In our walk as disciples, we often like to think that the road will always be a bed of ease. Yet, Jesus never promised us that our walk would be easy. In fact, everywhere you turn, Jesus reminded his disciples of just exactly how hard it would be to follow him. Salvation is free, but discipleship comes at a very high cost.
In one passage, Jesus tells someone to sell their possessions and follow him. He didn’t tell the person to give him the money, nor did he tell him that in giving the money that his salvation would be secured. He told him to sell his possessions to demonstrate that a Kingdom walk requires a denial of everything earthly thing that we rely on for status, recognition, and security, to accept the eternal provision, security, and status that can only be found in surrendering of self to God.
So often we can be so tied to the things we’ve accumulated that we don’t even realize that they have become idols to us. When God gave the Commandments on tablets to the people of Israel, the very first one said that they should have no other god before Him. No thing, no idol, nothing should take the place of the one true God in our relationship to Him. When we place other things first or give more value to them, no matter what that thing might be, we lower God or tell God He is not as great as the thing we have set above Him.
In another passage, Jesus told his disciples that he came to set a division between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and it would seem almost as if this is contradictory to other passages in the bible where God promises to restore fathers to their sons and sons to their fathers. However, in this instance what Jesus is pointing out is that with the cross that must be borne by those who follow him, it would create a division in which a decision would have to be made as to place of importance in ones life.
People won’t understand the walk you walk when you live according to Kingdom principles. It will seem so opposite from everything that you’ve always known and taught. Things that were once okay, you will realize no longer apply or can have place in your life if you are to truly follow Christ. I’m reminded of something shared by Johnny Enlow who said, “the closer you get to fire, one of two things can happen; one thing is you can be burned and consumed, the other is that you can become refined.”
The closer you get to God in the carrying of your cross, things have to fall of so that you become refined, or else you’ll become consumed by what you’ve held onto. This is the very point Jesus makes to his disciples later in the same Matthew 10:35-40 passage when he says that, “He who lays down his life will gain it, and he who takes up his life shall lose it.” The more we hang onto things that are of this world rather than to deny those things for the things of the Kingdom, the more we place our own lives in jeopardy. Lot had to come out of Sodom and Gomorrah to save his life.
Although it was a place where he was seemingly prospering very much, it was a corrupt place that God planned to destroy. Leaving meant salvation for him, although it cost him the things he had to leave behind. When his wife looked back, it cost her her own life because she did not heed the word to not look back. She looked back at what she thought she was losing and became a pillar of salt.
Bearing one’s cross entails denying one’s self and desires. Sometimes, that includes the desire to be liked, respected, or even understood by others. We often have the desire in us to save face because we want to maintain something about our reputation, and when that comes into conflict with certain things it can seem as though we’ll be seen in a lesser light than we ought to be seen. However, we must sometimes sacrifice how things look in one sense, so that a greater thing can come to light. We have to allow God to make our reputation, rather than holding on to one that we have made for ourselves. This can be a tough pill to swallow. It’s not an easy one, but it is a doable one.
When Christ was preparing to go to the cross, he prayed in the Garden to God to let that bitter cup pass. Yet, in the end, he submitted to the process that he had to endure, because in doing so, many would be redeemed by his submitting to the process. In that process, he was lied on, he was accused by others, denied, rejected, betrayed, spat on, beaten, mocked and ultimately crucified. The glory was not in his humiliation, but in his resurrection. He rose three days later, victorious. In the end, every knee will bow in acknowledgment of who he is. He didn’t utter a word in defense of himself leading up to his crucifixion, but in his dying, he won. We can’t always expect a defense of our position for victory, but in our silence, God speaks volumes in our favor.
Yes, it is true that carrying your cross comes at a great cost, and it at times seems a cost greater than one might be willing to bear, but in bearing that cross, you secure a relationship with God that cannot be undervalued and you become more refined by His fire to shine as pure gold.
QUESTION: Have you accepted the cost of bearing your cross? How have you dealt with that cost?