The Cost of Following Jesus

by Mike Ratliff

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 ESV)

One of the most tragic aspects of the growing apostasy of the Church, with its roots in Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, is the viewing of salvation as “easy” or something that can be planned or manipulated by men. Along with this, those who are its proponents must necessarily view God as somewhat less than Sovereign. They also do not teach that those who come to Jesus must necessarily become subject to the Lordship of Christ. What did Jesus say about this?

And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 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 9:21-26 ESV)

Our salvation was costly to our Lord. First He had to become a Man, live a perfect, sinless life, suffer many things, be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, be killed by crucifixion, and on the third day be raised from the dead. After telling His disciples this, He then tells them that all who follow Him as His disciples must deny themselves, take up their own cross daily and follow Him.

The word “come” from v23 is in Aorist tense, Infinitive mood, and Active voice. This means that the coming after Jesus is a punctiliar action. It is done once and it is done. Interestingly, the word “deny” from the same verse is Aorist tense, Imperative mood, and Passive voice. This means that it is a command to do something immediately, at that very moment. The word “take up” is also in Aorist, Imperative, but the voice is Active. Again, this is a command for something to be done immediately. The word “daily” is actually two Greek words that when put together this way simply means “every day.” However, the word “follow” that our Lord used in this verse refers to going with another within a spiritual or moral relationship in obedience and service. It does not mean a temporary or occasional relationship or one that can be terminated. This is a permanent relationship. The verb structure here is Present tense, Imperative mood, and Active voice. This means that this is a command by our Lord to His disciples to follow Him with continuous or repeated action.

I believe that our Lord is describing here what those whom He saves will actually do. They will come to Him once, and never leave. They will take up their crosses and deny themselves everyday. They will also be marked by their faithfulness. They will follow their lord continually. This does not mean they are perfect or that they don’t stumble and fall, but those who are genuine will repent and move forward with their Lord.. All of these verbs except “come” are commands. Those who come to Jesus obey His commands because He is Lord. Those who are genuine believers lose their lives by dying to self for Jesus sake. Those that do this have eternal life. Those who want a relationship with our Lord that they can walk away from when it is inconvenient are actually ashamed of the Son of Man. They show their disingenuousness by doing this. Since they have no part with our Lord they also will forfeit themselves eternally.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)

In this passage our Lord shows us that the “coming to Jesus” that is punctiliar, once and done, is not something that can be done casually. It can’t be conditional or on the terms of the person. It is unconditional and on our Lord’s terms. Those who are truly saved come to Him and are New Creations who do not look back to the world or anything else as more desirable than eternal life with Him.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

I remember when I was about 8 or 9 that our church bulletin one Sunday Morning had a picture on the front showing a road with an innumerable number of people on it. It divided into two roads, one narrow and the other broad. The broad way had saloons and movie houses and mansions and all sorts of worldly things on it. Most people went that way. The other way was called the Narrow Way and had churches lining both sides of it. Only a few went that way. That picture has stuck with me for nearly 50 years now. However, I believe that it is not entirely accurate. I contend that there are many people who think they are on the narrow way that leads to life because they are religious. However, they have been sold a bill of goods. Jesus said that the way that leads to life is hard and the gate to it is narrow and that few find it. The description He gave us earlier about denying self, taking up our crosses and following Him as a way of life is this narrow way that few find.

I’m sure we all know someone who thinks that he or she is a Christian because of their religiosity; however, their lifestyle does not bear the marks of authenticity. What must we do? We must pray for them and share the truth with them as the Lord leads. We are fast approaching a point of no return. Our Lord is returning soon. We must put our own houses in order. We must be right with Him by denying our selves and taking up our crosses daily and following Him. We must live this way and let the Holy Spirit use our walks, our living testimony, as a witness to those lost people all around us. Along with that, we must be ready to give an account of God’s grace and His working in us. I deeply desire the salvation of many of my friends and coworkers who know not our Lord, but I also have an even deeper desire to be with Him. His will be done. Soli Deo Gloria!

20 thoughts on “The Cost of Following Jesus

  1. Great article Mike. We were also dicussing this with our friends on the phone last night.

    We like the explanation there on the terms! What He does is permanent. Thats nice to know and should be a great comfort to us. The ‘free willers’ need to read that! He is always Faithful when we are faithless. What a Mighty God He is!

    Yes our houses need to be in order and ready 🙂


  2. Mike,

    You do, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, speak directly to my heart. I am so appreciative of what God is doing in your life, not just for my benefit, but for His glory and honor. You do present the truth, and I cannot help but rejoice in that! Hearing the truth of God’s word does bring abundant life. I continue to be amazed at how He works…how He lets me know that He is there. How my thoughts are brought forward and answered in your writings is an often happening. I love that! 🙂 However, I must also state that even if He did not do this, I would praise and worship Him the same! He is a live and an active God!

    Many, many thanks Mike.


  3. Many people teach that Lordship salvation is a salvation by works. It is not, it is a saving faith in the Lord Jesus that results in works. James is clear, a shallow faith in a self serving Christ does not save and therefore our preaching must be loving, powerful, and clearly Biblical.

    So many “decisions” and so little life changes. Eternally dangerous.


  4. Henry Frueh,for the first six years of my christian walk that was what I was taught-that Lordship salvation was works.Then I heard a powerful sermon that said,briefly,that if Jesus was not Lord of all He was not Lord at all.I was undone!I came away from that sermon thinking what a waste those previous six years were!And it made sense as to why my walk was so questionable even by me.Isn’t it great to know that God will never stop working in us and through us!He would not give up on us because it cost Him His precious Son just to begin the good work in us!To God be all the glory and praise!


  5. I read a church billboard as I was traveling last week which said:

    “Christianity…so easy a caveman can do it!”

    I was appalled, shocked, angered and dismayed all at the same time. I can honestly say I’ve never seen so much blasphemy packaged into such a pithy and “culturally-relevant” sentence by an ostensibly Christian source.


  6. Coram Deo,

    I agree, it is appalling. I like that one qualifying word in your last sentence; “ostensibly.” There is a very small SBC church a few blocks from my house. I’ve never been in it. They have a sign our front that they update from time to time. Currently it says, “Waiting for a sign from God before going to church?” To me this is not funny. It is as if the pastor who whoever is saying that their signage is direct from God. In the one you saw it is even worse. They are saying that becoming a Christian is something any one can do. That is totally unbiblical and casts our God as far less than Sovereign. Come soon Lord Jesus!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  7. Mike,

    I concur and upon reflection I’m forced to agree with Pastor Ken Silva’s new definition for the acronym “SBC” which I used to think stood for “Southern Baptist Convention.

    Pastor Silva (who is himself an ordained SBC minister) has irrefutably demonstrated that with its ever deepening dive into secular culture, its dabbling in contemplative spiritualism, and its experimentation with Eastern Mysticism that a more accurate descriptor for the SBC is Slowly Becoming Catholic.

    If they keep heading in the direction they’re going I suspect there will be many serious minded, Bible believing children of the Lord leaving the SBC as it apostasizes along with the rest of the last days harlot professing churches.


  8. Oh,what a great comment I made!But,today showed that I just didn’t get it about the Lordship of Jesus.I have besetting sins that I try to kill.I am so ashamed of myself.I had the opportunity to witness Christ,but I failed so miserably.I am new to the election doctrine.Ever since I saw that that is biblically true,I have wondered if I am truly His elect.I have thanked God continuously for drawing me to Christ.But since I came into knowing the truth of election,I must admit that I have begged God to let me be His chosen!When I was a free-willer I could comfort myself by thinking that I said the prayer.Why do I forget that sermon that I mentioned and do that which defies His Lordship?I know we aren’t perfect.But today I had the opportunity to witness Christ and I utterly blew it before all the unbelievers.Please,I want to be His chosen!But I can’t seem to be rid of these besetting sins.I don’t want to be a hypocrite.I think sometimes that it would be better that I walk away from Christ rather than to besmirch Him as I did today.Why must I be part and parcel of besmirching His children who love me so.Best I should deny Him so that His true children won’t have a harder time of witnessing Christ because of me.I say this because I confess my hypocrisy.I don’t want anyone to be misled that I am a Christian-I just don’t truly believe that I am after today.John 17:3 is always going to be my favorite scripture,whatever good that will do me.I almost wish I could be a free-willer again because I could give myself some comfort that I said the prayer.Even so,Jesus was far from Lord today once again.I am so sorry to be a hypocrite in contributing to this post.God richly bless in every way those who truly know Him.


  9. I pray that I am not stepping out of line, but felt compelled to share something with Sherry re: her last comment about failing to take the opportunity to witness. This is something that I was puzzled about until one day the Lord showed me something about the scripture that tells us not to cast our pearls before swine……There have been a few people cross my path that although opportunity presented itself to witness for Christ, for some reason my mouth remained shut and try as I might, nothing would come forth! I don’t understand it completely but believe God was trying to show me that to be led by the Spirit, one will know to whom it is time to witness and to whom it is not. Hope that makes sense. I condemned myself just like you Sherry, and now I’ve learned to be sensitive to when the Lord is saying to speak up and to keep my mouth shut when He is not leading me. Only He knows the hearts and minds and when the time is right.
    Praise God for His leading in all things…..


  10. Connie,thank you for your edifying words concerning the sharing of the gospel at appropriate times.What I did was put a bad light(?) on any possible future witness to these people.I could give a couple reasons why,but the truth is is that I took my focus off Christ.I did well at the start and my heart was grieving at the behavior of those I had to be with(bad language including God’s holy name,etc).I couldn’t leave because we were helping our son move into his new home.I dropped my armor,so to speak.Thanks to those who prayed and Mike’s help and God’s restorative hand I am forgiven and on the path of repentance.I kinda don’t want to learn the importance of obedience through disobedience again though.Thankfully,God knows that I am but dust,He knows my frame…Thanks again,Connie,you did not overstep your bounds and I appreciate your concern.God bless you til we meet!


  11. Sherry C,

    I think it can be pretty easy to slip into this world sometimes because most people I know are not Christians. Thank you Jesus for not letting us slip to far away from you. 🙂 I also need to get into that armor every morning. I also need to memorize Ephesians 6: 10-18. It is right here in front of my face posted on the wall by my desk. 🙂 That will really help in those times.


  12. Sherry C,
    When people I know start cursing I don’t mind asking them not to. They usually stop. 🙂 I really hate it when they use that one.


  13. Thanks for blessing me,Deborah!I am going to write out the Eph.6 scriptures on a post it note and stick it on my computer.Great scripture to memorize!Now if my cat doesn’t take it away with his tail,I will see it everyday.


  14. Sherry C

    I was blessed with the suggestion by David, I think. 🙂 Now all I have to do is remember to read it. lol


Comments are closed.