2. A Disciple Follows Jesus Christ Single-mindedly … (continued)
So why must I go and die if I want to follow Him or obey Him? A parallel passage will help us here.
Look in Luke 9:23-25 – “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”
Notice that verse 24 begins with the word ‘for’. In other words, Jesus is giving the reason for taking up your cross. And here it is – if someone tries to save his own life, he loses it, but the one willing to lose it for Christ saves it.
You see, someone carrying their cross is about to lose their life. But Jesus says, ‘if you are willing to embrace death – taking up your cross for me, you will actually live.’ But if you try to preserve your own life, the irony is, you will actually lose it. He is speaking of more than the actual point of physical death. He is speaking of your whole Being, your entire life, your will. He means – if you live so as to preserve life as you want to live it, you cannot follow Me or obey Me, and you ultimately lose. If you avoid the sacrifice, the humiliation, the struggle, the burden of obedience so as to get your own way, you end up losing out. You miss those things you were seeking, and ultimately, you lose the greatest thing of all – your own soul.
But, if you embrace Me as your life, following Me as your life, your example, your authority, your power – being willing to die to your own way, to life lived for self, you will actually find life. Just as Christ’s cross brought resurrection, when you will die to self, when you will turn your back on a life lived for selfish goals and ambitions and desires and pleasures, and follow Christ – you will find life, and find it more abundantly.
Jesus illustrated it this way: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” – John 12:24. A disciple does not simply use Jesus as Saviour; a disciple follows Jesus as Lord. A disciple follows because he or she wants to imitate their master. We want to imbibe His Spirit and imitate His example.
Matthew 10:24-25 – “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord…” The idea is this – a disciple comes under the authority of Jesus Christ in an absolute way. He obeys Christ single-mindedly. Being a disciple is not a negotiation. It is not a power sharing agreement. It is an all or nothing proposition. Either your self-will dies so his Lordship can live within you, or nothing.
The flesh and the Spirit are contrary to one another. The two cannot be engaged simultaneously. A car cannot be in first gear and in reverse at the same time. The flesh and the Spirit of God cannot be engaged together. You are either mortifying, killing, the flesh, and yielding to the Spirit, or you are feeding the flesh and quenching the Spirit. Your own flesh does not want to follow Him, it wants to follow itself. So the power of the cross has to be brought onto self – ‘I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live..’ ‘Not my will but thine be done’.
Once again, how does a disciple know what Christ’s will is? How does he or she know where Jesus is going so that she might follow? The Word of God tells us. If a disciple is a learner, it is to better follow Christ, better imitate His example. Has the Word of God brought some death and some new life to your life this week?
3. A Disciple Holds Onto This World Slackly
One more time, the Lord uses very strong language; language almost exaggerated. He wants the force of His words to shake us. Recall what verse 35 says – ‘great multitudes followed Him.’ It is as if Jesus almost throws the gauntlet down – ‘You want to follow Me, do you?’ Is it just the buzz of the crowd? Is it just the excitement of a new thing, a fad? Is it for what you can get out of Me? This is what it means to really follow Me – to love me Supremely, to follow Me Single-mindedly, and to forsake all you have. I can picture the crowd thinning out. Now again, does Jesus mean that in order to follow Him, you must sell or give away everything you own? It does not normally mean that, though God does call some to do that.
The word ‘forsake’ actually means bid farewell. Say goodbye to. As if to say, cut the ties between you and your material possessions. Cut the close ties between you and your money. Cut the intimate relationship you have with your bank account. Hold them loosely in your hand. If Jesus needs it, it is His. If He doesn’t, it is still there. The Lord does not begrudge you money or possessions. He means to say, cease acting like an owner of these things. Realise you are a steward, and it is God who owns both you and your goods. The Lord does not mean you should cease being wise with your finances, or He would not have given so much instruction regarding them. He means do not let these things hold on to you.
Matthew 6:19-24 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” How do you react when your possessions or money is threatened? Are you willing to hold this world so loosely in your hands that you will not begrudge the Lord anything He requires of you? That you can say, ‘My all is God’s. I recognise the cost is all I am, all I have, all the time.’ A man looking back is not worthy – what are you still looking back to? A disciple must have a pilgrim-focus. I am passing through. This world is not my home. It is part of my journey, but not my home. Life is not a playground for me, it is a battleground. But my ultimate place of rest is still coming.
– David De Bruyn, Professor of Church History, Shepherds’ Seminary Africa