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Sun, Jan 25, 2015

64 - Take Up Your Cross [b]

Matthew 10:34-42 by Robert Dean
What does catching a monkey have to do with taking up our cross daily? Listen to this lesson to learn that as Christians we live in enemy territory. See that unless we are fortified with the Word of God we will become casualities in the angelic conflict. Find out the three types of peace mentioned in the Bible and why Jesus said He did not come to bring peace. Understand that our worst enemies may be our own families. Learn that on a daily basis we have to make decisions to deny ourselves and submit to God’s authority.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:1 hr 17 mins 1 sec

Take Up Your Cross
Matthew 10:34–42
Matthew Lesson #064
January 25, 2015
www.deanbibleministries.org

Last time I began by talking about the fact that we are involved in a war, and are surrounded by the enemy. And we as believers in Jesus Christ live and operate exclusively within enemy territory. Since Adam ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the authority that has taken over this earth is the authority of Satan. Scripture teaches that we live under his authority; we live in his domain, and Paul on numerous occasions talks about the fact that when we trust in Christ we are transferred from the authority of Satan to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. This transfer takes place instantly at the point at which we are saved.

The problem we often run into in our Christian life is that we have a traitor inside of us. That traitor is the sin nature, and that sin nature is oriented to the world system. The cosmic system, i.e., Satan’s system of thought, is Satan’s operational domain. The word that is used in the Bible to describe this is the word “world”. In Romans 12:2 we are told not to conform to the world, and the word there for conform is the idea of being pressed into that mold, to think and act like those around us, to conform to the standards of the culture around us so that we do not stand out. If the world around us is under the authority of Satan, and Scripture says that it is, Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4); and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2); then what we recognize is that those Christians who are living in enemy territory and stand out are going to create a conflict within that territory. We become identified more and more in our current American culture as the enemy because as the culture drifts more and more in the direction of pure paganism and is more and more overtly antagonistic to biblical values, it is going to be more and more identified with that which is evil.

That is exactly what Jesus warned the disciples about as He sent them out to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. He said that if they called Him the devil (Beelzebub), how much more are they going to call us Satan? They said that if He is so evil they would have to crucify Him in order to protect their culture, how much more would those who were His followers experience the same kind of hostility?

We have lived in an historical bubble over the last 300 years in the United States and have been privileged and blessed beyond anything that we can imagine to live in a culture that was founded by Christians, by those who were truly regenerate and who understood the biblical teachings and values and establishment principles related to the divine institutions. And even those who were not necessarily born again or regenerate were so influenced by that worldview in the 17th and 18th centuries that that worldview is embedded within the founding culture of this nation. But over the last 250 years that has been eroded. And again, because this is a civilization that functions and operates within the devil’s world, Satan has been in a grand assault against the United States and against the theocentric view that influenced the founding of this country. It has eroded gradually from decade to decade over the last 250 years; and now we have passed the turning point, and we live in a world that is becoming much more fearless in its opposition to Biblical Christianity and Biblical Christians.

I am fearful because of the direction this nation has been going, because of the trajectory that we have had for the last forty years, that this Supreme Court is going to affirm same-sex marriage for the nation. This is going to be just another domino that is going to fall, and as a result of that it won’t be long before we see many of the states that have adopted hate speech legislation will begin to apply that in terms of Biblical Christians and organizations that take a stand against same-sex union. We have already seen that in numerous court cases in different states where people who have privately-owned businesses have refused to provide services at same-sex weddings. This is going to become much more of an issue where we will be identified as the problem and we will be identified as promoting a position that is against homosexuals. And unfortunately there are too many Christians that take a very hateful position. It is not that God hates homosexuals; it is that God hates homosexuality. God hates murder; God hates lying; God hates any number of sins, but He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should no perish but have everlasting life. God has such a love for the world that He provides the solution for sin. Even though God abominates the sin, He does not abominate the sinner. This is a distinction that unfortunately will be always lost upon those who are not believers; but sadly it is lost on too many people who claim to be Christians, and might be Christians, but they don’t understand grace orientation at all.

So the battle in which we find ourselves is one that is going to get progressively more difficult where we move from covert persecution and opposition to more overt opposition. In much of our experience the opposition we have faced in the world has been perhaps snide remarks, sarcasm, or ridicule. If we are not mentally fortified with the Word of God, then we will become a casualty in the angelic conflict very quickly because we don’t have the spiritual-intellectual ammunition necessary to withstand the assault. We live in that kind of a world. We have to develop a very tough mindset as believers in this combat, the kind of mindset that was evidenced in WWII at the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in November of 1944. This was the last great counter offensive that the Nazis launched against the allies. They surrounded the 101st Airborne at a place called Bastogne and sent a contingency there to offer terms of surrender. The General responded: “Theirs or ours?” He said: “Aw nuts!” Then as his staff discussed among themselves how they were going to reply, one of the officers said: “Why don’t you just say what you said and just say, Nuts!” That has gone down in history as the classic reply to a demand for surrender and shows a tough mental attitude. That is the kind of mentality that Americans need to have.        

We have to have the kind of tough mental attitude that can only come from the Word of God because we have the conviction deep in our souls that what we believe is the absolute truth—the truth of God’s creation, the truth of the Word of God—and that no matter what opposition might develop around us, we are going to stay tough, stay the course, and we are not going to let anything or anyone get in our way. That is the kind of mentality that Jesus is talking about as He warns His disciples in Matthew chapter ten of the kind of opposition that they were going to face. He warns them and then begins to tell them not to be afraid, not to fear what man can do to them.

Matthew 10:34-35 NASB “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW,” a quote from Micah 7:6 referencing the fact that there is going to be this kind of opposition to extend even within the family. It comes down to the closest of your relationships. What Jesus is saying here is to that person who is willing to be a disciple. That is not a Christian. A Christian is not the same as a disciple. Not all of the disciples were believers. Judas Iscariot was not a believer in Jesus Christ. And in some of the contexts in John’s Gospel, it is clear that some of those who were called disciples in a very general way were not believers. A disciple, remember, is someone who is simply a student or a follower of a teacher in a broad general sense. That is one way in which the word is used in the Scripture. But here Jesus is talking about those who have specifically and overtly identified themselves with Jesus in a close intimate way and are willing to be complete and total followers of Him. He warns here that this is a situation that will cause problems even within the family.

What the Lord is saying here is to follow Him. He demands exclusive devotion. Nothing gets in the way of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 10:36 NASB “and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.”

Matthew 10:37 NASB “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” What in the world does that mean? Some people take that to mean that you can’t really be saved, you are not really a Christian if you violate this principle.  Matthew 10:38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. [vs.39] He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

When we look at this section, this first verse seems to provide a contradiction, and liberals and skeptics are those who come and point this out, that this is one of those areas where there is a contradiction in Scripture. On the one hand you say that Jesus is supposed to be the Messiah, the Prince of Peace who will bring peace on earth, goodwill toward men; and on the other hand He says He did not come to bring peace on earth. Which is it? This is a contradiction.

So we have to understand that at different times and different situations the same person can value different things; they are not contradictory if you understand the context and the circumstance and situation. In the Old Testament it is very clear that the Messiah came to bring peace (Isaiah 9:6, 7). This indicates His attribute, that as a ruler He will bring peace upon the earth. There will be world peace, a lack of military conflict and hostility during that thousand-year reign of Christ, until the very end of that time when Satan will be released from the Abyss where he has been confined with the demons. They are not released until the end of that thousand-year reign, and then there will be a very brief period of conflict. But that thousand years will be characterized for the first time in history by genuine world peace in the sense of the absence of military conflict. So the prophecies from the Old Testament indicate that this is going to be a time of peace. 

This is reflected in the announcement of the angels to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem where they said: “Glory to God on the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”. If you are using an NASB, NIV or any number of the modern translations it reads a little differently. That is based on the Nestle Text, which I do not think is the better text. The older text is the Majority Text, which I think reflects the majority of MSS, and that is what we find in terms of the reading in Luke’s Gospel in the KJV and NKJV. This is because the Messiah was coming to bring peace on the earth. That is the message in the first part of Christ’s ministry in all of the Gospels: that He is the promised Messiah and was coming to offer His kingdom, and His kingdom would be characterized by peace. So this makes perfect sense. It is not an announcement that Jesus came to bring peace at that particular time; that would be the characteristic of His messianic reign if He had been accepted.

The Bible talks about three kinds of peace. The first kind of peace is peace with God. We were born in a state of enmity with God, in a state of hostility. Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners”—in opposition to God, hostile, in a state of enmity—”Christ died for us.” In the Old Testament, in Isaiah 53:5 it says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities,” indicating substitution. He suffered and died on the cross as our substitute. “… The chastening for our well-being [peace] {fell} upon Him …” For the purpose of peace, because we were at enmity with God. He bore our punishment so that we could have peace with God. “… And by His scourging we are healed”. That healing has to do in context not with physical disease but with the underlying spiritual disease, which is sin, and the restoration of a harmonious relationship with God. That is what is spoken of by healing.

In Ephesians 6:15 Paul referred to the gospel as the “gospel of peace”. This is what we are announcing when we explain the gospel to the unsaved: You can have peace with God! Romans 5:1 NASB “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are declared to be righteous. We are not made righteous. We are no given infused righteousness; there is not a moral change that takes place within us; there is not a reduction in force in the sin nature, it is still the nasty, corrupt nature it always was. But we understand that because of the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:3–5) that we are freed from its tyranny, but it is still there just as corrupt as it has always been. What Paul says is that because we have been justified by faith, we have peace, present tense.

That is also known as the doctrine of reconciliation. We have been reconciled to God. That state of enmity has been removed; and now there is a state of peace and harmony between us and God. 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 NASB “Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” That ministry of reconciliation is to tell others that they have been reconciled to God by Christ, and so what we are to give them is the message of reconciliation: that they are to be reconciled to God. How does that take place? By putting their trust in Jesus Christ alone. 

The second way in which peace is used in the Scripture has to do with the sense of inner calm, a sense of tranquility, a sense of stability and even happiness no matter what goes in external circumstances, no matter how much persecution or opposition there may be. We can be relaxed because we put our focus upon the Lord. It takes time to learn how to do that; it is not something you acquire instantly. We have to learn the promises and how to claim those promises. Over times as we practice claiming those promises in different situations the result is that it fortifies our soul, and as we encounter situations it becomes second nature to not get concerned, distracted, get our feelings hurt, and not take it personally when people reject us or ridicule or oppose us because of our stand for the Lord Jesus Christ.

This peace is a supernatural peace. It is listed among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. And in John 14:27 NASB it says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” This isn’t the kind of peace that somebody can acquire through using positive mental attitude techniques that are available to any human being and any sin nature. This is something totally different. This is a supernaturally based stability that comes as a result of an ongoing walk by God the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us His peace. There is no reason to give in to anxiety or concern, or to be stressed out about opposition and hostility from unbelievers. We ought to expect it; it goes with the territory.

John 16:33 NASB “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [adversity], but take courage; I have overcome the world.” We will face adversity.

There is a terrible misrepresentation of Dispensationalists that has been going around. There is a film in which it is said that Dispensationalists are misrepresenting and deceiving the Christians in their congregations because they are telling them that they are not going to experience tribulation: that they escape tribulation in this life by the Rapture. What they are doing is presenting a logical fallacy by taking a word, tribulation, which refers to adversity—and we often refer to that great end-time period of the wrath of God during Daniel’s 70th week as the Tribulation—and they say, “see, you’re not going to go through the Tribulation” as being the same as you’re not going through any tribulation. That is not true. We recognize and teach that there is opposition to the truth of God’s Word, and that Christians go through horrible opposition; and in much of the world there is still a tremendous amount of martyrdom.

Jesus said that we would have tribulation, but here is the promise: He has overcome the world. That is a perfect tense in the Greek, which means that He has already overcome it. He has had victory over it, and because He has had victory over the world system, we too can have victory over the world system. It has to do with whether or not we are going to follow Him.

So the first way in which peace is used is in terms of relationship with God. The second is inner peace and inner tranquility. The third way in which peace is used is the absence of war or military conflict, and this will characterize the final reign of the Messiah when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth and establishes His kingdom upon the earth. Isaiah 54:10 NASB says, “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My loving kindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken, Says the LORD who has compassion on you.” God tells His people that He will not remove His covenant of peace during this time. These chapters at the end of Isaiah focus upon the coming kingdom.

Isaiah 66:12 NASB says, “For thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees’.”  This will characterize the world under the messianic rule.

Isaiah 2:4 NASB: “And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.”

In Matthew the message that is being proclaimed—the gospel, the good news of the kingdom—is that Jesus is offering the kingdom to Israel, and if they accept it and accept His reign then there will be peace. But as Jesus says later on in Matthew, “The kingdom is in your midst, but the kingdom is being taken by violence.” This has been true throughout all of history. There is this violent opposition to God’s plan and purposes. At the time of the incarnation there was a violent reaction to the presence of the King, and so peace did not come at that time. Instead there was a violent reaction to the message of the King. That is what Jesus is talking about. So the principle that we see is that until Jesus returns to establish His righteous rule there will not be peace but hostility toward those who proclaim the gospel; but we have to learn not to react to that hostility.

“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Whenever we see the word “sword” in Scripture, if it is not talking about a literal sword and is talking about a sword metaphorically, it represents death. Jesus is talking about the fact that there will be conflict even to the point of death for those who follow Him. Then He said this was going to extend down to the closest relationships: that if you take a stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and for the Word of God you have to recognize that this is going to impact and disrupt even your most intimate relationships, or it might.         

Then He says in vs. 37: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

What does He mean? The word AXIOS has the meaning of something of like value, something that fits, something that is deserving, something that is suitable or something that is good enough. He is saying that the one who loves father or mother more than Him is not good enough, not suitable. Is this talking about salvation? Salvation is a free gift, not something that is earned. This is something that is earned. We could use another word: He who loves father and mother more than me is not deserving of me. This isn’t talking about getting into heaven; this is talking about being a disciple, a committed follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The same thing comes up with the use of “worthy” in vs. 38, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy [deserving] of Me.” The point that Jesus is making is, if we are going to follow Him, if we are going to say that we are a disciple of Jesus, a believer who wants to pursue spiritual maturity, then there are conditions that we must meet. Otherwise we cannot be a disciple. This verse is one of the most repeated conditions for discipleship in the Gospels. It is stated five times, two of which are in slightly different ways: Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 10:38; Luke 14:27.

Some initial observations: Matthew states it twice, under different circumstances and different situations. Jesus states this principle on more than one occasion. The fact that the writers of Scripture record any saying of Jesus more than once tells us that this is something the Holy Spirit wants us to pay attention to. In the first three examples—Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23—the context is very similar. In Matthew 10:38 and Luke 14:27 we have different contexts. But in each of these Jesus is emphasizing what it means to follow Him. He is really talking about what is the condition for following Him. In each of these situations He says: “Follow me”, except in Matthew 10:38 where He says, “is not worthy of me”.  That is the only time that worthiness enters into this particular saying.

In Luke 14:27 NASB He says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” That introduces it from the negative: we can’t be a disciple at all. It is completely excluded if we don’t take up the cross.

The next thing we see is that there is another condition here. We are to deny ourselves. This helps us to understand what it means to take up our cross. It involves self-denial. That is the juxtaposition. In other words, we have to be willing to give up all of our little self-absorbed goals. Our sin nature comes with a stamp on its very core nature, its DNA structure, that it is all about Me. It is about my hopes and dreams, about my career, about my family being the way I want my family to be. It is about pursuing goals, whether they are academic goals, business goals, entertainment or social goals; it is life as I want it to be, and I determine that. What Jesus is saying is that you can’t even approach going forward in your spiritual growth unless you deal with this foundational principle that it is not about you at all, you have to stamp it out; it is about the Lord Jesus Christ. Unless you get to that point in your Christian life, you will never get anywhere in terms of spiritual growth. This is a foundational principle that He states five times.           

Another thing that He points out in each of these verses is that we are to take up our cross. Each person is to take up his cross and follow Him. But He says it differently in Luke 9:23. He adds the adverb “daily”. It is not a one-shot decision; it is a daily decision. Are we going to say no to our self-absorption, which is our basic orientation in life, and say yes to the Lord Jesus Christ? This was exemplified in terms of the great struggle the Lord Jesus Christ went through before He went to the cross. The terms that are used there in the Greek describe the wrestling in His soul, the emotional tumult that He encountered as He struggled within His soul. And He was sinless. He did not look with joy on the pain and suffering that He was going to encounter on the cross. He did look with joy on the end result of what that would be in terms of our salvation.  

We are to take up this cross daily. We have to understand what that means because this is the condition. Two things: to deny ourselves and to take up that cross. If we don’t do it, the Lord is adamant that we cannot be a disciple. If we are not willing to say no to the sin nature and yes to the Word, and putting that first we cannot be Christ’s disciple.

What does this mean when he says to take up your cross daily? There are a lot of different views and interpretations. The vast majority understands that this is a figure of speech. But what is the nature of this particular figure of speech? We have to understand what Jesus is saying here, that we are to take up our cross daily, and we have to understand it within the context of the culture of the Greco-Roman culture of that particular time. The concept of crucifixion, which is an expansion on the concept of the cross, goes back to the ancient Persians. In the Roman Empire it was a practice that was applied only to non-Romans who were the vilest of criminals.    

After a victim was tortured and beaten, he would have to carry the crosspiece through the town in view of everyone in the public for his execution. Then he would have his hands (wrists) nailed to that crosspiece which would then be elevated and mounted on top of the vertical stake. The purpose for all of that display and pageantry of horror was to show that this person was being forced to submit to the authority and power of Rome. Their bearing the cross was the sign that their days of rebellion were over with and now they had submitted to the authority of Rome. Carrying your cross means to submit to the authorities. When Jesus was talking about this, He is saying that taking up your cross means to submit to the authority of God.

Philippians 2:8 NASB says, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This is talking about Jesus’ humanity. Even the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity had to submit to the authority of God the Father and go to the cross to pay the penalty for sin. This is the point that Jesus is making. On a daily basis we have to make the decision as to whether or not we are going to submit to the authority of God, the authority of God’s Word, in every area of our life, walking by God the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we cannot be a disciple; we cannot grow to spiritual maturity.  

Matthew 10:39 NASB: “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

In other words, if you are pursuing your agenda, finding your life, and what you think will make life meaningful to you, then in the end you will loose it. You will never achieve happiness or any kind of eternal consequence to you life. The only way that we can secure happiness, meaning and value in life is to lose our life for Christ’s sake, and we will find it.

This verse has always reminded me of catching a monkey. To catch a monkey you build a wooden box. You cut a hole in that box and inside you put a banana or piece of fruit that the monkey is going to like. You cut the hole just big enough for the monkey to tighten up his hand and put it through that hole. That monkey is going to put his hand through that hole, open his hand out wide and grasp the banana, and he doesn’t want to let it go. He is going to try to pull his hand out of that trap, but it won’t come back out through the hole because he doesn’t understand that unless he gives up what he wants, he can’t get free.

That is how so many Christians are. They are like that monkey. They don’t want to give up their life, their agenda, their hopes, their dreams. That doesn’t mean you can’t achieve. There are many people to whom the Lord says: “That’s what I want you to do”. But if you are not willing to give it up; if you are not willing to follow the Lord no matter what—to lose your life for His sake—you will never have life. You will have eternal life and will be in heaven, but you won’t have the quality of life on this earth that you could have and should have as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.