Taking Up the Cross (from Christ's Call to Discipleship)

Currently, I'm trying to post a few times a week summaries of chapters from books I've read over the past few years. These are the books that have really informed my thinking on discipleship and small groups. Hopefully, they'll provide a good opportunity for you to think through some of these same thoughts.

Today, I'm looking at chapter three from the book Christ's Call to Discipleship by James M. Boice. This chapter is entitled "Taking Up the Cross".

This was a powerful chapter, so powerful in fact, that I decided to simply post several of Boice's quotes without any of my own commentary. He's a better writer than I am anyway.

  • there is a fatal flaw in the professing church today: a lack of true discipleship
  • what is lacking is ...the need for self-denial, expressed as taking up the cross. In this area it is not only self-denial that is lacking; it is an area about which we do not even speak.
  • This would be puzzling to saints who lived before us. If they could observe us today, they would never understand how we profess to follow Jesus and at the same time ignore self-denial, because to them self-denial would seem to be the very essence of what it means to be Christ's.
  • Martin Luther, among others, considered suffering to be a mark of the church and a badge of discipleship.
  • This is the "hard" saying of Jesus about discipleship. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
  • The theme is frequent. The command to "take up" or "bear" the cross occurs five times in Christ's teaching (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27)
  • In my judgment, the real reason why so many do not talk about self-denial and cross-bearing as essential ingredients of Christianity is that we just do not like these ingredients.
  • We like the promises of Christianity. We want to be told that God will heal broken relationships, resolve inner conflicts, and prosper our work.
  • But denial? Taking up a cross? Suffer? We dislike that teaching. A preacher who wants to see his church grow soon learns to stop talking about it. Instead, he tells people things that will build their self-esteem.
  • Self-seeking is the opposite of self-denial. Self-seeking caused the fall of Satan (Isaiah 14:13-15).
  • The most noticeable feature of Satan's boast is the fivefold repetition of the words "I will." "I will ascent to heaven... I will raise my throne above the stars of God... I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly... I will ascend above the tops of the clouds... I will make myself like the Most High"
  • This spirit has passed to our race through the fall of Adam (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Peter 2:10; Luke 15:12; 2 Timothy 3:1).
  • The opposite of that destructive way of life, is the path of self-denial marked by the Lord Himself in His submission to suffering (Philippians 2:5-11).
  • But it is not only that we are to say no to self, which is what denyings self is all about. We are also to say yes to God, which is what taking up the cross involves.
  • Cross-bearing involves prayer and Bible study. These take time and must be chosen and pursued, rather than other pastimes that we might humanly prefer.
  • Cross-bearing involves the items Jesus listed in Matthew 25:31-46 -- These are not easy things to do. They involve denying oneself time, money, and convenience.
  • Cross-bearing involves witnessing. It means putting oneself out for the sake of the ones God sends into our lives.
  • Essentially, cross-bearing means accepting whatever God has given us or made us and then offering it back to Him, which is "your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).
  • When Jesus uses the word "daily", saying "take up your cross daily and follow me," He is saying ... that the cross must be taken up afresh each day.
  • In most cases, the only thing that will ultimately get us going along this path of self-denial and discipleship is following after Jesus, which means setting our eyes on Him as He has gone before us. Jesus is the model for our self-denial. He is the image of cross-bearing.
These are challenging words from Luke and from Dr. Boice. How can our small groups become places where people are encouraged and enabled to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Jesus?