SERMON 1 “Practice of the Cross”
Last series = Story of God
- Last episode we discussed the early church… people who’s lives were shaped by this story and the Gospel message who went out and turned the world upside down. (followed by ‘Reconciliation’…BIG project…impossible on our own)
I’m convinced that if we are going to have any affect on the world around us, we can’t be content with being passive in our faith! We need to be people who’s lives have been radically reshaped by the gospel and the cross of Christ!
AG History = “Don’t GO to Church; BE the Church”
Formula VS. Cross-shaped life
Norormally people desire a program for these kinds of things…
“What are the 5 steps?” …etc.
But what we are talking about here is being a community on mission together…
Having life-on-life transformational relationships…
It’s in the context of that that we see change…
We don’t have some magical formula…
We don’t have a course we take people through
We don’t have a program that we implement
It’s about sharing life…
And in the kind of day-to-day moments, talking through what it means to be the church, what it means to be a family of disciples that live on mission by living lives of service to everyone around them… …Christians and non-believers as well…
It’s through the everyday life situations that real discipleship happens, not in sterile classrooms by digesting information…
BUT modeling and applied truth that happens from speaking the gospel in the context of daily life…
What does that look like?
What we’re going to give you in this series is a framework for living the gospel…
We need to be people who are SHAPED by the cross and resurrection…
That’s it really… it’s as simple as that…
When you look at church planting movements around the world, one of the common characteristics is that they are persecuted.
So we’ve been thinking about that…
What is the lesson that we learn from that?
I’m not sure that the lesson is that we must be persecuted, or that we should go out and seek persecution…
“I’m going to be a martyr!!! YEAAAAH!!!”
But what persecution does is that it makes you a cross-centered people…
When your decision to become a Christian potentially involves the decision to become a martyr, what does that do for your discipleship?
See, in our Western culture we have this kind of incremental approach to discipleship:
- You kind of get people in through your evangelism
- Then you sort of start teaching them to pray and read the Bible
- Then to serve in the local church
- Then to witness to their friends
- We just kind of lump it up for them bit by bit
- We have this “Step by step” approach
If when you decide to become a Christian you make a decision potentially to be a martyr, all the other decisions are made…
When you make THAT decision, you’ve already made the decisions about:
- How you use your money
- How you use your time
- How you approach family life
- How you deal with friends that reject you
ALL those sorts of decisions are made, WHEN you make a decision to DIE
Here’s the deal…
When Jesus did his altar-call, his altar-call was “Come and Die… Come take up your cross and follow me…”
Are you with us?
I want us to get our heads around the idea that maybe we need to be calling people to die…
To take up the Way of the Cross…
So let’s dive into that…
Let’s think first of the PRACTICE of the Cross –
What does it look like to live a cross-centered life?
As we said when Jesus issues his call to conversion this is what he said in Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me…deny themselves daily and take up their cross and follow me.”
Following Jesus means following the Way of the Cross
Later in Luke’s Gospel Jesus says “…and anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me can not be my disciple!”
As we said that is a decision, potentially, for martyrdom.
But actually the way that plays out in the life of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus, and even in that phrase there “To take up our cross daily” means that actually the Way of the Cross affects EVERY area of everyday life.
What does it mean to follow the way of the cross?
It means to have that same sacrificial love that Jesus had.
Think of the night he was betrayed…
Rewind to earlier that evening at the last supper with his disciples…
What does Jesus do, that so goes against what we think he should do?
He washes the feet of his followers!
John tells us he knows three things in that moment.
He knew that his hour had come
He knew that all authority had been given to him
He knew that Judas would betray him
And then he went and knowing that, he washes his disciples feet!
Think of that!
That just blows our excuses for not serving others out of the water, doesn’t it!
“I’ve got too much going on…I’m busy”
Jesus knew that his hour had come…
In other words he knew that he was about to be arrested, tried, beaten, crucified, separated from his Father…
In THAT Moment his first thought is serving his disciples
He knew that all authority had been given to him…
(In fact, it says that He knew that all authority had been given to him SO he put on the towel and began washing…)
Peter describes it later (I think he’s alluding back to this) as the “Apron of humility”
Then He knew that Judas was going to betray Him
Think of our excuses…
“They always bring me down…”
“They’re a waste of time… they never change…”
“I’ve served them so many times and what do I get back?”
Submission to the Will of the Father
One of the striking things about the NT is the way that it is constantly applying the Way of the Cross, to the way we are to live…
So I don’t know if you have those bracelets that have become hugely popular in the last ten to twenty years… the wwjd, “what would jesus do” bracelets and that whole merchandising thing.
We're thinking of doing some merchandising around “WDIMTFTWOTC.”
“What does it mean to follow the way of the cross?”
The question we should be asking is not “what would jesus do?” but in this situation, what does it mean to follow the way of the cross?
(“WOTC”. That would be shorter. “Way of the Cross.” }
Just think about it.
Somebody wrongs me.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Eph. 4:32
Or you find yourself asking, “How will this affect me?”
This situation. “How will it affect ME?”
“All of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
Your family asks why you haven’t pursued a career like other people.
You’re not successful!
“May I never boast but in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” Gal. 6
What happens when I open my wallet?
Paul says, “See that you accept the grace of giving…”
What is his standard for our giving?
Does he go back to the law, back to tithing?
No, he says,
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich.”
What happens if you receive threatening phone calls for your allegiance to Christ?
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the painful trials and suffering as though something strange were happening, but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
What about when you find it difficult to get along with other Christians?
“Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you.”
What happens when you get into a position of authority?
“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all. For even the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What happens when we see Christians in need?
“This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”
So the measure again and again is the cross of Jesus.
What happens when you get home from a hard day at work, and you come home and your wife is tired, and she’s had enough of the kids, and you just want to slump in the chair.
“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
What I want you to see is that the way of the cross impacts the big life choices we make, but it also impacts our small daily decisions and actions. It really does include both martyrdom and loading the dishwasher, contextualized. In fact, there’s a sense in which every small act of service is preparation for martyrdom. Every act is a dying to self. A little dying to self. You see many of us, I suspect, think that we might do well with the big things. Many of us do Large things for Christ. Some of you will have left home and moved new places to be on mission. Some of you have changed careers to follow the call of Christ. But sometimes we don’t do so well in the small, everyday things.
In fact, I just want you to think for a moment, “what would it mean for me to follow the way of the cross in the next five minutes following this gathering?”
Just think, “How can I do self-sacrifice, submission, denial, suffering and service in the next five minutes?”
And then think, “What would it mean for me in the next five hours?” Just sort of track your head in the day.
What about in the next five days?
What is it going to mean for you when you after this gathering?
How about in the next five months?
What about in the next five years?
See what I’m saying?
It impacts every day, every part of our lives.
[Treasure in the field]
Let me tell you a story that Jesus once told. Jesus said the kingdom of God is a bit like this: A man was out working in the field and on his way home he stumbled across, something sort of poking out through the dirt, some treasure. So he goes home and finds out who this field belongs to. And when he discovers who it is, he goes and makes a deal and the price is high, so he sells everything he has. He had big yard sale, on a massive scale. And everyone thinks he’s crazy. He’s sort of smiling, giggling to himself as off goes the stereo, off goes the washing machine. “What kind of fool is this?” everyone’s thinking, but he sold everything. He’s full of joy because he gets to buy the field and have the treasure. Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field, and in his excitement he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”
Notice he does that in joy, in excitement.
He’s excited about this.
Giving everything up so that he could gain the treasure.
In Christ we have a treasure that is worth selling everything to own. We have an inheritance that makes it worth giving up everything.
We have Christ who is of infinite value.
Not only that, but when we see this…
- When we see the value of Christ,
- When we see our wonderful inheritance,
- When we see him as the altogether lovely one,
- When he is our treasure,
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”
That’s the story of the man in the field, isn’t it?
That’s the story of Paul, that’s the story of the man in the field.
Paul says, “I have sold everything to own this treasure. I count everything loss that I may gain Christ.”
*You will reveal the value you put on Christ by what you are willing to risk and give up for him.
Prayer & Discussion