Sunday, November 25, 2012

Matthew 16:24-25

"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"

Are you a disciple of Christ?  If so, have you contemplated the costs associated with your decision to follow Christ?  Have you deemed the price worth paying in exchange for the honor of being His follower? Or are you frustrated because Christianity was presented to you as the means by which your problems would go away and instead you have seen your struggle intensify?  Tragically, Christianity is falsely viewed as a magic wand which once in hand will result in the eradication of all adverse circumstances.  Jesus did not present this same rosy picture of discipleship when He deemed it necessary for His disciples to deny themselves and follow Him.   Self-denial is a requirement for discipleship for the priorities of God are in stark contrast to the priorities of man and each of us must choose between the two.  Either we will follow our own worldly desires and ambition or we will embrace the priorities of God and conform to the righteous standards of Christ.  Jesus made it clear that it is incumbent upon the believer to understand and accept the cost of discipleship prior to his decision (Luke 14:27-30).  The Christian is assured a life of suffering, hardship, and adversity if he makes the great commitment to be a disciple of Christ.  The journey is hard, but the reward is greater as Paul made clear in his letter to the Romans, "....we are children of God, and if children then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:17-18).  A future eternal inheritance awaits the faithful believer who endures the trials of discipleship.  The question posed to each of us is whether the future eternal glory that awaits us is worth the temporal struggle of the present.
Consider God's message to Ananias who was hesitant to approach Saul of Tarsus following his conversion on the Damascus road: "But the Lord said to him: 'Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake (Acts 9:15-16)".  The first thing that Paul had to understand prior to his embarking on the work that God had for him was to understand the suffering that he would have to endure.  Paul was not used to a life of struggle and adversity for he came from great wealth and was well educated .  Paul would have to deny himself  and all his worldly acquisitions in order to enter into a life of discipleship.  Paul chronicled his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 so that he would be able to offer the following conclusion regarding his life: "Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10)". Paul accepted the costs of discipleship and rejoiced in them! 
Don't let another moment pass without considering the issue of discipleship. Familiarize yourself with the costs and make the decision that they are worth the honor of serving Him with your life and the excitement of knowing that future glory awaits you.  Give yourself entirely to God by submitting your thinking to the authority of His Word.  Align your priorities with His and center your ambition on the work that God puts before you and you will find yourself drawing nearer to God with every passing day.

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