The Way of the Cross Leads

Bible Book: Matthew  10 : 38
Subject: Cross; Christian Living
Series: The Way of the Cross

More years ago than I like to recall, Mavis Allen, Editor of the Outreach Magazine for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources), asked me to write an article on outreach. I was a young man and had written very little for publication, but this was excited about this challenge. I still have a copy or two of that magazine around somewhere, not so much because of that article, but because Mavis had come to our home and to our church to make pictures of our young sons and from time to time we were excited when we opened a magazine and found pictures of John and Mark. I believe it was in one of the editions for which I had written an article that we found a full page picture of John taking care of his little brother.

As I recall, I laid the foundation for outreach by including the Great Commission. I then went on to Acts 1:8 and made the statement that the risen Lord had restated the Great Commission before His Ascension. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Seems logical, too. The Great Commission is so important that the Lord would want to remind them of it before leaving them to return to the Father. Made sense to me. Then, I ran it by a genuine Bible scholar who was in the process of writing a commentary on the Book of Act at the time. In fact, Dr. H. Leo Eddleman was preaching in revival services for us and during the week he took advantage of every opportunity to rush back to his research and writing.

Dr. Eddleman told me he was motivated to begin the work on this commentary because of mistakes made by a then popular commentary in which the author sought to show how the Gospel spread "unhinderedly" (based on the final statement in the Book), overcoming all boundaries, including those between men and women and those between races. That author had used the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria to prove that the Gospel overcame racial boundaries.

Dr. Eddleman, who had been a missionary to Israel leading up to the Second World War, said, "Johnny, if you stood a Samaritan and a Jew side by side and dressed them the same you would not have been able to tell them apart. Both the Jews and the Samaritans were Semitic people. There is enough proof elsewhere to support the power of the Gospel to overcome racial barriers, but this passage does not support his claim. An application of the Golden Rule will cover race relations."

In my mind, he had corrected the scholar’s error. Now for mine! Dr. Eddleman explained that in Acts 1:8, Jesus was not restating the Great Commission, He was predicting that as soon as the Holy Spirit came to empower them, they would be the witnesses He had commanded them to be. The Great Commission was given to those early disciples and to you and me. Acts 1:8 informs us that the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, a once-for-all-time happening to empower all believers of all ages to be witnesses. We are commanded to practice witnessing, but above all, we must be witnesses. There is no greater turn-off than some hypocrite who goes around making a show of witnessing for Jesus Christ. First, be a witness. Then do the witnessing. But, someone might argue, what if I do not choose to witness to others. That is not your choice! That is the Lord’s choice. For you and me, it is only a question of whether we will be His witnesses or live in rebellion against Him. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translators surprised some students of the Word by using the word "slave" rather than the traditional "servant." The general editor of the new Translation, Dr. Ed Bloom, sat down at my table at lunch one day to answer questions posed by a LifeWay trustee from Miami. He wanted to know why they had translated the Greek "slave" rather than "servant." Dr. Bloom explained that the HCSB is a word for word translation and that the word slave translates the original accurately. If you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you are His slave. You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Being a witness is not an option, and if you fail to practice witnessing for the Lord you are a slave in rebellion against your Master.


For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power (1 Cor 1:18, HCSB).

A. To Those Who Perish, the Cross is Foolish.

1) The cross would never have occurred to man. Paul was inspired to write that the cross is foolish to those who are perishing. How do we know that? Can I prove it? I can prove it to my satisfaction. Just follow my line of reasoning for a moment. In all the annals of the world’s cultures what kind of religions have man set forth? According to traditions of the Jews, Abraham, as a lad, worked in the shop where his father made idols. Whether that was true or not, I appreciate a couple of stories. It was said that a man came into the shop once when his father was out. He wanted to buy an idol. The twelve year old Abram said, "How can you, a sixty-five year old man, buy a god we made yesterday?" On another occasion, tradition says that young Abram picked up a club and began breaking the idols in the shop. When his father rushed in to stop him, he said, "If they be gods let them defend themselves." Whether the stories were true or not, there is a lot of truth in what they teach.

Do you remember the ten plagues God sent upon Egypt? Each one was directed against a specific Egyptian god. The final plague was directed against the first born son of the land, including the first born son of Pharaoh, who was supposed to have been a god. The gods to which the Israelites continually turned in Canaan were powerless, vile, crude, and evil. Many of them were fertility cults. Some of the kings of Israel actually threw their sons into the fires of an idol. Let me read what God told Jeremiah to say about the false gods of his day: "Has a nation [ever] exchanged its gods? (but they were not gods!) Yet My people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols. (Jer 2:11f).

The people of Babylon worshiped the gods of gold, silver, brass, wood and stone. Let’s face it, people who would either invent or worship such gods would certainly think the Cross was foolish. The religions of the world are man-made and Satan inspired. Those gods reflect the character and nature of their creators. The man determines the nature and character of the god.

Man’s gods are weak physically, morally, and spiritually. Mohammed invented a religion in which he chose one god from a pantheon of gods and in the name of that god which does not exist, they have spilled innocent blood all around the world. Can you imagine a god that promises a heaven with 72 virgins to those who murder innocent people ? It is murder, not just a suicide. And victims are innocent as to any offence against them is concerned. The true God created all things and no one can add or subtract anything from His character. He is absolutely true and absolutely holy.

Listen to what Paul has to say about those who invent their own gods:

From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles (Rom. 1:20-23).

B. To Those Who Are Being Saved It Is the Power of God.

For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power.... For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1:18-25).

Jesus demonstrated His power during His earthly ministry. The lame walked, the blind saw, and the dead were raised. Jesus changed water to wine, walked on water, and fed 5,000 men plus women and children with a child’s small lunch. Jesus was raised from the dead. Today, He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us, answering our prayers, and saving the lost. The power of the Gospel is displayed every time a dead person comes alive, when one is born again. A godly woman who loved to sing the hymns of the faith once gave her testimony as to why the Cross meant so much to her. She said that her mother abandoned her; her father commercialized her; Jesus died for her. Jesus died on Calvary’s cross to provide for our salvation.

I saw the cross of Jesus, When burdened with my sin;

I sought the cross of Jesus, To give me peace within;

I brought my soul to Jesus, He cleansed it in His blood;

And in the cross of Jesus, I found my peace with God.

I love the cross of Jesus, It tells me what I am -

A vile and guilty creature, Saved only thro’ the Lamb;

No righteousness nor merit, No beauty can I plead;

Yet in the cross I glory, My title there I read.


The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matt 10:37).

A. Only Those Who Have Been to the Cross Can Take Up the Cross.

Paul often wrote about the Cross: "But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14). When Jesus gave the command to "take up your cross and follow Me, He was talking to believers. Only born again believers have a cross to bear. Those who have never been to the Cross cannot take up a cross.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it (Matt 16:24-25).

B. If We Follow Jesus We Will Live a Life of Holiness.

"He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight" (Eph 1:4).

1) This demands that Christ live in Us. "So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:11).

2) This requires a surrender to the Holy Spirit. "Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?" (1 Cor 6:19).

3) This demand a commitment to Bible Study. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15).

4) This demands a commitment to prayer for ourselves. "Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

Another Counselor Promised" (John 14:13-15).

5) It demands a commitment to prayer for others. Paul appealed to believers at Thessalonica, "Brothers, pray for us also" (1 Thess 5:25).

6) This demands courage. "When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were ...untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).

C. If We Follow Jesus We Will Live a Life of Service.

1) Jesus was often moved with compassion for people in need. We read that Jesus often responded to the needs of people around Him: "When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matt 9:36 ).

2) If the compassion is real we will take action. "Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive" (Col 3:12-13).

For sixteen years Dr. Irene Steward, known locally as Miss Mickey, provided special care for Alzheimer’s patients. The retired surgeon once told me that there was a time when she would not have had anything to do with "these people." She bathes them, changes diapers, feeds them, medicates them, and provides comfort. She says that she has always been a care giver and wants to continue to be a care giver as long as the Lord permits. She has seen a lot of people die, but none of them died alone. Usually she is holding their hand or holding their head against her when they die. She has done this in spite of major heart attacks, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, broken vertebra, and other obstacles. She does not have to do this. Some of those closest to her cannot understand why she does not give it up and sit down and rest. She is a lady of great compassion and she feels that this is her way of serving the Lord.

She once told me that the most impressive person she had ever met was Mother Theresa. At the time, Mother Theresa picked up a baby and handed it to her. She held the filthy baby in her hands away from her clothes. Mother Theresa held the baby close to her. Little did she know there would be a time when she would show that kind of compassion.

D. If We Follow Jesus We Will Go Where He Leads Us to Go.

1) If we are going to follow our Lord it will require a total commitment to Him.

2) If we are going to follow our Lord we must look to Him for direction.

3) If we are going to follow our Lord we must let Him equip us.

4) If we are going to follow our Lord we must get into action.

E. If We Follow Jesus We Share Your Faith With Others.

1). There are no secret disciples. There is no such thing as a secret disciple. The secret will destroy the discipleship and the discipleship will destroy the secret. My brother James let me borrow a book, FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA, by James Alexander Thom. It is a novel about the Clark family of Virginia. It reminds you of the price paid by so many people during the Revolutionary War for our freedom. The first part covered George Rogers Clark and the last part deals with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. George Rogers Clark and his brother Jonathan were generals by the end of the war. It was said that George Rogers Clark, with a small rag-tag army all most single-handedly doubled the size of America at the time.

I found an interesting note in the part about the George Rogers Clark campaign about a scout named Simon Butler. I was surprised that Thom did not reveal the real identity of Butler. He was Simon Kenton. Kenton was a giant who hit a man when he was about fifteen and, thinking he had killed him, fled into the wilderness. He changed his name ot Butler and years later learned that the man had lived and then he began using the name Kenton again. He is the subject of a long and interesting historical novel, THE FRONTIERSMAN, by Alan Ekkert (sp).

Daniel Boone said Simon Kenton was the only man he ever went into the woods with that he never worried about. When Boon's fort was suddenly attacked while a few men were out hunting, Kenton scooped up the wounded Boone and ran with him. When Indians tried to cut him off before he got through the gates, Kenton lifted Boone and threw him into the Indians, knocking them down. He scooped up Boon again and ran on into the fort.

Kenton was also a scout for George Washington. I remember one other story about him that I found interesting. A brash young Lt. came into a place where he was eating and he was loud and abusive to people there. Kenton was eating and apparently didn't realize he was in the presence of someone so important. When he didn't get out of the way the young officer hit him. It took some time for them to revive the officer but I'll bet Andrew Jackson never forgot Simon Kenton.

Toward the end of his life he attended an outdoor revival service and later asked the preacher to take a walk with him. He asked him to promise never for reveal what he wanted to talk with him about, and then asked him to tell him how to be saved. After he was saved he ran back into the opening and shouted to all present that he had been saved. The evangelist told him he thought he wanted to keep it a secret. He said, "This is too good to keep it a secret."

2) A true disciple is a witness. Billy Sunday was unique among American evangelists. The former baseball player might resort to gymnastics to get the attention of the crowd. The man who had directed the music for Billy Sunday told my good friend Dr. H. R. Herrington what it was like directing music for Billy Sunday. Dr. Herrington sensed that the man’s heart was not really into the telling of the story. When he finished, he asked the elderly man if there was something else he had rather talk about. He told him an interesting story that obviously meant more to him at the time.

He had tried change a tire when he let the car roll into him. He was taken to a local hospital where the told him he should stay overnight. He didn’t want to stay but they thought because of his age that it would be a good idea to admit him for observation. He gave in and they put him in a semi-private room, which was common back in the fifties when he told Dr. Herrington his story. He was put in the room with a vile, profane man who cursed nurses, cursed his condition, and cursed everything in general. Finally, the elderly music minister said, "You ought not talk like that." It didn’t make the man any happier at the time, but later that night he apologized and it opened the door for the Christian to witness to the man. He was saved that night. The man was dead the next morning! The testimony he wanted to share was current and fresh. He said, "God put me in that hospital that night so I could witness to that man."

The Lord may well have put us in many situations so we could bear a witness for Him, but we were totally ignorant of the opportunity. I have had experiences in which knew I had an opportunity, but while I was trying to decide how to approach a person we were unexpectedly interrupted and the opportunity was lost. That may happen any time, but I can assure you that if you don’t take advantage of your opportunity, the devil will see to it that you lose it. If you are looking for an excuse he will provide one for you.

Dwight L. Moody was a converted shoe salesman who was called to be an evangelist. He was very much in demand for crusades. Great numbers were saved during his crusades, but what many do not know is that he probably led as many to the Lord in one on one witnessing as he did in the great crusades. I once read about a group of pastors who met to discuss a possible crusade for their city. A key issue was the selection of the evangelist. Someone had mentioned Dwight L. Moody and most of the pastors were in favor of inviting him. One young man stood up spoke in opposition to Moody, saying, "I don’t see that Dwight L. Moody has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit." An older pastor stood up and responded, "It is not because Dwight L. Moody has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit that we want to invite him. The point is that the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Dwight L. Moody."

Franklin Graham grew up in the home of the most famous evangelist the world has ever known. Billy Graham came on the scene like a breath of fresh air. He was a dynamic young preacher, yet not a flamboyant one. He has been the model for evangelists for decades, a model of integrity in morality, theology, evangelism, crusades, and financial accountability. I love Billy Graham and if you told me he would be interviewed on Hanity and Colmes I would make it a point to watch it. At the same time, if they gave me an opportunity to invite the guest I would like to see interviewed on any number of subjects, give me Franklin Graham. This man is fearless and focused. He is not about to end an interview without telling everyone how to find salvation in Jesus Christ.

Wade Armstrong was such a shy little boy that when he went forward in a service and announced that the Lord had called him to preach, he overheard a deacon say, "That boy can’t preach. He can’t even speak to you when you meet him on the street." Well he grew up and at one time he walked up and down streets ringing door bells, saying to anyone who answered the door, "I am Wade Armstrong and I would like to talk with you about God. Would you let me talk with you about the Lord?" He got in one home out of ten! I visited with him when he preached in a revival in Rayville, LA, when Dr. H. R. Herrington was pastor there. I was the Youth Minister there at the time. I was there when Wade Armstrong led an entire family to the Lord in one of those visits.

Now, I would like to tell you about Theresa Vance. Well, I would really like for Theresa Vance to tell you her story. I was her pastor in Greenville, Mississippi. B. M. Oglesby would drive across town and pick up Theresa and her mother every Sunday. He literally picked up Theresa. He lifted her out of her wheel chair and set her in his car, loaded the wheel chair in the trunk and drove them to church, where he had to lift her from the car seat and put her back into the wheel chair. Theresa could not speak, she could not walk, she could not hold anything other than an handkerchief in her hand, but she was filled with Holy Spirit and lived for Jesus. She wanted so much to share her testimony, so I let her tell her mother what she would like for people to know and then I rewrote it and took it to the Mississippi Baptist Convention headquarters in Jackson and persuaded a printer to print her testimony in tracts so she could pass them out on the street in Greenville. The Welfare Department cut off her check because they insisted that she was using the tracts to beg people for money. They had to reverse the decision, but here case worker could not believe that she would put herself through all of that without looking for a profit. Here is Theresa’s testimony in her own words in the tract, HELLO THERE:

I am Theresa Ann Vance of Greenville, Mississippi. Let me tell you something about myself. I am forty years of age, afflicted from birth, and completely helpless. I cannot speak, control the movements of my body or feed myself, but I do have a sound mind and I can speak through my mother who can interpret my words.

When I was eleven years old I met Jesus Christ and trusted Him to save me. Because of what He did for me, I love to tell others about my Lord. I love to go to church and hear others speak and sing of the love of God. Some day, I will sing, too.

I came to Grenville fifteen years ago and for fifteen years I have been buying copies of the New Testament and giving them to people on the street and to those who visit me. I also give tracts to people and have the great joy of knowing at least three people who have come to know the Lord through my testimony and by reading the New Testaments.

I have known suffering, having been at the very door of death more than once. Each time, the Lord has spared my life and I feel that He has spared my life for a purpose: that I can go on telling others that I have a friend in Jesus.

Theresa, in her tract, shares a number of verses with lost people, including Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:13; and Acts 16:31. Then, she has a word for Christians:

Dear Christians, do not be ashamed to witness for the Lord because that is why He saved you. I try never to miss an opportunity to tell other people that Jesus died for them. If I had a sound body and if I could speak, I would be happy to speak for Him and to go where He needs me. If you will serve God, He will help you and you will be blessed.

Theresa then added verses for believers: Romans 8:31 and 2 Timothy 2:19. After which, she added, "I have asked my pastor to witness my testimony." My affirmation is on the back of the tract: "This is a true testimony, but is not complete. Theresa is too modest to tell you just how much she does for the Lord. She is deeply troubled for lost people. She does not hesitate to spend money needed for food to purchase a New Testament to give to a little boy or girl. People who visit her have no doubt that Jesus is central in her life....Theresa is an inspiration to all who know her, especially to those who worship with her."

Pastors go to homes, hospitals, nursing homes, businesses, and even to jail to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Lost or to encourage believers. For a number of years, I have visited a home for Alzheimer’s patients. No, it is not a lot of fun. No, they don’t remember that I have been there after I leave but when I am standing in front of an Alzheimer’s patient and see the joy in his or her eyes, I know that my visit means something to them at that exact moment. The interesting thing is that most of the ones I have visited have a background in the church and when you pray, they appreciate it. They appreciate it when you mention the Lord.

When I was a student at Mississippi College, I led the BSU (Baptist Student Union, now Baptist Christians Ministries) mission trip to Hinds County Jail for two and one-half years. I also served a as student pastor of the Dockery Baptist Church, between Cleveland and Ruleville, Mississippi. Every Sunday morning, I left my home at Sledge around 6:00 o’clock so I could be at Parchman to preach at one of the camps at the state prison at 8:00. I drove in snow, on icy roads, and in all kinds of weather. I soon discovered that I needed to go to bed early on Saturday evenings in order to be fresh for a long Sunday. I preached at Parchman, then drove to Ruleville where I picked up Mom and Pop Gordon and got to the church with a little time to spare before Sunday School. I was invited to someone’s home every Sunday for dinner and visited during the afternoon, preached that night and then drove back to MC that night.

Why did I do all of that "extra" work? The church was not paying me to do it. In fact, if I had given it up I am sure they would not have given it a thought. During college and seminary days I worked in rescue missions, and other mission work. I felt that I was bearing my cross where Jesus would have gone if He had been there.

I had some incredible experiences in prison work at that time. The chaplain tried to get the state to approve me as his assistant at Parchman, but they turned me down because I was single, which I found just a little ironic. The way they looked at it, the salary was not that good but they made up for it by sending the meat wagon, vegetable wagon, and milk wagon by the homes of the officers and employees. They reasoned that free meat, vegetables, and milk would mean more to a family than to a single man. The chaplains’s brother was the superintendent and if it had been up to them I feel sure they would have approved my employment. They were both from my hometown, but I am glad they didn’t get approval from the state. Dr. J. Hardee Kennedy, academic Vice President of New Orleans Seminary advised me to complete my education first. I was not planning to listen to him, but when the state of Mississippi would not make an exception in my case, I went on to Seminary. This, I am convinced, was the Lord’s will. I wanted to do the prison work, but He was ready for me to bear the cross in a different direction. The Lord commands you to take up your cross and follow Him. How are your doing? If you are faithfully bearing your cross that is great. But if you have become lax, or if you have never taken up your cross and followed Jesus, I have good news for you. It may not be too late. In fact, for most of you it is definitely not too late. If you repent, He will forgive your sin of disobedience, apostasy, and selfish pursuit of you will over His will.


In the Great Commission, Jesus commands us to be His witnesses. In Acts 1:8, He prophecies that after the Holy Spirit came to indwell believer and empower the church, they would be His witnesses. This did not only apply to those first century saints, it applies to you and me today. If you have taken up your cross, and if you are following our Lord faithfully, you are being blessed. If you have never take up your cross and followed Him, don’t you think it is time you did something about that? If you are not a witness of Christ you are living in disobedience to Him. What do you need to do? Repent. He will forgive you and restore you.

Earlier, I mentioned the book, FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA, by James Alexander Thom. There is a story in that book that has an application here. One of the soldiers began talking against Lewis and Clark and the expedition. When it was brought to the attention of Merryweather Lewis and William Clark, a court martial was held and the man was found guilty. A few men had been sentenced to fifty or hundred lashes, but this man was sentenced to one hundred, fifty lashes with green switches. It was brutal, but after the punishment, William Clark treated the wounds and encourage the man. The man went to Lewis and insisted that he wanted to be a part of the expedition. He said that he had repented and wanted to see the Pacific Ocean. Lewis would not encourage him, but told him to apply himself. He did, but in the end, Lewis told him that even though he had worked hard, he could not change the decision. He felt sure that Clark would have given him a second chance if it had been left up to him.

John Mark had started on the First Missionary Journey with Paul and Barnabas, but turned back when the going got rough. As they prepared to go on a second missions trip, Barnabas wanted to take Mark but Paul refused. There was absolutely no give in him! Barnabas, who had befriended Paul when the disciples in Jerusalem didn’t trust him, stood by Mark, and in time even Paul acknowledge the faithfulness of Mark. There comes a time in everyone’s life when he will need a Barnabas more than a Paul.

If you are bearing your cross faithfully you are to be commended. If you know you are not bearing your cross with a total commitment this is an opportunity for you to do something about it.

"Take up thy cross and follow me,"

I heard my Master say;

"I gave My life to ransom thee,

Surrender your all today."

My heart, my life, my all I bring

To Christ who loves me so;

He is my master, Lord, and King,

Wherever He leads I’ll go.