I felt the need to preface this to avoid misunderstanding. I want you to know that I understand salvation is a free gift, by grace, completely apart from works. No one needs to clean up their life before coming to Christ, and no one can offer Him anything to gain His favor. I also understand that we are not apostles, and that we all have different roles and different gifts, and therefore varying capacities to be able to carry this out. Yet it is amazing to see how Jesus didn’t preface sayings like “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:38),” or “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33),” by saying “but don’t worry! Grace overrules that!” He let the rich young ruler walk away sad, clinging onto his riches (Luke 18:23). Jesus seemed to let his words hit people where they needed to be hit. I suppose that is what I’d like to do, using His words of course, and not mine. Jesus taught salvation as a free gift; He also taught that following Him came at great cost, but with greater reward. He is not only our Savior, but our King, and to Him we pledge allegiance with our lives. Pray before you read this and ask Him that His words might hit you where they need to, and encourage you to continue laying down your life for His sake.
Luke 14:25-33 “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
This is an uncomfortable topic for me, and I wager for the vast majority of us. Instead of looking at others and judging their unwillingness to follow Christ, I look at myself and grieve my still lingering restraint towards Him. The bible teaches that the cost of following Christ is high, and it’s a cost I’m afraid most of us don’t want to pay.
Coming to Christ was hard for me at first, because I knew it would cost me. I would have to turn my back on my sin. I knew that I would likely lose friends and that people would think I was crazy. I would have to sacrifice the idols in my heart that were taking the place of God in my life, turning my back on them forever and leaving no room for other loves in His place. Christ would become my life, and everything else had to die. I had to die in order to follow Him.
I understood this because before I ever stepped foot in the church, I simply read the bible. Sadly, when I first went to church and heard a seeker sensitive message about beginning a friendship with God, I was sent down a path of confusion. But still, I thank God I understood that following Christ meant commitment. I don’t think we hear that much today.
That initial cost is weighty, but it leads to joy. Once we become followers of Jesus the sin that we once loved begins to lose its’ luster, as Jesus becomes more precious and satisfying to our souls. What we discover in losing our lives, is real life and freedom. Indeed “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44).”
The question I now ask myself is: Have I continued in this attitude? Do I still accept the truth that Christianity costs? In Luke 9:33-36 Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of Him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father of and of the holy angels.”
Jesus says the attitude we are to have daily is one of willingness to suffer and lose all things for His sake. Death to our own selfish ambitions and the pursuit of worldly gain should mark our lives. The reason for this isn’t so that we can simply be more holy for our own sake, though it is true we don’t want to gain the whole world and lose our soul. But what we want to gain is more of Christ; We want to lose ourselves in the pursuit of Him, doing what is pleasing in His sight.
Mark 8:35 adds “whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
So here we see that we are laying down our lives each day for the sake of Jesus Christ and for His gospel. We are losing our lives in the pursuit of proclamation, backed up by a holy life, to exalt God’s glory in the earth through the message of the cross. This is why Jesus warns us not to be ashamed of Him and His words. Silence about Jesus and His words points to our being ashamed of Him.
Jesus teaches that we are no longer to live for ourselves but for Him. We are not to be like those who “seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:21).” What is Jesus Christ interested in? The spread of the glory of God among the nations, through the gospel, to lost souls, by all means possible.
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
John 3:17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Matthew 24:14 “And the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
If that’s why Jesus came, and why His return is pending, it only makes sense that those who follow Him would live for the same purpose. In fact, scripture seems to assume that all Christians are living for this purpose. Consider these warnings about life as a believer:
2Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
1John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Persecution, hatred, and slander are generally not headed in the direction of those who live a quiet, moral, Christian life. 2Timothy 3:12 seems to imply that “all who desire to live a godly life” are involved in some form of verbal proclamation of God’s truths to those who are enemies of God.
After the verses above in Matthew, Jesus continues on in verses 13-16 and talks about how His followers are to be the “salt of the earth.” Salt is a preserving agent, just like we are to be preserving the truths of God against the corruption of society. God says that if we aren’t doing this (as far as our own capacity and means allow), we are “no longer good for anything” (these aren’t my words, but His). He further carries on to say that we are the “light of the world.” We are to let our light “shine before others” through good works, and to share the truth that exposes darkness and brings salvation to the lost. Jesus explicitly points out how ridiculous it would be to put a lamp under a basket while the house remains dark. He says “a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Christians cannot stay in their houses or “safe zone” while the world perishes in darkness. The church should shine so bright that it is impossible for it to be hidden. These are weighty words, aren’t they?
Acts 5:40-42 “When they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
The apostles took persecution as a sign that they were doing something right, and were further motivated to continue preaching to everyone, everywhere. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1Peter 4:13).” The blessing and promises of God to those who suffer for the sake of His name and the gospel are overwhelmingly wonderful. Our problem is we live too much for this life instead of fixing our eyes on Christ and our eternal dwelling. How much do we even consider enduring loss, facing slander, or even minor discomforts for His names sake?
In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul writes about the “advance of the gospel (12)” through his imprisonment, and even through those who “proclaim Christ out of rivalry (17). He urges believer to live a “manner of life…worthy of the gospel” and says he hopes to hear that they are “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (27).” What I want you to see is verse 29 which states “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”
The context isn’t that it has been granted that we should endure illness, financial hardship, or marital problems for His sake (though that is true). Here, Paul is saying that we have been granted to do more than just believe in Jesus, but to live a life for Jesus that is “worthy of the gospel”, and therefore accompanied by suffering. Read it through for yourself; I think the context is clearly speaking of suffering under opposition by those we preach the gospel to.
I hope these verses and thoughts will hit you where they need to, and that we would seriously consider the call that Christ has on our lives. What areas are we holding back that we could surrender for His sake? I truly believe that if we seek Him with a willing heart for evangelistic opportunities, He will guide us in this endeavour.