. The modern versions translate “any” as “anyone,” as in the NKJV. So the verse applies to any who would be followers of Christ. In our text in Mark we are told that Jesus “called the people,” with the Disciples, and said, “Whosoever [whoever] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” So, again, this was for everyone in the crowd, as well as His twelve Disciples. In Luke 9:23, we read, “And he said to them all, If any man…” So it is clear in all three Synoptic Gospels that Jesus gave crossbearing as a condition for everyone, not just the twelve Disciples. It is clear that Jesus was speaking to everyone when He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Here are two points that flow from that text.

I. First, modern antinomians deny that this happens in a real conversion.

Last Sunday night I preached a sermon against antinomianism. I quoted from the Reformation Study Bible, which says, “Antinomian views are those denying that God’s laws should directly control the Christian’s life…they draw the false conclusion that their behavior makes no difference, provided they keep on believing…it is not possible to be in Christ and at the same time to embrace sin as a way of life” (p. 1831). Then I quoted Dr. A. W. Tozer, who said,

      A notable heresy has come into being throughout our evangelical Christian circles – the widely accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to!...
      What a tragedy that in our day we often hear the gospel appeal made on this kind of basis: “Come to Jesus! You do not have to obey anyone. You do not have to change anything. You do not have to give up anything – just come to Him and believe in Him as Saviour!”
      So they come and believe in the Saviour. Later on, in a meeting or conference, they will hear another appeal: “Now that you have received Him as Saviour, how would you like to take Him as Lord?”
      The fact that we hear this everywhere does not make it right. To urge men and women to believe in a divided Christ is bad teaching for no one can receive half of Christ...When a man believes on Jesus Christ he must believe on the whole Lord Jesus Christ – not making any reservation! I am satisfied that it is wrong to look upon Jesus as a kind of divine nurse to whom we can go when sin has made us sick, and after He has helped us, to say, “Goodbye” – and go on our own way...
      We do not come to Him as one who, buying furniture for his house, declares: “I will take this table but I don’t want that chair” – dividing it up! No, sir! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ!
      I believe we need to preach again a whole Christ to the world – a Christ who does not need our apologies, a Christ who will not be divided, a Christ who will either be Lord of all or who will not be Lord at all!
      I warn you – you will not get help from Him in that way for the Lord will not save those whom He cannot command! He will not divide His offices. You cannot believe on a half-Christ. We take Him for what He is – the anointed Saviour and Lord who is King of kings and Lord of Lords! He would not be who He is if He saved us and called us and chose us without the understanding that He can also guide and control our lives…
      Can it be that we really think we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience? We have owed Him our obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if [you] do not give Him that obedience, I have reason to wonder if [you] are really converted!
      I see things and I hear of things that Christian people are doing and as I watch them…I do raise the question of whether they have been truly converted…
      I believe it is the result of faulty teaching to begin with. They thought of the Lord as a hospital and Jesus as the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have gotten into trouble! “Fix me up, Lord,” they have insisted, “so that I can go on my way!”
      That is bad teaching…It is filled with self-deception. Let us look unto Jesus our Lord, high, holy, wearing crowns, Lord of Lords and King of all, having a perfect right to command full obedience from all His saved people!... (A. W. Tozer, D.D., I Call It Heresy!, Christian Publications, 1974 edition, pp. 9-21).

A real conversion requires that you repent and trust the Lord Jesus Christ. That means your life will take a new and different direction when you truly trust Him. The Apostle Paul made that clear when he said,

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).

A new direction in life comes to a lost sinner by grace alone, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone!

“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).

“Created in Christ Jesus unto good works” – that is plain and clear to all those who love Jesus, for Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Again, Jesus said, “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (John 14:24). When the Apostle Paul rebuked the antinomians of the church at Corinth, he said, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (I Corinthians 4:20). The words we say about loving Jesus mean nothing if not accompanied by the power of grace changing one’s life. Antinomians are those “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5). Thus, they are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7). And the truth was spoken by Jesus in our text,

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

II. Second, those who are truly converted have no trouble believing that.

And yet that saying is absolutely hidden from an unconverted, natural man.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).

It is hidden from them by Satan, who is called “the god of this world,”

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

The Gospel was described by the Apostle Paul,

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

But how does the Gospel save you and change your life?

When you trust Christ, His death on the Cross atones for your sin. When you trust Christ, His resurrection gives you the power to have a new direction in your life. Again, I appeal to Ephesians 2:8-10,

“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).

By grace we are saved through faith in Jesus. When we are saved, we are “created in Christ Jesus unto [for] good works, which God [prepared beforehand], that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Only faith in Jesus can make us acceptable to God. The new birth comes by faith in Christ. But the new birth produces a new life, and a new direction in life. Not perfection. That comes through the process of sanctification. But a new direction – a new way in life – a new willingness to obey Christ! And that’s where our text comes in,

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

Awakening, and especially the new birth, produce a desire in the heart to obey that command of Christ! If there is no new birth, there will not be any desire to obey Jesus. But when the Spirit of God does His work, the one who is born from above will not shrink back and reject that command of Christ,

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

Even though Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) held a liberal view of inspiration, God illuminated the this truth to him. He understood this truth, which many who have a better view of inspiration missed. Bonhoeffer was a young Lutheran pastor who spoke out against Hitler, and was hanged by the neck by the Nazis a few days before Germany fell to the Allies. He was only 39 years old. In his classical book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work for Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time…In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts…Every day we encounter new temptations, and every day we must suffer anew for Jesus Christ’s sake. The wounds and scars [we] receive in the [battle] are living tokens of this participation in the cross of our Lord…Suffering then is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passiva, suffering because we have to suffer. That is why Luther reckoned suffering among the marks of the true church, and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines the Church as the community of those ‘who are persecuted and martyred for the gospel’s sake.’ If we refuse to take up our cross and submit to suffering and rejection at the hands of men we [lose] the fellowship with Christ and have ceased to follow Him…The acts of the early Christian martyrs are full of evidence which shows how Christ transfigures for His own the hour of their mortal agony by granting them unspeakable assurance of His presence. In the hour of the cruelest torture they bear for His sake, they are made partakers in the perfect joy and bliss of fellowship with Him. To bear the cross proves to be the only way of triumphing over suffering. This is true for all who follow Christ, because it was true for Him…The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christian suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is the dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we [start to become disciples] we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death – we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross…meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, Collier Books, 1963 paperback edition, pp. 99-101).

I knew Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001). We have a photograph in our church of him and his wife holding our boys, when he prayed for them and dedicated them to Christ. I have known many great Christians. Dr. Timothy Lin, my pastor at the Chinese church, was the greatest pastor I ever met. Dr. Christopher Cagan is the greatest Christian I have ever known personally. Pastor Herman Otten is a saint in the sight of God. He has defended the Bible against liberal attacks for over 50 years, and it has caused him a great deal of suffering, and the loss of many friends, in the Missouri Synod Lutheran denomination. I admire a man like that – even though I don’t agree with everything he says. But Pastor Wurmbrand was, by far, the greatest Christian I have ever met.

Richard Wurmbrand was a Lutheran pastor who spent fourteen years in Communist prisons in Romania. He spent two full years in solitary confinement, never seeing the sun, never hearing a human voice. He was beaten, and drugged, and underwent medieval tortures. His body was lacerated and bloody from repeated beatings. Red-hot pokers made deep wounds in his back and neck. He could not stand to preach when he was here in our church, because his feet were deformed from beatings and torture. In his book, In God's Underground, he said, “In a special block I listened to the loudspeaker, day after day.

Christianity is dead.
Christianity is dead.
Christianity is dead.

And in time I came to believe what they had told us for all those months. Christianity was dead. The Bible foretells a time of great apostasy, and I believed that it had arrived. Then I thought of Mary Magdalene, and perhaps this thought, more than any other, helped save me from the soul-killing poison of the last and worst stage of brainwashing. I remembered how she was faithful to Christ even when He cried on the cross, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ And when He was a corpse in the tomb, she wept nearby and waited until He arose. So when I believed at last that Christianity was dead, I said, ‘Even so, I will believe it, and I will weep at its tomb until it rises again, as it surely will’” (Richard Wurmbrand, Th.D., In God’s Underground, Living Sacrifice Books, 2004, pp. 263, 264).

I have never had to suffer very much for Jesus. But my last two years at the liberal Southern Baptist seminary near San Francisco were difficult. Emotionally I felt as if I was in Gethsemane. When my friends turned away from me and I was alone, two different professors told me I would never be hired to pastor a Southern Baptist church if I kept on defending Christ and the Bible. The teacher of homiletics, Dr. Green, said to me, “You are a good preacher. But you are getting a reputation as a troublemaker. If you want to pastor a church, you must stop now.” That would be like someone telling you in college, “You’ll never get a job if you don’t stop defending the Bible.”

I went back to my room in the dormitory. I put on my jacket and took a long walk.  The icy wind from the ocean made me shiver. I kept thinking of the professor’s words, “You are getting a bad reputation. You’ll never get a church. Stop defending the Bible.” About half-way on my walk, I said to myself, “To H--- with it! No matter what happens I will stand up for Jesus and His Word. To H--- with getting a church!” I know I should say that some other way but, crude as it is, that’s exactly what I said to myself that day! Dr. John Rawlings (1914-2013) might have said that! Luther (1483-1546) might have said that! The Apostle Paul did say, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Sometimes there’s no other way to forcefully present a thought. I just said, “To H--- with the whole thing! Whatever it costs I will not stop speaking out for Christ and His Word!” I count the loss of these things “but dung, that I may win Christ”!

What is it that you are afraid of losing? What are you afraid of giving up? What makes you afraid to deny yourself, and take up your cross, and follow Christ? It's always some kind of fear that stops people. Will you count those fears as “dung,” and come to Christ anyway? If you do that, you will become a very special person in the eyes of God!

In the ancient church those who died for Christ were called “Martyrs.” But those like Wurmbrand, who suffered intensely under persecution without dying, were called “Confessors.” Pastor Wurmbrand was a Confessor. He denied himself, took up his cross and came to Jesus, even though it cost him a great deal of suffering. Will you do that? Will you count all things “but dung that [you] may win Christ”? Will you deny yourself, take up your cross, and come to Jesus? Will you say, in the words of Dr. John R. Rice’s favorite song,

Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee;
   Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt 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.

It’s number 8 on your song sheet. Please stand and sing it.

Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee;
   Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt 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.

Let the world despise and leave me, They have left my Saviour, too;
   Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue;
And, while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might,
   Foes may hate, and friends may shun me; Show Thy face, and all is bright.

Man may trouble and distress me, ‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast;
   Life with trials hard may press me, Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
O ‘tis not in grief to harm me, While Thy love is left to me;
   O ‘twere not in joy to charm me, Were that joy unmixed with Thee.
(“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

If you would like to speak with us about becoming a Christian, please leave your seat and walk to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place for prayer. Dr. Chan, please pray for someone who responded to be saved. 

(END OF SERMON)
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at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

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write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Mark 8:34-38.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” (by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).


THE OUTLINE OF

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS

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 16:24; Luke 9:23)

I.   First, modern antinomians deny that this happens in a real
conversion, Ephesians 2:8-19; John 14:15, 24; I Corinthians 4:20;
II Timothy 3:5, 7.

II.  Second, those who are truly converted have no trouble believing
that, II Corinthians 5:17; I Corinthians 2:14; II Corinthians 4:3-4;
I Corinthians 15:3-4; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:8.