Friday, February 24, 2012

Counting the Cost of Following Jesus

Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

This is an invitation for which only "nuts" would rsvp. But once those nuts get tightened with a lock washer onto the right Bolt, they enter into a whole new, victorious, exciting way of living, or rather, dying.

Concerning their service for Christ, I have heard the phrase, "I'm all in" from well-meaning people who failed to count the cost. Soon, they were back to the old modus operandi. They waded waist deep into the sea of blessings and retreated to the shores of the familiar. Too bad they never made the plunge. They would not have been sorry.

Jesus gave a three-fold mandate for those who would come after Him:

1. Deny self - Slay that cursed independent will which separates you from God's greatest blessings. Die daily to the old man who wants to satisfy carnal desires and prideful ego.

*Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

*I Cor 15:31 I die daily.

*Gal 5:24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Steve Green's song "Enter In" expresses the sentiment so well...

Nothing chills the heart of man
Like passing through death's gate
Yet to him who enters daily
Death's a glorious fate
Dearly beloved we are gathered here
To be a holy bride
And daily cross death's threshold
To the holy life inside

Enter in, enter in
Surrender to the Spirit's call
To die and enter in
Enter in, find peace within
The holy life awaits you, enter in

The conflict still continues
Raging deep within my soul
My spirit wars against my flesh
In a struggle for control
My only hope is full surrender
So with each borrowed breath
I inhale the Spirit's will for me
To die a deeper death

Enter in, enter in
Surrender to the Spirit's call
To die and enter in
Enter in, find peace within
The holy life awaits you, enter in

If mourners should lament
Let them weep for those alive
For only when my will is killed
Can my soul survive

Enter in, enter in
Surrender to the Spirit's call
To die and enter in
Enter in, find peace within
The holy life awaits you, enter in

2. Take up the cross - What do we know about the cross we are invited to bear?

a. It is Individualized, your cross only fits you.

A man came to the Lord, bearing his cross. He said, “Lord, this cross is heavy and awkward, I am tired and worn. I beg that I may trade it in for another.” The Lord took him to a warehouse filled with all manner of crosses, different sizes, styles and weights. There were crosses made of wood, iron, even crosses made of stone. Some were smooth, others were rough-hewn. There were shiny crosses as well as dull and some, rusty. He hoisted them, one by one, to his shoulder and then took a few steps with each one in a small circle. Dissatisfied with the feel of cross after cross, he would lay one down and take up the next to test its carryability. Finally, nearing the far end of the warehouse, he spied one that looked as if he could lug it. He felt the wood with his fingers, smelled it's scent, then hoisted it to his shoulder. It felt just right. He carried it for a few steps and knew this would be the cross for him. He turned to the Lord and said that he would gladly carry this cross.

The Lord said to him, “My child, this is the very cross you brought with you to this warehouse, the one I designed for you and assigned to you long ago. Bless you as you bear it in my footsteps!”

b. It is Uncomfortable, yet, as Vance Havner said, "We need men of the cross, with the message of the cross, bearing the marks of the cross."

No cross-bearing is enjoyable, but it can be eternally profitable. Crosses are cumbersome to carry, but always necessary for our betterment.

c. It has a Tremendous trade in value if carried to completion. "There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below." CH Spurgeon.

3. Follow Jesus – follow Him to out of the way places, to out of their mind people and to out of this world experiences. As you follow Him, you will find yourself in the midst of storm –tossed seas. To foreign shores where demon-possessed men from tombs will greet you with tormented screams. To rugged, craggy hillsides where sockets in the ground await the implanting of your cross and the thirsty ground awaits the drops of your blood!

Ira Stamphill, the great old evangelist, who wrote such songs as "Mansion Over the Hilltop" and "He Washed My Eyes with Tears" penned these telling words:

I traveled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care,
The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair,
I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me,
And then I heard Him so so tenderly,

"My feet were also weary upon the Calv'ry road,
The cross became so heavy I fell beneath the load,
Be faithful weary pilgrim, the morning I can see,
Just lift your cross and follow close to me."

"I work so hard for Jesus" I often boast and say,
"I've sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way,
I gave up fame and fortune; I'm worth a lot to thee,"
And then I heard Him gently say to me,

"I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss,
My hands were nailed in anger upon a cruel cross,
But now we'll make the journey with your hand safe in mine,
So lift your cross and follow close to me."

Oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field someday
'Twould be no more than love demands, no less could I repay,
"No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die,"
These are the words he gently spoke to me,

"If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I demand,"
But if by death to living they can thy glory see,
I'll take my cross and follow close to thee.

To come after Jesus does not mean health, wealth and happiness, as many are trying to teach these days. It means enduring hardness as a good soldier. It means living a paradoxical life.
"The first shall be last and the last shall be first."
"He that loses his life for my sake, shall find it."
"Give and it shall be given unto you."
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that despitefully use you and persecute you."

Jesus' invitation to come after Him is extended to you today. Peter accepted that call. James followed. John answered. Will you also deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him?


Ryan Allison said...

I will! I will! I just lose sight of Jesus quite a lot. But I will, I'll give up fame and fortune, I'll give up popularity, I'll give up all to gain Jesus.

Please pray for me. Please pray that God will lead me by His Spirit on the narrow road. Please pray that He strengthens me to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus.

May we serve God together. Ryan

Ryan Allison said...

I will follow Jesus. Let Him be Lord and not me. I give up the glory I've been trying to build for myself. Let me enter death daily and follow my Lord. Please pray for me. Please pray that God will strengthen me to deny my self and to put to death the glory I was trying to attain for myself, and to fix my eyes on Jesus instead. I repent of my old life.