If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me

by Mike Ratliff

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) 

When I was a much younger man I made a commitment to become fit enough to run one mile in under 5 minutes, run 5 Kilometers in under 18 minutes, run 5 miles in under 30 minutes, run 10 Kilometers in under 37 minutes, and run 10 miles in under an hour. By the time I was 33 years old I had accomplished the first three. I had missed my goal for the 10K by less than a minute, however, my best time for a 10 mile race was 1 hour and 4 minutes. These times are no where near competitive at the highest level, but in the Oklahoma City Running Club it was. It took a great deal of commitment. I had to train by doing many hours of long road work and then compliment that with speed work. I had to work on my upper body strength and had to eat right. Some of my friends and relatives accused me of becoming obsessive. I couldn’t have done any of that without commitment. When God saved me in 1986 I remember my mother saying, “Watch out! Michael will get into the Bible just like he did running…” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but I have found that commitment to the Word of God is just part of becoming the Christian God wants all of us to be. It also takes commitment to obedience to our Lord’s commandments, God’s glory, denying self, dying to self, submitting to others, and loving our Lord foremost. 

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and A man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39 (NASB)

All who come to Christ have peace with God. However, genuine Christianity and the world system are not in any way compatible. Why? The world system is in rebellion against God. Therefore, when the Kingdom of God becomes manifest in a believer, he or she will stand out in the temporal because they are no longer of this lost and dying world. Their values and ways will be growing in Christlikeness as they mature. This will cause conflict with those still in darkness, even close relatives. The Greek word translated as “peace” in this passage is “εἰρήνη” or “eirēnē.” In this context our Lord is referring to a lack of strife between people. He is telling us that the purpose of salvation does not include peace between the one saved and his or her lost friends and relatives. In fact, He states that this relationship between Him and those He saves will bring a sword to bear in those personal relationships. The Greek word for sword here is “μάχαιρα” or “machaira.” In this context this word refers to “war.” The war between the world system and the Kingdom of God becomes localized in the believer’s  personal relationships with unbelieving friends and relatives. This brings pressure to bear on the Christian to conform to the desires of these lost friends and relatives. Our Lord then says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  

The Greek word our Lord used for “loves” here is “φιλέω” or “phileo.” This word speaks of a love with the meaning of having common interests with another, to befriend. The Word “worthy” here is the Greek word “ἄξιος” or “axios.” It means “deserving, comparable or suitable (as if drawing praise). What is this saying my brethren? Remember, this comes right after Jesus says that one who comes to Him will automatically become part of the conflict between the world system and the Kingdom of God. This “φιλέω” our Lord is speaking of here is to have more affection and common interests with those still in the world system, even close friends and relatives, and it makes one undeserving of Him as Lord and Saviour. Of course, no one is worthy, but here our Lord is speaking of those who have already come to Him and are now in conflict with those still in the world system, their lost friends and relatives. If they allow their affections for these lost people to create a divide between themselves and Christ then they are revealing their disingenuousness.

Our Lord really nails this down in the next phrase, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.Jesus tells us here that total commitment to Him, even to the point of dying is what marks a genuine disciple of His. They will not allow personal relationships with unbelieving friends and relatives to come between them and Christ and their commitment to Him is complete. They must surrender to Him completely. The regenerate are the only ones who can and will do this. Our Lord is not trying to get lost, unregenerate people to commit to Him here. He is explaining what those who are really His will do. Their total surrender to Him marks them as genuine disciples. This surrender is complete and it severs the hold the world system has on them because they have died to it.

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB) 

Do you see the level of commitment our Lord requires to be His disciple? The regenerate are Born Again. They are new creations. They have died and are resurrected unto this new life in Christ. They are in the world, but are not part of it. The world will attempt to pull them back away from Christ to be conformed to it, but the genuine believer will be extremely conflicted when this happens. We must be on guard against these attacks. We are called to be our Lord’s disciples, following Him and carrying our own crosses. The genuine disciple of Christ denies self and dies to self, committing themselves to an obedient life in Him. Perfection is not attainable in this life so our periods of conflict with our flesh can bring us to times of doubt and despair. This is why we have the throne of grace and prayer and a gracious God who forgives and cleanses those who are His.

My brethren,  never forget what our Lord said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.Genuine believers enter the Kingdom of God by going through the narrow gate that few find. Going through this gate requires a giving up of one’s life for Christ’s sake. This is dying to self and taking up your cross and following Him on the narrow, difficult path that leads to the Father. Those who make it to the end prove their genuineness by doing so. These are the ones who have totally committed themselves to Christ thereby becoming part of the Kingdom of God. Those who fall out and depart the narrow path prove their disingenuineness. There are many counterfeit paths, and none of them lead to the Father.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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