“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
In this passage, Jesus tells us what He expects of His disciples. The dictionary defines a “disciple” as “one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.” Therefore, a disciple of Jesus Christ is a person who follows Jesus Christ and His teachings. If you claim to be a Christian then you are a disciple. Acts 11:26 says that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” There is no distinction between a Christian and a disciple. Every Christian is a disciple; every Christian is a follower of Jesus.
Here is the simple, BIG message from Jesus’ words today: Jesus expects complete commitment from His followers. Jesus tells us what complete commitment looks like and expects in the lives of His followers.
1. Christ expects His followers to acknowledge Him before others.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”The phrase “whoever denies me” does not refer to a moment of denial. Instead, it refers to a lifelong denial of Christ. Peter denied Christ three times one night, but he never denied Him again. We present-day followers of Christ might have had our moments of denial, but we have repented of our sin and proudly announce today that Jesus Christ is our Lord. A disciple of Jesus Christ is not ashamed of the One he or she follows.
2. Christ expects His followers to love Him more than anything or anyone else.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Now I recognize that there can be times when you are a follower, people in the family can turn against you but I think there is more here. We need to consider how we live each day in our life and while we may say God is #1, our spouse, our family, our kids may actually be before Jesus. When push comes to shove, we often make family time more important than Jesus time. Sometimes we place family first then we work at finding time for Jesus rather than making Jesus time #1 and then working family in. Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a disciple from complete allegiance to the Lord. His amazing love for us demands that we love Him more than all others. Upon close analysis of how you went about your life this week, is this true?
3. Christ expects His followers to give up everything to follow Him.
“and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
In the first century if anyone was seen carrying his cross, it was clear that he was on his way to die. Jesus uses this word picture to describe dying to our own personal pursuits and following Him completely.
Matthew Henry wrote, “Though many have been losers for Christ, even of life itself, yet never anyone has, or will be, a loser by Him in the end.” I would rather be a complete loser for Christ (and find eternal life) than be a winner in the world’s eyes (and lose eternal life).
In a somewhat parallel account in Luke 14 we are told this where before Jesus spoke similar words, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus” (Luke 14:25). But the crowds gradually disappeared. And we know the reason why. It was because Jesus demanded total commitment from His followers. He made sure people knew that the cost of discipleship was high.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-33).
Christ has already counted the cost of discipleship for us. The cost is everything we have. Jesus once declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matt. 13:44). What the man in the story received was so much more valuable than what he gave up, though it was everything he had. The cost of discipleship is high; but compared to what we receive from Christ, the price is a bargain.
We read in John 6 that “many of [Christ’s] disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’” (John 6:66-68). The twelve disciples had given up everything to follow Christ, but, with the exception of Judas, they never regretted it because, as Peter declared, Christ has “the words of eternal life.”
The apostle Paul wrote, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
Jesus didn’t say, “Follow Me, and you will be happy, healthy, and wealthy.” He said, “Know this: Discipleship is going to cost you whatever you have. Don’t expect comfort and ease.”
Listen to what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 16: “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 soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26).
“The whole world” refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in this life. Gaining the whole world looks more appealing than losing everything for Christ. But the reward for following Christ is eternal life, while the final result of gaining the whole world is the loss of one’s soul.
Do you call yourself a Christian, a disciple, a follower of Jesus? Are you willing to acknowledge Christ before others? Are you willing to love Jesus more than all others? Are you willing to give up everything for Jesus? If you answered “No” to any of those questions, I have another question for you: “Are you sure you really are a Christian?”
A. W. Tozer wrote this over 65 years ago because he was troubled with the idea that the Christian profession does not demand obedience to Christ. Tozer said,
[Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and had taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord. It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”
Today, we often say that we are saved no matter how imperfect and incomplete the transaction, with the stipulation that the deeper Christian life can be tacked on at some time in the future. Can it be that we really think that we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience? We have owed Him our obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if we do not give Him that obedience, I have reason to wonder if we are really converted!
I am not really judging, I am asking us all if we cry out to God to fix things, yet we have not truly committed all of ourselves to Jesus in the way he expects. Yes we are all sinners, we require the mercy of Jesus because without it we can not stand before Him, we need our Lord to continually help us, guide us, change us, challenge us, yes, in essence though we all too often say: “Fix me up, Lord, so that I can go my own way!”
The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is not a Christian. To that person, Christ says, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).
If your commitment to Jesus has fallen away, will you resolve to renew your commitment to Jesus right now, beginning today? The cost of discipleship is high—complete commitment—but it’s benefits are eternal! Admit you are a sinner. Believe that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave. Then commit your life to Him.