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Fullness of Times: Talk
Come Follow Me
Sunday School 1st Counselor
Sunday, 30 December 2012
At age twelve, Jesus was missing among the company returning from the feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. His parents' desperate search ended in the temple where they found Jesus "sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions." To their query regarding His absence, Jesus responded, "wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (see Luke 2:40-52).
About eighteen years later, as Jesus began His mortal ministry, He called certain individuals from their daily routine, saying, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). These, too, were to be about His Father's business, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).
To everyone who has faith in Him as the Savior, Jesus declares, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34). Each of us has our own cross to bear. It is heavy and burdensome. The road we tread while bearing our cross might, as it did for Jesus, have an inconceivable conclusion. But a glorious reward awaits the victorious bearer. Let us consider what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
To take up our cross means, in part, to deny ourselves of worldly treasure in pursuit of eternal treasure. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). To the rich man, Jesus counseled, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me" (Matthew 19:21). Putting it another way, Jesus said, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things" (Matthew 12:35). Those who set their heart on the treasure of heaven take up their cross.
To take up our cross means, in part, to stand separately from the world. Those "desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd" are to "come . . . out from the wicked, and be . . . separate, and touch not their unclean things" (Alma 5:57). Those who heed the invitation to follow Jesus, are called out of the world, "to be a peculiar people . . . above all the nations that are upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2). This peculiarity is manifest in a zealous obedience to all the commandments of God and in doing good works so that we might be purified and redeemed from all iniquity (see Deuteronomy 26:18 and Titus 2:14). Those who are not of the world take up their cross.
To take up our cross means, in part, to be a shining example of righteousness. The righteous are "called . . . out of darkness into [Christ's] marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus declared, "Ye are the light of the world. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (see Matthew 5:14-16). Paul encouraged, "be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). Those who dispel darkness with the light of Christ take up their cross.
To take up our cross means, in part, to willingly bear the unjust burdens of the world. The world "scourge[s] [Jesus], and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men" (see 1 Nephi 19:9-10). While not deserving, Jesus was "lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world" (1 Nephi 11:33). Jesus declared, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake. . . . Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" (see Matthew 5:10-12). Those who patiently suffer for Jesus and for righteousness take up their cross.
To take up our cross means, in part, to have charity to all. Jesus said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44-45). "Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye," for "of you it is required to forgive all men" (Colossians 3:13 and Doctrine and Covenants 64:10). Those who tender charity to others take up their cross.
Taking up our cross and following Jesus requires obedience. As Nephi asked, "Can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?" (2 Nephi 31:10). No. We must be obedient, and we must do it in the Lord's way and on the Lord's time. Following Jesus cannot wait for convenience, as was sought by the man who asked to first bury his father or the man who asked to first say goodbye to his family (see Luke 9:59, 61). Jesus said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). What does it mean to not be worthy of Jesus—what is at stake? Our salvation! Our exaltation! Jesus said, "He that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved" (Doctrine and Covenants 56:2).
All the people of God have been given the promise of an inheritance. But that promise is only realized through enduring obedience to the commandments by taking up our cross and following Jesus. Like the Israelites delivered from Egypt, as a baptized member of the church of Jesus Christ, we have been once delivered from sin. We have been promised an inheritance—a land flowing with milk and honey. But, as the Israelites were prevented from receiving their inheritance because of their failure to wholly follow God (see Numbers 32:11), so too can we lose ours. Those who serve not the Lord God, serve other gods. Jesus has said, "He that is not with me is against me" (Luke 11:23). Such have been warned:
But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:
Then will I cut off [you] out of the land which I have given [you]; . . . and [you] shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:
. . . every one that passeth by . . . shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus . . . ?
And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Lord their God . . . and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the Lord brought upon them all this evil (1 Kings 9:6-9).
Like the Israelites, our promised inheritance is within our reach. But to obtain it we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. Do not, as did the Israelites, fail to obtain it. For, "they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God . . . and their joy shall be full forever" (2 Nephi 9:18).
May we each "follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of [our] sins, witnessing unto the Father that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of Christ" (2 Nephi 31:13). May we each take up our cross and follow Jesus. I know that as we obediently and willingly do so, we shall receive salvation and exaltation—we shall receive, as promised, all that the Father has (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:38). And great shall be our joy with Him in His kingdom. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
©2012 Gregory Scot Collins. All rights reserved.
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