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To follow Christ

Matthew 16:24 (TS2009)
24 Then יהושע said to His taught ones, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his stake, and follow Me.

AND FOLLOW ME:

“Of the three things enjoined, the last is a vital thing: to follow. The other two are utterly essential because through the essential you achieve that which is vital. The reason is this. You can approve, and not follow. You can applaud and not follow. You can understand and preach, without following. You can defend the Truth pugnaciously, without following. You can tire yourself out on busy works – without following.. The central thing is the denial of self. It is utterly radical. Denial of self is the inward thing. Taking up the cross daily is the external manifestation of the inward condition. To talk of it is not to realize it. To write about it is not to achieve it. The use of the word ‘daily’ emphasizes that it is not just a theory but something that is real and practical; facing squarely every new circumstance; confronting bravely every impediment; grasping joyfully every new opportunity. In practice it means giving unhindered access to the Master into every chamber and esp into every dark corner. To think of that possibility might make us feel ashamed but at the same time it may do us good” (GD).

“The sentiment that Christ’s righteousness alone is to be the basis of our acceptance, is one of the countless and pernicious corruptions of clerical theology. It doubtless originated in the misapplication of a certain element of apostolic truth, namely that which informs us that all are under sin, and that our salvation is not of works; but through the righteousness of faith that is in Christ. Men have long ceased to perceive that this principle applies only to unjustified sinners, and not to those who have been placed in a justified or forgiven position, through the obedience of faith. Christ is righteousness for sinners in this sense, that God offers to forgive them for Christ’s sake, and to grant them a coheirship with Christ, of what Christ, as a manifestation of God, has achieved for himself. But when sinners become saints, they come into relation to a new principle. They are responsible to him as servants to a master, and he will judge them according to their works” (SC 164).

“The cross is the symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of the human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing. It slew all of the man completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. it struck swift and hard and when it had finished its work the man was no more. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of man is false to the Bible and cruel to the soul of the hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world. It intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our life up on to a higher plane. We leave it at a cross. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die. That is the beginning of the gospel” (AWT).

“To give my life for Christ appears glorious. To pour myself out for others.. to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom – ‘I’ll do it. I’m ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.’

“We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table – ‘Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.’ But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’ Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

“Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul” (F Craddock).

I think it wouldn’t be going too far to say that there IS a discernible reason for every commandment which we are given.. and that that reason leads, without too much delay or detour, right back to the Atonement.

Christ’s sacrifice is not just about blood, and sweat, and tears.. and it is not just about the cross on that dreadful, but wonderful, day.

It is – and we all know this! – about the life he lived every day, every hour, before he arrived, finally, at that cross. Because it was his own unique life, built up day by day, with the building blocks of a thousand moments of ten thousand days, that made his cross meaningful.

Thousands of Jewish men died on thousands of Roman crosses across the length and breadth of Israel. But only one man died a sacrificial, atoning death on a cross. Because he was the perfect sacrifice, without spot or blemish.

So Christ’s sacrifice is really about a life of many choices, each one in one way or another a choice to deny himself, and his own will, and to serve his Father, and his Father’s will.

A lifetime of choices made the final choice – of the cross itself – a choice of cosmic significance.. a choice which resonates to this day, and echoes in our lives.

The essence of sacrifice is denial of self. And if we choose Christ and his cross, then we are also choosing denial of self.. as a way of life. It is the hardest choice we can make, but it is the most rewarding. Allowed to work in our lives, that commitment and that choice will change us.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his life? Or what can a man give in exchange for his life?’ ” (Mat 16:24-26).

We could run down a list of Christ’s commandments, and the commandments passed along by the apostles as well, and ask:

‘How does this relate to the Atonement?’

And in every case, I venture to suggest, we shall find the answer – and the meaningful example for us, of HOW to keep the commandment, and WHY we should keep it – in the “living sacrifice” of Christ.

Do we wonder why we are commanded this, for example?:

“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Mat 5:39-42).

Well, of course, reason enough to do this – or (let’s be honest) to try very, very hard – is that Christ has commanded it. But was it just an otherwise pointless requirement plucked out of the air:

‘Let’s test them with this one, while we are at it’?

Of course not. We are told not to resist evil because Christ did not resist evil. And Christ did not resist evil because he had committed himself, wholeheartedly, to his Father who would ultimately judge rightly (1Pe 2:23). If we believe that that final judgment of our Father is sure and certain and righteous, then what does it matter if evil ones misuse us today, or tomorrow, or all the rest of our lives? God will set it right. What does it matter if we lose our coat, or our time, or our creature comforts – the loss of those things which we might hold dear will only reinforce to our minds the one thing that we MUST hold MOST dear – which no thief or bully or evil circumstance can take away from us:

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?.. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Rom 8:31-32; Rom 8:35).

And suppose the “cross” we are called to bear at this very moment is not the loss of property, or health, or loved ones.. the terrible losses that Job, for example, bore? Suppose the “cross” we are called to bear at this very moment is.. simply.. the harsh word spoken to us, or the little slight we experience, or the brief delay because some driver cut us off in traffic, or the tiny barb that pricks our pride?

Maybe the “cross” that we are called to bear, right now, is not the great mountain of difficulty that looms in front of us.. but the little grain of sand in our shoe!

How do we respond? Do we give harsh word for harsh word, little grumble for silly slight, little whispered curse for minor inconvenience? Do we recoil at the least threat to our pride, or the least questioning of our intelligence, or our strength, or our goodness, or our wisdom?

Or.. do we recall that “even Christ did not please himself” (Rom 15:3)? And do we therefore “turn the other cheek” to the little slap, the little needle, the little attack – even if, and especially if, it comes from a brother or sister?

If we do, and when we do, then we are “living the atonement” in our lives.

Through fits and starts, and stops and blind alleys, sometimes failing but sometimes succeeding, we are learning to be, even in the small things of our lives, “living sacrifices” (Rom 12:1-2).

But the trouble with “living sacrifices” is that – as one writer put it

– “they keep crawling down off the altar”.

°°°

Lord, help me to hold on to your altar, and “die a little bit” every day, so that I might show forth your death until you return.

°°°

Agora on New Testament readings

+

Preceding

Meaning of Sacrifice

We are redeemed; we are “bought with a price”

More than just a man with authority of speaking

Matthew 7:13-23 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The True Disciple #5 Matthew 7:28-29 – The Crowd’s Reaction

Matthew 9:32-34 – How others look at the blind, speechless and demoniac being healed

Matthew 9:35-38 – Looking at Jesus our shepherd

Matthew 10:24-31 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Do Not Fear – Preach!

Matthew 10:32-39 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: I Came to Cause Division

Matthew 12:46-50 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The True Family of Messiah

Matthew 16 Asking for signs from heaven

Matthew 16 Calvin’s view

Matthew 16 Spurgeon’s view

Matthew 16:1-4 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The Signs of the Times

Matthew 16:5-12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Watch Out for the Leaven of False Teaching

Matthew 16:13-20 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Building a Hades-Proof Congregation

Matthew 16:21-23 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Think God’s Thoughts

Matthew 16:24-28 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: A Disciple Must Disown Self

Demanding signs or denying yourself

++

Additional reading

  1. John 4 exhortation: The one that broke the mould
  2. Lost senses or a clear focus on the one at the stake
  3. Biblical Yeshua/ Jesus or Another European Greco- Roman Jesus ??
  4. The Atonement in Type and Antitype 1 Sacrifices and High Priests
  5. Many were made sinners through one man and justified by one man
  6. Faith coming by hearing and sent preacher gift from God
  7. Redemption #3 The imperfect animal sacrifice
  8. Redemption #4 The Passover Lamb
  9. Redemption #5 The perfect sacrifice
  10. Redemption #6 Partaking his sacrifice
  11. Redemption #7 Christ alive in the faithful
  12. A perfect life, obedient death, and glorious resurrection
  13. To sacrifice our being for Christ
  14. Not everyone in the churches of Christ are “ungodly”
  15. Vision blurred by cumulative burden of divisions
  16. Disciple of Christ counting lives and friends dear to them
  17. Who are you going to reach out to today
  18. Wanting to live in Christ’s city

+++

Related

  1. The Journey Begins
  2. Cut the Ballast!
  3. January 23, 2018: “Denial”
  4. Sent Into A Hostile World
  5. Take up our crosses and follow him
  6. 7 Traits Godly Women Must Have Before Meeting Mr. Right
  7. The Christian’ willingness to follow Christ
  8. Follower of Christ
  9. Don’t Follow Me
  10. Follow the Son
  11. You are Called.
  12. When Life Gets Dark and Dreary – 1 Nephi 8:3-11
  13. Christ Is The Light Of The World.
  14. Our lord’s way – our way is the way of the cross
  15. Take Up Your Cross And Follow Christ
  16. Behold the Lamb of God
  17. Why The Phrase “God Can Only Judge Me” is Toxic to the Soul

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