The mission of Jesus Christ culminated in a gruesome tragedy.
In fact, His entire ministry on earth was leading to this shocking moment. And for centuries, Christians around the world have pondered the horrible details of His crucifixion. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues his brand-new teaching series called Compelled by the Cross.
It's a study that started Monday and will culminate on Good Friday. In this message, Chuck invites us to follow along in Matthew 16, where Jesus predicted His coming persecution. And he'll explain why the cross became Jesus' magnificent obsession. How different it was for Jesus Christ. Even before He arrived on this earth, He understood His mission.
It would become His obsession, the cross. Unlike us who come to live, He came deliberately to die for people like you and like me. You see, the death of the Savior is not a defeat. It's a victory. It's a victory over sin. It's a victory over death. It's a victory over the grave. And equally important, it's a victory over Satan. Don't tell me I'm not going to die.
That's the whole purpose of my coming. While Peter is thinking you cannot die, Jesus is answering, I must die. Let me give you the first of three principles I want to leave with you from the verses now that follow. We must never think that because a death is shockingly unexpected, it is therefore unacceptable. Again, we must never think that because a death is shockingly unexpected, it is therefore unacceptable. If we are going to look at life as God has planned life, we must look at death as God has planned death.
Otherwise, God is not quite sovereign, just almost, which is heresy. Listen to the words of Psalm 139 16. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance. In the womb, we are still being formed. So still while being formed, your eyes see me and see all who have not yet been born. You have seen my unformed substance and in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me.
Teach that to your children. Cultivate a little theology on their part so that they understand what God's plan is. Our days are ordained for. Let me read also Ecclesiastes 3 1 and 2. There is an appointed time for everything, a time for every event under heaven, a time to give birth, and a time to die. It's all in the plan.
So do not see a death as unacceptable just because it's shockingly unexpected. When it's time, it's time. And Jesus is saying to Peter, that's my time. I must go to the cross. Our lives are in God's hands.
This is a good time to emphasize this. I will say what I've said before from this pulpit so many times. He is the master. We are the servant. He is the potter. We are the clay.
Just don't get those confused. He is the leader. We are the follower.
He is God. We are not. Accept that. Embrace that.
Teach that. Remember that those moments when you cannot explain why to yourself or anyone else, understand our times are in his hands. His times are not in our hands. Our God and our God alone is the one who determines when we are conceived, when we are born, and therefore when we die.
He is in charge of all the above. It's a good time to bring up the second principle that I want to leave with you. We must stop thinking that the Lord should alter his plan to fit our preference. He doesn't do that, does he?
That's not the way it works. For a moment pause and think back. I'll arbitrarily pick five years. Go back five years from today. Would you ever have imagined these five years would have been like they have been?
Not a person in this room could say that. It wasn't according to our preference. Our preference is not what's important. We must stop thinking that the Lord should alter his plan to fit our preference. You see, again, it isn't about us. There is one thing I would love to get across to every child and every teenager.
It would be that principle. Stop thinking that your preference is the plan. Start thinking you're the one that alters the course. Your course is to fit his plan. Jesus says to these disciples who have been following him for three years, he says to them, if any of you wants to be my follower, if you're serious about walking with me, following as I lead, here are three things that must occur. These are not nice options.
It isn't a multiple choice where you can pick two out of three. All three are essential. First, you must turn from your selfish ways. Unless you were unusual, you were reared by selfish parents who were reared by your selfish grandparents and you became a selfish parent teaching your children, watch out for yourself.
Did they really learn humility from you or did they learn selfishness? So much of my life has been watching out for me, my kids, teaching them to take care of yourself. I learned it from my dad who said the same thing. I know that you need to be responsible in life. I understand that.
Don't write me. I understand that that's part of taking care, watching out, looking both ways, being careful, driving carefully, whatever. But the main thing is you take care of you. Why? Because you are the most important. That's why when the meal is served and the meat is passed, look for the best piece. That's it right there. Oh, wait a minute. It's mine.
Not that piece. So I decided a little later or a little earlier I thought about I could maybe teach our children in an unusual moment to really be unselfish. So I said to Kurt when he was younger, I said, Kurt, your sister is younger than you. Why don't you pass the chicken to her first? He goes, why?
Like, what's the matter with you? I said, just be a nice older brother. He goes, okay, here, Carisa, take a piece of chicken. I said, no, you don't have to lecture her. Just hold the platter out and let her choose. And she's loving it.
Oh, let's see here. So she said, I'll take the head. And he goes, Carisa, mother doesn't cook the head of the chicken. She said, okay, I'll take the foot. He said, mother doesn't cook the foot. Take a piece of chicken.
He's losing right now and she's enjoying it. She said, okay, I'll just take the belly button. I'll never forget that.
He said, the best I could do is the breast. Here, take it. It's all about us. What we want. Don't look at me like that. It's all about us. We want that extra edge. But this says, got to set that aside. And then he says, you must take up your own cross. I'm following the one that is set out for me. And you know, he doesn't identify what your cross is.
You know why? Because I think it's different for every one of us. May include what we've set our heart on being willing to give that up. Something that could easily become an idol to us. Take first place.
Something that would really make us feel better, regardless of what it does to others. Whatever the cross, you have to determine that, but it must be taken up. And then having done those two things, turning from your selfish ways, taking up your cross, you now follow him. Meaning you do as he leads you. By the way, are you doing that?
Are you laying your plans with that in mind? We sing, wherever he leads, I'll go. Will you?
Wherever? Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee. Take my silver and my gold. Not a might would I withhold. Really? Really?
You generous with what you have? Brings up the third principle that I want to mention. It is impossible to be a close follower of Jesus without sacrificial self denial. If that doesn't say that, I don't know what it's saying. May I give you the three principles one more time?
Then I want to read you something. We must never think that because a death is shockingly unexpected, it's therefore unacceptable. Second, we must stop thinking that the Lord should alter his plan for our preference. Third, it is impossible to be a close follower of Jesus without sacrificial self denial. By the way, do you notice after he says this, he leaves it with them.
He didn't force anything. This all must come from our souls, which is why he adds at the end, if you hang on to your stuff, you're going to lose what life is all about. Let it go.
Let it go. Years ago, a very good friend of mine gave me a paperback copy of the Valley of Vision, which is a series of Puritan prayers and devotions. One page after another, a collection of them. I lived in that book for the longest time, wore it out actually, binding came apart, pages were dog-eared, and finally I bought a nice leather copy, but I find myself still going back to the old paperback.
I've got markings in it, statements, confessions, acknowledgements, dates. I want to read to you a part of one of my favorites. I want to read it slowly and carefully and then I'm through, but I want you to hear every word, each one of you. I don't know who needs to hear what.
Probably we all need to hear every bit of it. I can't read it enough, and even at this age in my life, I need this now more than ever. This prayer includes, and I quote, I am deeply convinced of the evil and misery of a sinful state, of the vanity of creatures, but also of the sufficiency of Christ. When thou wouldst guide me, I control myself. When thou wouldst be sovereign, I rule myself. When thou wouldst take care of me, I suffice myself.
When I should depend on thy providings, I supply myself. When I should submit to thy providence, I follow my will. When I should study love, honor, trust thee, I serve myself.
I fault and correct thy laws to suit myself. Instead of thee, I look to man's approbation, and I am by nature an idolater. Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to thee. Convince me that I cannot be my own God or make myself happy, nor my own Christ, to restore my own joy, nor my own spirit, to teach, guide, and rule me.
Help me to see that grace does this by providential affliction. For when my credit is God, thou dost cast me lower. When riches are my idol, thou dost wing them away. When pleasure is my all, thou dost turn it into bitterness. Take away my roving eye, curious ear, greedy appetite, lustful heart. Show me that none of these things can heal a wounded conscience or support a tottering frame or uphold a departing spirit.
Then take me to the cross and leave me there. Those words sound like foolishness to those of you without the Savior. I mean, how impossible can you get? None of it's impossible. It just cuts cross grain against our will, our way, our plan, our preference, our immaturity. If you're here without Christ, forget all of that that I just read.
You can't come anywhere near that. That's possible only when the Spirit of God is at work within your heart and changing you and altering you and bringing you to the place where the cross will take you and give you a sense of pleasure in surrender. If you want to be able to enter into a life like that, you must come first to the cross. Place yourself beneath the cross.
Accept the one who died on the cross and make him your reason for existence, your Savior. Otherwise, these are just words. Please take them seriously. Christian friend, take them seriously.
From this day on, start thinking like this. Please. You would have people so drawn to the Savior, you wouldn't know what to do. They would not have seen such humility. Doing what is right, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God, how do you do that?
They will really want to know. Please, for the sake of Christ, give up your will, take up your cross, follow him. Please. Dear Father, I ask that you will drill this into us in such a way that we can't forget it. Not that we won't, it's that we can't forget it. May it come to our minds when our heads drop into our pillows tonight. May we review much of this as we drive our cars, fix our meals, linger at the table following those meals. May we begin to realize you met what you said, that this is a possible way to live, saying no to ourself and yes to you. We sing to God be the glory.
It's another thing to live that. Help us to put our songs into our lives, and may we as a result become different people, true disciples who follow Jesus. In his name I pray, everyone said, amen. The title of today's message from Chuck Swindoll is Jesus' Magnificent Obsession. It's just one part of a larger brand-new six-part series that we're pleased to present to you. You know, I can't think of a better way to prepare for your personal celebration of the resurrection of Jesus than by hearing these messages from Chuck.
Remember, you can access his interactive study notes by going to insightworld.org slash studies. Look for the series called Compelled by the Cross. Chuck's personal mission on these programs is to help you engage with and embrace the truth of scripture. And that's because our faith in Jesus Christ is not expressed in a one-time event that happened on the first Easter morning.
Easter is something we live out every single day. To help you cultivate your daily walk with God, we've created a number of free resources. For instance, did you realize that many of your fellow listeners are reading through the Bible in one year? The Bible reading guide is posted online at insight.org. And on our website, you'll find far more than the Bible reading plan. You'll also have access to sermons, charts, and maps, helpful articles, and a lot more.
So take a look at the resources we've prepared for you there. These free resources and this daily program are made possible because people just like you give voluntary donations. And we're especially grateful for our regular monthly givers.
We call them monthly companions. Through your gifts, you're providing a constant source of reliable Bible teaching for people who've come to rely on Chuck's daily presence. We invite you to become a monthly companion right now by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888, or you can sign up online at insight.org slash donate. Thank you so much for your generous support.
We look forward to hearing from you soon. Cruise ships leave the harbor for Alaska all the time, but there's only one that's hosted by Inside for Living Ministries. You're invited to travel with Chuck Swindoll this summer. Every moment of your vacation is thoughtfully prepared and protected so that you can enjoy the perfect balance of rest, adventure, relaxation, sightseeing, and just plain fun, all in the company of those who share your respect for God's Word and God's creation.
Yeah, I'll put it this way. God had a very good day when He created Alaska. I was awestruck by the majestic mountains, the wildlife, the quaint little seaports. All my life, I've wanted to see a glacier.
When I stepped out on the deck of our ship and witnessed the massive wall of ice, wow, it was truly breathtaking. Escape with Inside for Living Ministries to the great frontier, July 1st through July 8th, 2023. Call 1-888-447-0444. That's 1-888-447-0444. Or learn more at insight.org slash events.
The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll continues his brand new series Compelled by the Cross. That's next time on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Jesus' Magnificent Obsession, was copyrighted in 2022 and 2023, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2023 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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