Carrying Our Own Cross: Part 1 of 3

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What: Sunday Morning Service
Where: Gateway Community Church
When: April 17, 2011
Pastor: Randy Hageman

This past Wednesday we had a Vision Night, and I shared with folks where I see God working here at Gateway – it was great: we had to set up a lot of extra chairs. God has
done so much already in this church, and we’ve seen a lot of miracles around here, but we also see a lot of folks who are don’t have a lot of joy and are just plain missing
the full, rich, abundant life God intended.

There’s no real sense of peace or purpose to their lives, and often a lot of guilt and shame and fear. Jesus talked about lives like that – about why they’re experiencing what
they are experiencing and what he can do for them instead.

Jesus: “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10 Message)

I think, in part, he’s talking about folks who have never welcomed him into their lives, & the thief, the devil, really has a lot of sway in their lives that they don’t even see.
But, I think he’s also talking about a lot of Christ followers who don’t feel like their lives measure up to what they believed they would experience.

Sometimes that happens because no one has ever taught them how to grow their faith & live it out every day – they need someone to come alongside them to teach them &
encourage them, and we want that to be our culture here. But some have gotten lazy or complacent or just busy, & there’s little accountability. It’s not that there’s no faith,
but it’s lukewarm, and Jesus warned about that.

Jesus: “‘15) I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16) But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!’” (Revelation 3:15-16 NLT2)

Now, I’m not pointing fingers here without starting with me – for a chunk of my Christian life, I think Jesus was me this warning. Even as a pastor I found that at times I
was trying to live a life of convenient Christianity, doing the easy stuff but seldom putting myself out for Christ. I had made Jesus my Savior, but he wasn’t often my Lord.

After all, it seemed to me that some of the stuff he was talking about was kind of extreme and would require more time and effort than I wanted to give. It’s probably no
coincidence that we’re talking about this on Palm Sunday, the day in Jesus’ life when he entered Jerusalem to crowds who were singing his praises. Yet, when it came time
to put up or shut up, most of them, including his closest followers, abandoned him, and, in fact, many of those folks who praised him on Sunday called for his death on
Friday.

It scares me that there are times when I think I could have been a part of that crowd. Over the last couple of years God has been really showing me – & I believe He’s been
showing others here at Gateway – that convenient Christianity doesn’t cut it. In fact, I believe convenient Christianity is really very frustrating & doesn’t work. The very
things that offer the Christ follower power and joy and hope in their daily living are also the things that require more commitment, and even sacrifice – and I have passed
on those things too many times in my own life.

But from everything I read in the Bible and from my experiences, I believe I have gained a much clearer picture of what I was doing wrong. And I want to talk to you about
that this morning, because it’s really important.

We’ve been talking about what God did for us through Jesus’ death on the cross. We said his death served as a substitute for the death we deserved because of our sins –
Jesus had not sinned but became sin and died our death. And when we welcome Jesus into our lives as Savior and Lord, his Holy Spirit comes to live within us, to guide us
and encourage us and transform us.

But the Holy Spirit isn’t just a house guest – God’s the new Owner of my life.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT2): “19) Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

My life is no longer my own – I was freed from slavery to sin and death for a new Lord and Master Who has high expectations about how I live my life now, but the Holy
Spirit is also a Gentleman, as Ben Cowart likes to say, & won’t force Himself on me.

I’ve told you that I’ve been reading a lot for this series, particularly from John Stott, who wrote The Cross of Christ. One of the things he talks about is a two-fold calling
Christ followers need to adopt for ourselves and our now redeemed life that still struggles with sin this side of heaven. The first is the call to self-denial, and Jesus said it
very clearly.

Jesus: “…‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” (Mark 8:34 TNIV)

Crucifixion was a common means of execution by the Romans in the time of Jesus. And they made Jesus carry his cross, or at least the cross bar, to the site of execution,
like they made every condemned man do. So, when Jesus tells us to take up our cross, he’s telling us to put ourselves in the position of a condemned man headed to
execution.

That really doesn’t sound like something I’d like to do, and so sometimes we try to soften this statement by saying our cross is whatever difficulty we have to deal with in
life, like a cantankerous wife or irritable husband. But if we take scripture seriously, we cannot say that those are our cross – our cross is the symbol of death to our own
self.

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