“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 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. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.’ ” (Luke 9:23-25)
Our Lord graciously laid down his life for his people. Oh, the wonder of what Jesus did to save lost sinners, fulfilling the law on their behalf and taking their punishment upon himself – the very wrath of God against unrighteousness and rebellion! Words cannot convey the glory and amazement of what God has done in Christ Jesus in providing forgiveness, adoption and eternal life for those who call upon the Son of God. These truths ought to break our hearts and cause us to live our all for the Lord. Sadly, we often are caught up in our own sin, worldliness or even legitimate pursuits which threaten to overtake our love for the Lord and seek to replace his Lordship in our lives. But if we take time to consider who Christ is and what he has done to raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life, then surely our hearts will be broken for him and we will cry out asking for the Spirit to change our hardened hearts and rebellious attitudes. To the degree that we can internalize and really believe the lengths to which God the Father went to for our salvation, our hearts will long to live for his glory – saying no to sin and taking up our cross daily to honor and serve Christ.
I recently was encouraged by a brother who came to visit us here in Uruguay. He shared many stories of how much suffering our brothers and sisters have gone through in many parts of the world while serving Christ. They were willing to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. They were not ashamed to be called his own. Church congregants who were arrested alongside their pastors. Not only men, but also women and children. People who were questioned, beaten and imprisoned. Others had to flee for their lives. I also heard about missionaries who were willing to stand alongside many of these folks. Other missionaries went to places where the the roads were so dangerous at night that they could not even travel without putting their lives in peril. They also lived in conditions which many of us have never had to experience – dirt roads, humble homes, limited running water and electricity and poor sanitation. God has used and is using people like this, whether national believers or missionaries who have come from afar. They have learned what it means to take up their cross and follow Jesus. They have learned to overcome the temptation to fear man instead of God.
After hearing these stories, I am both humbled and inspired. I am convicted and motivated. How often have I complained about many small things? How often have I poured all my energies into my own comforts, pleasures and well-being rather than looking to the interests of Christ? I am afraid it has been all too often. When I remember how Christ has given himself for me, I realize that I ought to live for him. I desire to live for him. We need reminders like this because our tendency, even as mature Christians, is to stray from the path that the Lord has laid out for us. Thankfully, we serve a gracious Lord and he delights in forgiving us and in sanctifying us. Sometimes we need to go through the Lord’s gentle discipline, but when we emerge from the crucible, we find that we are blessed and thankful that our Heavenly Father has been pleased to shape us more into the image of his Son.
As I consider these things, I am also reminded of the passage in 2 Timothy 2:3-6, which compares the Christian life to the disciplined lives of the soldier, farmer and athlete. Do our lives reflect this? Is our delight in serving Christ or in serving ourselves? May God grant that we would live for Christ in such a way that we glorify him and are able to share the message of his love and salvation to all the ends of the earth.
One doesn’t need to be a missionary to do this. One doesn’t need to live in a country where church members are being arrested and beaten for their faith. We can take stock of our own lives right where we are and ask the Lord to shine his light into the recesses of our hearts. He will show us where we need change. He will sustain us by his Holy Spirit. He will remind us of how much Jesus has done for us. And because we serve a sovereign God who will not allow his children to stray too far for too long, we will see much fruit, growth and renewed zeal for his glory. Thank God for his grace. Thank him for the promise that he will never leave nor forsake us. And let’s live for Christ more and more as we see the day approaching. “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25). Hallelujah!