by Mike Ratliff
34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38 NASB)
Jesus is coming back. Are you ready? Are you trusting in man-made or self-made religion to be what God will recognize as sufficient so that Christ will be your Advocate before the Father when you are judged? Without Christ as your Advocate, you will have no defense. How does Christ become our Advocate? How do we know if He is our Advocate? Let us examine Christ’s own words about this.
23 And He was saying to them all, “ If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26 NASB)
What does it mean to “come after” Christ? Is this simply the act of joining a church? Jesus is talking to people who have been following Him and listening to His teachings as He ministered to them. He turns to this large group of people and tells them plainly that to be His disciple one must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Him. If one does not do this then they CANNOT be His disciples. What does it mean to deny self? This is relinquishing personal control of one’s life in surrender to Lordship of Christ who is control of it. The taking up ones own personal cross is referring complete commitment to Christ even if it means death or persecution. When Christ says that His disciples must follow Him He is referring to living ones life according to His example as well as coming into fellowship with His other disciples.
Christ then tells us that these things sum together into a losing of ones life for His sake. Those who deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him have given up a self-centered life of rebellion against God for the sake of Christ and the gospel. In return, they will find everlasting communion with God. On the other hand, those who live a self-centered life focused on the present world will not find eternal life with God. Those who have found eternal life with God have lost their life for Christ’s sake, but have actually saved their life. Those who have sought their own personal freedom, to be focused on themselves and this world, seeking to save their lives, are actually in the process of losing their lives eternally. Our Lord then asks, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” Those who have given up their lives for Christ’s sake have invested wisely while those who seek their own way will lose their lives eternally.
Our Lord then tells us that those who seek to save their lives for themselves are ashamed of Christ and His words. They actually deny any link with Christ with the way they live their lives. They may actually be very religious and active in church, et cetera, but their focus is on themselves and is all done centered in their own wants and desires. These our Lord tells us will not have Him as their Advocate before the Father. In other words, these are not genuine Christians for they are not our Lord’s disciples.
Those who deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Christ come to salvation because of the effectual call by God in which they are regenerated then repent and believe the Gospel. They are new creations and have the Holy Spirit. They are justified before God because He imputed Christ’s righteousness to them. Because of their new nature, they remain on the narrow, difficult way that they are called to travel in this life. They remain faithful until they go home to be with God forever.
On the other hand, many church members have taken on the burden of religiosity, but they are doing it all on their own terms. They may have indeed heard the gospel innumerable times, but because of the hardness of their hearts and their unbelief, they are on the same path that Judas Iscariot traveled.
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB)
Yes, examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.
13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “ Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “ And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:13-26 NASB)
Genuine saving faith, which only those who have lost their life for the sake of Christ have, is proven valid and is completed by works. These works are the proof of genuine saving faith. These are righteous works, not just religious activity. These works are acts that conform to God’s revealed Word. James tells us that these are acts of compassion such as giving to the poor and helping them to be warm and filled instead of just telling them that you will pray for them. We are not saved because we do these things, no; we do these things because we are genuinely saved.
I pray that all reading this will prayerfully examine themselves and respond to what God reveals in the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray that those reading this who are convicted that their profession of faith is not genuine will seek the face of God in repentance and belief to plead for their Soul. I pray that they will, by the grace of God, believe and repent and thereby lose their lives for the sake of Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!