By Billy Graham | Published: June 01, 2014
In 1917 Lenin stormed Russia with only 40,000 men. Within a few years, the Communists gained control of over one billion people. They invaded every part of the world. They challenged the Christian church and the free world as never before.
Missionary Dick Hillis was in China when Communist troops entered, led by an American-trained lieutenant. Hillis said to the lieutenant, “How can you say you’re going to capture the town tonight? Don’t you know that they have 10 times more troops than you do, and you have to cross that river and face those enemy guns that are deadlier than yours?”
The Communist lieutenant replied, “I will gladly die that Communism may be advanced one more mile.”
Would you give the same dedication to Jesus Christ? He gave no less for you, and He demands no less from you.
Read through the Old and New Testaments and see the demands that God made upon His servants.
Look at Abraham. “Abraham, you claim you believe in God. Do you really believe in Me? All right, you have a boy, your only son by Sarah, born in your old age, that boy who is to be your heir. I want you to take that boy, your only son, up to Mount Moriah, and I want you to sacrifice him to Me” (Cf. Genesis 12:1-2).
Not once does it say that Abraham argued with God. Abraham got his donkey, put some wood on it, got Isaac and went the three days’ journey. When they arrived at Moriah, he prepared the altar, tied Isaac and bent him over the wood. He pulled out the knife in absolute obedience because he had absolute trust in God. In perfect obedience and faith he raised the knife. Then God said, “Abraham, I see that you believe in Me. Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your only son” (Cf. Genesis 22:12).
God demands all. No less.
Moses was being trained in all the wisdom and knowledge of ancient Egypt to be the future Pharaoh. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27). Sometime you, too, will be required to make a choice in your life, and it may cost you everything.
When Daniel strode into the den of lions, he did not know whether God’s will was that he be delivered. But rather than compromise his conviction and his faith in God, he was willing to go and be torn limb from limb. Daniel, one of the greatest men of the Old Testament, prime minister for many years of the greatest empire of all the world, walked into the den of lions because he would not deny his faith in God.
Saul of Tarsus said one day, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
God said, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).
Years later Paul summarized it: “I have been beaten the regulation thirty-nine stripes by the Jews five times.” (Five times they had taken long leather lashes with steel pellets on the end, and had lashed him across the back thirty-nine times, till he was left torn and bleeding.) “I have been beaten with rods three times. I have been stoned once. I have been shipwrecked three times. I have been twenty-four hours in the open sea.
“In my travels I have been in constant danger from rivers and floods, from bandits, from my own countrymen, and from pagans. I have faced danger in city streets, danger in the desert, danger on the high seas, danger among false Christians. I have known exhaustion, pain, long vigils, hunger and thirst, going without meals, cold and lack of clothing” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27, Phillips).
Yet Paul wrote that the sufferings of this world “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Christ demands all.
Great crowds followed Jesus. They said, “Isn’t He wonderful!” Jesus made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk and the dead to rise. He fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes.
But when they voiced their approval, Jesus turned and said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus said, “I am going to a cross. Unless you are willing to go to that cross with Me, you cannot be My followers.”
The Bible says that to be a true follower of Jesus Christ you must deny yourself—the flesh, the natural man. The self-life manifests itself in self-indulgence, self-love, self-will, self-seeking, self-pride.
To different people it means different things. To one person, self may be intellectual pride; to another it may be pleasure; for another, business or family may come before Christ. The denial of self means to renounce self and accept Christ as Master, to cease living a self-centered life.
It means that we die to the world’s riches, its amusements, its pleasures, its powers, its honors. The only object in life will be to let Christ be honored and glorified in our lives.
Has that happened in your life? Have you made such an irrevocable commitment as that?
His second condition is to take up the cross. But what is that cross? It is not a cross of gold, ivory or silver. It is not the cross of punishment for sin; only Christ could pay for our sins. It is not poverty or sickness. It is not trouble, sorrow or disappointment.
When Christ said, “Pick up the cross,” people were startled. They were amazed. What did He mean? A cross was an instrument of execution. It was like saying, “Pick up the gallows. Pick up the electric chair and follow me. I’m going to be executed. Come with Me to the place of execution and be executed with Me. Identify yourself with Me in My suffering.”
To take up the cross means that you take your stand for the Lord Jesus, no matter what it costs. It means crucifixion of self—all of your desire for popularity, recognition or success.
It may mean that you become the scum of the world. It may mean that you become refuse. It may mean that you become a spectacle to the world. It may mean that you become foolishness to the world.
Jesus warned His disciples, “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). As you identify yourself with Christ, you will share in His rejection by the world.
All of this you do as a matter of voluntary choosing. This is your cross because you choose to pick it up in that crisis of self-denial. Are you ready to take up your cross?
“How do I take up my cross?” you ask. The secret is to commit your life without reservation to Christ. Give Him first place.
Make a list of all the areas of your life and say, “O Lord, by Your grace I reckon myself dead indeed unto sin. I nail these things to the cross, I identify myself with You at the cross.” That is what the Scripture means when it says, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).
Today, surrender yourself completely and unconditionally to Jesus Christ. ©1960 BGEA
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version. The Scripture quotation marked Phillips is taken by permission from “The New Testament in Modern English,” Revised Edition, translated by J.B. Phillips, ©1958, 1960, 1972 J.B. Phillips, Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc., New York, New York; Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, England.