Then said Jesus unto His disciples, if any man will”—the word “will” here means “desire to” just as in that verse, “If any will live godly.” It signifies “determine to.” “If any man will or desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross (not a cross, but his cross) and follow me.” Then in Luke 14:27 Christ declared, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” So it is not optional. The Christian life is far more than subscribing to a system of truth or adopting a code of conduct, or of submitting to religious ordinances. Preeminently the Christian life is a person; experience of fellowship with the Lord Jesus, and just in proportion as your life is lived in communion with Christ, to that extent are you living the Christian life, and to that extent only.
The Christian life is a life that consists of following Jesus. If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” O that you and I may gain distinction for the closeness of our walk to Christ, and then shall we be “close communionists” indeed. There is a class described in Scripture of whom it is said, “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” But sad to Say, there is another class, and a large class, who seem to follow the Lord fitfully, spasmodically, half-heartedly, occasionally, distantly. There is much of the World and much of self in their lives, and so little of Christ. Thrice happy shall he be who like Caleb followeth the Lord fully.
Now, beloved, our chief business and aim is to follow Christ, but there are difficulties in the way. There are obstacles in the path, and it is to them that the first part of our text refers. You notice that the words “follow Me” come at the end. Self, self stands in the way, and the world with its ten thousand attractions and distractions is an obstacle; and therefore Christ says, “If any man will come after Me—(first) let him deny himself, (second) take up his cross, (third) and follow Me.” And there we learn the reason why so few professing Christians are following Him closely, manifestly, consistently.
The first step toward a daily following of Christ is the denying of self. There is a vast difference, brethren and sisters, between denying self and so-called self-denial. The popular idea that obtains both in the world and among Christians is that of giving up things which we like. There is a great diversity of opinion as to what should be given up. There are some who would restrict it to that which is characteristically worldly, such as theatre-going, dancing, and the racecourse. There are others who would restrict it to a certain season when amusements and other things which are followed during the remainder of the year are rigidly eschewed at that time. But such methods as those only foster spiritual pride, for surely I deserve some credit if I give up so much as. My friends, what Christ speaks of in our text (and O may the spirit of God apply it to our souls this morning) as the first step toward following him, is, the denial of self itself not simply some of the things that are pleasing to self. not some of the things after which self hankers, but the denying of self itself. What does that mean—“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself?” It means in the first place, abandoning his own righteousness; but it means far more than that. That is only its first meaning. It means refusing to rest upon my own wisdom. It means far more than that. It means ceasing to insist upon my own rights. It means repudiating self itself. It means ceasing to consider our own comforts, our own ease, our own pleasure, our own aggrandizement, our own benefits. It means being done with self. It means, beloved, saying with the apostle, For me to live is, not self, but Christ. For me to live is to obey Christ, to serve Christ, to honor Christ, to spend myself for Him. That is what it means. And “if any man will come after Me,” says our Master, “let him deny himself, “ let self be repudiated, be done with. In other words it is what you have in Romans 12:1, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God.”
Now the second step toward following Christ is the taking up of the cross. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross.” Ah, my friends, to live out the Christian life is something more than a passive luxury; it is a serious undertaking. It is a life that has to be disciplined in sacrifice. The life of discipleship begins with self-renunciation and it continues by self-mortification. In other words, our text refers to the cross not simply as an object of faith, but as a principle of life, as the badge of discipleship, as an experience in the soul. And, listen! Just as it was true that the only way to the Father’s throne for Jesus of Nazareth was by the cross, so the only way for a life of communion with God and the crown at the end for the Christian is via the cross. The legal benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are secured by faith, when the guilt of sin is cancelled: but the cross only becomes efficacious over the power of indwelling sin as it is realized in our daily lives.
I want to call your attention to the context. Turn with me for a moment to Matthew 16, verse 21: “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him.” He was staggered and said, “Pity Thyself, Lord.” That expressed the policy of the world. That is the sum of the world’s philosophy—self shielding and self-seeking; but that which Christ preached was not spare “but” sacrifice.” The Lord Jesus saw in Peter’s suggestion a temptation from Satan and He flung it from Him . Then He turned to His disciples and said, if any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” In other words what Christ said was this: I am going up to Jerusalem to the cross: if anyone would be My follower there is a cross for him. And, as Luke 14 says, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross cannot he My disciple.” Not only must Jesus go up to Jerusalem and be killed, but everyone who comes after Him must take up his cross. The “must” is as imperative in the one case as in the other. Mediatorialy the cross of Christ stands alone, but experimentally it is shared by all who enter into life.
We invite you and your family to join us for worship at Grace Missionary Baptist Church ,located at The Glowmar Bridge. Sunday School 11:00 am Worship 12:00 Evening Worship 6:00 pm Bible Study Prayer Meeting Wednesday 6:00 pm elder Charles Minks, Brother Fred Mins.