The Paradox of the Cross: Gaining by Loosing
Today we are going to talk about greatest battle: “Warfare/Battle against self.”
“The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought.”
Ellen White once said: “The most difficult sermon to preach and the hardest to practice is self-denial.” (Heavenly Places, 300) Mercifully, that’s my topic for today.
Primary Texts: “25For whoever wants to save his lifewill lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” (Matt. 16:24-27)
FCF: Most of us have struggle on setting aside our selfish desires. We have our own hidden personal agendas in following Christ. Looking at the contemporaries of Peter, his agenda and aspirations for the Messiah involved triumphant glory, not a seeming defeat at the hands of his enemies.
If Peter is to understand the “wisdom of the cross” he must set aside personal ambitions driven by natural inclinations, and set his mind on “the things of God.” (vv. 22-23)
Proposition: Just as Jesus orients his life around the cross, His disciples must be oriented around the cross too. Then, if anyone wishes to come after Jesus, he or she must have willingness:
Historical Context: In order to see the connection of these verses we must remember the mistaken impressions of our Lord’s disciples as to the purpose of his coming into the world. Like Peter they could not bear the idea of the crucifixion. They thought that Jesus had come to set up an earthly kingdom; they did not see that he had to suffer and die. They dreamed of worldly honors and temporal rewards in their Master’s service; they did not understand that true Christians, like Christ, must be a cross before a crown, suffering before glory, sacrifice before reward.
I. A willingness to deny themselves.
A. Denying yourself is more than saying “no” to many of the strongest cravings of his nature, in the direction more particularly of earthly ease, comfort, dignity, and glory. Ordinarily we use the word self-denial in a restricted sense. We use it to mean giving up something. For instance, a week of self-denial may be a week when we do without certain pleasures or luxuries in order to contribute to some good cause. But that is only a very small part of what Jesus meant by self-denial. To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say yes to God and no to self. To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.
B. Mat. 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples: ‘If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must say ‘No’ to self, put his cross on his shoulders, and keep on following me.’” —William’s New Testament
C. To live is to die and to die is to live. The more we live, the more we die. The more we die, the more we live. How do we do that? Perhaps Paul gave a lucid and practical commentary: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20, TNIV)
D. By faith, the self must be crucified daily; the devil must be resisted daily; the world must be overcome daily. There is a war to be waged, and a battle to be fought! Let Christ live in you!
E. “Battles are to be fought every day. A great warfare is going on over every soul, between the prince of darkness and the Prince of life. There is a great battle to be fought, . . . but you are not to do the main fighting here. As God’s agent you are to yield yourselves to Him, that He may plan and direct and fight the battle for you, with your co-operation. The Prince of life is at the head of His work. He is to be with you in your daily battle with self, that you may be true to principle; that passion, when warring for the mastery, may be subdued by the grace of Christ; that you come off more than conqueror through Him that hath loved us. Jesus has been over the ground. He knows the power of every temptation. He knows just how to meet every emergency, and how to guide you through every path of danger.” (Ellen White, SD, We Choose the Best: Choose Christ as Captain, 160)
F. “Christianity is a cross, and a cross is ‘I’ crossed out.” —John Bisagno
II. A willingness to carry their cross.
A. The cross here does not symbolize suffering, but rather the decision to do the will of God whatever the cost. The cross is the symbol of doing our duty, even at the cost of the most painful death.
B. Luke, with a flash of sheer insight, adds one word to this command of Jesus: “Let him take up his cross daily.” The really important thing is not the great moments of sacrifice, but a life lived in the constant hourly awareness of the demands of God and the need of others. The Christian life is a life which is always concerned with others more than it is concerned with itself.
C. “Discipleship is a doing of what is right, no matter how irksome the privations, no matter how great the dangers.”—Allison and Davies, Matthew 2:681
D. “Taking up one’s cross” in antiquity hardly meant simply putting up with an annoying roommate or having to live with ingrown toenails. It meant marching on the way to one’s execution, shamefully carrying the heavy horizontal beam (the patibulum) of one’s own death-instrument through a jeering mob. “A suffering and dying Messiah liketh you ill; but what if His servants shall meet the same fate? They may not; but who follows Me must be prepared for the worst.” But suffering always leads to glory. This is why Jesus ended this short sermon with a reference to His glorious kingdom (Matt. 16:28).
E. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed: See the thorn-crown; mark His scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills…. And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it.”
III. A willingness to follow Jesus.
A. To follow Jesus simply means to pattern our lives after His life.
B. “We are to grow daily in spiritual loveliness. We shall fail often in our efforts to copy the divine Pattern. We shall often have to bow down to weep at the feet of Jesus, because of our shortcomings and mistakes; but we are not to be discouraged; we are to pray more fervently, believe more fully, and try again with more steadfastness to grow into the likeness of our Lord.” —Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 336, 337.
C. Jesus presented to the disciples two approaches to life (paradox of the cross):
deny yourself live for yourself
take up your cross ignore the cross
follow Christ follow the world
lose your life for His sake save your life for your own sake
forsake the world gain the world
keep your soul lose your soul
share His reward and glory lose His reward and glory
C. “When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit. But He will not accept those who claim to have faith in Him and yet are disloyal to His Father’s commandment. We hear a great deal about faith, but we need to hear a great deal more about works. Many are deceiving their own souls by living an easy-going, accommodating, crossless religion. But Jesus says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”. (Ellen White, Faith and Works, 50)
Conclusion: “If anyone would come after me, he must continually say yes to God and say no to himself and he must have daily decision to do the will of God whatever the cost and a heart to obey God.” (Mat 16:24, My Message)
“If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? For I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of my Father with his angels and will judge all people according to their deeds.” (vv. 25-27, NLT)
See, keynote (for mac users only): The Paradox of the Cross: Gaining by Loosing