Sermon Illustrations on Carrying Your Cross



The Long Lesson of Our Mortal Lives

Cross-bearing is the long lesson of our mortal life. It is a part of God’s salvation, called sanctification. It is a lesson set before us every moment of every day.” “If life were an art lesson…we could describe it as a process of finding how to turn this mud into that porcelain, this discord into that sonata, this ugly stone block into that statue, this tangle of threads into that tapestry. In fact, however, the stakes are higher than in any art lesson. It is in the school of sainthood that we find ourselves enrolled and the artifact that is being made is ourselves.

Thomas Howard and J I. Packer, Christianity: The True Humanism (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1985), 153.

Our Brokenness and Taking up the Cross

In their excellent book Invitation to a Journey, M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton describe the reality of what it means to “take up our cross” in our daily lives:

Sometimes we suffer under the illusion that our incompleteness, our brokenness, our deadness is something like a sweater that we can easily unbutton and slip off. It is not that easy. Our brokenness is us. Like Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” This is what Jesus indicates when he speaks about losing yourself.

That part of you which has not yet been formed in the image of Christ is not simply a thing in you—it is an essential part of who you are. This is what Jesus is pointing to when he calls us to take up our cross.

Our cross is not that cantankerous person we have to deal with day by day. Our cross is not the employer we just can’t get along with. Our cross is not that neighbor or work colleague who cuts across the grain in every single time of relationship.

Nor is our cross the difficulties and infirmities that the flow of life brings to us beyond our control. Our cross is the point of our unlikeness to the image of Christ, where we must die to self in order to be raised by God into wholeness of life in the image of Christ right there at that point.

Taken from: Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Copyright (c) 2016 by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Per Crucem Ad Lucem

There’s an aphorism repeated often in the writings of the medieval church: per crucem ad lucem, through the cross to the light. God loves us passionately and wants to bring us joy and flourshing, but this doesn’t preclude a cross. God’s love is refracted through the cross, which often makes it hard to see or recognize. But if we are to learn to trust—to place the weight of our lives on the love of God—we can only learn this through the cross.

Taken from Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep by Tish Harrison Warren Copyright (c) 2021 by Tish Harrison Warren. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Simon of Cyrene an Archetype for Carrying our Cross

The Dolorous Passion described Simon of Cyrene as a “stout-looking man,” and a fourth-century sarcophagus (stone coffin) from Rome supports this description – The Passion Sarcophagus, probably from the Catacomb of Domitilla, typifies an early Christian burial coffin; its sculpted front combines narrative and symbolism. In particular, this sarcophagus, now at the Vatican’s Museo Pio Cristiano, depicts events leading to the Crucifixion. In the far-left panel, short, chubby Simon resolutely carries the full cross with a Roman soldier stalking him.

To early Christians, Simon represented the need for every believer to daily bear the cross. Jesus had told his followers, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Lk-9:23-24).

Taken from The Mystery of the Cross by Judith Couchman Copyright (c) 2009 by Judith Couchman. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


A Deeper Understanding of Death to Self

A Lutheran pastor friend—the Reverend Bill Vaswig—and I once were discussing Galatians 2:19 and wondering what it means to be crucified with Christ. I mean, what are we actually talking about? Bill said, “Let’s pray the passage into each other.” I had wanted to keep the discussion at arm’s length, but I gulped and said, “All right, how do we do it?” “I don’t know exactly,” was Bill’s response, “but you go first!” So I went over to him, placed my hands on his head, and began to pray. I have no idea what I said beyond the hope that he would experience what it means to be crucified with Christ.

When I finished and sat down, Bill looked at me wide-eyed and whispered, “It happened!” “What happened?” I responded blankly. He proceeded to explain that as I began praying, he saw a vivid mental picture of his church with a funeral service going on inside. He could see everything clearly: the coffin with the lid open, the chancel, the high arching beams. But he was seeing it all from inside the coffin. It was his funeral! 

As the people, filled with sorrow, filed past the coffin, he tried to tell them that everything was okay, that he was fine, and that what was happening was good. They could not hear him; all they could see was a corpse and yet he was more alive than he had ever been. His prayer for me had equally powerful results for we were bathed in the milieu of the Holy Spirit that day. Most important of all, we both entered into a deeper understanding of death to the self. 

Richard J. Foster, Seeking the Kingdom: Devotions for the Daily Journey of Faith, HarperOne, 2010.

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Related Themes

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Costs/Counting the Cost

The Cross


Dying to Self




& Many More