To seek freedom simply to pursue one’s own goals, without a commitment to others, without love or sense of duty to God is not worth pursuing. The world does not have more to offer than God since everything belongs to God. In this life if you profess to be a Christian and are in the habit of asking the question what is in it for me, to further feed lusts for comfort, success, happiness, and acceptance, and neglect who we are and how we should act and think as disciples of Christ, where our life revolves around the world mostly instead of God’s Son, then you stand to lose much more than you think, and your profession of faith is really in danger of being meaningless. In the grand scheme of things, self-deception invites you to think wrongly that love for God and for this world are compatible. Anyone who becomes party to this type of thinking should consider what Jesus says about divided loyalties. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matt. 6:24).
Real Christianity does not owe itself to many masters. To say you can have a little of both betrays the true intent of the gospel. Christ teaches a gospel that is diametrically opposed to mix loyalties. And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. (Mark 8:34).
A Christian should not adhere to any such notion of worldly devotion no matter how tempting it may seem to him. Under the seduction of modernity, evangelicals have reengineered the church itself into a product that is marketed in order to secure “satisfied customers.” (David Wells). Modernity teaches an approach to the gospel that is about feeling good about yourself and finding personal fulfillment. Not only do frontal attacks from secularism and atheism create difficulties for God’s people; but so is the destruction that comes from seduction and distortion of the faith through a man-centered gospel that seeks only to please its hearers. Contrary to this, the gospel calls us to suffering, shame, severe opposition and even martyrdom which is on-going mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere for the time being. Be certain of this — the criteria for becoming a disciple of Christ is not a sort of moniker meant for the super-committed either. The claims of the gospel is neither exaggerated nor a higher calling but given by Jesus to highlight what it really means to follow Him; insomuch that a divided allegiance is fruitless and even dangerous to try and maintain personal honour, safety, comfort and acceptance in this life when it compromises the gospel, since they are at risks of losing their souls. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:35, 36)
The way of the cross should be our only desire and that all else is not worth pursuing and separate ourselves from that which only serves to please ourselves and not bring glory to God.
To follow Jesus means to repudiate a self-centred life. John Grasmick notes that “turning away from the idolatry of self-centeredness and every attempt to orient one’s life by the dictates of self-interest.” It is the process of disowning ourselves from pass desires and self-satisfaction insofar as you become like a dead man to it.
To follow Jesus requires death to self. It is not about some difficult person or putting up with a health ailment. It is about giving up all hope and interest in the things of this world that is diametrically opposed to the gospel. Self-fulfillment is never the quest but seen as a weight to be rid of. Alexander Maclaren accurately notes that “Flagrant vice is not needed to kill the real life. Clean, respectable selfishness does the work effectively.”
To follow Jesus means daily submission. The cross we are to bear is not done all at once. Following Jesus is a continuous event that occupies us every moment of our lives. The Gospel requires us to follow Christ as Lord at our confession and not some form of further dedication that comes later. Godet remarks “The chart of the true disciple directs him to renounce every path of his own choosing, that he may put his feet into the print of his leader’s footstep.”
Questions & Answers
Q: Does self-denial mean not having fun or enjoying life?
A: Not at all. The by-product of following Christ is the joy of service and everlasting life. The very fact that you can be affirmed by Jesus before the Father when He comes only adds to that joy.
Q: Is following Christ even possible in this age with all the distractions and enticements around us.
A: Jesus command to follow Him is in the present imperative indicating a continuous action. Following Christ is a work in progress that involves saving faith from the outset when trust was placed in the Savior and Lord. What is expected is total submission to Him from the beginning.
Q: Is saying no to the world and ourselves make the gospel unattractive to others?
A: The great tragety today is that many do not understand the true nature of the gospel. Talk of a gospel that targets felt needs is all too common, and made to be culturally relevant, it seeks to find self-fullfilment and self-realization and has less to do with sound doctrine and true holiness. The trajectory today is toward a modernizing of the gospel to make sure it finds appeal and approval among the masses but by doing so loses sight of the greatest need — spiritual power that comes from handling the truth with holy fear and utmost respect. The question we should ask ourselves is: Do we want a gospel without the Holy Spirit empowering it?
Anyone who has considered becoming Christ’s disciple must be willing to follow Him at all cost. What is more costly then what is lost when you choose to neglect so great a salvation that you are willing to pass up the joy of eternal life, and your own soul in the process.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. (Jim Elliott).