“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 — EHV)
You’ve heard of the saying, “we all have crosses to bear;” but what exactly is the Christian Cross? We certainly know what Jesus’ cross was—the means by which he was executed. But what does it mean for Christians to carry their crosses?
Simply put a Christian cross is anything a Christian might have to endure because of his faith. It might be persecution of some kind, a financial hardship or difficulty due to giving generous offerings to the Lord, the lack of perceived enjoyment because of a refusal to join in the wicked practices of the world, or maybe even death after a refusal to denounce your faith. The Christian cross can take many forms but when it comes down to it an important aspect of the Christian cross, and a key to understanding what it is, lies in verse 25. Jesus calls on us to lose our lives—which is an explanation of what he means when he says that we should deny ourselves. The Lord calls on us to deny what our sinful nature wants when it wants to sin. He wants us to deny ourselves things, which in and of themselves are completely harmless, but those things that lead us astray from God and his Word. It might be a job, a hobby, family, or even something like personal desire—which, again, are fine in and of themselves, but if they lead us away from God, the worship of him, the study of his Word, or a proper perspective on life, then we are to deny them to ourselves. As Christians we ought to be willing to lose our lives—consider our lives worth nothing, not worrying about what is best for ourselves and seek to do ourselves good; but instead be worried about God and his Word.
It’s a lot of God to ask of us. And how often have we failed to carry our crosses! Far too often we love our lives and we seek to satisfy our wants and desires. We want to live like the rest of the world, so we make excuses for ourselves; we tell ourselves that we can do whatever we want and still be Christians.
Sins like this are the very reason why Jesus took up his cross! It wasn’t to save himself but to save us from our sins. He carried his cross to Calvary in order to take our sins upon himself, suffer their eternal punishment, and shed his blood to pay for those sins. Because of what Christ has done for us on the cross our sins are not counted against us. On the cross Jesus attributed his perfect life to us. And so, as a result, the Lord declares us not guilty!
The forgiveness of sins won for us by Christ on his cross is our motivation for carrying ours. And when our crosses seem like they are too much to bear, or when we fail to carry our crosses and the guilt becomes overwhelming, we look to Christ and his cross and know that all our sins are forgiven. And we notice that Christ is no longer on his cross, his cross is empty because our salvation is complete, his job of paying for our sins is finished. He has done it all, and we have to do nothing. And yet, our crosses can be heavy; and so again we look at Christ and noticed that not only is his cross empty but so is his tomb. He is now in heaven in his full divine glory. And through his resurrection from the dead, you too will join him in heaven, enjoying a perfect life with your Savior forever!
Pastor Andrew Frey
Important Update -
This past weekend we moved to our “School Schedule,” with two worship services on Sunday morning 8:00 and 10:30 am with Bible Study and Sunday School in between at 9:15am. As many of you are aware, our first service was fuller than we anticipated, which perhaps made some of our members uncomfortable. Our council discussed the issue at our meeting last night and decided to remove the ropes in the front portion of the lectern side of the sanctuary. This section will not require social distancing. We hope that, with enough worshipers sitting in this section, it will leave enough space in the rest of the sanctuary for everyone else to socially distance. Our Council also discussed a plan to implement if and when the Governor’s mask mandate expires. If you have any questions, please speak to one of the Pastors or Council members.
This past Sunday, Pastor Frey started a Bible study on the Christian and the Government—looking at what God says concerning the government and the Christians relation to his other Kingdom. We may be sick of hearing about politics already; but with so much information being thrown at us on a daily basis, it is important to step back and look at what God has to say to us. Join us Sundays at 9:15am.
This week Pastor Gartner started a Bible study on "The Life of Moses -- A Study of the Book of Exodus". Please join us either Mondays at 8:00am or Tuesdays at 5:30pm.
All these Bible Classes that will be starting will be held at church. If you are not comfortable attending them in person or can't make these times and you would like to receive a recording of these Bible Classes, please contact one of the Pastors and we will send you the link for these recordings.
If you are not comfortable sending your child to in person Sunday School, we have weekly recorded videos of each weeks Bible Lesson and the Lesson sheets that we can send to you so that your child can still learn the valuable truths of God's Word. Please contact us if you would be interested in these materials.
Special Mission Offering:
Each year we designate a certain amount of money to a home mission, a world mission, and one other specially designated ministry. If you have any ideas, particularly concerning a world mission or ministry, please speak to one of the pastors.
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. We are offering 8:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!
You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.
You can also signup by going directly to this link (it will be a different link each week): https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040a4aa9a62ea6fa7-stjohn2
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 8:00 am service which means you can watch anytime after 8:00 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.
You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.