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No Cross – No Crown
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:38, NKJV)
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation, ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10, NKJV)
This is not one of those feel good, tell me everything is going to be alright, messages. This is not an attempt to coddle you or hold your hand. I am reaching out in the hopes of shocking you into a state of lucidity as it pertains to a certain spiritual truth – “No Cross, No Crown”!
No Cross; No Crown; unfortunately this term has become anachronistic, archaic and even cliche`-ish; used on a whim with no force. This term has, without question, lost its substance, its meaning, and its motivational influence. Some believers speak it and others hear it oft quoted, but the persuasive force that once encapsulated this term is no longer present. In the late 1600’s English Quaker, William Penn sat down at his desk under the lantern light and penned No Cross; No Crown; it was then that the term carried weight, it was heartfelt, it encompassed the true meaning and purpose of this ethereal journey of Christianity, but most consequential was its motivational force. It prompted the believer to stand up and press forward. It brought with it a vehement sense of urgency. It stirred the heart and soul of those within an earshot to be about the Father’s business.
As time has progressed, the Christian has become both, arrogant and self-centered; we have become lazy and unpurposed; we have retreated to a life of desire and comfort. We have forgotten the mandate of Christ to take up the cross. We seek the rewards and benefits associated with a life we have yet to live. The Christian has become detached from reality at illusionistic depths; far beyond the illusions of the drug addict, beyond any preconceived notion of the drug dealer, far beyond those we have the audacity to look down upon. Instead of embracing the “cross” we have fled from it to a life of ease, yet, absent of reward.
We have fallen victim to philosophical teachings that are not founded in scripture; teachings of self-help, self-determination and making our own way. Worldviews such as Liberalism (An education system based on Secular Humanist Worldview; a political tradition emphasizing personal liberties and equity over traditional moral concerns); Nihilism (The belief that life has no ultimate meaning); Relativism (The belief that “truth” is relative to the individual and the time and place in which one acts; there are no absolutes or objective truths); Secular Humanism (A worldview based on atheism and naturalism in which man is the measure of all things; man, not God, is the ultimate norm by which truth and morals are to be determined) have permeated the faith and have heavily influenced the Christian way of life. We have embraced the “if it feels good, do it” mentality. However, the word explicitly dictates that not only are we to embrace the cross, but that each of us has his own cross to bear. Unfortunately, we have created our own religious escape from spiritual reality. In adapting a philosophy that prescribes a life of ease and undisciplined principles, a philosophy that affords a reward without an act which merits reward, we have turned from the spiritual truth of God’s infallible Word to move toward our own euphoric utopia.
There is no true faith apart from the cross. The cross is the defining moment in the faith of every Christian. It is the belief in the cross that brings us salvation. “The Cross” is the place of expiation, the place where the magnanimous work of Christ was completed. To live apart from the cross is to live a life of denial, void of truth. I have aspired to reveal to you an inescapable truth; No Cross; No Crown!
What does it mean to take up or bear one’s cross? It means to live your life as unto the Lord. It is presenting your body as a living sacrifice, giving of yourself for the sake of Christ. Bearing your cross calls for you to live the life of a Christian soldier to walk into your destiny despite the difficulties and struggles of the moment. Look at what Paul had to say about the responsibility of the Christian soldier:
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4)
Bearing your cross requires dying to self and carrying out kingdom work. It is counting it all joy when you fall into various trials. It is the apprehension and execution of the divine plan of God; to stand in faith when those around you wonder aimlessly about. It is not meandering through the pathways of mediocrity, nor gallivanting through the portentous halls of self-destruction. It is walking into your destiny and fulfilling your purpose.
There is an old aphorism which states: Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. This adage can be transposed to say: Everybody wants Christian benefits, but nobody wants the job. Everyone wants to experience the many rewards and blessings God has to offer, yet, we cringe at the thought of the trials we must face. I present this question as posed by an old hymn: Must Jesus bear the Cross alone and all the world go free? I think not, the song concludes: No, there’s a cross for everyone and there’s a cross for me!
Not until we embrace the cross, will we experience the full measure of God’s infinite and bountiful blessings. Not until we walk boldly into our destiny can we truly know God with the intimacy in which we were created to know Him! There are too many believers walking around with a power deficit. They say all the right things religion has trained them to say, but internally they are struggling with the reality of the moment and the uncertainty of tomorrow. Their lives have been lived in a superficial vacuum that portrays a form of Godliness, but in truth has drained them to the point of defeat.
It is not my desire to rain on your parade, but to breathe life into your waning hopes. I hear too often, the questions: Has God forgotten about me? Does God care? Why hasn’t God answered my prayers? These are only a few questions of concern I hear from believers. It seems that believers are anticipating the movement of God in their lives; however, they have failed to see the connection between their movement and His. Listen to what God told Solomon:
“If My people who called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14 NKJV)
In this awesome statement of promise and deliverance, we would do well to take notice of the fact that the promises are preceded by a conditional clause initiated by the conjunction, “if”. This points to the fact that God requires certain things from us prior to blessing us. We want God to bless, to heal, to prosper; However, we fail to bear our crosses, we have failed to position ourselves to receive the blessings we seek. The bearing of the cross and the blessing go hand in hand. One cannot advance to spiritual maturity without persevering through the intense and sometimes arduous struggles of life. It is your spiritual maturity that places you in a position to be blessed by God. As you mature spiritually, God is free to bless you without you losing your focus -in other words spiritual maturity allows the believer, at the time of blessings and prosperity, to remain focused on and occupied with the blesser instead of the blessing.
The mature, cross bearing Christian consistently and incessantly finds himself in line with the will of God, therefore, in perfect position to experience the power of God as He acts on his behalf. We can, therefore, deduce within the reasoning of the aforementioned facts, that our progression toward spiritual maturity is paramount and the only way to reach spiritual maturity is by the consistent, daily intake, absorption, metabolism, and inculcation of Bible doctrine, as well as the application of said doctrine to the issues of life. This is bearing your cross!
You see, there can never be a reward without an act to merit the reward; No Cross; No Crown!
The rewards of bearing your cross are multitudinous, too many to cover them all. However; we will cover several that are noteworthy. As a Christian bears his cross, he develops a sense of purpose, an apprehension of the fact that he belongs to something greater than himself. Through the comprehension of this new truth, he is now able to face the struggles and vicissitudes of this life with the confidence that those things that are too big for him are no problem for God. He can face the struggles and storms of this life knowing: Trouble doesn’t last always; but he also has a great understanding and appreciation of this fact: No Cross, No Crown!
A Christian that bears his cross has a sense of direction: he knows where he is headed. He is not deterred, discouraged, or derailed when the storms of life began to rage. The bearing of his cross has both, strengthened and prepared him for the battle that lies ahead. He understands that adversity is the fertile soil through which the seed of prosperity is planted and cultivated. He is exactly where he should be in order for God to bless him and prosper him, and when he does find himself in a bind, he can relax in the peace of God, because he knows that, “No weapon formed against him shall prosper.”
As a cross bearer, you carry a strong sense of honor, knowing that you share in the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
As we move toward a close, I implore you; I beseech you to examine yourselves; to look within. Upon a thorough and complete searching of yourself, can you say with absolute certainty that you are a cross bearer? Have you pushed aside the cares and affairs of this world and focused yourself on the battle at hand? Have you committed yourself to the battle or are you still wondering aimlessly about with no sense of direction? Is your life seeded in your desires and has the work of Christ and the kingdom taken a back seat?
Has the intensity of the battle caused you to shrink back and withdraw to a position of comfort and assumed security? I hope not! The writer of the letter to the Hebrews made it distinctively clear how God feels about those who draw back:
“Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Heb 10:38)
It is my prayer that as the battle intensifies, so will your resolve to persevere. This is not a time for lethargy and gradualism, but a time for purpose and destiny. I urge you to press on with a fierce urgency and an inexorable determination to fulfill your destiny. God has not promised you a life of ease and tranquility, for he told us that in this world there will be tribulations, but he did not stop there. He finished by saying, in essence, don’t worry, don’t fret, be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. There is no life of ease, but there is a life of reward.
We all stand in need of God’s blessings; we are all in search of His “Well done” proclamation. We are in search of an exaltation of some sort. We are looking to reap the magnanimous bounty which God has stored up for us. In this exploration for acknowledgement and reward, we must apprehend and take hold of this one fact -No Cross; No Crown.
Any attempt at circumvention of this divine truth will prove devastatingly unsuccessful. We are to march forward with our hearts and minds focused on the very one who keeps us. Our time of adversity is not a time to crumble under the pernicious attacks of the enemy, but a time to rise through the omnipotence of God.
Yes, my fellow Christians, this is a spiritual war, the enemy is a most formidable foe, yet our destiny is victory. This victory is as certain as life itself for the one who endures. This victory has been placed in escrow for the one who refuses to surrender. There is a promotion in your future, but understand this promotion comes at a price -No Cross; No Crown!
It is time to rise to the majestic heights of faith walking. It is time to soar through the winds of perpetual prosperity. To elevate ourselves to a position of spiritual enrapture. For too long we have been languishing in the quicksand of mediocrity and lethargy. We have lingered through the desolate valley of tamed dreams and dwarf goals. We have been imprisoned by the manacles of hopelessness and despair. Yet, the luminous and phosphorescent light of hope strains through the pores of darkness.
Pick up your cross and receive the power to overcome every obstacle.
Take up your cross and find that God’s grace is sufficient.
Bear the cross of your calling and experience the awesome force of God’s anointing as it flows through you.
Live the life of someone who is divinely blessed and highly favored; take up your cross!
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