[Word Count: 614]
My Teaching Method
If you've been following this series from the beginning, you may have noticed a certain pattern of repetitiveness: once a certain idea is introduced i'm always going back to it at a point where it connects to the current topic. Through this method i'll say the same things in diverse ways and approach certain truths from different directions...
...this is deliberate. We all process information differently; it is my hope and prayer that the truths of the Gospel will "click" into your understanding through one of these repeats, giving you a series of "a-ha!" moments we Christians call REVELATIONS.
I've selected eight statements and discourses of Jesus from the New Testament Gospels that paint a picture of discipleship; in this first statement i'm going to connect to a central theme of the Gospel that i've addressed before...keep an eye open for it when it comes...
“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” -- Jesus Christ, Matthew 16:24 KJV
Most people focus on the "deny himself" clause, yet that is NOT the central idea of this statement. To be a disciple of Jesus you must FOLLOW Jesus...but WHERE IS JESUS GOING? In connection to what i said in Part Fourteen regarding Reality, Jesus is RETURNING TO THE FATHER where sin, death and affliction do not exist... and HE IS INVITING YOU TO RETURN THERE WITH HIM!!! This is the HEART of what being "saved" means, with the added benefit of NEVER BEING CAPABLE OF SINNING AGAIN!!!!
This Truth changes the whole "atmosphere" of the verse; such a Prize is worth ANY sacrifice and facing ANY opposition that could be thrown at you!
Now here's the rub: Jesus will return to the Father, yet He must pass through Judas Iscariot, Gethsemane, the Sanhedrin, Herod, Pilate, the Cross and Joseph of Arimathea's Tomb to get There (not to mention the subtle and hideous tricks Satan employed to entice Him to sin)! This is a gauntlet FAR WORSE than anything you will ever face...yet the Lord Jesus succeeded because of HIS UNWAVERING LOVE FOR AND FAITH IN HIS FATHER...
...and you will pass through self-denial and carry your cross on your journey to The Father using the SAME METHOD.
No one crosses the Salvation finish line on willpower and determination alone (John 1:13). It is The Father's Love for you manifested in all the things He did for you IN ETERNITY, that gets you back Home in His Arms.
Self-denial is NOT only a matter of "not doing bad things" but not giving into the doubts and fears we acquired through living in a fallen world...fears that make it incredibly difficult to trust anyone, even someone as trustworthy and as faithful as GOD.
As for your cross, nothing has been more misrepresented in all of Christendom. HARDSHIP IS NOT YOUR CROSS; everyone faces hardship--saved and unsaved. MEDICAL MALADIES ARE NOT YOUR CROSS; millions of people of every faith imaginable are either born with or acquire over time physical or mental conditions of one kind or another. PREJUDICE IS NOT YOUR CROSS; ignorance, racism and imaginary biases go together with sin regardless of country or culture.
Your cross is the reaction you face when the people around you realize you belong to Him. Period. Will the world's hatred of Jesus assault your pride and compel you to be ashamed of Him? If not, then carrying your cross will not be a problem.
In Part Sixteen we will study Christ's Second Word to those who would be His disciples.