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. Luke 9:23-26
Whenever I read verses like today’s I wonder how anyone can preach that Christians are to all be healthy and wealthy. According to them life will be easy and we will have no worries. Of course eventually that will be the case. After the resurrection we will indeed be in excellent health, there will be no more tears and life will be grand. In the here and now we are promised something a little different.
Jesus tells His disciples and us to take up our cross and follow Him. When Jesus said this taking up a cross meant things had been hard and painful and were about to get much worse. Before Jesus took up His cross He was flogged almost to the point of death. When He was given the cross to carry to the site of the crucifixion while the whipping had ended now He had the roughhewn cross that rubbed against His already bleeding flesh and He had the nails and the slow death on the cross waiting. Taking up a cross is not an invitation to an easy life.
Most of us will never have to die for our faith but all of us will experience difficulties because of what we believe and who we follow. Many will live hard lives paycheck to paycheck. Many will have poor health. We will be made fun of because of our beliefs or called intolerant because of them. And yes some will die because they follow Jesus. Some of us will live lives of affluence an it will seem life is easy but all will at some time suffer because of our beliefs. Sometimes that suffering will be internal as we let guilt overcome us.
Why do this? Why risk suffering to follow this itinerant Jewish rabbi? The answer is to not do so will result in something much worse. No matter what we gain on this earth all of it will eventually turn to dust including us. I like the way Mark recorded this next saying better than Luke, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37 ESV) The soul is what makes us who we are. When we refuse to follow Jesus we risk losing our soul to eternal separation from God. Nothing we can have on earth can be worth more than life in God’s presence.
When we are ashamed of Jesus, when we refuse to follow Him, Jesus will be ashamed of us. When the time comes for the final judgment and we stand before God we will hear one of two things. For those ashamed of Jesus they will hear “I do not know you.” They will be judged on their own merits and found wanting and be sent away to spend eternity separated from God.
But for those who chose to follow Jesus they will hear “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21 ESV) Those who chose to follow Jesus will be judged on what Jesus did not what they did. For Christians that means we will be welcomed into the presence of God for ever and ever. To take up our cross, really to only important choice we will make in this life. All other choices pale in comparison.
Have a blessed day,