"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Mark 8:34."
When we contemplate the state of Christian affairs in this twenty-first century, we cannot help but conclude that it is far removed from God. Christianity today has digressed to being little more than a passive compromise with sin. Yet, we know that "he who saves his life shall lose it and he who loses his life for my sake shall save it."
This is why Jesus warned us saying in essence; before you commit yourself to the Christian cause, before you become My follower and soldier of the cross, COUNT THE COST, I want you to know exactly what you are getting into; what following Me means. You will have to carry a cross and carrying that cross means that you are going to be scarred, you are going to be bruised, and you are going to suffer.
When Paul was converted and submitted to the Master's will and great command, he became the filth of the world, the scum of the earth. It does not sound much like the converted today. We are more like James and John who desired choice seats in the Kingdom. But Jesus bluntly tells them He was not offering seats but suffering. Christianity has allowed itself to become too snug and comfortable in worldly garments. We do not desire carrying the cross of blood and sweat, tears and toil. We want to be Christians but exempt from suffering. The harvest is truly great but laborers are few.
To be a servant of Christ, at any angle we choose to look at it, one must realize that the servant is not better than his Master. And our Lord was despised and rejected of men; and the better Christian and missionary we are, the more the world will treat us as it treated Him. If we are not being abused and misused by the world, we may need to re-examine ourselves to see if we are indeed, in the faith.
In His footsteps followed the heroes of faith who were tortured, imprisoned, beaten, and persecuted. They wandered around in sheepskin and goatskin being destitute, afflicted and tormented; they wandered in desserts and mountains, dens and caves of the earth. We need to remember that the next time we stand and sing so comfortably:
Faith of our fathers, living still in spite of dungeon, fire,and sword! O how our hearts beat high with joy whene'er we hear that glorious word! Faith of our fathers! Holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!
We all go around claiming we expect to hear God say one day, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Well, where are our scars of suffering? The kind of service that does not cost anything is not worth anything for His Kingdom. We ought to have some scars, some physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual marks inflicted by a hostile and resistant world.
Joseph's brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Daniel's fellow governors hated him and attempted to kill him. The priests of Baal hated Elijah and Jezebel swore to kill him. David's own son plotted to kill him. Herodias hated John the Baptist and precipitated his beheading. The Pharisees and the Judaizers hated Paul with a burning passion and forty men took an oath they would fast until they saw Paul dead.
Jesus was public enemy number one in His day. But He refused to compromise, appease, conciliate, popularize. He was the great Divider and has caused more division than any other force in history. I hope we remember that the next time we so smugly sing:
To that old rugged cross I will ever be true, Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
We must realize that to be a true follower of Christ, it is never Christ and...it is always Christ or. It is Christ or Baal, Christ or Caesar, Christ or position, Christ or the world, Christ or comfort. Jesus made this clear when He said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters" Matthew 12:30.
Yes, salvation is free but discipleship cost everything we have. Jesus preached His crowd away in the sixth chapter of John. And when the multitude went after Him, He told them that unless they were willing to pay the price of becoming His servants, they could not be His. I hope we remember that the next time we sing:
Sure I must fight if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord. I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
Let us also understand that I am not referring here to the normal everyday challenges we contend with. Some people think life challenges are their cross. General problems that come into our lives are Not Crosses of Calvary. Our cross is when we are persecuted for CHRIST'S SAKE and persecution always leaves its marks.
Christians are not corpses dead in sin. We are alive in God through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Thomas wanted to see the marks of the cross not to be convinced that Jesus was dead, but that He was alive. The unbelieving world is looking for the marks of the cross in us, who claim to be dead to sin and living the resurrection life. Too often, they see US and not Christ. And, if the world cannot see Christ in us then we have not died to sin. The cross of Christ means death to self. Paul said, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me." We can only die to sin by being crucified.
Now understand, we cannot crucify ourselves, not even physically. In the spiritual realm, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. God reckons us dead with Christ to sin, but we also live with Him as we walk by faith in the Spirit.
The greatest and most effective witnesses to this dying and doubting world today are those crucified men and women, dead to sin and alive unto God, bearing in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus. We thank God that He still has some saints who do not mind the marks, do not mind the bruises, do not mind being scarred for His sake. We understand that we have a charge to keep and a God to glorify; a never dying soul to save and fit it for the sky. We understand that this is not a time for reaping, but sowing, not a time for reigning, but working, not a time for crowns, but crosses.
"Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:38.