There’s a strong connection in Scripture between picking up and carrying one’s cross and following Jesus. According to our Lord, there’s a direct link between that and being his disciple.
Luke 14:27 says,
“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me
cannot be my disciple.”
That’s a fairly absolute and unambiguous statement.
According to Luke 14:33, picking up your cross and following Jesus is the same as dying to self… dying to your own agenda… dying to your own lordship. To that mentality, Jesus shares these sobering words,
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
In John 12:25-26, Jesus says something similar.
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be.”
I could continue adding to this list because this is a very common theme in the teaching of Jesus. And yet, as clear as this theme is in Scripture, it doesn’t seem to be one of our Lord’s most embraced or beloved teachings. Instead, the Church today (and perhaps throughout all generations) appears to run toward…
- cheap grace
- easy believism
- consumer/entertainment mentality
- etc., etc., etc.
Not a lot of dying to self and picking up crosses. Such is our fallen condition. Yet, for the redeemed of God, this should not be. However, this has also been found in the church throughout her history as well. This is no doubt why Bonhoeffer wrote the following oft-quoted words…
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.”Bonhoeffer
Instead, both Jesus and Bonhoeffer call us to pursue “costly grace.”
“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price, to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.”Bonhoeffer
Following Jesus in this way is a call to…
- Dying, yet being raised from the dead
Let me hasten to add this isn’t the call of a cruel and legalistic taskmaster. It’s the call of One who loves us dearly and who is full of grace and truth. It’s the call of One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. It’s the call of One who does not ask us to follow him in our own strength, but by the power of his Spirit. In fact, he promises to live his life through us.
In our Scripture, Jesus tells us that the wise person will count the cost of discipleship before following him. And then Dallas Willard throws cold water on us by reminding us there is indeed a steep cost to discipleship. But, he points out, there is also a greater cost to “non-discipleship.”
To be sure, it will cost us our lives to follow Christ. But it will cost us infinitely more not to.