When Simon helps carries Jesus' cross in Mark 15:21, does it have any special meaning? I remember a pastor talking about how Jesus told Christians to deny ourselves and take up our own cross (such as in Luke 9:23), but He could not carry His own cross. Simon had to carry it for Him. The pastor said the meaning of this is that we cannot achieve salvation alone. That the difference between the world and Christians is that the world tries to achieve it themselves, but Christians merely surrender to God and let God work through them.
I know that you cannot achieve salvation on your own, but when Jesus tells his disciples to deny themselves, repent of sins, take up their cross, and also consider the cost of following Him, do the disciples merely have to surrender to God, and God will work through them? Or does God still expect them to do their own part?
The preacher took a story from the Bible to illustrate a belief of his, but his use of the story does not prove his point. Illustrations are not proof, they only help you understand the point better.
When Jesus said to take up your cross, he was indicating that choosing to be a Christian comes at a cost that may include hardships. We have to be willing to bear those hardships to follow him. We cannot let hardships be an excuse to give up following Christ. See: What did Jesus mean when he said to take up his cross daily and follow him? When you are deciding to be a true follower of Christ, you need to realize that it is life-long commitment. You need to realize what you are committing to so you are prepared to stay the course until the end.
When Jesus stumbled under the load of his cross, it shows that he was not super-human (Hebrews 2:9-15). He suffered, just like you and I. Not long before he had been scourged and beaten. He suffered a large amount of blood loss. Of course he was weak at that moment.
Of course no one is saved on their own efforts. It required God coming in the flesh to die on man's behalf. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. ... Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:9-10,17-18). But this does not mean that God expects men to do nothing. In surrendering ourselves to God, we become servants of God.
- Hear: The message of the Gospel cannot save a person if he refuses to listen to the message (Romans 10:14-17; II Thessalonians 2:10).
- Faith: The message heard does a person no good if he doesn't believe it (John 8:24; Romans 5:1-2).
- Call on His Name (Christ's Authority): Faith doesn't do anyone any good if it doesn't motivate a person to want to accept Jesus' authority over his life (Romans 10:12-13).
- Repentance: You can't claim to accept Christ's authority over your life if you don't change your life to conform to His will (Acts 3:19; II Corinthians 7:10-11).
- Confession: A claimed belief is not real if you aren't willing to admit that you have it (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:8-10).
- Be Baptized: God selected a simple method by which we demonstrate and declare our acceptance of His offer of salvation -- immersion in water. It is a physical act that symbolically represents what salvation is all about (Romans 6:3-7; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:47-48; Acts 22:16; I Peter 3:21).
- Hope: If we didn't expect God to save us, why would we bother to do His Will? (Romans 8:24).
- Obedience: It would be meaningless to accept Christ's authority over our life if we refused to do what he commands of us (Hebrews 5:9; Luke 6:46).
- Works: Not man-created works, but doing the works of God. Obedience doesn't exist if no effort is put into doing what God commands of us (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:20-26).
God does expect each of us to do our part. "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).