Greetings MOL Family!
Welcome back to our study on what it means to be a true disciple for Christ. These lessons that Peter had to learn, we must soon learn, too!
Take Up Your Cross
It was a custom among the Romans that a condemned criminal, who was to be crucified, had to carry his own cross from the place of judgment to the place of execution. Just as a man, at some times, has been compelled to dig his own grave before he was shot. But this was worse, of course, because he was not to be mercifully dispatched in a moment, but he was to die a long, slow, lingering death, nailed to that tree.
And now Jesus [in talking to His disciples] is saying, “I am going up there and suffer this. Do you want to go with Me? There’s a cross for you. A long, lingering death by self-denial. Do you see that cross? That’s your cross. I’m going to bear My cross. There’s a cross for you. Will you pick it up, not run away from it? Will you carry it, not throw it down? I am taking My cross willingly. You must accept yours voluntarily. There’s no force here.”
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. – Matthew 16:24-25
You remember we were studying that statement of Jesus to Peter, some months later there in the garden of Gethsemane – “Peter, put up the sword,”
For all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword. – Matthew 26:52
It isn’t just killing somebody else, using the sword in self-defense, that brings death by the sword at last. All effort to defend self, all desire to live for self, tends ultimately to self-destruction. God has so arranged things that the life that lives for self must perish. The only life that can be preserved is the life that gives itself in service, and if need be, in sacrifice, in death.
This is the law of life for the universe. This is the character of God. This is what God was before sin ever appeared. This is what God manifested Himself to be, when sin made that revelation necessary. This is what Jesus is sharing with His disciples. And this is what He is inviting them to share.
Aren’t you glad we don’t live in a time when people die on crosses? Aren’t you glad we’re living in a time when there’s no problem like this, no danger like this? Or is there? Ah, yes, for the message comes ringing down to our ears, the words of the Master:
If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. – Matthew 16:24
In Desire of Ages, we have a sentence that to me just stands right out on the page. It is the story commenting on what we have read this morning:
Peter did not desire to see the cross in the work of Christ. – The Desire of Ages, pg. 415
When Jesus introduced the cross, Peter said, “Be it far from Thee Lord. Let’s not go that way. There’s a different way, a better way.” satan had tried the same approach some time before, in the wilderness of temptation. He’d taken Jesus up to an exceeding high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and he said to Christ, “All these things I will give Thee if You will” do what? “Worship me.”
“Over here is the path to Calvary. Jesus, You don’t want to go that way. Why take that toilsome, bitter, difficult, painful road of death. I’ll give it to you without all that. Just worship me and I’ll give it to you. But Jesus turned away from the glory and took the shame. He turned away from that gift of the devil with the strings in it – worship satan. And He said:
Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. – Matthew 4:10
Now satan has returned with the same temptation, but using one of Christ’s closest disciples to present the invitation. “Be it far from Thee, Lord. Don’t go the way of the cross. There’s a better way than that. There’s an easier way.” You know, friends, satan is still in this business of showing us how to do the work of God without the cross. Oh, people are perfectly willing for the cross of Christ to be uplifted, provided it means that since Jesus took the cross, we don’t have to.
He took it for us. He took the hard time so we can have an easy time. He was homeless so we could have lovely homes. He walked so we can ride. He was nailed to the cross so we can sit comfortable and enjoy life.
You know, in the experience of the remnant church we face these same tests. God gave this people a message of health reform and medical ministry. I’ve been pondering over what God tried to do for and with this people in the health reform and medical missionary work. Do you know what He tried to do? He tried to get us to take up the cross. Health reform and medical missionary work present two great crosses. One touches the appetite; the other touches the love of money and ease. Both come pretty close to the selfish heart.
When health reform comes along and says to a man, “Not only must you give up your whiskey and your tobacco, your tea and your coffee, but it must come closer. Leave those flesh meats. Leave the excess of sweets. Leave a lot of these artificial desserts. Quit eating in between meals. Learn to enjoy simple foods. And don’t overeat.” Every one of those things, my friends, to people today is a cross, isn’t it?
But there are people [reading this lesson] that to leave whiskey alone presents no cross to them. Is it a cross to you to leave whiskey alone? Oh, no. But somewhere along the line of health reform will present a cross to you. Somewhere along the line of your appetite and what is really best, those two things cross. What does Jesus say? Pick up the cross. Carry it. Don’t evade it. But Peter would say, “Isn’t there some way?”
My dear friends, it is amazing to me today all the inventions that there are to make (I was about to say) health reform palatable. And don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we should deliberately make it unpalatable. No. We’re told that we should study to make dishes that are attractive and all that. But what I’m trying to say is, friends: After we get done with it, if we are doing it God’s way, it still presents a cross to the natural, unregenerate heart.
But more than that, health reform includes, in its broad features, medical ministry. Dr. Kellogg was used of God to bring to this people an appeal to help the poor, the suffering, the weak, the needy, the blind, the orphans and all that. Dr. Kellogg, led by the Holy Spirit, was not only a great reformer, he was a great humanitarian. He learned those things from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
He learned those things from Bro. James and Sis. Ellen White, who were like a father and a mother to him. If there were ever two philanthropists in the true sense of the term, they were Bro. James and Sis. Ellen White. As I think of the selflessness manifested in their lives, how they poured out their lives in service for anybody and everybody all through their years, oh, my dear
friends, I would that we could learn the lesson.
I want to tell you something. If as a people we had been willing to accept health reform, and the unselfish medical ministry that Dr. Kellogg was seeking to promote, I don’t think that Dr. Kellogg would ever have lost his way and stumbled along outside this movement. Oh, friends, some people are going to have something to answer for at the judgment bar of God – that they have made a god of their bellies, and were willing to pass by on the other side.
So, what are we going to do about it? Just as today there are all sorts of inventions to make health reform palatable so there’s no cross to it, so there has been now for decades a growing spirit of learning how to do medical missionary work without any sacrifice at all. And we’ve come to the time when to thousands of our young people offers are presented in how to be in what’s called the medical work, and still make a good living, live better than the rest of the people in general. Some have spoken of it as medical mercenary, instead of medical missionary.
My dear friends, these are tests this denomination must yet face. Dr. Kellogg is dead. Bro. and Sis. White are dead. But Jesus isn’t dead. Jesus is in the Sanctuary above, presenting His blood. He’s there as the Lamb slain. It still costs to provide the plan of salvation:
The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that from its very inception sin has brought to the heart of God. – Education, pg. 263
As Jesus is, in a sense, still on the cross – the cross of this world’s pain and woe and suffering – so I say to you, that those who follow Him, and those who choose to enter into fellowship with Him, will find a cross.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we need to manufacture any crosses. If God, in His providence, has given us a comfortable bed, He’s not calling us to get out of bed and get down on a hard floor, just to prove that we can take the cross. That isn’t the thing I’m talking about.
I simply say to you, my dear friends, that if we’ll press close to Jesus, we will find that in the control of appetite, somewhere, we’ll meet a cross. And in giving our lives in service for others, in helping the poor and the needy, the sick and the suffering, Jesus will call us to depart from the commercial and professional ways of this world, and meet the need, at whatever cost to us.
The Holy Spirit has to guide each one. We cannot dictate for others. But oh, we can ourselves pray that God will give us a revelation of the cross, such as finally came to Peter.
Let’s go over now to 1 Peter, again, and see how Peter finally learned this wonderful lesson. Thank God. 1 Peter 2:21. We read part of this in a previous lesson, but I want to note something further in it, today:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. – 1 Peter 2:21
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. – 1 Peter 4:12-13
Yes, suffering and trial await the Christian. But to the one who has viewed the cross of Christ there’s no turning back.
“Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee; All things else I have forsaken, Thou from hence my all shalt be.”
Until next week – Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
If we take up the cross and follow Christ, where will we be led?
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.