The 16th century German theologian, Martin Luther is credited with saying “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”
We understand the value of anything is determined by its investment, either in time, money, or personal sacrifice. When Jesus says, “follow me,” he is calling us, not just to hang out with him, or tag along, but to 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 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 Bible reading, Jesus reminds us of the value of discipleship and its demands on those who desire to follow Him.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Lk 9:23-24)
First of all, it’s important to understand that a disciple is more than just being a student. While discipleship involves learning, it demands doing. Being. Becoming. Experiencing. Warren Wiersbe compared a disciple to an apprentice who lives and works with his mentor. It’s a “hands on” experience. “Too many Christians, Wiersbe wrote, “are content to be listeners who gain a lot of knowledge but who have never put that knowledge into practice.”
Secondly, discipleship is process. Not an event. Baptism is an event. It happens once. But discipleship is a lifetime endeavor. Just like a wedding ceremony is an event, but the marriage requires relationship development, reoccurring enrichment, and growing together.
In this text, Jesus declared three key characteristics demanded of His disciples.
Jesus asks us to deny ourselves. To say “no” to our selves. This is more than just denying one’s self of personal comfort, pleasures or possessions. It is giving up self-gratification. Self-indulgence. Self-centeredness. Self-interest.
Denying self goes against the grain. It’s not what our self-seeking culture is about. Everything today is geared toward self-satisfaction. Self-love. Self-devotion.
Jesus calls for self-denial. Self-sacrifice. Self-abasement. Self-control. Self-discipline.
As Easter approaches there will probably be someone who decides to reenact Jesus’ bearing the cross to Calvary. It happens almost every year.
A few years ago, I remember a fellow, Nick Moore from Memphis, walking across Texas with a cross. He claimed he was doing it to commemorate Christ’s suffering, sacrifice and death. However, Nick’s cross ironically had wheels attacked to it and a thermos of water strapped to it.
This is not what Jesus had in mind. He already bore His cross. The text is speaking of YOUR cross. MY cross. It is our sacrifice. Our devotion. Our personal dedication. It’s our gift. It is using our time, talent and treasure to benefit His Cause, instead of selfishly using it all for our own. It is working for his glory, and not our own praise.
By the way, this is not once a year. Or once a month. Or once a week. Like on Sunday. Jesus said, “daily.” Each day we take up our cross. Every day we live for the Lord. Daily we look for ways to make a difference. To give. To serve. To shine. Even in tough times.
Currently, we’re living in a heath care crisis caused by the Coronavirus. We think we have it tough. No NCAA basketball. No baseball. No trip to Disney World. No eating out at our favorite restaurant.
It might be a good time to rethink what it means to be “crucified with Christ.” To bear the cross. To be a discipleship. Read the book of Luke. And put yourself in the picture.
(3) Discipleship calls for a 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. Following 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 Word. With opponents of Christianity to whom we can present a defense of the gospel.
Following 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 question to paraphrase Barclay is not “What can I get?” But “What can I give?” Not “What is the safe thing?” But “What is the right thing?”
In this time when we’re sequestered to our homes, travel is limited and our public church assemblies are cancelled, we’re reminded that disciplship is so much more than church attendance.
The Christian life is a daily disciplined life, a devoted discipled life and a continual discipling life.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman