Home Pastors The Cost of Discipleship Pales in Comparison to What We Gain in...

The Cost of Discipleship Pales in Comparison to What We Gain in Following Jesus

following jesus
Lightstock #61659

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, they must deny themselves, and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake, they are the ones who will save it. For what is anyone profited if they gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit themselves?” (Luke 9:23-25)

This is arguably the single greatest—and hardest—passage on self-denial in all of Scripture. Jesus tells us to lose our lives for His sake. He commands us to deny ourselves.

The Call To Carry Our Cross

And if self-denial and sacrifice aren’t enough, we’re to carry a cross—that dreaded instrument of execution. Carrying a cross represents walking the path to an excruciating death. The cross signifies the very sacrifices of Jesus Himself. In terms of costliness, could Jesus have painted a more dreadful picture?

And to top it off, our cross-carrying isn’t a once and done. Rather, we are to carry this cross daily—for the rest of our lives!

This seems impossible. It also sounds emphatically undesirable. Who but a masochist would want to do this? Who could get up in the morning looking forward to it, or go to bed at night looking back with pleasure at having done it?

Yet if we think this way, we let the words of self-sacrifice and self-denial—which are real, but only part of a larger picture—eclipse Jesus’ central meaning.

Jesus Promises Real Life

Take a closer look: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, they must deny themselves, and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Self-denial and cross-bearing are a means to, or part of, following Jesus. But what does Jesus offer to those who follow Him?

Matthew 11:28-30 says: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. You shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So, once we actually follow Jesus, in this mode of self-denial, what do we find? Rest for our souls, not weariness. An easy yoke, not a hard one. And a light burden, not a heavy one. In other words, we do all this apparently heavy-duty self-denial with the promise of finding rest, ease, and lightness! As we abide in Jesus, as we enjoy His fellowship, as we find our joy in Him, He empowers and fulfills us. God’s glory comes out ahead in this—and so do we!

If I seem to be imposing Matthew 10 on Luke 9 to lighten it, consider just what Luke 9 says in the next verse: “For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake, they are the ones who will save it.”

Our long-term goal should not be to lose our lives, but to save them. Losing our lives now, momentarily, is the divinely prescribed way to ultimately save them.

Jesus Appeals to Our True Self-Interest

If at first this sounds contradictory to the passage, look again. Jesus appeals to our desire to save our lives. He points out that the means to save our life permanently (which we want to do) is to lose it temporarily by acting as Christ’s disciple. On the other hand, the way to lose our life permanently (which we don’t want to do) is to “save it” temporarily by doing whatever we feel like, while failing to follow Jesus.

1
2
Previous articleTeaching Kids Truth in an Age of Confusion
Next articlePresbyterian Church (USA) Votes To Divest From Israel Bonds
Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (www.epm.org), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God’s Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He is a New York Times best-selling author of over fifty books, including Heaven (over one million sold), The Treasure Principle (over two million sold), If God Is Good, Happiness, and the award-winning novel Safely Home. His books sold exceed ten million copies and have been translated into over seventy languages.