“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. Mark 8:34b “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:38 Only a few weeks ago, I was given the blessed privilege to be the ‘co-teacher’ at the Eastern European Heart Cry Missionary Society Conference in Romania. I had just concluded a session, in which I was teaching about Moses’ compassionate intercessory prayers for those obstinate rebels who were in utter revolt against the Lord and in antagonistic opposition against him. Suddenly, all of the pastors and church planters began to cry out to the Lord in intercessory prayer for the lost rebels within their sphere of influence. The dear pastor, who was sitting beside me, asked all of us to intercede for a particular crisis at his church. The following words are a synopsis of his heart-felt request, “A few years ago, a lady named Cristina attended our church, through the influence of our ministry to her children. Since her first day of attendance, she began to come regularly. At first, her husband was okay with this. However, things changed dramatically after she repented of her sins and believed the Gospel. Her life was being radically transformed before the eyes of her husband. She was now living in the Kingdom of Light. However, her husband remained in the tyranny of the Kingdom of sin and death. He became increasingly abusive and oppressive against the light of the Christ-centered life that she was now living before him. Her husband is a former member of the ‘swat team’ in the local police department. So he is quite a muscular man. Furthermore, not only did her husband begin to make threats against his wife, he also became extremely angry with me as the pastor of the church. He became so savagely vicious, that he threatened to kill my children and burn down the church, if his wife continued to follow Jesus and attend our church! Presently, he is working in Eastern Europe, as a truck driver. However, he has declared that he is going to kill me when he returns home. And yet, his wife continues to remain faithful to the Lord. Please continue to intercede for his conversion to Christ Jesus the Lord.”
We are all well aware that the substitutionary sacrifice and suffering of our Lord and Savior was not an unexpected surprise; nor was it a plan that went haywire. On the contrary, the scriptures clearly declare that the blessed Cross-work of our Lord and Savior was the eternal plan of God! Acts 2:23 declares this astounding truth, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreordained plan of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” The Godhead planned the substitutionary sacrifice and suffering of God the Son from before the creation of the universe! For the Lord Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world! Our precious Redeemer knew ‘when He was going to die; where He was going to die; how He was going to die; and why He was going to die’ from before the genesis of time and space! However, Acts 2:23 simultaneously declares that Pilate and those wicked Jewish religionists were personally responsible for the most iniquitous crime which has ever been committed on this planet. Nonetheless, those wicked conspirators had plotted together to execute what ‘God’s hand and purpose’ had programmed from before the creation of the universe.
The word of God declares that, “our sovereign Lord employed the greatest expression of the wicked depravity of mankind, (the brutal murder of the Son of God), to bring about the greatest good which has been ever accomplished on behalf of mankind!” Oh dear friend, the scriptures plainly declare that ‘it pleased Jehovah God the Father to crush Jehovah God the Son’, in voluntary sacrifice and suffering, for the propitiation of every repenting and believing sinner’!
Oh, but every bonafide follower of Jesus has been given a ‘personal cross to carry’. We have been called to be involved in ‘voluntary service, sacrifice and suffering’ for the proclamation of the message of propitiation to all within their sphere of influence. The Word of God succinctly states to every disciple, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to SUFFER for His sake.” I am submitting to you that saving faith in the Lord Jesus is intricately connected with ‘voluntary service, sacrifice and suffering’ for the extension of the Gospel into the hearts and lives of sinners! When our Lord commands us to ‘take up our cross’, He is not speaking about the Lord’s cross of propitiation. He is describing ‘our cross of volitional service, sacrifice and suffering’ for the propagation and the proclamation of the message of propitiation. This intentional service, sacrifice and suffering is not only part of God’s plan for our lives; it is one of God’s ordained means to carry out the Great Commission! Dear brothers and sisters, our Lord and Savior was personally involved in voluntary service, sacrifice and suffering for the purpose of redeeming sinners. Consequently, we are summoned to be personally involved in voluntary service, sacrifice and suffering for the purpose of reaching sinners, so that the Lamb may receive the reward for His suffering!
You may be familiar of the true story of the two young Moravian men, who were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. These two brothers in Christ became informed of an island in the Danish West Indies, where an atheist British slaveowner had taken 3000 slaves to labor in his sugar cane fields. This wicked slave owner had declared that, "No preacher will ever come to reside on this island. I will never allow any of these Christians to talk to us about God. For I am through with all that nonsense." It was obvious that unless someone purposed to be involved in voluntary sacrifice and suffering, these African slaves would live and die without even hearing the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both of these young men were willing to sell themselves as slaves to this ruthless British slave-owner, for the purpose of being heralds of the Gospel to these needy sinners. When it was time for their departure, the Moravian community came to see the two lads off on their Gospel mission. These young men were well aware that they may never return to their homeland again; for they had freely sold themselves into a lifetime of slavery. As the ship sailed away from the shore, the young men linked arms, raised their hands and shouted to their loved ones, "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His sufferings.” Those farewell words became the resonating heart cry of the Moravian missionary movement. Our Lord employed their grace-filled act of ‘voluntary service, sacrifice and suffering’ to inspire a wave of Moravian missionaries who greatly impacted all of the surrounding islands. In the coming years, Moravian missionaries would baptize over 13,000 converts, before any other denominational missionaries arrived on those islands. I remind you that both of these young men were just ordinary men who were employed in ordinary occupations. For one man was a potter and the other a carpenter. However, our awesome Lord and God transformed both of them into extraordinary men. They willingly left the security of their jobs and families in Copenhagen to become the first Moravian missionaries in 1732. Dear brothers and sisters, this is the great need of the hour today, in this collapsing culture. Oh, that God might raise up ordinary people, to purposefully involved their lives in voluntary service, sacrifice and suffering’, for the extension of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts of the enemies of God.