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Series: Matthew 8-10: Follow Him

No Greater Love: The Sword, the Cross and the Cup

  • Dec 27, 2009
  • Nate Irwin
  • Matthew 10:34-42

No Greater Love: The Sword, The Cross and The Cup
Matt. 10:34-42

34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
40"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."

INTRO
So why did Jesus come to earth?  What better time to ask that question than at Christmas.  And who better to answer that question than Jesus Himself.  Our text for today provides a most unlikely answer.  And as Christmas texts go, this one is a doozy.  In fact, we might call it “The other side of Christmas.”  Did you pick it up in the text?  He came, not to bring peace, but a sword!  And in a parallel passage in Luke (12:49), He says, “I came to cast fire on the earth.”  Isn’t Scripture just amazing, tough questions, no easy answers, difficult things to think about!? 

Let us set our text for this morning in context, and to do that we need to zoom out a couple of times.  We are in a series on Matthew, and this is the end of the 3rd major section.  The first, Mark entitled “He’s the One”, chs. 1-4; the second was called “Get Real” from the Sermon on the Mount in chs. 5-7; the third is “Follow Him”; and in the New Year Mark will begin the 4th section starting in chapter 11, “Portraits of Jesus.”  So we’re wrapping up “Follow Him” and there could hardly be a more potent text to conclude that theme with than the one that was just read.

Now zoom in once to look at chapter 10 as a whole.  Jesus is about to send His 12 disciples out on their first mission and this chapter is His instructions to them as they head out, His marching orders for them, if you will, his briefing on how they were to do the mission He was sending them out on.  Earlier, He had given the Sermon on the Mount; now we have the Sermon on Mission.  He has given them their task instructions, vv. 5-8:  Preach and heal.  Now, in the outline of Brunner, He has given travel instructions, vv. 9-16.  He has given them trouble instructions, vv. 17-25, followed by trust instructions in vv. 26-33.  Now He concludes his Sermon on Mission with some final comments on what it means to follow Jesus.

Wow, this is an interesting passage!  There are 3 sections of 3 verses, and each with a symbol, a picture to help us understand and remember the 3 themes of each section:  a sword, a cross, and a cup, and each theme described by a word repeated 3 times.  These 3 themes do, I believe, fit together, but it’s the middle one that explains the other two and so part of me wants to start with that one.  But Jesus didn’t put them in that order, so let’s dive into the arrangement as Jesus gave it and see if we can figure it out as we go along.

I.  THE SWORD, vv. 34-36

There are two questions we need to ask about this statement.  What did He mean, and why is that the case?  First, what did He mean?   He says “Don’t ever think” I came to bring peace, or as Lenski translates the force of the imperative, “Don’t for a moment imagine.”  And the word that is repeated 3 times in this section, “set against”, is used only here in the NT and means to make hostile, to cut in two (what a sword does), to rend asunder, denotes complete and often permanent separation.  In vv. 35, 36 He describes the closest human relationships as being cut in two because of His coming.  And most strikingly of all, He says that this was His purpose in coming to earth.  I have come to bring a sword, I have come to set against. . .

Now that is a jarring statement, coming from our leader.  As many Jews in Jesus’ day thought the coming of the Messiah would bring political peace and material prosperity, so today many in the church think Jesus’ presence will bring tranquility.  Maybe you did too!  But Jesus insisted that His mission entailed strife and division.  Even if you take His words to be Semitic hyperbole, a strong way of saying that division is a result, or an effect of His coming, and not necessarily the primary purpose, it’s still a very hard teaching of Jesus.  That’s because intuitively we think that Christianity is a religion of peace.  And we have good biblical evidence for this.  Wasn’t Jesus called “The Prince of Peace”?  Yes.  The Scripture says that the Messiah would have a reign of perfect peace (Zech. 9:10), and that He would guide our feet into the way of peace (Lk. 1:79).  Jesus Himself later said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” (Jn. 14:27)  So how can we reconcile those statements with today’s text?

The key is to understand that there are different types of peace, there are different times for peace, and there are different terms of peace.  You may have seen the Co-Exist bumper sticker, let’s just all get along, don’t let religion divide us, and at one level it sounds good—until you understand that truth cannot be compromised; it is like a mountain—it cannot be moved.  He’s not talking about a hippie kind of peace, a Beatles Come Together peace, a New Age peace, a John Lennon “Imaginary” peace:

Imagine there's no countries     You may say I'm a dreamer
It isn't hard to do       But I'm not the only one
Nothing to kill or die for      I hope someday you'll join us
And no religion too      And the world will be as one.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
 
So what kind of peace did Jesus come to bring?  Didn’t the angels sing, “Peace on earth, goodwill to men”?  Not exactly.  You see we have this Christmasy idea that when Jesus was born there was this kind of pixie dust that was sprinkled on the earth that magically brought peace wherever it landed.  What the angels actually sang on the night of Jesus’ birth was “peace on earth among those with whom He is pleased.”  He gives peace to those with whom He is pleased.  And with whom is He pleased?  Only those who have faith (Heb. 11:6).  Righteousness and peace kiss each other, the Psalmist said (85:10); no peace without righteousness, and you get righteousness only through faith in Christ.

So here’s the deal on peace.  Jesus promises inner peace that comes from peace with God to those who have been reconciled to Him through the death of His Son.  He promises peace between believers in Him, even those, such as Jews and Gentiles, who were formerly at odds.  He has broken down the dividing wall and brings peace between black and white, rich and poor, Americans and Arabs, between Jews and Palestinians who follow Jesus.  And He will bring in eternal peace when He comes to reign in the new heavens and new earth.  But one kind of peace He has promised not to bring is peace between those who accept Him and those who reject Him.  That’s what He meant by saying He had not come to bring peace but a sword.

The Kingdom message is confrontational.  The presence of the Kingdom does not mean the absence of hostility.  So, He says, even the closest family relationships may be severed because of Jesus’ coming.  Son/father, daughter (presumably unmarried)/mother, daughter-in-law (because the son would bring his bride to live in the home of his parents in that culture)/mother-in-law.

The second question is why is this so?  Because decision, inevitably, leads to division.  Notice, first of all, that Jesus does not say thatthe one who has decided to confess Christ (vv.32,33) should create or cause the division.  No, we are told in Scripture (Rom. 12:18) that “If possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  The implication is that the hostility is initiated by the unbeliever.  And here’s why:  The Prince of Peace though He is, the world will so violently reject Him and His reign that men and women will divide over Him.  The demands of the Kingdom are so offensive to a world already convinced of its rightness that they provoke that world’s hostility.  Because God’s offer of peace continues to be rejected and offensive to many, there is conflict.

As John Calvin says, “the peace which the prophets describe is associated with faith and has no existence but among the sincere worshippers of God.  To unbelievers it does not come, though it is offered to them.  They who cannot endure to be reconciled to God, the message of peace excites in them a greater tumult than before.”

Or as Brunner describes it, “Jesus is not triumphalistic about the future of Christian mission; he knows that his mission is a rugged minority movement, a tough, divisive affair, and He prefers to make this clear rather than to give false hopes. ‘The gate is wide and the way pleasant that leads to destruction, and many people [a majority] go this route; but the gate is narrow and the way is tough that leads to real life, and very few people [a minority] find this way.’ (Mt. 7:13,14, Brunner)  The effect of this minority movement as it moves aggressively into the massive majority culture is bound to be friction.”  Chrysostom believes that Jesus said this to encourage us lest we think that all has gone wrong when things start to go bad, for “concord is not in all cases good.”  Jerome:  A good war comes in each home to break a bad peace, because, as Luther said, “If our Gospel were received in peace it would not be the true Gospel.”

Many of you know what this is like.  Jesus certainly did.  His own brothers mocked Him (Jn. 7:3-5), and in Mk 3:21 we see that right after Jesus appointed the 12 disciples, in fact perhaps right after this Sermon on the Mission, his family tried to seize Jesus and lock Him up because they thought He was out of His mind.  There are families in this room right now that have felt the cut of that sword.  You have decided for Christ; your father or your son or your mother-in-law thinks you’re nuts, and it hurts.  Jesus says hang on, this is why I have come, to open up the narrow way and those who find it will find themselves at odds with even those closest to them who are still on the broad way. 

And yet as much pain as there might be in this room because of family division over the claims of Jesus, I suspect it is not as great as that suffered by those in other countries where there is not freedom of religion.  Example of our workers in the Caspian and their language helper.  Or Moh’d Younas in Pakistan.  And I remember asking myself, “What am I doing here in Pakistan?”  The message I have to give is dividing families and turning young men out on the streets!  And there Jesus’ words bring clarity and a measure of comfort: I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  Peace with God:  guaranteed!  Peace with man:  not guaranteed. 

So that really is the question:  what do you value most?  Are you not coming to Christ for fear of offending your family?  Your concern for your soul should be paramount in your thinking.  Do you remember the two men in Lk. 9 who did not want to break with their family and so, sadly, could not follow Christ?  Is the excellence of Jesus, with all of His claims of authority and divinity worth more to you than your family relationships?  If not, you’re not yet ready to be His disciple.  And this leads us to our second section, the cross.

II.  THE CROSS, vv. 37-39

You might be saying, this still doesn’t make sense.  If Jesus is such a great Savior, why can’t He work it out so that I can have peace in my family but still be a Christian?  His answer to that question is in this section and it is simply this, “If you want to be My follower, you must have no greater love in your life than your love for Me.”  John Peterson wrote a cantata by that title, Stephen Curtis Chapman has a song by that name, both speaking of the great love Jesus had for us in coming to earth and giving His life for us.  And that is true.  But Jesus is now demanding that we reciprocate and have the same for Him, no greater love.

You remember the key word from section one on the Sword—against.  The key word in this section is worthy.  3X.  What does that mean?  I have puzzled over this word.  The word itself means deserving, equal in weight or value, the same word that is used of Jesus in Rev. 4 and 5 in the song of heaven that says “Worthy are you O Lord and worthy is the Lamb to take the scroll. . .“  I’ve always been taught that I am undeserving and unworthy and it is only Jesus who is worthy and it is only through the grace of Christ and what He gives me that I can be saved.  That is true.  And yet Jesus here says we unless we do certain things—love Him more than father and mother, love Him more than son or daughter, take up our cross and follow Him—we are not worthy of Him.  It sure sounds like we are supposed to make ourselves worthy of Him!

In an effort to answer that question, there are 3 other passages that use this same word that can help us understand what Jesus is saying.  Mt. 22:8, “But those I invited did not deserve to come.”  They had been extended an invitation, they disdained it, they said that’s not worth going to, and so they proved themselves unworthy.   Acts 13:46, the Jews in Pisidian Antioch did not consider themselves “worthy” of eternal life.  They had been extended an offer and they rejected it, they weren’t interested.  And right here in our own text, the Sermon on the Mission, 10:11, find out who is “worthy” in the village and stay there.  People had an opportunity to receive the apostles, to extend hospitality to them, it would require something of them and if they declined they were deemed not worthy.  Sum:  Being worthy in this sense means to agree to the terms of the bargain.  EG, going into Tiffany’s in N.Y. and feeling not worthy.  We couldn’t agree to the terms of the bargain—on anything in the store!  In the same way, Jesus has a treasure house full of blessings He wants to give us.  He doesn’t ask for any money to get in, no good works, going to church, etc.  All He asks is for our love, our undivided, unchallenged, uncompromised affection.

That’s what Jesus is saying here.  There is something available to you, an offer on the table.  That offer is to follow Me, to be my disciple.  But it’s not for everyone.  I mean, it’s open to everyone.  But not everyone is going to agree to the terms of the deal.  And what are Jesus’ terms?  He spelled them out clearly:  no greater love.  The word is phileo not agape, affection, attraction as distinct from a love of intelligence and purpose.  Interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus wants us to like Him, not just love Him!  Because it’s what and who we like that determines our choices in life.  Do you like the Colts, for example?  Will you be forced to watch them play the Jets this afternoon?  No, you like them, they fill your thoughts and shape your schedule.

Honoring one’s parents was viewed in that society as the highest social obligation.  And natural affection is greatest among family relationships.  So Jesus is clear:  if your affection for your family is greater than your affection for me, you’re not ready to be my disciple.  Not that you shouldn’t love your family.  That is normal and expected and in fact fulfilling obligations to family is a vital part of being a follower of Christ (1 Tim. 5:8).  But our love for Christ must be greater, it must beyond, huper, the legitimate love we have for our family.  In Luke 14:26, He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”  This is a Semitic idiom to show that the strength of our love for Christ must be that much greater than our love for those dearest to us.

Then He raises the bar even higher in v. 38, and this verse is the key verse of the whole section:  if your affection for me isn’t higher than your affection for yourself, then you are not ready to be my disciple.  Rather, you must be prepared to take up your cross and follow Me.  This is the first reference to the cross in Jesus’ ministry.  Everyone hearing those words knew exactly what they meant.    Taking up your cross meant being forced to bear the instrument of your execution past a jeering mob to the site of your imminent death as a condemned criminal.  Just a few years earlier, the Roman general Varus had ordered the crucifixion of over 2000 Jews to quell the insurrection of Judas, and these crosses with dying Jews on them lined the roads up and down Galilee.  The meaning was clear:  you had to die to self, to relinquish all that is nearest and dearest in order to meet the terms of discipleship.  Taking up your cross is not putting up with a tragic situation in life—it’s painfully dying to self until it has no life of its own but is lost in love for Christ.

Notice what is done next:  we take up our cross and follow Him.  Here our text sounds its first positive note.  It is Christ-following that enables cross-bearing, per Brunner.  It is not just that we give up something; we get something in return, or rather someone, we get Christ.  If the first 4 verses of this section have been a long uphill climb of difficult teaching on sacrifice, we reach the top at v. 38 and a new horizon opens before us.  It is in fact this love for Christ, this desire to follow Him and to be near Him that when it consumes us makes us true disciples of His and makes us willing for any sacrifice that may be required, even the sword dividing our own home.  Look what Jesus promises next, v. 39.

This principle is the most often repeated of any single teaching of Jesus!  6 times.  So we should pay attention.  Yes, the demands of discipleship are great—but the rewards are even greater.  In fact, there is no legitimate, logical option.  If you want to win in the end, you must follow Jesus.  Jesus says that if you try to hold on to your life you will wind up losing it.  

Brunner translates this verse, “The person who has made one’s life secure will lose it, and the person who has thrown one’s life away for my sake will find it.”  He goes on to say that there are some of us whose life passion is to “make it.”  We want to work in the best situation, live in the best neighborhood, have only the best things in the house, manipulate the best connections, go on the best vacations, etc.  We guard ourselves against any risk, protect ourselves from any pain.  This is “finding” or “making” one’s life.  Jesus promises this search one thing:  destruction.  Yuppiedom self-destructs. 

So preaching that is devoted to helping people make it or find themselves, that gives tips on how to be a success, how to have peace of mind, how to love oneself, how to be a transformed person, and the rest is often “rank betrayal.  It is teaching people to concentrate on the very matters that Jesus wants them to forsake.”  We are not in the business of helping people find their lives, for that is losing.  On the other hand, and strangely, as Hagner puts it, those who give up this useless quest, who instead yield themselves fully to the service of God and the kingdom—who willingly follow in the steps of Jesus—these are the ones who paradoxically find life.

But many, actually most, of us want it both ways.  Inevitably, some try to find a way of compromise in which they have both family and Jesus, their own lives and Jesus’ mission.  But there is no such middle ground in His teaching, as we shall see in the next chapter from the life of John the Baptist.  It’s all or nothing; there is no middle ground.  If you are visiting today and not yet a follower of Christ, or if you have been holding out on following Him because you’re afraid if you do you’ll have to give up something dear to you, a relationship, a habit, a possession, the answer is that He actually wants far more than for you to move out from living with your boyfriend or giving up smoking—He wants it all!  And you’re right, you can’t have Him without giving it all up.  So you’re weighing the decision, and your hesitation proves that you are unworthy, that you’re not ready to receive His invitation.  But look, He promises you so much more!  You can’t hold on to those things anyway, so let me urge you to give them up now and entire into life by entering into a relationship with the One who loved you more than life itself.

Notice, we give up our life for His sake.  Who is this who demands our greatest love, who asks that we give up all for Him?  Brunner, again, “He comes crashing into history, and then into our lives, and takes over, preempting our most instinctive loyalties, presuming on our deepest affections, usurping our natural ties, and asking (and so claiming) to be the most important person in our lives.  We would not tolerate this presumption in most.  Somehow it is appropriate in Jesus.  We sense that His claim restores us to the primal family.”  Or as Carson puts it, such a claim is either that of the Messiah or of a maniac.  But if He is indeed the Messiah, then it is worth losing the whole world to gain Him.  The baby who came at Christmas is a most demanding Baby indeed!  But He demands nothing more than He has already given.
Why does He require our highest affection?  Because God is a person not an idea or a force, and as He says in Zech 8:1,2, “ I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”  I think we understand this concept innately.  Tiger Woods and Elin.  Problem:  he had other loves and it devastated the marriage relationship.
That is the message of the cross.  We must love Him most; we must die to self (the cross) and be willing to give up everything else for Him, including our relationships with our families (the sword).  And when we do that we gain what alone is truly fulfilling and will last forever—Christ Himself.

Jonathan Edwards, “I claim no right to myself, no right to this understanding, this will, the affections that are in me.  Neither do I have any right to this body or its members, no right to this tongue, to these hands, feet, ears or eyes.  I have given myself clear away and not retained anything of my own.  I have been with God this morning and told Him I have given myself wholly to Him.  I have given Him every power so that for the future I claim no right to myself in any respect.  I have expressly promised Him, for by His grace I will not fail.  I take Him as my whole portion and felicity, looking upon nothing else as any part of my happiness.”

It is our love for Him, v. 37, that enables us to take up our cross for Him, v. 38.   But practically, how do we take up our cross and follow Him?  For most of you it probably won’t be by selling your house and going to Laos or Japan as a missionary next month.  It’s going to be by little steps of obedience, listening to the Spirit’s voice, responding to Him, holding your life and your possessions with an open hand, and then following Jesus wherever and however He would lead.  Perhaps it’s an area of disobedience you are unwilling to give up.  Maybe it’s an involvement at church or in ministry you’ve been postponing.  New Year’s resolution!  Baptism, membership, small group, Brookside, vision trip?

III.  THE CUP, vv. 40-42

You might almost have forgotten that Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mission at this point, as He has broadened out in His teaching to explain what it really means to be His disciple, what it will cost and what it will gain.  Now in v. 40, He comes back to the present assignment and says to the 12 that whoever receives them, remember back from vv. 11-14, whoever receives them receives Jesus Himself and whoever receives Jesus receives the Father Himself.  The verb is a present participle, a “durative”, meaning not a single act but a course of action that goes on and on. Those who go with His message represent Him, they are His ambassadors, and so whoever treats them well treats their Sender well.  Those who accept the message will with it accept the messenger, and they will have their reward. 

The 3-fold key word in this section is reward.  3 types of people:  a prophet carries the Words of God; a righteous person exemplifies the character of God; and the “little ones” are those who are least in the Kingdom, believers who seem insignificant or unimportant.  If a prophet is received well, the blessing of a prophet will flow over into the host.  If a righteous person is taken care of, the blessing of a righteous person will be shared with the care-giver.  And even if a small, seemingly inconsequential believer is given something as simple as a cup of cold water because he is a Christian—and that may be all that a poor host might be able to offer—even that act of love is not lost on God and that person will, emphatic, by no means, lose his reward.  Jesus sees it all, keeps record—and rewards.  Jesus is present in all these believers:  disciple, prophet, righteous, no-name.  As they are treated well, Jesus is treated well; and those who treat Jesus well will find themselves in due time amply rewarded.

Calvin says that this text has been understood, first of all, as Jesus’ honoring of professional ministry.  “Here Christ splendidly extols the dignity of pastors who exercise their ministry sincerely and faithfully.”  Christian ministers are not beggars—they give more than they receive.  Because when you become a source of blessing to them, you yourself are blessed.  Do you remember how Potiphar’s household was blessed because of Joseph’s presence?  How much more the homes that harbor the apostles and the messengers of the Messiah!

How does the cup of hospitality to the ministers and saints of God apply to us today?  In Jesus’ day, traveling disciples had nowhere else to turn and needed the safety and provision of hospitable hosts.  We don’t, at least in the U.S., have many itinerant preachers.  So what can we learn from this section?
First, the biblical God is missionary, actively doing mission, sending first His Son and now His Son’s followers, to reach the whole world.  He is not a God who is content with a few worshippers, but He is on the move, outward, onward, to the dark corners of the earth, until all have a chance to hear for He is not willing that any should perish.  This is what Mt. 10 is all about.  Brunner, “The Christian world mission is God’s major enterprise in history, and all who work to advance it, directly or indirectly, with sermons or with cups of cold water, with home visitations or financial assistance, are in line for substantial rewards.” (p. 496)

Secondly, all can be involved in this task.  Some Christians, and maybe you’re one of them, do not honestly feel very active in Christian missionary work.  But if you can be hospitable to those who are so engaged, in the Lord’s eyes you are as valuable as the missionaries themselves!  Not a single disciple is left out.  Some do it and other support it, and all receive the same great reward—divine appreciation at the Judgment.  And hospitality may mean on the rare occasion when the opportunity arises, to have a missionary or a minister in your home.  But it, I believe, can also include things like financial support, physical assistance, even emotional encouragement.  Home teams idea, group to pray for our missionaries.

Thirdly, missionary work is not the only important service you can render to Christ.  There are the least of these, the children in the Kingdom.  Caring for their needs is a precious act of service in God’s eyes, and those of you who are so involved will by no means lose your reward.  Any service done to any saint will be rewarded.

CONCLUSION

As Kierkegaard reminded us, there is a difference between admirers and followers of Jesus.  Many admire Jesus for His selfless example, His teaching, His compassion.  But these are not followers.  Followers understand that the rough cross is the way that Jesus went, and the way He asks them to go. That is what Jesus is asking us here.  To embrace the difficulties of following Him, to be worthy of His name.  To give all else up for Him.

And how can one do that?  It’s got to come from the heart.  There must be a great affection there for the Master.  Have you noticed that people don’t hesitate at the difficulties which, in the words of Mt. Henry, “necessarily attend their profession”; they know them ahead of time and embrace them, in order to become and to be, for instance, a physician.  A physician either has great love for the science or her patients or perhaps the financial rewards—and this love is what drives her on.  So it will be your love for Jesus that will drive you to meet the obligations He requires.  You see, if a relationship with Christ  is worth anything it is worth everything.  If you believe the truth of it you will come up to the price of it.  Those who do not like Christ on these terms may leave Him—but at their loss.  It is not a hard bargain, for we gain the pearl of great price in the end.

So the question is, “Do you love this Man, this God-man, enough to follow Him?”  Do you see, what’s going on in chapter 10 is different than some people becoming convinced of another person’s philosophy or ideas and then going out and trying to persuade other people to become converts of those ideas.  It’s a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe who came down to live in our tents for awhile.  The Gospel of Mark says (3:14) that when Jesus called the 12 He called them first to be with Him and then to send them out on this mission.  It was as they were with Him that they began to love Him, to truly love Him, to love Him more than anything or anyone else.   I Jn.4:10, 19, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. . . We love because He first loved us.”  And it was that love that moved them out in mission, to obey Him by going and preaching the message of the Kingdom.  It is the love of a personal relationship that captures one’s heart and then proves itself in obedience.  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

The sword, the cross, and the cup.  The cross, death to self, is what must be embraced to be a follower of Jesus.  We can only embrace the cross when our love for Jesus grows beyond our love for anyone or anything else, including or own selves.  And, ironically, it is gazing upon the cross, His cross, what He endured for our salvation, that will fan into flame our love for our Savior. 

The sword, on the negative side of the ledger, will spring from the cross.  Not all will accept the message of the cross.  There is an irreconcilable divide. To some it is foolishness, to others a stumbling block, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

Then the cross, on the positive side of the ledger, will lead to the cup.  It will mean a new appreciation of the message of the cross and the messengers of the cross, which will then lead to practical demonstrations of that appreciation as God’s ministers and missionaries are cared for out of our means.  Which will result, in the end, in our being rewarded by the first bearer of the cross, our Savior and Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

So how do we move from Christmas on into the New Year?  It’s fine to make resolutions, and there may be some decisions of obedience that you need to make today.  But it will all come to nothing—unless our love for Jesus grows in the New Year, to be greater than our love for family, for things, for self.


Appendix A
Our missions intern, Jason Doddridge, did a study of statements from Jesus’ own lips as to the reasons for His coming to earth.  We can lump them like this:
Fulfill the Law
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”    Matthew 5:17
To Do the Will of the Father
 “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”   Jn. 6:38
To Judge the World
 “Jesus said, ’For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’”   Jn.  9:39
Bear Witness to the Truth
“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’"   Jn.  18:37 ESV
Bring Division between Believers and Non-believers
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –‘”  Mt.10:34
"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”   Lk. 12:49
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”   Lk. 12:51 ESV
Save Sinners
And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."   Mk.  2:17
Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."   Mk. 1:38
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “  Jn. 10:10
 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mt. 20:28 and Mk. 10:45
“for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.   Lk. 9:56

Appendix B
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”  Mt. 16:25
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  Mk. 8:35
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”  Lk. 9:24
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  Lk. 17:33
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  Jn. 12:25

Appendix C
Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart
Verse 1
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart,
Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
Verse 2
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies:
But take the dimness of my soul away.
Verse 3
Hast Thou not bid us love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind!
I see Thy cross, there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!
Verse 4
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
Verse 5
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The baptism of the heaven descended Dove;
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.


Copyright College Park Church

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