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Monday, May 4, 2020


"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.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 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?  For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.'"
Matthew 16:24-27

Jesus was not a salesman or businessman selling a product.  He was and is a Prince recruiting soldiers and a Doctor healing diseased souls.  A salesman minimizes the cost of his product while praising the benefits.  Jesus, as our Prince, demands that we follow orders without question or, as Doctor, that we take His medicine for our healing exactly as prescribed. He calls it a yoke, such as the burden a plowing ox must bear. The end result is our salvation.  Let us consider the true cost of following Jesus.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said,
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Part of Jesus' invitation involves accepting His yoke.  Jesus has promised, "I will give you rest."  And though He was promising rest (twice in verses 28-29), He also imposed obligations on those who chose to follow Him. Jesus was not just talking about the inner peace that results from having one's sins forgiven. When Jesus said, "And you will find rest for your souls,"  He referred to the eternal rest that the faithful will enjoy in heaven, rest for their souls.  Before one can enjoy this rest, he must come to Jesus, take His yoke upon him, and bear the burden that accompanies it.  Then he must learn Christ to find true rest.

  • One Must Come to Jesus:  
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
When Jesus stated, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden," He freely offered all mankind an invitation to come to Him and rest from their heavy laden.  Jesus wants to help!  Though Jesus is calling everyone to Him, very few respond to His call.  In Matthew 22:14,  Jesus said,

"For many are called, but few are chosen.” 

Indeed, very few are chosen.  Why?  Because most people refuse to come to Jesus on His terms.  Many are uninterested, apathetic, and lukewarm.  Take, for instance, the prodigal son of Luke 15, who was reunited with his father after leaving for a far country.  He said, 
"How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you"' (Luke 15:17-18).  

Like this prodigal son, one must come to Christ since He is the only giver of rest (spiritually) and restorer who gives us peace both here on earth and after this life.

So, how can one come to Christ to save his life and not lose it?  A critical question, indeed!

First, one must listen to the Gospel and believe it.  This is the first step in answering Jesus' call. However, it is not enough to just believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  Believing (faith) alone will not save anyone!  

In John 12:37-43, we can clearly see an example of this.  Jesus performed many miracles before the eyes of many witnesses, giving them plenty of evidence to identify Him as the Son of God. Despite the mountains of evidence, their hearts were stubborn, refusing to believe.  Their hardness and stubbornness of heart blinded them to the Truth.  No amount of evidence would have convinced them.  And though some believed, their faith was still shallow and without depth. They preferred the praise of men to God's favor.  They believed but refused to confess the Son of God openly (Romans 10:9-10).  They pretended to come to Christ but refused to steadfastly take up His yoke and follow Him.

Today is not so different.  Why? 
  1. Because many are afraid to sacrificially take up their cross and follow the Lord.  
  2. They fail to see the bigger picture.  
  3. They are blinded by the world and its many lusts and pleasures.  
  4. They simply run away and hide.  
  5. They refuse to take up their cross and follow Jesus, the One who surrendered everything for us.
  6. They prefer to continue in their sins instead of submitting to His Lordship in complete obedience.  
  7. They reject His rebuke of their lawlessness and perhaps laziness.  
  8. They refuse to take up their cross (they call it ugly) and instead live a life of leisure and pleasure.
  9. They refuse to deny themselves this world's many pleasures and desires. 
  10. They don't want to take up their cross because they refuse to follow Him (Matt. 16:24).  
  11. They are not willing to suffer and sacrifice for Jesus.  
  12. They are ashamed of His cross!  
  13. They destroy their only hope of salvation (Rom. 1:16-17).

Indeed, everyone who desires to follow Jesus must take up His yoke and bear the burden that follows it (Matt. 11:29-30).  When one submits to Him, he takes His yoke upon himself.  That is, we give ourselves to Him, our owner.  Animals must do what their masters command them.  God wants the same from us.  Of course, not as animals or pets but as devoted and grateful followers who desire to serve and please God in everything.

Taking Jesus' yoke upon us demands repentance, confessing one's faith, and baptism (Acts 2:38). The same way in which the yoke allows the ox to carry a heavy burden fairly quickly, so it is with us when carrying Christ's yoke.  We start taking Christ's yoke and accepting all the "burdens" of life when we obey the Gospel.  Which burdens?  

  1. The burden of denying self:  Without self-denial, it is impossible to serve the Lord steadfastly.  Paul spoke of this in Romans 8:17:  "And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." If we suffer for the Lord, He will be glorified!  Taking His yoke upon us means no longer living for one's own pleasures but only for His pleasure.  We have been bought with a price and are no longer our own.  We must glorify our heavenly Father in our bodies and spirits, which are His (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
  2. The burden of growing in understanding and sound doctrine is another burden to bear. The Word of God is our only weapon of defense against all doctrinal error or false teaching. We are commanded to do our best to present ourselves to God as one who is approved and has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Our responsibility is to protect the Truth against all false teachings.
  3. The burden of living a life of full service to Jesus, taking up His yoke:  "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).  Also, "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:2).  Our lives must be overflowing with good works for the Lord.
  4. The burden of faithful obedience to Jesus:  Christ's yoke demands obedience in the same way Jesus learned obedience while He was here on earth. "Though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation  (Heb. 5:8-10).

We must understand that Jesus' yoke is the burden that makes all other burdens bearable. Indeed, this is what makes His yoke beautiful and bearable.  All earthly burdens can be endured. All earthly trials become a light burden, a road more easily traveled when one takes up the yoke of Christ.  No man can bear all these burdens without the yoke of Christ.  The world's weight is too heavy to carry without the Lord's help.  His help is readily available to all who desire to partake of His yoke.  Christ's yoke is to be shared with others (Gal. 6:2).


So what does it mean to take up one's cross and follow Him to save one's life?  

Taking up one's cross and following Jesus is not just about bearing one's burdens, hardships, and sufferings for the Lord.  Indeed, all those who want to live godly will suffer hardship at one point in their life, but there is more to it considering our context (Matthew 16:24-27).

So what is a cross for?  It is much more than a burden to be carried. It is total death and sacrifice. When Jesus declared that we take up our cross and follow Him, He implied that we must bear our cross and follow Him just as He bore it.  Jesus bore the cross when He died.  And just as Jesus gave His life for all of us, so must we completely give our lives to Him.  Our lives will profit us nothing if we gain the whole world and are unacceptable before God.

Taking up our cross implies that we give our whole life to God in devotion, as Jesus gave His life for us.  It involves carrying burdens and dedicating our lives to full service and dedication to God alone.  Our entire lives must be given entirely to serving Him, surrendering to His will only, and denying self altogether. Following Jesus demands that we live as He lived, walking in His footsteps; loving Him more than our loved ones for His sake; being imitators of Him  (1 Peter 2:21; Matt. 10:34; 1 Cor. 11:1).

Jesus said,
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me"  (Luke 9:23).  

Taking one's cross daily requires devoting one's life entirely to Jesus daily.

  1. It demands a total sacrifice of self to do His will.  
  2. It demands that we obey all that He commands us to do.  
  3. It means that what we want no longer matters because we must give ourselves to Him just as He gave Himself up for us.  
  4. It demands that we be transformed by renewing our minds daily to be acceptable to God.
  5. It demands that we crucify and die to self.
  6. It demands that we cease sinning.
  7. It demands that we walk in the light as He is in the light.
  8. It demands that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
  9. It demands that we walk in righteousness leading to sanctification (Romans 12:1-2; Gal 2:20; 1 John 3:4-18; Matt. 6:19-33; Gal. 5:24; Rom. 6:6-23; 2 Tim. 2:11; 2 Cor. 4:5-12; Eccl. 12:13).

While Jesus lived here on earth, He asked many to follow Him.  Some followed Him faithfully, while others made excuses and were reluctant.  Others did not follow Him because they refused to accept the cost of discipleship (Matt. 4:18-20; Matt. 9:9; Matt. 10:37-39; Matt. 19:21).  The truth is that Jesus is inviting us to come out of the world and follow Him.  Jesus will only enter if we are unwilling to welcome and follow Him.  Opening the door to Him is not enough, as some claim. It is a start, but it is not enough.  To accept His invitation involves leaving the things of this world to follow Him.  It demands complete surrender, an obedient faith, and works throughout life's struggles and challenges (Matt. 16:24-27).

  • The True Cost of Following Jesus:
Great crowds continued following Jesus.  He then spoke to them, saying,
"If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? 29 Lest haply, when he hath laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold begin to mock him, 30 saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, as he goeth to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and asketh conditions of peace. 33 So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple"  (Luke 14:26-33).

Jesus speaks as a great leader who demands we set our priorities in orderYou cannot claim to be His follower if God is not number one. To drive this demand home, he declares that he, who does not hate every member of his family and even his own life, cannot be a genuine disciple of Christ. Notice that in this passage, Jesus says three times that one cannot be His disciple unless he fulfills certain conditions (cf. 14:27,33).

Jesus used the word "hate" (cf. Matt. 10:37; Gen. 29:31) to teach that to hate one's loved ones is to love them less than God.  One must love God with all of his heart, might, and strength above anyone or everything else (Deut. 13:6-11).  Moreover, one must love Him more than life itself! (Phil. 1:21; Acts 20:24; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Jesus carefully defined the difference between a genuine disciple and one who loves himself and his loved ones more than their Lord and Savior.  One must be willing to suffer for Jesus to be His follower. He must be willing to suffer and be persecuted for Jesus' sake, just like his Lord (Matt. 10:38; 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21; 2 Tim. 3:12).  It is indeed the core cost of discipleship!

In Luke 14:28-30Jesus explains the cost of discipleship. It is a huge endeavor that demands effort, understanding, and commitment to be successful. If someone wants to build a tower, he must first be sure that he can complete what he begins.  It would be foolish to start a project of this magnitude and not be able to finish it.  It would be a waste of time!  Jesus said, "Count the cost" before you start.  He did not intend to discourage anyone, but He warned us not to think it would be easy to be His disciple.
"For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first. 21 For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire"  (2 Peter 2:20-22).

Thus, each Christian must accept and understand the price that he will pay to truly follow Jesus. He must put Him above everything, not be afraid and continue building (1 Cor. 10:13). Though laying a spiritual and physical foundation is essentialone is only finished once the job is completed.  He who stops building after the foundation has been completed will be mocked by others (whether he is building a tower or his own life as a disciple of Christ).  Surely such a one did not make any provisions and a proper evaluation of his goals and purposes before he began laying the foundation (Matt. 13:20-22).  Sadly, he started but did not finish well, which will do him no good!  It shows folly and a lack of commitment.  He did not endure faithfully (continue building) as a true disciple or follower of Christ.

In Luke 14:31-33, Jesus added another example to help us see the importance of counting the cost of following Him.  A wise king will prepare before he enters the battlefield. He will make the cold and hard calculations to decide whether or not he can win the battle.  If he sees that he will likely lose, then the wise thing for him to do is to send a delegation asking for conditions of peace before the battle begins.  Again it will be foolish to enter the battlefield without planning to win and believing he can.  "So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).  Jesus opens our eyes to the reality of what the actual cost will be. We must renounce all that we have. A true disciple of Jesus will "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). Likewise, he must be willing to suffer the loss of everything temporal to gain eternal life (Phil. 3:7-11).  He must understand that all material things are rubbish.


How much is your life worth to you?  The answer will depend upon whom you ask.  Some might say that life is priceless, while others might disagree. The mother who has had an abortion will respond to the question with her actions.  The doctor who has performed such a lawless act will demonstrate that the life of an unwanted baby is not worth more than a few hundred dollars for such a wicked procedure.  A drunk who kills someone on the road because he was under the influence of alcohol might say no life is worth more than his love for alcohol.  A medical insurance company might indicate that no one's life is worth less than the lifetime capital of coverage.  But, honestly, what does the Bible say concerning the value of life for mankind?

In Matthew 16:25-26 Jesus declared,
"For whoever would 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 shall a man give in return for his soul?"  

Indeed, the worth of one's soul is beyond measure.  In God's eyes, one soul is worth more than all the riches and possessions this world offers!

Our Father in Heaven sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to show how much He loved the souls of men. He suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.  He laid down His life for us because He loved us.  He canceled the record of debt by nailing it to the cross.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  He gave His life as a ransom for many.  All those who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:16; John 10:17-18; John 3:16; Col. 2:14; Luke 19:10; Matt. 10:28).  Truly God showed the depth of His love for each soul.  If that does not show the value of each soul, then what would?  Our Father regarded the value of human life so precious that He sacrificed His innocent Son for us! (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2)

Therefore knowing all this, let us dedicate or devote our lives to God first and foremost (Matt. 6:33). The selfish heart forfeits life, but the humble heart seeks to serve God and man above self.  He will be blessed now and in the realm beyond!  So, since God values your life immensely, are you reflecting that great value by how you live each day?  Are you truly following Jesus, our Lord, by your obedient faith?  Or have you deceived yourself into thinking that opening the door to Jesus is enough?

Many want Jesus to save them but reject Him and His lordship.  They want the crown but want to avoid carrying the cross and yoke.  The yoke cannot be separated from the blessing of eternal life with Him.  Jesus, our Lord, is gentle and lowly in heart and wants all men to repent so that they might save their souls from the wrath of God.  Why not take His yoke upon you by believing and choosing to turn away from living a sinful life?  And though the yoke of Christ might seem heavy at times, it is the only way to make life's burdens much lighter to bear.

Indeed, being a faithful Christian is not easy, but the burden becomes lighter when we share it with Christ and our brethren.  So have you put on the yoke of Christ?  If not, what are you waiting for?  Are we willing to follow and keep His commandments with perseverance and let no one take our crown away?  I pray you haven't tried to loosen up the harness that holds Christ's blessed yoke in place to meet your desires and choices. It must not be adjusted to suit our desires and preferences! We must learn to love His yoke as it is.  We will ruin our souls for eternity if we change or modify it.

"Behold, I am coming as a thief, blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."
 Rev. 16:15  

"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. Blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life and enter through the gates into the city."  
Rev. 22:12-14

I don't know about you, but I want to go to that great city, the holy Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from God, surrounded by all His glory.

May we all have the mind of Paul as he expressed it in these words. 
"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ"   (Philippians 3:7-8).  

May Jesus become the needle of our spiritual compass, and may we never lose His sense of direction as we always follow Him.  May we allow Jesus to rule our lives with His blessed compass.  May we follow the only compass that will point us to God and heaven.


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