And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
When Christ died on the cross for sinners, He not only stood in my place, doing what I never could do (forgiving my sin), but He also showed me what I must do as a follower of Him; namely, I must take up my own cross and join Him on the Calvary road of death to self.
Jesus spoke repeatedly to His disciples about taking up their cross (an instrument of death) and following Him. He made it clear that if any would follow Him, they must deny themselves, which means giving up their lives—spiritually, symbolically, and even physically, if necessary.
Chew on this with me: Christ died to save us from hell, but not to save us from the cross.
He died so that we could be glorified, but not to keep us from being crucified.
When you look at a cross as a believer, it should bring two very important things to mind:
Jesus died in your place—a gift that you did not earn and for which you will forever praise Him.
Jesus died in your place to give you the power to die to yourself every day and glorify Him.
The Christian life is one of crucifixion. The cross of Christ is not merely a past place of substitution; it is also a present place of daily execution.
We must never let the cross lose its crucifying power in our lives!
The great tragedy of much modern Christianity is that the cross is something that happened back then. I think it was Piper who once said, “We shame the cross of Christ when we think the cross means Jesus was soaked in blood so that I can now soak in a Jacuzzi.”
This is the demise of the life-changing gospel into a commonly acceptable form of the prosperity gospel.
The cross is not merely a past place of substitution; it is also a present place of daily execution—the execution of pride, and the execution of boasting in men, and the execution of self-reliance, and the execution of the love of money and status and the praise of men.
The teachings of Jesus that we read here in Luke 9 were not one-time clarities Jesus gave but a vital teaching He wanted us to rightly understand.
On another occasion, when surrounded by a crowd of eager followers, Jesus turned to them and remarked, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Now, there are a lot of people out there longing for a seeker-sensitive church. The problem is, Jesus didn’t preach this way. He makes it very clear in the next verse:
Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
The Scriptures teach if you are reborn, your life is a life of surrender to self. This is the life of crucifixion. This is a huge reality check for the redeemed, to give up your grip on the temporary for the sake of the eternal. To have a rightly placed priority on our stuff, our comfort, and our loved ones so that in everything we do, we show that Christ is our greatest treasure.
Let me give you another text to show you that Jesus is clearly saying the Christian life is not one of comfort; it is a progressive road of refining fire known as sanctification.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Yet another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In this text, we see three men who approached Jesus, who seemed eager to follow Him. But to our surprise, Jesus seems to have tried to talk them out of doing so.
The first guy said, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus responded, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." In other words, Jesus told this man that he could expect homelessness on the journey ahead. Followers of Christ are not guaranteed that even their basic need of shelter will be met.
The second man told Jesus that his father had just died. The man wanted to go back, bury his father, and then follow Jesus.
Jesus replied, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
A third man approached Jesus and said he wanted to follow Him, but before he did, he wanted to say good-bye to his family. Jesus wouldn't let him. He told the man, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Plainly put, a relationship with Jesus requires total, superior, and exclusive devotion.
“Become homeless. Let someone else bury your dad. Don't even say good-bye to your family.”
Here is why the modern church should not use gimmicks to try to reach lost people: Jesus never used a gimmick to get more followers. He was simply and boldly making it clear from the start that if you follow Him, you abandon everything—your needs, your desires, even your family.
For those whom God gives rebirth, you give up comfort and familiarity to join Jesus in a life that dies to self!
Pastor David Platt speaks of this so well in his book Radical:
“Jesus’ simple call to his disciples—‘Follow me’—contained life-altering implications.
He was calling them to abandon their comforts, all that was familiar to them and natural for them.
He was calling them to abandon their careers. They were reorienting their entire life's work around discipleship to Jesus. Their plans and dreams were now being swallowed up in his. Jesus was calling them to abandon their possessions. ‘Drop your nets and your trades as successful fishermen,’ he was saying in effect. Jesus was calling them to abandon their family and their friends.
When James and John left their father, we see Jesus' words in Luke 14 coming alive.
Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves.
They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation.
In a world that prizes promoting oneself, they were following a teacher who told them to crucify themselves. And history tells us the result. Almost all of them would lose their lives because they responded to his invitation.”
So I ask you today, are you comfortable or crucified? Do you realize that the two don’t go together? They are like oil and water.
You are either finding ways to slip into a lifestyle that is comfortable, or you are daily dying to yourself and being refined out of your comfort in order to live to glorify God. What are some ways you could live more sacrificially for the sake of the gospel?
What are luxuries that you over-cling to that inhibit your sanctification and/or gospel ministry?
Is your greatest identity in your life not dad or husband or wife or mother or fill in the blank, but it is servant of the most-high God?
May the Christianity that Jesus defined be our reality and the reality of our churches and ministries.
May our sacrifice be a beacon of the hope that we have in Christ alone. May others trust their lives to Jesus, too, and be forever saved and sanctified.