Luke 9:23-26 (NIV): Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
The cost of being a disciple of Jesus is steep. It requires each of us to follow Jesus wherever He goes, to work where His is working, and to never shrink back from the work He assigns. It requires that each of us deny himself or herself – put our own wants, our own agendas on the far back burner, and follow Jesus’ lead instead of our own wants. It requires each of us to take up his or her own cross, to embrace our own real death to the things of this world, and to do it every single day.
It is popular these days to teach that there is no personal cost to following Jesus – that any cost involved has been paid. But that’s not what Jesus taught. Over and over He clearly told everyone that following Him would involve a personal death to self, a laying down of our lives, and taking up the life and mission of Jesus. And He encouraged His would-be followers to count the cost of following Him BEFORE they signed on. (Luke 14:25-33)
Today the reality of the high cost of discipleship is being lived out all over the world as followers of Jesus are faced with suffering, persecution, and even death. They understand that this is exactly what Jesus foretold (cf. Matthew 5:10-12, 10:22-33, 24:9-13; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 21:12-19; and many others). They have counted the cost, and they are standing firm in the midst of the suffering.
Those of us who have an easy path, who are not being persecuted for our faith in Jesus, can easily persuade ourselves that there is no real cost to being a disciple. But the cost to us is the same, even though it may manifest itself differently. It still requires self-denial, the sacrifice of all personal agendas, and the active taking up of the mission of Jesus. And it still requires taking up our own cross daily, laying down our very lives for the sake of the gospel.
To a lot of people this may sound overwhelmingly negative. But the upside is that those who really do take up the life of a disciple, who count the cost and determine to go ahead, they experience the presence and power of Jesus in their lives to a degree that is unfathomable to those who settle for an easy life of mere “belief.” They walk in the presence of Jesus each day, hearing His voice, and seeing Him work through them. They get to walk in miracles!
Father, it is clear that Jesus taught that the life of a disciple is challenging; as one person put it, “The cost of our salvation has been paid. But it will cost everything we have to live it out in our lives.” But the blessings FAR outweigh the cost. Lord, You have redeemed us, bought us at a price, and called us into an intimate relationship with You. Giving myself entirely to You seems like the only reasonable response to all of that. And that’s the decision I make right now! Amen.