I admit it. I’m old school.I was taught that anything worth having was worth working for.That if I were to ever accomplish anything or have anything nice I had to put my nose to the grind stone.That no one was going to give me anything.Boy,has this proven to be true!
I’ve basically lived my entire life with this being one of my guiding principles.I started working for wages at 15 years of age at a local farm.If any of you have bailed hay from the time the dew has dried until dusk you know what hard work is.
I recently retired after nearly 28 years at an automotive manufacturer,and my total working career is somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 years.In that time I’d like to say that I think I earned my keep. At least I tried to.
I see that same philosophy of hard work and dedication being necessary in the Lord’s work as well.While the current wave of easy believeism and “no cost” church membership is all the rage,I maintain that there is a price to pay if we’re to follow Jesus.
Rest assured,I am not referring to salvation here.That is not something any of us could ever earn by our own merit,works,or good deeds.Salvation is the ultimate free gift that the Father has given to all of us,bought and paid for by His only Son Jesus.
No,the philosophy of hard work and dedication I’m referring to is an essential component of true discipleship.A study of the gospel of Matthew points us to this fact as Jesus is teaching his disciples about the high cost they must pay to be a follower of His.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24
Prior to this particular verse Jesus has just shared with his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem,be killed,and raised on the third day.After sharply rebuking Peter for not accepting this word,Jesus tells them of the high cost they must pay if they are to follow Him.
There is something both powerful and frightening about this.
Powerful,because in these words Jesus clearly lays out the “formula”for becoming a follower of Christ.It could not be any clearer.I hear many today touting their own version of a plan,or formula.Sadly,most of these involve your money.
Which is why the worldly church of today has invented a “discipleship for dollars”,aka sow a seed method for discipleship. Let’s face it,giving money is very easy compared to denying ourselves anything.Why deny myself anything when I can just write a check?
This verse is also frightening because what Jesus expects of us is perhaps the most difficult thing he could have asked of us.To deny oneself is not easy.In fact,it is extremely difficult.Especially for those of us that like to do things our own way.Which is nearly all of us.
Lets look closely at this three step discipleship mandate from Jesus.
- They must DENY themselves
- The must TAKE UP his cross.
- Only then can they FOLLOW him.
This denying of oneself is something most of us rarely think about,especially in the consumerism driven world that we live in.If you think about it,is there ever a time when we are not bombarded with the media telling us that we deserve it? TV,Web,Magazines,it’s seemingly endless!Whatever it is…we have to have it!
The entire world of commerce is predicated upon the belief that the consumer is number one.This is 180° opposite of the command of Jesus to deny our self.If I can be very plain here,Jesus is actually telling us that if we are to follow Him,WE can no longer be number one! How does that sit with us?
Perhaps you know someone like this.No matter the subject,it inevitably comes back around to them.It’s the American culture,it’s all about ME because I’m special,or to be blunt it’s because we have exalted ourselves in such a prideful manner that we can scarcely think of anyone but ourselves. We are number one and that’s just the way it is.
Kind of hard to deny ourselves with that mindset,isn’t it?
Jesus then tells the disciples that they must take up his cross.Did you see how Jesus personalized the cross? They must take up his cross. That’s right,your cross.Did you know you were expected to pick up your own cross?
The cross was known for one thing,a cruel method of crucifying the flesh that ultimately ended in the death of the one who was crucified.That’s what Jesus is saying to his disciples and us,that if we are to be a follower of Him we must crucify this flesh.
Just as the straw is burned when it comes in contact with fire,so must our selfish desires burn away that we might take up our cross.We are to take up our cross and gladly carry it through the good times and the bad.This friends,is the mark of a follower of Christ.
When self has been denied,the cross is more easy to bear.
It is only after we learn to discipline ourselves through denying this flesh,then taking up our cross daily,does Jesus invite us to follow Him.This is the only way,just as Jesus is the only Way.There are no shortcuts beloved.This road can be long and dusty,but a journey worth the effort.
My hearts cry for the church is that it will return to the command of Jesus to deny ourselves,take up our cross,and follow Him.The world needs this more than it can imagine.
Jesus,the Hope of Glory must work through His church.You and I make up His hands and feet,His very heart.This world is dying a painful and horrific death,alone and destitute for the love of God. The love of God that must come through you and I.
I wonder sometimes,do we as the church somehow think that God is going to do this all by Himself? If that were so,why would He need you and I? The easy believeism I mentioned earlier is a perfect example of this.
I see it all the time: “repeat this prayer after me,now say… I am saved”. That’s all there is to it they say. But where is the discipleship?Where is the instruction on how to walk with the Lord?This is one reason why so many who start out for the Lord fall by the wayside!
So you want to be a follower of Jesus do you?
Well get ready,because it’s going to cost you something.
Just remember:anything worth having is worth working for.
Have a great Thursday everyone!