Every time you awaken in the morning, commit yourself to your Lord.
Alright thank you very much, and hello again dear radio friends. How in the world are you? Yes, is your good friend Dr. Cook and I’m glad to be back with you to share from the Word of God. What we try to do is to put a handle on it so that you can get hold of God’s blessed Word for yourself and apply it to your life. I’ve just been praying that God might put His love and His power and His truths into every word I say. We can’t see each other and that may be a very good thing sometimes, but we can hear and we can listen and we can be impacted by the eternal Word of God, and so it’s very important isn’t it, that when yours truly talks, the Holy Spirit of God talks through him. That’s been my prayer, day by day, as I produce these broadcasts.
Now, look with me if you will, at Mark eight verse 34, Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after Me”, we talked about that, whosoever will, didn’t we, and it says, you have to make up your mind, the decision is up to you, after that certain things follow. “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me”. Deny himself means to cancel out the I, me and mine factor in your life. What’s in it for me? You have to learn to ask, what’s in it for you Lord and for people that you want to reach. Give up the right to try again without God. Give up the right to think well of yourself without the grace of God. Paul said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am”, and when he talked about himself at all, he apologized. He said, well it’s really not right for me to say these things, but I’ll save them so that you’ll know what happened in my life, then he went on to tell what God had done.
You cancel out the right to think well of yourself, apart from the grace of God. Now that is a tremendous decision because all of us naturally have that ego that likes to be stroked. You know, you love to have someone say, oh you did well, that’s a good job, I’m proud of you. Somewhere many years ago, I ran across the important words. The five, the five most important words that are these, I am proud of you. The four most important words are, what is your opinion? The three most important words are, if you please, and the two most important words are thank you, and the one most important word is, you. This was given to me in connection with a course in direct mail. If you’re going to get people to listen to you, you have to use those, what we call the you response. You have to appeal to the other persons need to be recognized. Well this all true and you use it every day, I’m sure.
The fact is however, that when you and I are dealing with our own relationship with the Lord Jesus, we have to learn to put Him first instead of ourselves. “Deny himself”, means put Christ first instead of myself. What does He want? What will bring glory to Him? What serves His eternal purpose? What enhances His testimony before people? What does He want me to say now? That is part of what is involved in that phrase, “deny himself”.
Now, back to what I said originally a little while ago, God doesn’t expect you to cancel out the person that is you. Develop your personality, develop your gifts. You can be a lot more attractive, you can be a lot easier to get along with, you can be a lot more effective in personal relationships, if you work at it. Develop all of those areas for goodness sake. Don’t figure that to be spiritual means that you have to become a nothing, and simply be uninteresting. Be as challenging and as smart and as attractive as you can, but beyond and underneath and around all of that, let the Lord Jesus Christ give the orders. Good idea? That’s why Evelyn Christiansen says, “First pray, then plan”. First pray, then decide. First pray, then have your meeting. First pray, then take the step of action. Pray first and then take your steps. “Deny himself”, all involved in that. Then He says, “Take up his cross”. Now a cross was understood by everyone in that day to be the instrument of excruciatingly painful death. It was, it was always there, there was always somebody being crucified by the Roman government that was in charge in those days, and so if someone committed a crime, if it were considered severe enough, then he or she was condemned crucifixion, which was an agonizingly slow and excruciatingly painful method of death. People sometimes lingered for days strung up there upon the cross, where every breath was an effort. The theory of crucifixion was that the victim died not through loss of blood because there’s very little loss of blood, died ultimately from suffocation, because the body was mounted on the cross in such a way, that in order to breathe, you had to exert pressure on the leg muscles to lift the body, so as to take the other pressure off of the arm muscles and the diaphragm, and finally when the body was too tired to exert that pressure any longer, you simply were unable to take one more breath, and the victim then and expired. Agonizingly slow, excruciatingly painful method of death.
Now, Jesus used that word, He said, “Take up his cross”. Why? Well number one, He knew that He Himself was going to die on a cross and this was a kind of prophecy of that. Number two, He wanted to use the most dramatic form available of what was involved in following Him. A person who was going to a cross was not coming back. It was an absolute commitment to what was about to happen next. If he carried, and this was the custom in those days, to make the condemned person carry his own method of death, carry his cross to the place of execution, that was part of the custom, and so a person who was walking along carrying his cross was saying, I’m not coming back. I’m committed to what’s going to happen, when I get there, they’re going to stretch me out on this cross, they’re going to pound the nails through hands and feet, they’re going to lift the cross up in and put it in the socket in the rock, and I’ll hang their till I’m dead. No plans further beyond that. Absolute, absolute that is commitment to Jesus Christ, “Take up his cross”.
Now that’s a hard saying because we always leave a little side exit in our thinking, don’t we? Everything is fine except, and I suppose if it comes right down to it, the index of success or failure depends upon how many side exits you have your commitment to the Will of God.
How gracious and patient the Lord is with so many of us in that through the years we’ve done sort of a side step now and again, when we face the ultimate will of God about something. Isn’t it true? How patient and gracious the Lord has been with us. Thank you Father, but at the same time the truth is there. Jesus said, “When you decide that you put me first, it’s like a person carrying his cross to the place of execution. There isn’t any return”. This person had no rights. He wasn’t in marching now in a civil rights demonstration; his rights had been forfeited, and so indeed are yours and mine when we give ourselves completely to the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not our rights now, and by the way never ask for your just desserts, if you had what you and I deserve we’d be in hell already, because we’re sinners. Don’t ask for justice, plead for mercy. Plead for mercy. Make much of the mercy of God because that’s what you and I need in Christ, but there you are. It’s an absolute commitment, you are not returning, you’re not turning back, there isn’t any turning back, there isn’t any future for you aside from your commitment to Christ, and you’ve given up your rights for His. All of this is involved in His simple phrase, “Take up his cross”. Another gospel writer uses the word daily, “Take up his cross daily and follow me”. It’s a daily commitment, it’s a daily commitment. Every time you awaken in the morning, commit yourself to your Lord. Let Him hear you calling upon His name in love and worship and adoration and commitment. Tell Him once again, with all of your heart, with all the sincerity in your soul, that you want His will in your life this very day. Take up His cross daily.
It also means identification because He said, “Come after Me. Take up his cross and follow Me”. Jesus is the man of the cross and so He’s saying, I want you to be identified with Me. Now, using this form of speech it’s an embarrassment to be identified closely with a criminal, isn’t it? Like me, others of you have visited, often times in prisons, there to preach the gospel or to visit from to cellblock to cellblock, to talk with the prisoners and all that, but we do it as outsiders. Yes we came in the front door and we were routinely identified and searched for any contraband, and anything we shouldn’t bring in, and then we were allowed to go in among the prisoners and talk, and have a service of some sort, but we were outsiders. We went out again. It’s something else, isn’t it, to be identified with a criminal, to be identified with a condemned prisoner. Oh yes, that’s what the Lord Jesus Christ is asking us to do. If you want to follow Him, He says, “I want you to be identified with Me even in the matter of carrying your cross”.
Now, how does that work out in the 20th century? Well, it works out something like this. Number one, you let it be known that you are a Christian. You can do that in many ways, you don’t have the stand on a soapbox and preach to people all the time, by the decisions you make, by the difference in your life from other people’s lifestyle, by the love you show, by the willingness you have to speak of your Savior when there is opportunity given, by the consistency of your life that measures up to the standards of God’s inerrant Word the Bible, so many different ways, you let it be known that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. You identify yourself with Him, and then when it comes to the question of, am I willing to give up something of personal benefit or advantage, because I’m a Christian? You do so gladly, because you belong to your blessed, loving Lord. Identified with Christ by your attitude, by your lifestyle, by your decisions, and by your sacrifice for His sake. We’ll take up this a little more next time we get together.
Dear Father today, help us to follow our Lord Jesus in deed as well as in word, I ask in His name, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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