The 16th century German theologian, Martin Luther is credited with saying “A religion which gives nothing, which costs nothing, and which suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”
We understand the value of anything is determined by its investment, either in time, money, or personal sacrifice. When Savior Jesus Christ says, “follow me,” he is beckoning us, not just to go to the nearest trendiest outdoor cafe, hang out with him, or tag along, but instead unto a devout, different, and dedicated, life.
An old time, circuit riding preacher, Alex Johnson, in his sermon “It’s easy to become a Christian, but so very much harder to live as a Christian,” observed that “the mark of a great leader is the demands he makes upon his followers.”
In today’s devotional Bible passage from Luke, Jesus reminds us of the value of “future investments,” discipleship and its sacrificial demands upon the lives of those who choose and desire to follow Him to Follow Him EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Luke 9:23-27 The Message
23-27 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Master Rabbi Jesus had just finished His ministry in the Galilee area and set His face to Jerusalem. He started to prepare His followers for His fast-approaching death and resurrection. He earnestly started to train His disciples for their post resurrection mission and ministry and increasingly, He has made hints to his disciples about His person, His sacrifice on the cross and his coming kingdom.
Jesus not only started to explain privately to His disciples about His mission and ministry – His death and resurrection, but He has also talked to the gathering crowds about what it genuinely means for a believer, to become a true disciple of His – and we read that Jesus said unto all,“ if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
All believers are children of God but there is a vital difference between being saved as a son and following the Lord as His disciple. (Ephesians 1:3-14)
We are saved from our sins because we trusted Jesus as Savior, who died on the cross – we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
But to become a true disciple we must make critical sacrifices in how we view and perceive the world and the circumstances we are daily presented through it.
We must look in the mirror and essentially believe that who and what we see looking back at us has quite a few and very different interpretations when seen only through the tainted eyes of mankind versus the eyes of Savior Jesus Christ.
From somewhere beyond our biases and prejudices, Jesus here covenants with us to not see the world as we see it – endless vistas of hopelessness and “see the world as He sees it,” with an everlasting hope for an eternal future far beyond our understanding, far, far beyond our time and season of living on this planet.
But to get to that ultimate place of hope, we have to ultimately sacrifice those “treasures we treasure beyond everything, and everyone else,” take up our own cross, daily, and follow the Lord Jesus – we are to walk the way of the cross. (Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 13:44-52, Matthew 19:16-22, Luke 12:13-21)
James 1:19-25 ESV
Hearing and Doing the Word
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
To be a disciple it must not only be hearing the Word and being a listener, but it is also add doing the Word and sacrificially applying it to our everyday agendas.
Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
It is not only knowing that Christ has identified with our sins – (sonship) – but that we are to reciprocate in kind and identify with Christ – (discipleship)… We are to identify with His sacrifice and surrender, His crucifixion, His suffering.
We are covenanted to be like Christ in His humanity and to deny ourselves if we are to be His disciples – but to do so we are to surrender our lives to the Spirit, to give ourselves as a willing and living sacrifice to the Father and then to say as did Christ, thy will not mine be done. Self, the self-life and all that is connected with the old sin nature, must remain thoroughly consigned unto God’s Grace.
The world does not understand this kind of life and worldly Christians have opted to keep “self on the throne of their life” – but to follow the way of the cross we are to give our lives to the Lord. Our life is to be a life of surrender, suffering, sacrifice and service to the Him.
If you and I freely choose to give up your lives for the Lord, you and I will not lose it but rather, by making the choice for salvation through Christ to save it.
Following the Lord in sacrificing, surrendering and re-surrendering, suffering and service is a daily discipline – as Jesus said, “if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
As the founder of Methodism Reverend John Wesley famously quipped in his well-considered advice about being a day-to-day Christian every single day.
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
What are the kingdom implications for Christians in these days of pandemic?
Social Isolation, Quarantine, Social Distancing, Mask on Mask off, vaccination!!
The day-to-day challenge is even greater to be the Body of Christ, the Church in such a sacrificial way as not to risk the safety of others and to make others sick.
Jesus asks us to surrender ourselves, to deny ourselves. To just say “no” to our- selves. This is more than just denying oneself of personal comfort, pleasures or possessions. It is giving up, surrendering, re-surrendering, self-gratification. Self-indulgence. Self-centeredness. Self-interest, not cause harm unto others.
Denying self goes against the grain. It’s not what our self-seeking culture is about. In our technology driven, virtual reality existence, everything today is geared toward self- gratification, self-satisfaction. Self-love. Self-devotion.
Jesus calls for self-denial. Self-sacrifice. Self-abasement. Self-control. Self-surrender and re-surrender and a growing and a maturing self-discipline.
Discipleship calls for a covenant commitment
Jesus simply says, “Follow Me.” This is the natural result of self-denial and cross bearing. He is the motivation for what we do, who we are, and how we live.
Following Jesus leads to ministry and mission. Following Savior Jesus leads us to involvement in the lives of others. And not just the comfortable environment of fellow Christians. But it leads us to interact with the less fortunate who need our help. With sinners with whom we can share the Words of the Gospel. With opponents of Christianity to whom we can present a sure defense of the gospel.
Disciplined following of Jesus leads us to Bible study. Prayer. Worship. And fellowship. Following Jesus leads to an intimate relationship with the Father.
Ironically, following Jesus leads us to save ourselves by losing our ourselves as His disciple. The disciple’s questions to paraphrase Jesus is not “What can I get?” But “What can I give?” Not “What is the safe thing?” But “What is the right thing?” Not “What is the obvious thing?” but the “Love of Christ” thing!
In this time when we are “sequestered” to our homes, travel is limited and our public church assemblies are cancelled or curtailed for health and safety, we’re reminded that covenant discipleship is so much more than church attendance.
The day-to-day Christian life is a daily disciplined life, a devoted discipled life and a continual discipling life. It’s a disciplined life to surrendering it all to God.
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”
― The Right Reverend John Wesley, (1703-1791) Founder of Methodism
In the name of God, the Father, and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us now pray,
Loving Father, more and more I want to surrender my life to You, to take up my cross daily as a willing sacrifice and to cry out, thy will not mine be done. I pray that my old self-life will remain firmly nailed to the cross as I submit to Your leading and guiding in all I say and do, in Christ’s name I pray, Alleluia! AMEN.