THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS
Devotional for September 3, 2017 based upon Matthew 16: 21-28
There is a price for following Jesus. There is a cost to discipleship. There is much more involved in being a Christ-follower than simply coming to church on Sunday mornings.
Jesus does not invite us just to be His casual acquaintances. Rather He invites us to be His disciples. His fully devoted followers. Jesus is fully devoted to you. Are you fully devoted to Jesus? In Matthew 16 Jesus tells us what being a disciple – a fully devoted follower of Jesus – looks like.
First, FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS ARE COMMITTED TO FOLLOWING GOD’S PLAN RATHER THAN THEIR OWN PLAN.
Peter in his enthusiasm objects to Jesus’ prediction of His own death. Matthew tells us that Peter rebukes Jesus – which is a strong word. To rebuke means that Peter is trying to set Jesus straight. In the excitement of hearing Jesus say, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” Peter must have had the misconception that now he and Jesus are business partners. They are co-equals. So with a show of great audacity, he tries to correct Jesus. Jesus has to put Peter back into his place. He says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are stumbling block to me. You are putting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Jesus tells His disciples that He was now going to die, but He will be raised. Peter likes his own idea better, so he tries to set Jesus straight. Jesus has to make it very clear to Peter, “I do not need you to tell Me what to do. I do not need to change My way of thinking to yours. Rather you need to change your way of thinking to Mine. You need to be committed to God’s plan rather than to your own plan.”
And it works the same way for us. If we want to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, then we must be committed to His plan rather to our own plan for our lives. But here’s the good news. His plan is always better. It is often harder, but it is always better. Like Peter, we need to set our minds on divine things rather than on human things.
Second, FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS ARE PREPARED TO PAY THE PRICE. And what is the price? Jesus said, “If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.” Jesus mentions three things – deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me.
“Deny yourself.” The Christian life is a life of saying “no” to me and “yes” to God. Jesus does not say that I am to deny myself of some thing – like chocolate during Lent. Rather I am to deny myself.
“God, I really want to get even with that guy. I want to teach him a lesson.” But it does not matter that I want. It only matters what God wants. So I need to treat him in the way that God wants me to treat him. Denying myself means that I must repay his unkindness with kindness. And denying myself is not a one-time event, but a lifestyle. Saying “no” to me and “yes” to God in every area of my life.
“Take up your cross.” Have you ever heard people use the phrase, “That is the cross I bear.” Like, “My husband is a pain, but that is the cross I bear.” “My children are out of control, but that is the cross I bear.” “My arthritis is acting up, but that is cross I bear.” But a cross is not a burden or a pain, but a place of death. The cross represents the ways in which I need to die. Die to my selfishness, sinfulness, self-centeredness. Die to my value system and to every thought, desire, and action that does not honor Christ and does not advance the cause of Christ.
Luke adds the word “daily.” In Luke 9 Jesus tells us that we are to take up our cross daily. Taking up the cross is an ongoing mindset – a continual attitude – a daily lifestyle.
“Follow Me.” Which is the real objective of the Christian life – to follow Jesus. To do things the way that Jesus would do them.
Third, FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS GIVE UP WHAT THEY CANNOT KEEP TO GAIN WHAT THEY CANNOT LOSE.
Being a Christian does not mean just coming to church and putting a little something in the offering plate. Rather it means giving your life – all of your life – to Jesus. It means giving all of your hopes, desires, dreams, and plans – everything that is of value to you – to Jesus. Being a Christian makes a difference in the way you approach your career, marriage, and family. It makes a difference in the way you approach your use of your time and your finances. It makes a difference in the way you relate to friends and to strangers. It encompasses every aspect of your life every moment of your life.
Jesus said that if you hold on to your life and live completely for yourself – for your own personal desires, goals, and dreams – you will end up with nothing. If you give all those things and surrender your life to Jesus, you will end up with everything.
Fully devoted followers of Jesus are committed to following God’s plan rather than their own plan, are prepared to pay the price, and give up what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose. According to those three criteria, are you a fully devoted follower of Jesus?
Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE