WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT “TAKE UP THE CROSS AND FOLLOW ME” – HE MUST INCREASE, I MUST DECREASE

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Matthew 19:21 KJV

Denying Self:

This means not allowing ourselves to be constraint by natural limitations. Every one of us is surrounded by natural limitations. Right now we are now in the worst recession in history.  Looks like things are really getting bad. How are we going to survive this crisis, let alone trying to live within our means? These are facts. We should not deny their existence. However, Jesus wants us to deny ourselves. This means, we should not allow ourselves to be limited by the situation. We have God on our side. He is more powerful than the worst economic crisis. As long as we choose to deny ourselves in not allowing the natural circumstances to have the final say in our lives, we can overcome them. Yes, we can live within our means even in the worst recession. He who is in us is greater than he who is in this world. The Bible says, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 KJV

Take up His Cross Daily and Follow Me:

Taking up the cross daily does not mean we must get crucified every day. Even Jesus got crucified only once. It means we should live everyday with the constant awareness on what Jesus had done at the Cross. At the Cross, Jesus died to pay for all our sins: past, present and future. The moment we believe in him, we are righteous by faith. We can go to God at any time we want and behave as though we have never committed a single sin in our lives. Why? As far as God is concern, all the penalties of our sins had been paid. We are always holy because of what Jesus has done at the Cross. Peter was the most vocal of the disciples and because he hadn’t yet grasped the power of the cross he openly rebuked Jesus for preaching what he labeled as wrong doctrine. The Bible says, “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Matthew 16:22 KJV   Peter, like many christians, did not understand that sometimes our walk with God will include struggles, rejection, and for some believers, death. He was yet to comprehend that the path that leads to the fulness of life in Christ Jesus must include “the cross” which represents the emptying of self and the crucifying of the flesh. The Bible says, “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Matthew 16:23 KJV  Anything that prevents you from obeying God’s plan for your life is a hindrance and a snare to your spiritual growth. “Get thee behind me, satan!” Jesus was saying that I will not be talked out of the cross. The cross is the will of God for my life. And I must obey. The cross is necessary. You can’t have salvation without the cross. You can’t have freedom from sin without the cross. Paul wrote inColossians“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:20 KJV and he also wrote it here, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” Colossians 2:14 KJV  The cross is at the center of everything that God has provided for us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I have heard many christians say things like, “Well, the suffering in my life is just my cross to bear.” Or, “I’ve just got to carry this cross on my shoulders no matter how difficult it is.” But what are they really saying? To many christians, sickness and disease, a bad marriage, a bad temper or poverty is the cross that Jesus has required them to carry. But is this a correct interpretation of scripture? Does God require us to be poor to serve Him? Does God require us to learn how to put up with chronic sickness and crippling disease as a means to the emptying of self? Remember, the purpose of the cross is to bring you to the resurrection; not to leave you suffering in agony and shame. Jesus is not continually hanging on the cross. Jesus does not need to be crucified all over again and again and again. He took up His cross once. That was enough to purchase our eternal salvation and deliverance. The purpose of the cross is to remove something ungodly out of your life and to bring you into the resurrection life. God isn’t asking you to merely deny the desires and the longings of your flesh and have nothing to gain in return. No! The purpose of taking up your cross is to bring you to a place of living an overcoming and victorious life in Christ Jesus and to partake of the resurrected life with all of it’s power and all of it’s privileges. The Bible says,“As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:” Isaiah 52:14 KJV  This adds fresh light to the accepted meaning of Matthew 16:24. The cross is not intended to be borne forever; rather, it is taken up whenever the plan of God requires it of us. The “taking up of your cross” is the means whereby God procures our deliverance from earthly, fleshly things possessing our hearts and minds, and severs their stronghold over us. It liberates us from the controlling appetites and the unnecessary weights of our ungodly flesh and our soulish life, and frees us to completely follow God. Peter wrote, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 KJV  Jesus took up the cross so that we could now live a righteous and fruitful life; a life that is free from sin and free from the guilt and shame that sins brings. Jesus bore stripes on His body to purchase our healing so we could now live free from sickness and disease. To say that bearing a chronic sickness in your life is your cross to bear is to deny the power of Christ’s sacrifice and to deny the scriptures that teach, “…by whose stripes you were healed.”. To say that poverty, anger or strife is your cross to bear is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit’s operation in your life. Also if your heart is focused on earthly things, you will have difficulty following the leadings and the promptings of the Spirit. For the Bible says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Philippians 3:18-19 KJV  You can’t serve the flesh and serve the Spirit at the same time. You can’t follow the appetites of your flesh and at the same time be obedient to the desires of the spirit. If you desire to follow God and to be a true disciple of the Lord you must learn to crucify the flesh with its unholy appetites and take up your cross by dying to the selfish desires of your flesh. The Bible says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:19-21,24 KJV  You’ve got to let go of “self” and learn to put God’s Word first in your life if you want to be a committed disciple of the Lord.

He Must Increase:

He must increase, He must become greater, He must grow greater and greater.  HIS INCREASE IS ASSURED BY THE WORD OF GOD. The Bible says, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:7 KJV  “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Daniel 7:27 KJV  “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalms 119:89 KJV  “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 KJV  “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John 12:32 KJV “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” Colossians 1:18-19 KJV  “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” Ephesians 1:22 KJV

I Must Decrease:

OUR DECREASE IS REQUIRED BY THE WORD OF GOD. The Bible says, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 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. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 KJV  “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 KJV  “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-20 KJV  

Conclusion:

It is interesting that one of the meanings that the dictionary gives to the word “cross” is a trial, a burden, an affliction or a frustration. This is religions view of the cross. But I believe that Jesus would give us an entirely different perspective of the cross. From God’s point of view, the cross was the means whereby Jesus purchased our salvation and our deliverance. The cross is therefore a blessing to be experienced and not a burden for us to bear. And the phrase “take up your cross” should be viewed as a means to our deliverance and not as a frustrating or a defeated experience. Everyday brings with it new challenges and new blessings. And when we learn to “take up our cross daily”  we will be delivered from the annoying frustrations of life and we will be able to take hold of the blessings that the Lord is daily bringing into our lives. As followers of Christ, are we lifting Him up instead of seeking honor for ourselves? Rather than being disappointed when our contribution is unnoticed, we should be glad because our highest privilege is to magnify the Lord. He’s the hero! Honoring Him is the mark of greatness. Our goal must be the same as that of John the Baptist, who said when he met Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

By: Jeff Ellinger

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One Response to WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT “TAKE UP THE CROSS AND FOLLOW ME” – HE MUST INCREASE, I MUST DECREASE

  1. TRUE! we need to decrease! thanks Jeff! blessings, Dimitra

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