Then Yahshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
The church today has a decidedly un-Biblical view of what Christ’s invitation is to mankind. This is revealed in the common question that one Christian asks of another, “When were you saved?” The church teaches that a person receives salvation by believing and confessing certain things about Jesus Christ/Yahshua the Messiah. A method of witnessing called “The Roman Road” is frequently employed in which key verses from Paul’s letter to the saints in Rome are quoted. For example:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
These words appear to sum up the matter of salvation in Christ pretty handily. Believe, and confess. Confession results in salvation! Case closed. The church is satisfied. Ministers assure the members of their congregations that if they have said the sinner’s prayer, confessed Christ (and been dunked in the church’s baptismal pool), they are saved and nothing more is required.
There is a great deal within the heart of man that would make this cheap view of salvation very appealing. Mankind does not like to suffer. The soul of man seeks out teachings that assure it of salvation with a minimum of inconvenience, suffering, and personal cost. The church, which has never been more sensual and fleshly than it is at this hour, has focused entirely upon a few verses that speak nothing of a surrendered life and suffering, while ignoring the myriad of passages that do.
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…
I Peter 4:12-13
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
There is a tendency of human nature to always seek out an easy path. God has provided a path to life, but it is not an easy one. The path begins with a narrow gate. It is the narrow gate that Paul has described in Romans 10:9-10. Christ is the entry point into salvation. You can find The Way to life through no other entrance.
So Yahshua said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Again, the statement “he will be saved” sounds like a fait accompli, a complete and finished act. Yet, these words are not the entire testimony of Christ, or of the apostle Paul. There is much, much more. One enters by the gate, but then they must walk the path that leads to life. Salvation is not fully assured unless one does both.
“But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
Is not salvation the promise of preserving our soul? If we would obtain this salvation, we must not only believe and confess Christ, but we must yield our lives wholly to follow Him wherever He would lead. Every one of the gospel writers included this truth in their testimonies of Christ.
Then Yahshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
Yahshua said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “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 and the gospel’s will save it.”
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me…”
The majority of those in the church today do not want to know the whole counsel of God. They are content to receive myths and fables, and to have ministers who will tickle their ears and tell them the things they want to hear. The soul of man does not want to hear that they must lose their life to find life. It does not want to hear that there is a cross for every follower of Christ to bear. No, the soul of man wants to hear a message of no-cost salvation.
From the gospels at the beginning of the New Testament, to the book of Revelation at the end, the Holy Spirit inspired men to proclaim a costly salvation. Those who would be saved must “follow” Christ, not just confess Him. Speaking of the overcomers in Christ who stand with the Savior upon Mount Zion, John records:
These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
The church has focused exclusively on Christ being the gate, while avoiding the fact that there is also a path to be trod. One cannot arrive at life unless they enter through the narrow gate, AND follow Christ down the afflicted path.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is afflicted that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”
Christ’s invitation to mankind is to believe on Him, AND to follow Him. The church today proclaims the first part, while leaving off the latter. Why? Because it is in surrendering one’s life to follow Christ that the cost is borne.
In America, and most of the Western world, it costs very little, or nothing at all, to confess faith in Christ. Although America is one of the most wicked nations to have ever existed, filled with depravity and violence, focused on the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification, she has pretended to be a “Christian nation.” A person is not persecuted in America simply for professing to be a Christian anymore than they are persecuted for professing to be a Democrat, or a Republican. Yet, let a man or woman begin to be led of the Spirit in all that they do and they will find themselves greatly opposed. Nor will it be secular society, or government alone that opposes them. The chief persecution always arises from those religious followers of God who refuse themselves to take up their cross and follow Christ.
“They will make you outcasts from the synagogue (churches), but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.”
People of God, the testimony of the Spirit and the Word is that there is more required to obtain salvation than to believe and confess things about Christ. If you would obtain to eternal life, you must surrender all and take up your cross and follow Christ.
Christ enumerated those things all disciples must count as loss in order to obtain life.
“So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Yahshua said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”
If you commit to “follow” Christ, you will find that there is a great cost in doing so. Christ never sought to hide this cost from those who approached Him.
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Yahshua said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Yahshua said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Is it not evident in each of these encounters that the cost arose when the issue was following Christ? Let us be very practical and define what it is to follow Christ. How did the disciples of Christ follow Him when He was accomplishing His earthly ministry? Did they not hear His voice and do whatever He commanded them to do? Christian discipleship always begins with an initial invitation.
Now as Yahshua was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
As Yahshua went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
We find this pattern repeated over and over again. Christ appears to a man and invites him to follow Him. Each man was challenged to lay aside everything pertaining to their former life, a life that had been lived at the direction of their own soul, and to take Christ as their leader and guide. Rather than continuing with a self-directed life, they had to embrace a Christ-directed life. This pattern still holds true to this day.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Although Christ has ascended to the Father, He has not left us without guidance. Indeed, Yahshua testified that it was much better that He ascend to the Father, for then He could send forth the Spirit to indwell the hearts of His disciples. The Spirit of Christ within would guide each individual to know the specific will of God for their life.
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
I Corinthians 2:10-12
The Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…
Christ has sent His Spirit into the world to reveal the thoughts of God to mankind. Christ was led of the Spirit in all things. He stands as the pattern for everyone who would follow after Him. The Father showed the Son all things He desired for Him to do, and the Son was careful to do those things in the same way He saw the Father doing them.
Therefore Yahshua answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing…”
This is what it means to “follow Christ.” This is the invitation Christ has always given to men and women. He is not inviting you and I to merely believe and confess certain things about Him. He is inviting us to enter into a Spirit led life where we do nothing of our own initiative. He is entreating all who would be His disciples to walk as He walked.
Let us be very pointed now, and ask the question, “Am I truly following Christ, or am I falling short of the invitation of Christ?” What is the source of direction for your life? We previously read the words of Christ where He declared, “No one can be My disciple unless he hates… even his own life.” The Greek word rendered as “life” in our English translations is “psuche.” This word means “soul.” Christ is saying that a man must hate his own soul to walk as His disciple. What does this mean?
The soul is the seat of the mind, will and emotions. All that pertains to a person’s dreams, desires, and plans for their life reside in the soul. To be Christ’s disciple, a man or woman must lay aside their dreams, desires, and plans for their life and they must embrace the life God has chosen for them. In essence, they must hate their own soul. They must deny what they would choose for themselves, and embrace what the Father would choose for them.
Yahshua said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
A disciple must become like his Master. Seeing that Christ did not live to please Himself, neither must His disciples. Seeing that Yahshua was not directed by His own soul, neither must His disciples be directed by their own souls. ALL must surrender their life if at the end of the journey they would receive life eternal.
“For whoever wishes to save his life (psuche – soul) will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Using the illustration Christ gave about salvation being a narrow gate to be entered, and an afflicted path to be walked, we have to conclude that the church for the most part has entered in through this narrow gate, but have not found the path that leads to life. Christ declared that there would be “few” who “find” the path. Implied in this word “find” is not only the act of discovering The Way that leads to life, but also walking it to the end.
Christ never gave any other invitation aside from the invitation to be His disciple. I have found that there are Christians today who think Christ gave two invitations. One was to be a disciple, and this required taking up the cross and living a life of complete surrender. The other invitation was to be a believer in Christ. People of God, this is great error. The folly of it will be seen on that day when all must give an account of their lives.
A profound parable occurred last year as I was traveling around the country. At two locations at which I spoke, both of which were in people’s homes, the hosts’ dog got sick and threw up on the floor. On both occasions this occurred at a moment in my presentation when I knew that what I was sharing was difficult, and some present were unable to receive the message. At the latter home, this occurred as the man who owned the house was arguing that it was not necessary to be a disciple to be saved. He suggested that one could be a believer, but not a disciple, while still being assured of salvation. At that moment his dog threw up on the carpet.
Randy, the brother I was traveling with, and I both looked at one another. We discerned the parable immediately. The beast nature that Adamic man is enslaved to struggles to receive the message of the cross. If the beast nature is ruling in a man’s life, then he will vomit back up the teaching of the cross. He is unable to receive it.
There is much which is offensive in the message of the cross. If you have truly understood Christ’s invitation, then you too will struggle to receive it. Does not Christ always link taking up the cross to His invitation to follow Him? Only by crucifying the flesh is any man or woman able to follow in His footsteps.
I Peter 2:21
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…
Is this the invitation you have heard and accepted? Or have you been told by man that you need only to believe in Christ and confess Him? At this hour Christ is inviting men and women to “follow” Him. Will you follow? Will you surrender your life to go wherever He leads, and to do whatever He asks of you? Yahshua has no lesser invitation. There is no other path that leads to life.
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