The Message of the Cross – Follow Me

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Occasionally, a story comes along in human history so powerful that it gets your attention, and draws you in to learn more. This story is the greatest story ever told. It would be told once and then again and again until it became known worldwide.

Some stories in the Bible are hard to comprehend. The story of why Jesus came to die for you and me is one of them. While the events leading up to the cross may appear mysterious, the message of the cross is unmistakably clear. In what way?

The message of the cross is about God fulfilling the promise of John 3:16. The promise is: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. The theme for the Message of the Cross is Follow Me, which is an “expository essay” of John 3:16 divided into an eight parts series.

Follow Me!

This article introduces the series describing the journey of “Jesus and his disciples” by and according to the will of God (John 6:65). From the Jordan River to the Cross and beyond, the journey of Jesus and his disciples is our journey too. While their time and culture is unlike ours, the transforming power of the gospel remains unchanged (John 17:3).

May the glory be to the Father and Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31; John 17:1).

Part 1 – The Call

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

When Jesus came to call his disciples, they were clean slates upon which he could write new truths; they had been led to seek mercy and forgiveness under the ministry of John the Baptist. And now as new disciples, they would hear things never before spoken and see wonders never imagined possible. They would walk a path never traveled, being led out from the kingdom of darkness into the glorious kingdom of light. In time they would become ambassadors of a far kingdom and guardians of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20).

Part 1 – The Call

Part 2 – The Walk

He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. 1 John 2:6

The disciples walked with Jesus for three years on dusty paths and winding trails. And when the path ended, a new path began. They ate what was available, drank from rivers, and slept under the night stars. They were with Jesus day and night. They got to know Him. They loved Him. They questioned Him. They didn’t always understand when He answered. They were often mystified by words never before spoken. Even so, they were disciples called on a journey.

But here’s the thing: discipleship takes time. God must ground every disciple in the truth before one can labor and walk in the truth, the things of God (1 Corinthians 1:23). Jesus said to his disciples, “… If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31; 1 John 1:6).

Continuing in the words of Jesus is important. In fact, it’s everything! Why? Because a truth received and planted in the soil of the heart brings forth the harvest of obedience, the walk of faith leading to eternal life.

Part 2 – The Walk

Part 3 – The Trial

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 NIV

Every disciple of Jesus Christ will undergo suffering and trials. The word “trial” has multiple meanings in Greek but the one pertaining to this article is puroō, the trial by fire or the refining of gold to purge dross. The Bible is clear about the need for trials to purge and cleanse the soul.

The apostle Peter knew the meaning of trial. He wept bitterly after denying his Lord (Luke 22:54–62). Peter learned the importance of always professing Christ as Lord and Savior, and would later write that God will try the faith of His children through fiery trials, for the glory of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7)

Part 3 – The Trial

Part 4 – The Cross

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

While John 3:16 is the most widely recognized verse in the Bible, it is equally the most disregarded. Men reason there is no logic in God’s plan to offer up Jesus as a sacrifice for the redemption of many. To them the message of the cross is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Did Jesus really need to give His life to free men from the power of sin? Are men really that bad? Is the way to God only through Jesus Christ? The answers to these questions are yes and yes and yes (Hebrews 9:22; Romans 3:23; John 14:6)!

The idea that God would exchange the life of Jesus for the ransom of many is profoundly implausible for many and why they will not believe. But for those who do believe, the message of the cross is the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Part 4 – The Cross

Part 5 – The Pardon

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… Romans 5:1

To avoid deep theology, the pardon of a penitent believer is explained through a story about a man and his young son mourning over the passing of his wife, the boy’s mother. Both were in a car and driving away from the graveyard. The boy was upset at Jesus for allowing his mother to die so young.

The dad understood the sting and tearfully said with a quiver in his voice, “Son…see that truck coming toward us…and do you see the shadow following on the road?” The boy said, “Yes, I see both!” The dad said, “Jesus died when he pushed your mother aside and took the full force of God’s judgment so your mother would only take the passing shadow.”[2]

While the aforesaid story is indeed an oversimplification of the work of Christ on the cross resulting in pardon, it is indeed the crowning work of Christ on earth and in heaven (Romans 5:1–2; John 19:30).

Part 5 – The Pardon

Part 6 – The Life

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

The resurrection is about life, not staying put. It is about change from the old to the new. No one touched by the Savior stays the way they were; they change. About the change of new life Clarence W. Hall writes:

“The Resurrection of Jesus changes the face of death for all His people. Death is no longer a prison, but a passage into God’s presence. Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there. You can nail it to a Cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!” (Source: Forty Quotes about the Resurrection)

The promise of eternal life is in Christ. It is the indisputable truth believers embrace in Romans 10:9–10 and look back to in John 3:16, a promise kept by the Father.

Part 6 – The Life

Part 7 – The Change

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

The word transform also means change. Within the above context, the word means to transform or purge the mind from our old way of thinking to God’s way of thinking. Purging the mind is like a refining process to remove dross from metal. When metal melts and shimmers in the flame, dross rises to the top and is scooped away by the refiner! In the Bible, we can think of this process as sanctification: a process for purging impurities of the world and fallen nature from our life.

Miraculously, we endure the process and trust knowing the Refiner is ever nearby watching and waiting for you and me to come forth as pure gold (1 Peter 1:7).

We are purged by the many trials in life, each attending to mold us into Christlikeness. (Colossians 3:4)

Part 7 – The Change

Part 8 – The Glory

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… Philippians 3:20

Maybe the best way to close the introduction to the series is by simply saying we’ve been invited on an incredible journey, a holy quest from the world of darkness into the light of life (John 8:12)! For the believer, the journey of change has already begun (1 Peter 1:23). It is a journey through a wilderness with many difficulties but with persistent faith, our most earnest hope.

Changing from the earthly to the heavenly is an unimaginable wonder, and a promise. Glorification is not a fabrication of the mind. It is not a fairy tale. Not at all! Glorification of the believer is God’s idea and a promise that is sure to be fulfilled (Romans 8:18).

Though a believer’s journey begins in penitence and finds rest at the cross, it will one day end perfectly when our first breath in glory follows our last breath on earth.

Part 8 – The Glory

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