Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NTDS (19): The Cost

Matt 16:24
 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.  NASU

Nineteen words, fifteen in the original language, which have been the cause of great discussion, debate and confusion for nearly two thousand years. Like many of the things that Jesus said, on the surface it might seem difficult to discern what He meant.
Often that happens because so many people take verses out of context and the meaning gets distorted. In this case the meaning is really quite clear. It is not difficult to understand, but it may certainly be difficult to accept, especially if you have the notion that being a Christian is all about “meeting your needs.”

This verse has been used to justify some strange thoughts and practices. Over the years there have been those that seemed only to focus on the “deny yourself’” phrase. They have taken that to mean that the way that you get close to God is to deny anything that might bring a person pleasure. They might severely limit their food intake, own only one garment of clothing, and stay away from relationships, especially marriage which would bring physical and emotional pleasure. Some would even go so far as to beat themselves physically, so that they would feel the “suffering of Christ.” For them, that would be  “taking up their cross.”

As mentioned earlier, we must look at the context of this verse so that we do not misunderstand what Jesus is saying to all who would follow Him!

Peter has just been rebuked for thinking He could determine what would or would not happen to Jesus. Jesus had just finished telling the disciples that He was going to Jerusalem, where He would be put to death. Peter actually rebuked Jesus for this, boldly claiming that he would not let that happen to Him. Peter probably had in mind that he was going to help Jesus set up His kingdom on earth.

This is Jesus’ reply to Peter’s rebuke, (Matt 16:23)
"Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
(NIV) That must have stunned Peter but the second half of the verse is the key to understanding the whole passage.

In context, Jesus is making clear that being His disciple means more than just following Him along the road. He is telling them and us, that to be a disciple means that we give up the control of our lives, in order to follow His direction in our life. He does not sugar coat what that life many be like. He is saying that there is a real possibility that following Him could cost one their very life. That is the cross we all take up when we follow Him. But even if a person does not physically die for Him, they must live for Him.
The point that He is making is that when you follow Him, you are giving Him the “reins” of your life, so that He may direct your paths and be used for His glory. You choose to give up whatever plans you may have had for your life and accept His plan for you.

Many people, at this point would say, “Why would I want to do that? Why would give up my plans and desires for my life?” That is an appropriate question and too many people, who have not understood the cost of following Christ, have fallen away when they realized the true nature of this commitment. Jesus says in Luke 14:28 that it is foolish not to “count the cost” before we undertake a task.

The answer to the why question comes in verses 25-28 of Matthew 16. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. NIV

We freely give our lives to Jesus because He is the one with the keys to eternal life and death (Jn 3:16, 6:47,10:28). If we try to hang on to the reins of our life, we lose eternal life with our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved us so much that He gave His life for us! We forfeit our soul and will be condemned for eternity. That is not a popular message for those who are unwilling to surrender their life to Christ, but if you understand His great love for you, it is not hard to give your heart and life to Him.

This is the cost of discipleship, but in verse 27 we are told that though is there a price to pay, there is a reward as well. The price we may have to pay in this temporary life is miniscule to the eternal rewards we receive. Paul says in Rom 8:18-19
“for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

It is worth whatever cost there is in this life to be assured of eternity with God, but even before the eternal rewards we receive, we are rewarded with having a personal relationship with the God who created us and loves us. Even though we are allowed to go through difficult time, we never go it alone. He blesses us abundantly more than we could ever ask or think! (Jn 10:10, Eph 3:20) Just knowing that we will forever be with Jesus is enough for me. I pray it is the same for you.

God bless you


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