Matthew 10:37-39 NKJV
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
There is only one vocation, one occupation, for the Christian and that is to follow the Lord Jesus. Unfortunately, the way of our Lord wasn’t a way to palaces or riches; it wasn’t a way to success and popularity. It was the way to the cross. A painful, heartbreaking cross full of sacrifice and rejection. For our Lord Jesus truly lost His life to find it, but more than that, lost His life that we might find life and find it more abundantly.
What is it to follow Christ? John Wesley wrote:
“‘He that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, saith the Lord.’ These are the words of Christ, by which we are admonished, that we ought to imitate his life and manners, if we would be truly enlightened and delivered from all blindness of heart. Let therefore our chief endeavor be to meditate upon the life of Jesus Christ.” (The Christian Pattern).
We ought to imitate His life and manners. The life of the Lord Jesus, recorded in the gospels, accounts His birth, a short account of Him as a child, and three years of His adult life, but it is all-encompassing. It is sufficient to give us an example of how to live in order to imitate Him. The Apostle Paul knew the life of Christ sufficiently that he could admonish us to imitate his life just as he was imitating the Lord Jesus. But the way, I think, is far more difficult than we would like to openly admit, so we content ourselves with less in order not to face what it is we likely should do.
Wesley also wrote:
“Extreme are those who hope to fulfill the commands of God without taking any pains at all. Vain hope! that a child of Adam should expect to see the kingdom of Christ and of God without striving, without agonizing, first to enter in at the small, narrow gate. Vain hope that one who was conceived and born in sin, whose inward parts are wickedness, should entertain a thought of being purified as his Lord is pure unless he tread in Christ’s steps and take up his cross daily. Vain hope that he should ever dream of shaking off his old opinions, passions, tempers, of being sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul, and body, without a constant and continued course of general self-denial!” (Renew My Heart).
When we study the life of the Lord Jesus, we can see that each step of His three years of ministry was not a series of journeys, but one journey with one end, the cross. Each step, each word, each miracle, each sermon was for the purpose of pointing toward the cross, toward that ultimate sacrificial act. All of His teachings, His miraculous deeds, His gentle touches have no meaning without the cross. Without the cross, the Lord Jesus is reduced simply to another teacher of morality, and even of less, for without the cross, He becomes a liar, a charlatan, and we should turn away. The focus of His entire life was the cross. And the Lord Jesus did more than die. He was willing to trust the Father enough to suffer rejection… and continue to trust. He was only able to pay the price for our sins by being willing to be made sin.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV).
And in being made sin, the Lord Jesus suffered the rejection of the Father. He was rejected by people and rejected by God, suffered and died, that we might become “the righteousness of God in Him.”
How much do we want to actually follow Him? A. W. Tozer claimed that many Christians walk to the edge of path… and stop, rather than to fully and truly follow the Savior:
“It may be said without qualification that every man is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wants to be. He may not be as full as he wishes he were, but he is most certainly as full as he wants to be. The problem is not to persuade God to fill us, but to want God sufficiently to permit Him to do so. For all God’s good will toward us He is unable to grant us our heart’s desires till all our desires have been reduced to one. It is easy to learn the doctrine of personal revival and victorious living; it is quite another thing to take our cross and plod on to the dark and bitter hill of self-renunciation.” (Born after Midnight).
Our lives are full to overflowing with the things we have embraced. We fill our eyes, ears, and minds with sights, sounds, suggestions, platitudes, and models of behavior through relationships, media, and the like. Our heart attitudes are formed and molded by that which we want and seek after, including television, movies, books, and magazines. We now are bombarded with even more information through the Internet as we interact with social networks, blogs, newsgroups, webpages, videos, and more.
How much do we want the Lord? How much do we pray, study and meditate on the Word? How much do we model our lives after the Lord Jesus? While this kind of frantic interaction is more readily available now than 2000 years ago, it was also available then. One could go to the market place and interact with any number of people and ideas. There were places of great learning and discourse to which our Lord could have gravitated. Instead, He often took Himself off alone to pray, to seek the Father, and to reaffirm His purpose… the way of the cross. If we are determined to follow the Lord Jesus, that might be a good place to start, to learn to sequester ourselves away from the influences of the world in order to seek Him through prayer and Bible study.
The scripture said: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
What if it said “He who loves television or movies more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves Facebook or MySpace, Youtube or email, musical groups or movie stars more than Me is not worthy of Me”? We demonstrate our love by where we put our resources of time, money, and effort. Where is your time, money, and effort placed? Have we truly taken up our crosses or would we prefer a Christianity that promises prosperity, success, and ease of life? If we follow the Lord Jesus, the way may truly be as Wesley described, a way of striving and agonizing to enter the narrow gate.