Taking Up The Cross

Bible Book: Acts  9 : 8-30
Subject: Cross; Christian Living; Paul, The Apostle
Series: The Way of the Cross
INTRODUCTION

In this series on the cross, we have seen Saul of Tarsus fighting against the Cross. We have seen him at the Cross, stricken with blindness, overwhelmed at the presence of the Christ of the Cross. We have seen him commissioned to take up his cross and follow Jesus. Today, I would like for us to follow Paul as he takes up his cross and follows the Lord. There will be some repetition in these messages, but I am not going to worry too much about that because you have already forgotten the previous messages! I would like for us to pause first and consider the awesome power of the Cross of Jesus Christ, knowing that we are not talking at a structure of wood, but sacrifice of Christ on that cross. Listen to the words of that great Andra’e Crouch hymn, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power”

The blood that Jesus shed for me,

Way back on Calvary;

The blood that gives me strength from day to day,

It will never lose its power.

It soothes my doubts and calms my fears,

And it dries all my tears;

The blood that gives me strength from day to day,

It will never lose its power.

It reaches to the highest mountain.

It flows to the lowest valley.

The blood that gives me strength from day to day,

It will never lose its power.

There are people today who profess to be Christians who are somehow offended by the blood of Jesus Christ. They do not want to dwell on the Cross, the suffering, the pain, the death of our Lord. There are pastors who are determined to protect their people from messages and songs about the blood. As one staff member announced to a choir scheduled to sing in their church, “We don’t want anything about the blood or anything gory that might offend these people out here.” When Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ,” you can be sure that he was not ashamed of the Cross, or the blood our Lord poured out at Calvary.

I. SAUL OF TARSUS MET THE LORD ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS.

A. He Had Been a Leader of the Persecution of the Saints.

Young Saul was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, where he was born into a Jewish family with Roman citizenship. He was reared in a strict Hebrew family, of whom almost no information is recorded. There is reason, however, to assume certain things about his home life, based in part on what we know about the early childhood of a male child reared in a devout Jewish home, even if it was a Hellenistic Jewish family. By his own testimony, Paul grew up speaking Hebrew, even though many Hellenistic Jews did not require their children to learn Hebrew. Strict Jews would have enrolled their sons in the synagogue school where he would have studied Jewish law and Jewish traditions.

Another factor that uniquely prepared him for the work to which he was called, was that he grew up with the Greek language. God had been moving nations like one moves pieces on a chessboard for many centuries to have the Greek language ready when the time came for the New Testament to be written. He raised up the Assyrian Empire to judge the Israel, the Northern Ten Tribes. He gave them every opportunity to repent but they refused. He had sent prophets like Elijah and Elisha, powerful men of God. He had sent the great writing prophets, Amos and Hosea. But the people absolutely refused to repent, preferring the gods that do not exist to the only God who can exist. The Assyrians conquered Israel and deported a large part of the population in 722 B. C. Then, when Judah refused to obey God, He raised up the Babylonians to judge them, not to destroy them but to take them into captivity for seventy years. Then, he raised up the Persian Empire to return the promised remnant to Jerusalem.

He then raised up the Greek Empire, and one of the main things they did was to Hellenize the known world, including giving the nations of the empire a common language, the language of the New Testament. He then raised up the Roman empire. What contribution do you think the Romans made? First, they gave the world the best postal system it had ever known - the perfect system for sending all those epistles Paul was inspired to write. Secondly, the Roman Empire gave the world the greatest highway system it had ever known. Paul followed those great Roman roads to the major population centers where he planted churches. Third, The Romans gave the world the safest travel by land and sea the world had even known. The stage was set for the coming of the Lord and the spread of the Gospel.

The world was set. The Lord saw to that. But now He would need a man. He had one. His name was Saul. The only problem was that Saul did not know the Savior. As a matter of fact, he had become a ring leader in the persecution of the saints. He consented to the stoning of Stephen; he even watched the clothes of those who stoned him.

B. He Was Stopped on the Road to Damascus By the Lord

1) Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the followers or “the Way” in that city. He was breathing threats and murder, persecuting and imprisoning women as well as men. He was utterly ruthless, and what is more, he thought he was doing it all for the Lord. Armed with authorization from the high priest, he and his companions rushed to Damascus all the religious zeal one can imagine in the Middle East.

2) There was a blinding light. All students of the Bible know about Paul’s Roman Road Experience. He was blinded by a brilliant light. He fell to the ground. I would love to know what he thought as he hit the ground. Is it possible that he knew this was supernatural? If so, he must have thought it was from Yahweh. Surely, his first thought was not that it was from Jesus. After all, he was persecution followers of Jesus.

3) There was a voice from the Lord. He did not have long to wait to learn who had sent the light. Jesus spoke to him. In fact, he called him by name. Jesus did not stop with calling him by name. Look at the Scripture:

“Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

“Who are You, Lord?” he said.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied (Acts 9:4-5, emphasis added).

These were without a doubt the most bone-chilling words the super-pious young Pharisee had ever heard. The One whose followers he was so viciously persecuting, the One whose church he was ravaging, was Jesus. Jesus did not accuse him of persecuting His followers, He accused him of persecuting Him. That brings to mind the words of Jesus, “In so much as you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, yu have done it unto me.”

4) He was left blind and helpless. Jesus said, “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). We are not told whether Paul was saved at this moment or in Damascus, and I do not like to speculate on what the Scripture does not say. The best method of interpretation Scripture is not reading between the lines, but I am going to do a little that here. I believe Saul believed on the spot when Jesus confronted him with his sin. I believe what happened in Damascus related more to his call.

“The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days, and did not eat or drink” (Acts 9:7‑9).

II. HIS SIGHT IS RESTORED AND HE IS CALLED TO BEAR THE CROSS.

A. The Lord Sent Ananias to Lay His Hand on Saul.

Saul was in Damascus three days without food or water when the Lord appeared to one of His followers, a man named Ananias, in a vision. He called him by name and Ananias responded, “Here I am, Lord!” Jesus instructed him:

“Get up and go to the street called Straight,’ the Lord said to him, ‘to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so he may regain his sight” (Acts 9:11-12).

Ananias, who had heard about Saul, could hardly believe his ears:

“Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name” (9:13-14).

Jesus had an answer.

“But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel. I will certainly show him how much he must suffer for My name!” (9:15-16).

B. He Received His Commission.

Ananias obeyed the Lord and went to the house of Judas on Straight Street in Damascus, and placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (9: 17).

“At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. And after taking some food, he regained his strength” (Acts 9:18).

Saul of Tarsus, a young man uniquely qualified to be a missionary in the First Century world, is now empowered to do the work to which he is commissioned. We was uniquely qualified, uniquely trained, and uniquely commissioned. Is it any wonder that his ministry is the most unique ministry in the history of Christianity? As David was the king by which all kings were measured, Paul became the missionary, preacher, teacher, theologian, and saint by which all others would be measured until the return of the Lord. When I was a young pastor I often heard older pastors make the statement, “Spurgeon was the greatest preacher since Paul.” Of course, not all preachers would agree with that statement. I asked one seminary professor about Spurgeon at an associational pastor’s conference. He ignored me, so I asked again. With a backward wave of the left hand, he said, “Of course, there is the conservative, Spurgeon,” and then continued as if he had never heard the question.

III. SAUL TOOK UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOWED JESUS.

A. He Took Three Years to Prepare for His Ministry.

“I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus” (Gal 1:17).

I was saved when I was twelve years old. I was called when I was thirteen. My mother had taken some young people to an M-Night service at First Baptist Church, Marks, Mississippi, to hear missionary James Belote. When the invitation was given I went forward, knowing that the Lord was calling me for His service. I did not know what He wanted me to do, but I knew that He had singled me out for a ministry, possibly the pastorate. My father in the ministry, M. C. Waldrup, encouraged me to go to Mississippi College. My father had said, “You are going to finish high school and get four years of college. After that, you can decide if you want more. But you are going to finish college.” While I was in college, I took enough psychology and sociology classes to know that parents are not supposed to do that! I was fortunate because my father, an orphan and a survivor of the Great Depression and WW II, had never discovered psychology or sociology. At the same time, we never had a communication gap in our home. We knew exactly what Daddy meant when he spoke. He said that we were going to get an education. He had dropped our of school when he was thirteen to make a living for himself and his grandmother. When Brother Waldrup talked with us about Mississippi College, he convinced Mother that this was the place for me. Daddy was already convinced that I was going somewhere.

A couple of months before I left for Mississippi College, I saw a highschool classmate and he asked me if I had my scheduled worked out. Schedule? I thought that was something they kept at the train station! I arrived on campus, the first person from my community to go to college, not knowing what my major would be. I stood before my advisor, Dr. E. R. Pinson and he asked, “Mr. Sanders, are you going to seminary? I made the mistake of saying, “I hope so.” He said, “If the Lord has called you, you can go.” I never again said, “I hope so.” I didn’t know how, but I knew I was going.

I finished New Orleans Seminary and after a number of years received a letter from Dr. Hollis Greene, Dean at Luther Rice Seminary, who told me that a friend had recommended me for the Doctor of Ministry program there. My first reaction was, I am not going to any school that does not carry the SBC brand! The Lord overrode my attitude and convinced me that I needed to apply for the program. It helped that Dr. Leo Eddleman had told me that he and other seminary presidents had studied the D.Min. program at Luther Rice Seminary and were making plans to offer the program in our six seminaries. Dr. Eddleman was preaching in revival services for me when he told me about the program, and he had been president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary when I was there. Dr. Eddleman was the man who began looking into accreditation for our seminaries, and he was the first to seek a change from the Doctor of Theology degree to the Doctor of Philosophy in Theology degree.

At the time of his conversion, Saul had finished the highest level of education available to him in Tarsus and he had gone off to Jerusalem to do his graduate work at the feet of Gamaliel, the esteemed teacher of the Pharisees. He was the number one student in his class, and everyone knew he was going to be a great leader of the Pharisees. There are students who are well disciplined. There are students who are brilliant. And there are brilliant students who are well disciplined and highly motivated. Paul pushed both categories to the breaking point, surpassing all his peers in the study of the Law.

I had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Eddleman very well. His father had been pastor of my home church at one time, and he and my pastor were good friends. We were both in the gym several nights a week, often just the two of us. The day of my graduation he stopped by as we were lining up to march into the chapel and asked, “Johnny, do you think we should call a little conference in the gym this afternoon?” He preached two revivals for me over the years, and when I had questions I would call and talk with him about various issues. Dr. Eddleman told me that the greatest regret in his life was the way he wasted his life between fifteen and nineteen when he could have learned five foreign languages. After the Lord called him into the ministry at age nineteen, he took off one whole summer to read the Bible to see if there was anything there he could not preach. He looked into the various denominations, and finally narrowed it down to Baptists and Congregationalists. When he discovered that Congregationalists baptized infants he chose to stay with the Baptists. A math major at Mississippi College, Dr. Eddleman became a Greek major in seminary. Years later, J. Edgar Hoover would say that Dr. Leo Eddleman had the best working knowledge of any non-Jew in the United States. The FBI director knew about him because of the high level, secret, translation work he spent many hours doing late at night.

The point I hope I am making is that there are brilliant people who are driven to know, to learn, to understand, to implement or apply what they know. Dr. Eddleman told me that from age nineteen to twenty-five, he allowed himself one date a year, preferring to concentrate on his studies. By the time I got out of seminary, the main thing I wanted out of seminary was myself! I believe the young Saul of Tarsus was every bit as motivated to learn all he could before he began his ministry as Dr. Eddleman was.

If anyone knew the Law, Saul knew it. He studied the Law and the Prophets as very few people ever had. Now, he had to adjust his thinking. He had been an enemy of Jesus and His followers, at the time simply called “the Way.” Now, he had to go back and apply all the Law and the Prophets to Jesus before he could effectively debate with Jews or preach the Gospel.

My advice to anyone who feels that the Lord is calling him into the ministry is to get an education. Take it seriously. Dr. Eddleman told me that he taught his daughters to get enough education that no one could ever look down on them. “Then,” he said, “Go on and get enough that you can never look down on anyone else.” This describes Saul of Tarsus. When I graduated from New Orleans Seminary a number of people said, “I’ll bet you really know the Bible.” What they didn’t understand was that I had spent four years at Mississippi College and three years in seminary learning how to study the Bible.

B. He Witnessed for the Lord in Damascus.

Paul wrote that he had spent three years in Arabia: “I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus” (Gal 1:17). There is no reason to assume that because he spent three years in Arabia that he never went to a synagogue or witnessed during that time. Here is where we are not given additional information. Luke wrote, “Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some days. Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.” The question is, did the “some days” denote time with the disciples before going into Arabia or after he returned. Either is understandable. It is also understandable that he would have spent some time with them both before leaving and after returning. He may, and possibly did return from time to time during those three years. I tend to think Luke is writing about the time after the three years because of the response (or reaction) of the Jews: “But all who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man who, in Jerusalem, was destroying those who called on this name, and then came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?” (Acts. 9:21). They were astounded by what Saul had learned and how effectively he presented Jesus as the Son of God. “But Saul grew more capable, and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this One is the Messiah” (Acts 9:22).

Now, Saul, the radical student who was the leader in the persecution of the saints, is about to learn what it is like to be the one persecuted.

“After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. So they were watching the gates day and night intending to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through [an opening in] the wall” (Acts 9:23‑25).

C. He Then Went to Jerusalem.

Luke offers a brief account of what happened when Saul, the brilliant, arrogant, violent persecutor of “the Way” returned to Jerusalem after three years, not as a radical young Pharisee, but as a powerful witness for the Jesus whom he had persecuted.

“When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how, on the road, Saul had seen the Lord, and that He had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they attempted to kill him. When the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus” (Acts 9:26‑30).

May I offer my “sanctified” analysis of Paul as he began his ministry? If you will grant me that privilege, I would like to begin by telling you about meeting Stephen Olford. I sat on the same pew with Stephen Olford and Spiros Zhodiates the night we received our doctorates. It was an honor to meet these great men of God, but when I shook hands with Stephen Olford and looked into his eyes I had the distinct impression that I was looking into the eyes of a man of great power and great humility. I believe the young Paul was a man of awesome power, but not yet a man of great humility. I do not agree with those who claim that Paul was arrogant. The young missionary who refused to give John Mark a second chance was brilliant and powerful. The mature missionary who reappraised John Mark, confessed his weakness, and acknowledged the horror of his persecution of the church was both powerful and humble.

Saul was so effective in witnessing to the Hellenistic Jews that they sought to kill him. Picture any number of cases in the Middle East where this might have been the response. Islamic leaders in Afghanistan demanded the death of a man who had converted to Christianity. He was sentenced to death and when President Bush stressed that when they considered why we had set Afghanistan free and helped them set up a democracy, he hoped they might reconsider this decision. The political leaders enabled the man to leave the country, but religious leaders were calling for his death. Arab Christian evangelist Annis Shorrosh told my son John and me that eleven attempts had been made on his life because he preaches Christ. When the news media reported that the Muslim leaders had put out a death order for Salmon Rushdie, we were not told that there was an order for the death of Annis Shorrosh.

D. The Brothers Put Him on a Ship for Tarsus.

Who does he mean by “the brothers”? Barnabas would have been one of them. In Galatians, Paul wrote that he had met Peter and John in Jerusalem at this time, and that they were considered pillars in the church. He would also have met James, the half-brother of our Lord, who was now the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and would be for many more years.

Paul was a tent maker by training and trade, but I cannot believe that he spent the next seven years just making tents. Elsewhere, Paul reveals some experiences not recorded by Luke or by Paul himself anywhere else. It is believed that some of these experiences may have occurred during this time in Tarsus. Wouldn’t it have been something for the Lord to have such an instrument of evangelism as this and then put him on a shelf for seven years? Of course, he kept Moses on hold for 40 years! I believer the Lord was both using him and preparing him for the mission work to which He had called him.

E. Barnabas Found Him in Tarsus and Asked Him to Work with Him in Antioch.

Barnabas had gone to Antioch of Syria, where there were reports of phenomenal growth in the church. Barnabas was sent to look into the work there. At one point, he found that the work was too much for him, so he sent to Antioch to find Saul to ask him to come help him in the work. After about a year, the Holy Spirit singled out Barnabas and Saul for a special mission trip. This launched what may well have been the most important single ministry in the history of Christianity.

F. Paul Became Our Greatest Example in Taking up the Cross and Following Jesus.

1) The missions strategy of Paul is still an example to missionaries.

The relation to Christ, the meaning of our atonement, the risk one runs to have God at his elbow, the inevitable concomitant of our salvation means that at this cross there is no place for observers. There is no detached ground; there are no uninvolved ones. We are caught here. Cross means nailed here. There are no spectators... we are all on stage. You are in it: the drama of the redemption of the world. But not alone ‑‑ there are no single crosses anywhere, anymore. All our crosses participate in His.‑ Carlyle Marney, The Carpenter's Son.

2) Paul is an example in integrity. He surrounded himself with men and women of integrity. He could have avoided a lot of grief and pain if he had been willing to compromise, but like Job, he was determined to maintain his integrity. In this he is a good example for our today.

3) He is an example in courage. He stood before kings, governors, jailers, and other officials. He testified before the Sanhedrin. He faced wild animals, stormy seas, and angry mobs. He had a courage most of us cannot imagine.

Dr. Howard A. Kelly had a unique and effective way of "witnessing". He was never seen in public without a beautiful pink rose in his lapel. This practice gave him many opportunities to witness about his relationship with the Lord Jesus. Someone meeting him on the street might remark, "That's a lovely rose, Dr. Kelly." "Yes, it is," he would reply. "Actually, it's a 'Christian rose!'"

"Why do you call it that?" he would be asked. The well‑known physician would then turn back his lapel and display a tiny water bottle which held the stem of the flower and kept it fresh and sweet.

"It's a 'Christian rose,'" he would explain, "because it has a hidden source of life and beauty. When our Savior pardons our sins, He also unites us with Himself and thereby nourishes and strengthens us. He becomes the secret reservoir of our joy, and any fragrance of testimony we exhibit to the world comes from Him." [BI]

4) He is an example in suffering. A lady I had just met wondered what it would take to turn America back to the Lord. I asked, “Do you really want to know?” She did. I said, “Persecution. It has always worked. It is working in China today. It worked in the Soviet Union. But I don’t want to go through persecution, do you?” Of course not. I do not want to suffer like Jesus, or even like Paul, do you? Let Paul tell you something of his suffering:

“Are they servants of Christ? I’m talking like a madman—I’m a better one: with far more labors, many more imprisonments, far worse beatings, near death many times. Five times I received from the Jews 40 lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the depths of the sea.

“On frequent journeys, [I faced] dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; 27 labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing” (2 Cor. 11:23-27).

Paul goes on to describe other hardships, as well as illness and persecution. I do not want to go through anything like that, but should I be called on to do so, I would pray that I would look to the Lord for strength and to Paul for an example.

5) He is an example in theology. Paul was inspired to write those Pauline Epistles. The epistles to the Ephesians and Romans set forth enough deep theological precepts to keep a pastor busy for a life time. Theology is simply the study of God. We must preach sound doctrine. The late W. O. Vaught, used to stress that it is not love that produces unity in the church, it is sound doctrine. Paul was inspired to confront false doctrine and false prophets.

“I wish you would put up with a little foolishness from me. Yes, do put up with me. For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ. For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!” (2 Cor 11:1‑4).

In another place he declares that if one preaches another gospel, let him be accursed. It stands to reason that if there were false teachers in churches Paul had planted, there may be a few around today. How do we know a false teachers? Focus on their doctrinal integrity and consistence and continue to go to the Lord to test what they say. If the are especially popular with the world, beware!

6) He is an example in the pulpit. Paul preached the Word of God. No, I mean he really preached the Word of God. He did not preach about it, he proclaimed it. It is the Word of God which God will so bless that it will never return unto Him void or empty.

“Proclaim (preach) the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:1‑5).

The late Stephen Olford lamented what he called a famine in America, a famine in expository preaching. Today, we are seeing a lot of commentaries with wider margins than printed columns, more activities than commentary. We see TV preachers whose greatest desire is to make people happy. Expository preaching requires a sincere commitment to study, and prayerful preparation of sermons. Preparing to preach the Gospel is both hard work, rewarding work.

7) He is an example on the street. That is, he witnessed to people wherever he was. He proclaimed the Word in the Synagogues and in churches, but he also witnessed to people in the marketplace. The Great Commission is a mandate to be a witness for Jesus Christ wherever we go, literally, it is “going in to all the world...”, or “as you are going into all the world.”

There is a sense, of course, in which every Christian has an apostleship. We are all of us to be witnesses, no matter what our other calling, profession or labor. A generation ago there was a wealthy man in the midwest who was an outstanding Christian layman. People used to ask him what he did. He would reply, "I am a witness for Jesus Christ, but I pack pork to pay expenses." Your apostleship differs in degree but not in kind from the apostleship that was given by God to Paul.‑‑ Donald Grey Barnhouse [BI]

CONCLUSION

Just how serious are you about taking up the cross and following Jesus. I read something that at first seemed disconnected, scatterbrained, and pointless. Then, I read on and guess what I discovered. It sounds like a lot of church members. Listen to the rambling thoughts of someone who somehow knew he needed to take up the cross and follow Jesus, but just couldn’t seem to get in any traction.

Well, here I am, Lord. You said "Take up your cross," and I'm here to do it. It's not easy, you know, this self‑denial thing. I mean to go through with it though, yes sir! I'll bet you wish more people were willing to be disciples like me. I've counted the cost and surrendered my life, and it's not an easy road.

You mind if I look over these crosses? I'd kind of like a new one. I'm not fussy, you understand; but a disciple has to be relevant these days.

I was wondering ‑‑ are there any that are vinyl padded? I'm thinking of attracting others, see? And if I could show them a comfortable cross, I'm sure I could win a lot more. Got to keep up with the population explosion and all.

And I need something durable so I can treasure it always. Oh, is there one that's sort of flat so it would fit under my coat? One shouldn't be too obvious.

Funny, there doesn't seem to be much choice here. Just that coarse, rough wood. I mean that would hurt. Don't you have something more distinctive, Lord? I can tell you right now, none of my friends are going to be impressed by this shoddy workmanship. They'll think I'm a nut or something. And my family will be just mortified.

What's that? It's either one of these or forget the whole thing? But Lord, I want to be your disciple, I mean, just being with you; that's all that counts; but life has to have a balance, too. But you don't understand ‑‑ nobody lives that way today! Who is going to be attracted by this self‑denial bit? I mean, I want to; but let's not over do it. Start getting radical like this, and they'll have me off to the funny farm. Know what I mean?

I mean being a disciple is challenging and exciting and I want to do it; but I do have some rights, you know. Now let's see ‑‑ no blood ‑‑ OK? I just can't stand the thought of that, Lord... Lord? Jesus?

Now where do you suppose He went?

[The Bible Illustrator]

Jesus commands all lost people to come to the cross for salvation. He demands that we repent. There is no other way. If we believe in Him we will repent and follow Him. If you have been saved, he tells you that He wants you to take up your cross and follow Him. Will you make that commitment right now?