Then Jesus said to His disciples, “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. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? “
With all of the world’s trappings, Christ-followers may find themselves off balance from time to time, losing eternal focus. The world wants nothing more than for us to place God “in a box.” Part-time worship and full-time comfort are calling each of us by name. A Babylonian spirit exists in the United States. American Christians have to fight temptations of self-indulgence on a daily basis. It brings apathy to us...it makes us lazy...it robs us of zeal for Christ. May our distractions be short-lived, though. Our King is worthy, and His call to follow Him is decisive...it is not nuanced in any shape or form.
Sacrificial living and service to Christ are not embraced by the mainstream church. However, true disciples understand the heresy of traveling through the wide gate. In this temporal existence, Jesus tells us that we will never fit into the world system. He, being our Savior and Master, set the example with His own life. In John 15:20-21, Jesus states, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”
In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus further tells us that we are to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses to follow Him. This directive for surrender is recorded in all of the gospels. In essence, we must obey His commands and give up worldly pursuits. Total abandonment to Him should dictate our lifestyles and decisions. Giving up control is a tall order for the flesh and its need for short-term gratification, but it leads to life. Christ will pick us up when we fail, but our desire for Him drives our willingness to obey. We spend our lives reaching for His holiness. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is impossible for anyone to understand the short-sightedness of not giving Christ full Lordship.
The human mind looks at this way of life and ponders, “Are you crazy?” However, true followers are guided by the Holy Spirit in contemplating eternity. The Spirit helps us with our steps. We give Christ the burdens of our sins in this life. Our position drives an inner peace that cannot be known to the world. As we relinquish worldly living, our trek becomes joyful as we follow Him. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus states, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
The calling of Christ is indeed special, and no words can describe it. It has nothing to do with our own efforts, but it has everything to do with God’s sovereign grace. The Holy Spirit empowers us to move forward to follow Christ. He will pick us up when we fail or have momentary lapses of memory. As such, we must be grateful and abandon all to Jesus. The unblemished pearl God has given us far exceeds any self-sacrifice we make here in this speck of time.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.